Skip to main content


warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/kevin/public_html/modules/taxonomy/ on line 34.

Gift Lizard - One Week After Launch: Stats, Failures, Successes and Lessons Learned

What is Gift Lizard? It's a gift shopping site where you describe the person you want to buy a gift for using tags. It helps you discover interesting and awesome gift ideas.

First Off, The Numbers for Gift Lizard

11,870 Visits (11,509 Uniques)

15,984 Pageviews (1.35/visit)

24 Seconds Average Time on Site

89.20% Bounce Rate

96.96% New Visitors

75% US Traffic

54.60% Chrome / 34.03 % Firefox / 3.89% Safari / 1.83% Internet Explorer



Fail. I did, so can you. I created a Gift Lizard fanpage and invited my friends. I got maybe 4 likes from messaging ~600 people? My facebook status did better and got 15 likes and 12 comments, 2 shares and someone posted it back to me. Not bad, but total facebook traffic for the week: 105 visitors, almost all from the status. Fanpage is probably a more long term benefit.

I know some traffic came from here, but it doesn't actually show up on my logs once. Nothing big enough to notice any substantial traffic coming from the 12 or so tweets broadcasting the site.

Reddit Advertising
It's only run for 1 day and there has been no a/b testing. I am still running this ad with the copy:

“Gift Shopping Made Easy! Describe the recipient and instantly get gift suggestions tailored just for them.”

It generated 44 clicks of 71,551 impressions on 26,877 different users. However, those users had 1 minute 54 seconds average time on site and only a 37.14% bounce rate. Better users, incredibly small volume. I also got some fantastic feedback from one particular user about some ways to improve the site that I was unfamiliar with.

MVP Launch

I launched with an MVP (minimum viable product) and there is a lot of things people didn't like (and still don't like!). The interface isn't as good as it could/should be to make it clear how the site works with tagging. There are still bugs in the way it behaves and improvements I know I should be making. But the site does function and I fixed major problems as the came along as best as I could. Other more structural problems are still there and probably won't be solved before the end of the holiday season.

Those are some of the biggest failures and problems I ran into when launching.


Finding a marketing strategy that works and can be replicated is hard. But I think I've found one.

My original plan of finding 'good' gifts and tagging them across multiple categories was well meaning but it was/is highly subjective and hard to scale. I will still add gifts in targeted popular categories, but that's not where I will spend most of my time.

I realized that niches were far more engaged in their very specific interests and more likely to interact with something targeted than a blanket message about finding gifts.

To that end I tested my idea with a starcraft gifts page and posted it to starcraft subreddit. The thread received around 99 comments (about half were me responding). I engaged them in a constructive and inclusive manner adding any item they thought would make a good addition. It's also important not to be greedy, I want people to find good gifts and share it with their friends of similar interest (funnily enough some of the people's sites I linked also responded on the thread thanking me for promoting their products - and I was genuinely happy to to it!). The goal is creating a great collection of gifts for anyone who likes starcraft regardless of what site the product may be on or what type of relationship I have with that site. It was a HUGE success. The result was 10,494 visits this week to the starcraft page and I only posted it 3 days ago (so it's only 2 days worth of stats).

Fluke or repeatable?

The next day I decided let me try it for another niche and see if I can get a similar response. I created a World of Warcraft gift page and posted it to the WoW subreddit. The result was 1,143 visits to the WoW gift page. The article was more popular in terms of relative ranking (peaking at 5th versus around 12th for starcraft post) but the subreddit is a lot less active it would seem. The engagement was a lot lower, despite being only half the size, it received 10% the traffic volume. The gift collection was still relatively popular in its niche. Success! And it looks like the model is repeatable and possibly scalable.

This massive influx of traffic from one social media site was nice. A secondary effect was linking and stumbles (I got no facebook likes or tweets from these it would seem).

StumbleUpon generated 134 visitors though from one person stumbling the page and setting off a chain of stumbles presumably. Content was sticky enough to be shared and promoted. Success!

Someone even bought me 1 month of reddit gold for the starcraft gift page (thanks anonymous stranger <3)

Finally, email lists worked well. I am on a couple mailing lists and sent a message out to them, the more personal and connected you are and/or your message are, the better it worked out. My co-working space had an amazing response. I saw people browsing it all day and they would come up to me and give feedback (and even bought a few things! <3 Affinity Lab)

Lessons Learned:

  • Easier to connect with a niche audience.
  • Don't be greedy and help others, it makes people like you.
  • Launch it and fix it on the fly.
  • Just because it's not perfect or even great doesn't take too much away if you have great content/value.
  • Google Analytics is mesmerizing (that's going to have to be another post!)

What I would do differently:

Facebook Event in conjunction with a facebook page. I would like to try creating an event and invite everyone to it announcing the launch. Events are stickier I think because the user has to either acknowledge it to remove it or ignore it for a long time while it shows up. Of course the risk is you may only get one chance with this strategy because users may ignore event invites from you. High risk, high reward. I'd choose who I sent the event invite to carefully.

Link directly on social media sites, it may seem like a less popular idea, but I posted to a few subreddits as comments to get feedback (design_critiques, startups, twoxchromosomes) and it generated very little interest or traffic. I think direct links, when possible, are a better idea if you can communicate effectively in the short title.

