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sandcourts.info

The website I’m writing about is sandcourts.info. It’s a list of beach volleyball courts from around the country. Check it out, and feel free to email me if you have some ideas or want to collaborate on it.

Last week I came back from a friends house and by some stroke of luck had an idea. Since I was 13 years old I’ve spent a lot of time playing beach volleyball, and have found it to be one of my passions. Most of my best friends play and it’s what we talk about. When I go to a new city the first things I look for are a good taco place and a playable beach court, the former being significantly easier to find than the latter. Every city has courts, but I want to find the gems. Because of this I decided to create a website called sandcourts.info.

Good courts are often hidden secrets that are only discoverable through connections & luck. They’re elusive little spots where several factors can come together and create an amazing place to play. The nets are good, the sand is deep enough, there is a shaded area and a shower is nearby. The list of factors goes on and on; everyone has something they look for in a good court and every city has one. Spending the time to find that court is always a shitty experience. You spend hours googling a court to find out that you missed the good players by 15 minutes or that they’re playing at a court on the other side of town. Sometimes, you’ll find a court and it’s a piece of shit; bad nets, bad sand and worst of all because you’re new they won’t let you play.

One night I got home from a friends house and felt inspired. I had recently heard about this tool called Carrd, a landing page builder. After playing with it for about five minutes I decided to throw myself into the fire and try building a project out. Immediately rage bubbled inside of me and I thought about solving this court discovery problem. To do this I realized that I could use Airtable to collect a bunch of data from people I know and put it in a central place as a resource. A curated list that is created by the community.

I spent a few hours playing around with getting a domain name, forms and a basic way to display what I was doing. Overall it was roughly 24 hours between creating the site and getting 300 users to it, mostly directly from my personal network. This showed me the power of creating the simplest possible version of a product to publish and iterating from there. There was no reason for me to worry about what software stacks to use because I had so few options. This is what I loved about using Carrd, its limited power forced me to strip down what my vision was. Although the tool is a bit limited in terms of its functionality, the sites are good looking, do well on mobile and fast.

This was the first site that I ever launched, and I did it through my contacts. I put it on Facebook and a few friends wound up sharing it, which exposed the site well. Then I texted everyone I know that plays volleyball and sent them a link. Still figuring out if that was a good move or a bad one, because of how immature the site still is. I’m working on building a better version right now, but it takes much longer to do with code than with Carrd. I could have found a way to make the site a little “stickier,” by adding some features that would keep people coming back. An example of this could be a community or some resources that made beach better. The biggest mistake I made was not collecting emails from users. This way I could have informed them when new versions came out. It’s going to be an uphill battle to get people back onto the site. The lesson here is get as much as you can while you’ve got traction/curiosity. I could have done a few things better, and am proud of the fact that I was able to get so many people on the website.

Just through making the website and launching it I felt like I learned so much about releasing a product. The site generated a good amount of hype, but didn’t take complete advantage of it. One of the most important lessons I learned though was that I just have to do it. There is no reason to sit around and wait for the right opportunity, it really only makes sense to take action. Even if you wind up doing the wrong thing, you’ll be further along than if you didn’t do anything.

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