The idea for Small Victories came to us, XXIX, originally because we wanted to just drop some photos into a folder and have them appear on a website. Everything else we'd tried either required servers/uploading/signing into a CMS admin/etc. or else enforced a bunch of UI and styling. We thought there could be a simpler way to get things on the internet using a tool you already had: the Finder on your computer.
From there we decided that a few different themes would give people quick starting points for new sites, but also show what the platform could do. We also thought you should have the option to just freestyle, so you can start with a blank theme or just use Small Victories to host your own HTML/CSS/JS. We also included a few extra features we thought were important (passwords, personal domains, custom CSS, etc.). Now we use Small Victories for everything: proposals, documentation, vacation photos, presentations, sharing bookmarks, selling things – it's changed our entire workflow.
Naming things is hard and URLs are scarce! We started thinking about how quickly and easily you could make a website, and how each site was like its own little win. The name Small Victories just seemed perfect at that point.
We think of a brand as being the sum of a lot of parts. The logo itself came from the idea of raising a victory flag, and its geometric pieces lent itself to our general aesthetic philosophy. And obviously if you have flags you have to do some fun animations of them going up and down! The big icons and typography make it feel easy and in opposition to what you’d normally think of as the aesthetic of a tool used for making websites. The geometric shapes used for placeholder content represent just basic defaults or stand-ins for what will become your content. And the colored ‘sheets’ on the homepage evoke the core idea of the product: simply drop files into a folder and you’ve got a website.
The business model
At this point in time, Small Victories is free. We’ve thought of a few different ways we could monetize (number of sites, paid themes, image optimization, support etc.) but right now we’re just excited to see how people use it.
It sounds cliché, but we imagine everyone using Small Victories. As a design studio we see a lot of value in it for ourselves and other agencies, but we also think it might be one of the easiest ways for anyone to create a website (including your mom – does she have Dropbox?).
The first version of Small Victories was pretty raw. We took files in a Dropbox folder and generated a single webpage outputting all the files. For most people it was hard to envision what you’d use it for so we did some research into the different types of websites people create and picked the ones that we thought would be simple enough to manage using a single folder.
Right now, we have 10 different themes to choose from:
Blog: each post is a text file
Campaign: landing page to capture emails into MailChimp
Document: each page is a text file
Presentation: generated from a list in a text file
Slideshow: images in a grid with a full screen gallery
Feed: display everything in a Tumblr-like stream
Homepage: personal about page with contact links
Ecommerce: sell a product using Stripe for payment
Once you connect your Dropbox account to Small Victories we create a folder inside Dropbox called “Small Victories.” Every site is then a folder within this folder and contains a settings file as well as other files you add, like images, text files, video/audio files, HTML, bookmarks — anything really!
Small Victories looks at the contents of the folder, and based on the theme in the settings file, generates a website. For example, the presentation theme takes a list in a markdown file and turns each line item into a slide.
Each site automatically gets a Small Victories URL (like this one) or a user can setup their own custom domain. Dropbox lets Small Victories know whenever a file is added/updated/deleted so the website is always kept up to date.
The admin interface makes it easy to see all your sites and update settings like the title, description and theme. One thing we really like is that it doesn’t matter what theme you choose at the start because you can change it as you go to find the right one for your content.
How should this look? What makes it look good out of the box, but at the same time prod the user to think “what if I changed that font?”, “what if I moved that to the right?”. This goes back to the identity being based on these sort of ‘defaults’. Default colors (red, green, blue, yellow), default shapes (circle, square, triangle), default fonts (Helvetica). They look simple and bold but at the same time say to the user this is the starting point and from here you can do anything.
On the technical front, we identified early on that speed is important. People expect everything to be instant, so when they drop a file into Dropbox it should appear instantly on their website. This is challenging for us as we need to be alerted of that change from Dropbox, and then regenerate the site. Soon after our public launch we completely rewrote the way we generate sites and reduced our build time by 4x. We’re continuing to look for ways to improve this even more as we continue to grow.