Creating for an audience of one, for fun My 6th MVP for #1mvp1month - Coffice City ☕️

BACKSTORY

I’m tired of myself talking about making products but never actually doing it. It’s always been my dream to make products, especially ones that serve the public good and create positive social impact. It’s my passion and purpose to create a personally meaningful body of work at the intersection of design, social/public issues and entrepreneurship. So I’m committing to make 1 minimum viable product per month, starting Feb 2018. I’ll keep going till I run out of ideas or money, or something takes off in a huge way that requires all my time, or exhaustion kicks in. Whichever comes first. #1mvp1month

For my 6th MVP, I made a list called Coffice City that shows the top 10 best cafes (aka cafe-as-an-office or ‘coffices’) for working in Singapore – places for people who need to do serious work but have no need for co-working spaces. I’m really picky about which cafes count as work-friendly, and these are the ones I would go back to again and again. After all, I don’t need to know 100 cafes available out there which are work-friendly but sub-par for serious remote work. All I wanted was just a handful that I want to keep going back to. All the cafes listed are/have hi-speed wifi, work-friendly, ☕️coffee, toilet nearby, sockets, standing desks, mostly quiet. I hope this can eventually be extended to other major cities around the world, perhaps through crowdsourcing via other digital nomads. This is also my first experiment that’s focused on creating for an audience of one, for myself, for fun (read my previous post on my too-serious *ahem boring* projects and about making ‘useless’ things for fun).

 

Wait…what’s a coffice again?

Coffice = cafe + office. Someone said it can be coffee + office too. It’s what you get when you treat a cafe almost like your office, where you sit for 4h or more for serious work. If you put the different types of cafes out there on a spectrum between for serious work and for leisure, coffices would be just between average Joe cafes and co-working spaces.

 

WHAT’S THE PROBLEM & OPPORTUNITY FUN?

Why make Coffice City?

Actually in all honesty, I didn’t plan to make Coffice City this month at all. It found me instead. I was just playing around on a site called Sheet2Site one evening. It’s a SaaS made by Andrey Azimov that generates a website from Google Sheets, and no coding is needed at all. After adding some entries and links on my Google Sheet, and following 3 simple steps to publish, the site was up! Crazy easy! So I thought, hey let’s just go with this for this month and see what happens.

After building it some more, I came to better understand the why:

Because it’s fun. I didn’t do any user research whether this product serves a need or address someone else’s painpoint. I didn’t care if others would use this. I’m not even sure it’s useful for me! But because I already had a text-based list anyway, so I made it. Because I can.

Because I always wanted to create a website from a Google Sheet. With Sheet2Site, I don’t need to learn any code to do that. It’s great fun to see how much you can create with just a spreadsheet. And it’s FREE.

I always wanted to make something which used a crazy amount of emojis. It’s great fun using emoji in chat apps. Seeing how these visual symbols are becoming a key part of our everyday conversations (like Egyptian hieroglyphics), I thought, why not on websites too? Already many sites are liberally using emoji, like Nomadlist.

I always wanted to make this list for myself. I have a strictly curated list of cafes that I frequent or want to check out on my note-taking app, so I just run through it when I head out to work. But the list is boring to look at. It also doesn’t capture the other information I need when deciding which cafe to go to – location, reviews, opening hours, pictures, etc. The Sheet2Site site and free stock photos from Unsplash and Pexels, allows me to make something visually appealing and shareable, with very little effort.

I always wanted to make something for fun, something ‘useless’, something only for myself, something that I don’t care whether it gets featured on Product Hunt or not, something I don’t care about monetizing, something that I want to make because I just want to, without reason or care. I mean, is there even a cafe on the Moon and on Mars!? But it was so much fun making that up, imagining a distant future where inter-galactic nomads space travel for remote work!

Remember this Venn diagram back when I launched my 2nd MVP? It’s a decision framework to help me decide whether an idea is worth building. With Coffice City, I’m basically throwing out the framework I used all this while for #1mvp1month. Or rather, just focusing on the yellow circle “Maker Enjoyability – what I love to make”.

