I have been working on a little webapp for making quizzes (for fun or exam prep), called Quizbert, and now an initial version of it is online! This is my first attempt at creating a product rather than just a project. For a few bucks per month users will be able to create their own quizzes and share them with others. Currently, there is also a free plan available so you can try it out without adding a credit card.
I originally started building a quiz webapp in 2002 using PHP/MySQL. It was possible to signup for free in this webapp and create your own quizzes. While most of the application worked well, there was some parts of the application that was never really finished. I used this webapp myself to create exam prep quizzes during the last year of my university studies. I kept this webapp online but I never mentioned it anywhere so there was no users other than me.
In 2015 I switched jobs from C++/Java development to web development and after two years I wanted to learn more modern web development tools. For example, I wanted to try out React and node, which we didn’t use “at work” at the time. So in March 2017 I started to port that old PHP application to node + react, as a learning experience. Since the old webapp was a multi page application with forms and no ajax, pretty much all code was rewritten from scratch but I did manage to save the database so I could keep all the quizzes I had created.
During 2018 I put a lot of effort into creating a great test suite and a good deployment setup for this application. I created prod + test servers on Digital Ocean, and wrote scripts to cleanly rebuild those servers from scratch in a fully automatic fashion. I moved the webapp behind haproxy so that I could run more web applications on the same host in the future. I also created a Kubernetes setup for the app but it ended up being a bit too complex and it also cost more so I ended up not using it.
Somewhere along the way I found the excellent indiehackers.com podcast, which in turn linked to a bunch of other inspiring bootstrapping stories (e.g. Build your SaaS and Pieter Levels). From this listening/reading grew the idea that maybe I should try to build a product rather than a project. I’ve started and contributed to many open source projects before, but I figured if I could make some money off a side-project, I could eventually spend more time on it, make it even better and reach more people.
During 2019 I integrated the webapp with Stripe so that users could pay a monthly fee for it. Later, to free up some more time, I decided to reduce my dayjob to 80% and spend my Fridays working on various side-projects. During this time I migrated from MySQL to PostgreSQL and I also spent some time learning a few basic business skills like accounting, taxes (e.g. MOSS), and I wrote some software that could automatically get transactions and VAT etc booked properly in an accounting system. This software also generates EU VAT compliant invoices (which Stripe doesn’t do), handles things like proration for subscription down/upgrades, refunds etc.
Progress takes some time when you have a family and an (almost fulltime) job. But so far, this project/product has been an incredible learning experience. This year I registered a company and I’m going to see if there are people interested in buying a subscription for a quiz making webapp. If there isn’t I have a few other ideas to try out. Next up is learning a bit about marketing, markets, product validation and how to write a blog post which isn’t an image free wall of text. Wish me luck!
Try the app at: Quizbert.com. I would love to hear what you think!