uinames.com

November 2, 2015

Simply put, uinames.com is a tool to generate names for use in designs and mockups. The idea was the result of a growing need for better dummy content. For those people tired of using their designer friends’ names or celebrity names it’s a great way to make designs and mockups that bit more professional.

Though, I would be lying if I told you that was all there is to the project. First and foremost it’s been an experiment to see how the word about a seemingly simple website would spread around the internet.

Note: I originally executed and wrote this analysis over a year ago now, but never got myself to publish it. Here it is, with all its quirks!


To keep the image of the product as neutral as possible I didn’t want anyone to know who the person behind the site was. The focus would be on the product. I was certain more people would find a use for the website. I designed and developed a minimum viable version of the concept in a couple of evenings and pushed the site live on December 23, 2013.

I sent out a simple tweet. This tweet should lead to the rest of the coverage across social media, and the traffic back to the website as a result.

The Results

In the first week after my initial tweet, the site had been viewed by a humble 15.000 people with an average session duration of about half a minute. The first week or two are the most interesting part of the timeline, so that’s what we’re going to focus on here.

The idea was to mark my own tweet as the starting point and see what that would lead to. I therefore never contacted any blog or publication prior to launching the site — I never did, actually.

timeline

  1. I was relieved to see the project got picked up really quickly. In the first 24 hours several thousand people visited the site. Interestingly only about 25% of the visits came from Twitter. About 10% came from Facebook and the rest are direct visits and some referrals from blogs and publications.
  2. Several days went by with similar numbers before Facebook took over from Twitter. We’re talking 29% and 21% respectively here. Among several other publications Sidebar.io caused a spike in visits after 4 days. On top of that, Smashing Magazine and Speckyboy tweeted about the project to a combined audience of several hundred thousand people.
  3. 10 days in and the biggest spike as of yet occurred. Since more than 75% of the visits were direct it’s impossible to be sure what caused the sudden spike. Though, since publications of Smashing Magazine, Codrops, CSS Author and the like were around that time I consider it safe to assume they were part of the reason.
  4. 15 days in and I posted a shot on Dribbble stating I was the person behind the project. The shot accounted for about 10% of the total visits on that day. Twitter had taken over from Facebook again with 19% versus 4% respectively.

Although less interesting, the rest of the timeline quickly leveled out at several hundreds to a thousand visitors a day. Some spikes were caused due to publications from Speckyboy, Webdesigner Depot, Product Hunt, LayerVault and Oozled. Besides this I was glad to see the percentage of returning visitors was rising.

It’s interesting to see that so many visits are from people typing in the url in the address-bar directly. I assume the primary reason for this is the easy to remember name. It was quite refreshing to find a suitable domain name that didn’t have any missing vowels or double letters.

The Feedback

As a designer I highly value feedback and honest criticism. Especially after a product has been launched, for me, it’s the number one source of motivation and inspiration for improvement. This project was no different in that sense, and I’ve received a ton of feedback. The project has become as complete as it is today because of your feedback!

The way this product received feedback was slightly different than usual. There wasn’t really a place to leave feedback since nobody knew who the person behind the website was. I’ve been busy keeping a tab on all the different places where feedback and frustration was expressed. On Twitter, on blogs and on numerous websites.

I believe one of the most important points of frustration was from someone who said it would be better to randomly select the gender instead of selecting the male gender by default. I implemented the random-gender option the same day.

evolution Top: available options at launch, bottom: available options now.

Another point of focus early on was to make the product as culture-neutral as possible. Since the site serves names for many different countries it’s proven to be difficult to do this correct right out of the box. Misspelled names, special naming conventions, you name it (pun not intended). The database of names has become a fairly solid one by solving these issues early on.

Stimulating Growth

I don’t consider myself a seasoned developer, so I’ve kept the code as simple as possible. The algoritm that serves names with the push of a button is a very simple implementation of JavaScript that combines a female or male first name with a last name on a per-country basis.

I decided to make the database of names open-source on Github to get people to contribute more names to the project. I believe that was a great decision. Where I started out with 60.000 possible name combinations for American names, at the time of writing that’s become more than a million possible name combinations for more than 40 different countries.

A huge thank you goes out to all those who contributed names to the project!

Conclusion

I consider the experiment a huge success. Not only did a single tweet lead to thousands of shares, but it’s also given me a better understanding of the way something is being spread online, first hand. If getting visitors is your goal, then it may be a good idea to reach out to some of the bigger publishers, blogs and twitter users mentioned earlier — depending on the type of product and your target audience ofcourse.

Although I’m wrapping up the experiment by publishing this I’m still looking to improve the quality of the site and the names. Please feel free to send feedback, I read everything.

Thank to everyone who has been part of the experiment, one way or another!

Thom van der Weerd

Hi there! I’m a designer from the Netherlands. I enjoy traveling, taking pictures, running, and can really appreciate some good music.

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