 

What Coffice City is

The whole point is to have at most 10 choices that I love going back to. A tightly curated list of places that I had actually worked long hours at before. There’s many sites like Workfrom that shows a long list of cafes, but there’s usually too many cafes listed, and a lot on the list are not exactly work-friendly. Ensuring quality recommendations that suits my specific needs is a problem. I generally find blog articles written by travelers/nomads (not food bloggers) a better fit to Coffice City.

For serious work. Not for leisure, or hanging out with friends.

Great for digital nomads, or people in between meetings and just need some place to work remotely from for 1-2h.

 

What Coffice City is NOT

Not your everyday average cafe list.

Not about Instagrammable hipster cafes.

Not cafes with awesome, handcrafted, self-roasted, organic, fair trade single sourced coffee. In fact, I find cafes with really premium delicious coffee are often not so good for work. Leave that for your leisure time.

Not co-working spaces. I don’t need the regular access or facilities of co-working spaces, nor am I willing to pay for the hefty day passes or monthly subscriptions. Yes, I’m cheapo that way. But sometimes I include the cafes run at co-working spaces that are also open to public – these cafes usually have a great vibe for working since they’re run on the same ethos as a co-working space.

The list is probably an overkill and not really necessary if you’re just surfing/browsing online for leisure.

 

Criteria for curation

All the cafes listed are/have:

📡 Hi-speed wifi
Broadband network with 5MB to 50 MB or above. But I’m generally wary of the security risks involved in using any public wifi network, so wifi is usually not top concern for me. I usually just tether or use a wifi egg.

😍 Work-friendly
Can sit and work there for 4h or more, and no time limits or pressure to reorder or to make space for other customers. This is probably the most important criteria of all, that supersedes all other ones. I can live without good coffee, quiet or wifi, but I can’t work in peace if my presence is not welcome. I prefer to not feel pressured to reorder even if I do reorder. It’s for the better as well, because if the cafe’s focus is on turning tables fast, then it’s better they have customer who would not sit there for hours.

☕️ Coffee
Any average decent coffee or above. I’m there to work, not for leisure. This is not a list of cafes with awesome, handcrafted, self-roasted, organic, fair trade, single source coffee. In fact, I find cafes for really premium good coffee often not so good for work.

🚾 Toilet nearby
With the diuretic effects of coffee and working there for hours, having a toilet within premises or nearby is a must. I do get paranoid leaving the laptop on the table while I take a bathroom break, so what I do is to leave behind a notebook and other non-valuable stuff, and bring the laptop with me.

🔌 Sockets
Important if you’re working 3-4h or more. And that the cafe is okay with you using it. In some countries/cultures, this might be frowned upon (e.g. in Japan, some cafes consider this “theft of utilities“).

🚶 Standing desks
This is optional but preferred. I prefer the flexibility of being able to move between standing and sitting. Some cafes may not have any. But I generally like to go to cafes with standing bar top kind of tables.

🔇 Mostly quiet
Not blasting music, or full of chatty crowds or kids.

 

MAKING COFFICE CITY

I made it in a day, but took a few days more to make it look nice.

Setting up the site on Sheet2Site was easy enough. Just follow the instructions and in a few simple steps the site will be published. I first made a cafe list for Singapore, but got hooked on the ease of making, and went on to create more for cities that I had been and worked in, as well as cities I’m going to. So I made Coffice City Ubud and Kyoto. Then I thought: why not create another meta-list to hold all these city lists in one place? So I made the Coffice City Global site. After making this I thought, why not make one for Mars or the Moon?! It’s random, fun and playful just imagining what’s it like to actually use this list for Mars City one day in the far future, when nomads go inter-galactic!

I needed beautiful city banners for each city site, and I found most on Unsplash and Pexels. For filter categories for continents, I borrowed the emoji associated with each continent from Nomadlist.

I then linked each cafe to its Google Map review page, so that it’s easy to see customer reviews, review scores, and location all in one. I also linked the images to ones I found on Google.

To crowdsource for cafes that fit the intent of Coffice City, I created a Google form and linked it to the “Add a place” button on each site. This is open to everyone or anyone who works from cafes and find that this curated list resonates with what they need.

