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. It’s secretly been an experiment to see how the word about a seemingly simple website would spread around the internet.
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.
Generate random names for use in designs and mockups on http://t.co/fcIBmxTYJL— Thom (@thomweerd) 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.
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.
Another one for the bookmarks. UI Names is a fake name generator for UI mockups and personas. http://t.co/vKCoZ9uE44— Smashing Magazine (@smashingmag) December 27, 2013
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.
http://t.co/j4XWX6v1Up - A simple tool to generate names for use in designs and mockups— Speckyboy (@speckyboy) December 27, 2013
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!