Minzel.io is a web-based mind mapping tool that I have designed and developed as a private project to simplify the creation and management of mind maps and to improve document accessibility of different devices. The following gives you insights into the development of the product covering the entire process from the initial concept through to the design and technical implementation.
I have always enjoyed drawing and have used mind maps during most of my projects to collect ideas and visualize information, and usually I do this by putting everything on paper. This can, however, quickly get messy and confusing. To avoid that, I have tried to switch to digital alternatives like Bubbl or Wisemapping, but I was far from happy with their overall usability and design, so I decided to take it into my own hands and to design and develop my own mind mapping web application from the ground up, not knowing that this would become a very long and sometimes frustrating project taking me more than half a year to complete.
At the outset, my goal was to create a simplistic and free tool that is easy to use and only focuses on one thing – mind mapping. To achieve that and to avoid the same mistakes as other tools, I ran various usability tests with existing offline and online mind mapping software and documented the elements I liked and disliked. I then went on to define my target audience and after careful observations I came to the essential conclusion that a lot of people around me, graphic designers, creative developers and students aren’t aware of digital mind mapping which led to the decision to target them as my main audience with a direct marketing approach that will be explained later.
Getting started, I was quickly beginning to think about all the possible functionalities and features of the product and, with the help of lots of coffee, my pencil and paper, I gradually built upon previous observations. Improvements slowly but steadily turned into a detailed concept and executional plan. At this time, I was only working on paper, improving product layout, microinteractions and information architecture, reiterating through the process until the results met my standards.
Based upon the concept, I have developed a suitable design with a clean and minimalistic user interface and an introductory product page, all of which are represented in the name “Minzel”, a combination of the word mini and “Zelle”, the German word for cell.
Having completed the visual part of the project, I moved on to the technical development of Minzel, which was achieved with the use of several different proven frameworks such as D3.js for the data visualization and, in contrast, Firebase in combination with Node.js for user authentication, backend and data storage, as well as a hosting and server infrastructure. Even though I had some very frustrating technical difficulties, the development was done at a relatively fast pace.
In parallel with the previously described work, a marketing plan was developed. The goal was to position Minzel as a mind mapping SaaS (Software as a Service) with designers and creators as the target audience. With this approach, it would be simpler and cheaper to generate awareness of this software by marketing it with higher precision on creative content-based websites such as Dribbble or Behance. At the same time, this direct approach enables Minzel to enter the SaaS market relatively easily and with little comparable competitors as seen in the figures above, because of its focus on a specifically defined niche market/area.
After working 6 months on this project, I finally launched Minzel.io after numerous small scale user tests and, in the first few weeks, it received up to 200 registrations and more than 2000 page visits even though there were problems regarding the user conversion rate. The initial traffic was generated through precisely placed reddit posts and also shout-outs on creative networks such as Dribbble or Behance. During a period of 3 months, Minzel.io achieved over 1000 user registrations and had above 15’000 unique page visitors which is a surprisingly good result if one takes into account that nothing had been spent on advertising or any form of promotion. Therefore, the main conclusion that emerges, is that the promotional success of a digital product can be achieved if the product is both made and promoted for a niche market.
Ultimately, due to these good results and the proof of concept clearly being successful, it is highly likely that Minzel.io will be developed further.