Happy to hear thoughts, feedback, questions, ideas, your stories or anything else you wish to share!

Launched: Gift Lizard - Gift Shopping Done Right

Posted in

Yesterday I launched

Gift Lizard let's you describe the person you are shopping for and it makes recommendations based
your description. It's a more natural and free way to search for gifts because you don't need
to know what you want to buy for them but can get customized suggestions for the giftee.

The story behind the idea is kind of interesting. I was at Startup Weekend a couple weeks ago
and I didn't join a group on the first night. I went home after a long night at the bar and woke
up before my alarm clock with this idea in my head. It was a unique experience waking up with an
idea stuck in my head (and being up at 6am without an alarm going off).

So I quickly wrote it down on my idea pad and went back to the event. I started designing a mockup.

I showed a few people and we decided to work on it as our weekend project.

The final result was interesting, but it wasn't exactly what I had imagined. I didn't think much
about it for the next week or so. But eventually I realized I couldn't let it go. I had to build
my vision out or I wouldn't be satisfied that I had at least tried.

So yesterday, I launched Gift Lizard.

Natural Language Processing (Comic)

A stressful day trying to work with NLP leads to things like this.

Natural Language Processing Comic by Kevin Ohashi

Dear Afternic

You are still emailing me lost passwords in plaintext. This just isn't acceptable.

I contacted you, worked my way through your support team until the manager I spoke to who was supposed to be connected to the dev team asked me what email client I used and said maybe it was outlook that was revealing my password. My email client (oh, I don't even use outlook) was allegedly cracking the passwords or something. I am not even sure what they were trying to say or imply. Whatever it was, it's ridiculous.

I only noticed this because I reactivated an old account because I thought listing with you guys would be a good idea to complement listing on sedo since you were also free now. I want to be your customer. I also want you to treat my information with respect and keeping my password secure is something I simply cannot compromise on. Please fix this issue so we can get back to selling domain names, because I simply won't do business with you until you do.

24,000 Domains Article Postmortem: Traffic, Revenue, Business Models

I published a post listing 24,000 available brandable domain names that anyone could register a couple days ago.

It was far more successful than I ever imagined receiving over 17,000 page views. Ranking 3rd on HackerNews frontpage and 2nd in a major subreddit with over 30,000 subscribers.

I wanted to go through the entire setup of the article, the marketing, the goals, the traffic, the results and conclusion.

Creativity and Kids

One thing I constantly find amazing is the solutions kids come up with for technology problems they encounter. The tools they pick can often seem baffling to those of us who are steeped in tech knowledge. They don't seem to limit their thinking to picking the exact tool designed for the problem at hand. They often pick tools which seem terribly suited for the problem but make it work.

What brought about this blog post? A quiz game created in powerpoint with a full score tracking system. How? Hardcoded with links on various pages (think a giant list of goto statements or a create your own story book).

Some people might think it's just ignorant behavior, others might call it innovation. I think those of us very comfortable and familiar with technology, programmers especially, easily dismiss options which see ill suited or don't even recognize them as options at all.

How does this tie into entrepreneurship? I often realize I have these blinders on when watching kids (and sometimes adults) get things done using various programs/apps. Do I really understand the problem people are trying to solve and the way they think about solving the problem? Most of the time, no, I haven't a clue is what I've realized.

My Christmas Present

Posted in

Personalized Chopsticks from my brother.


Merry Christmas - How to save time by never registering for websites

Posted in

BugMeNot is a site dedicated to providing usernames and passwords for (m)any websites. It's a great way to avoid logging in. However, it's sometimes tedious to check every time whether there is a login available or not. I am not sure I really save that much time going to the website each time and trying to locate a working password. Luckily there is a solution!

BugMeNot Extensions for Firefox and Chrome!

Checkout Chrome Version in Action:

My personal opinion is that the firefox extension is better. You simply right click on a username field and say 'Login with BugMeNot' and voila! It also allows you to go back, try another account, choose an account and report success/failure rates.

Bonus Tip: Mailinator - disposable email accounts for things you want to register for once and don't ever want to be contacted by again.

Project 5 - News Aggregator

Yesterday I built the beginnings of a news aggregator.

What it does:

  • Aggregates RSS feeds to database
  • Each feed has customizable title, image (forced size 100x100)
  • Displays RSS items sorted by date (newest first)
  • Almost MVC - design and content are relatively separate but not fully. I didn't use a PHP Templating Engine, it's hard coded with functions that do output some HTML
  • Sitewide variables done via static PHP include.
  • Shows Comments (Disqus)
  • Allows Commenting on article (Disqus)

What it doesn't do (yet):

  • Pagination - only showing 10 items, no way to scroll back further
  • Search - no search implemented yet
  • Channels - view all items posted by a certain blog
  • Admin Interface - Adding new sites, editing is all done directly via MySQL.
  • Magic Tricks - Illusion Michael. A trick is something a whore does for money... or candy.

Internet Failure

Posted in

Yesterday was another fun day where my internet didn't seem to be able to hold a connection for more than 2 minutes. After trying for hours, I just gave up, seems to be functioning today. Had an overall good day though :)

Syndicate content