As for the name, I polled my friends on social media. Initially “cofficecity” was not well received as it read like “COFFINcity” (which would be an awesome cool name for some apocalyptic first person shooter game). We played around with Caffice, Workinggowhere, Workmeetscoffee. Cofficehunt actually polled well on Twitter, but it lacked the element of a city guide. In the end, Coffice City still sounded the best, so I went with it, but with a dash in between (“coffice-city”) so that it can be read without confusion. After buying the domain on Namecheap, I set up 302 temporary redirects so that the main URL coffice-city.com would redirect to the Sheet2Site link. Not an elegant way to link the domain to the site. I considered paying for Sheet2Site subscription to get the custom domain feature, so that I don’t have to do redirects. But this is just a fun project that I’m not thinking of monetizing, so paying for subscription was not really feasible.

Next comes buying the WordPress theme. Wait….no WordPress themes this time. I used WordPress so often for my MVPs so far that FINALLY I got a chance to not use it. YESSS!

 

WHAT I LEARNED, POST-LAUNCH

1 Coffice City managed to get featured on launch day on Product Hunt again. It ended up on 6th position. Pretty awesome especially if you consider that I didn’t even think/care about it being featured. In fact, this was that one project where I decided I made it for myself, so I didn’t bother if it got anything on Product Hunt. I even thought of not launching it there! But in the end I decided it put it up on Product Hunt since all my projects are there already. I think there’s like a inverse relationship between expectations and probability of being featured!  If anything, I learned that there’s really many remote workers/digital nomads or people who are into that movement on Product Hunt. Otherwise, nobody would care. I probably had the most comments ever this time round.

2 Cafe recommendations continue to roll in even after 2 weeks of launch. It continues to be fun for me to create new city pages. The visceral feeling of finding a great image on Unsplash and adding it to the new city page is unexpectedly satisfying. I think through creating my previous MVP – UX Storyboard and this one, I’m learning that I crave creating and designing something beautiful that I can see and interact with. My previous MVPs had been super basic and I definitely didn’t spend much time on making it look great, so there wasn’t any of that visceral satisfaction back then. Interestingly, these were the same 2 MVPs which got featured and did well on Product Hunt. Good first impressions count, ultimately? Superficial aesthetics matter in the end? Do basic, raw-looking MVPs not do well at all? And it’s not just about being featured…I think looks signal confidence too, and if your site looks professionally done and ‘complete’, it inspires more trust too. This will be something I look forward to doing more of for my next MVPs.

3 Unfortunately, because I didn’t purchase the Pro plan for Sheet2Site, I can’t view any analytics for Coffice City. I kinda regretted this, but yet I still don’t think it would be worthwhile paying for what I initially planned to be a not-for-commercial-profit project. Perhaps I should open up donations for this, so that I can purchase the Pro plan? Hmmm

 

SO, WHAT DO YOU THINK?

So Coffice City is now live. I’d love to hear if this is useful for y……actually, no. I don’t need to hear any feedback from anyone this time round. Not because Coffice City is perfect, but because I made it for an audience of one. Me. But nobody will stop you from giving comments! You definitely welcomed to contribute new cafes to the list!

Track my #1mvp1month quest on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn or Telegram.

 


ALL ABOUT COFFICE CITY

Cafe-as-an-office, to get real shit done. Best cafes for working in major cities around the world, and the galaxy.

The top 10 work-friendly cafes (aka “coffices’) in major cities around the world (and the galaxy) for digital nomads who need to do serious work but have no need for co-working spaces.

I’m really picky about which cafes count as work-friendly, and these are the ones I would go back to again and again. After all, I don’t need to know 100 cafes available out there which are work-friendly but sub-par for serious remote work. All I wanted was just a handful that I want to keep going back to. All the cafes listed are/have:

📡hi-speed wifi,

😍work-friendly,

☕️coffee,

🚾toilet nearby,

🔌sockets,

🚶standing desks,

🔇mostly quiet.

Read why I made this 👉here.

These city guides for coffices are a 🚧work-in-progress🚧, and need folks who frequent coffices to contribute! One cafe or two, nothing is too little. Please suggest a cafe/city 👉here👈.

See the city lists here:

Global (including Mars) – https://coffice-city.com

Singapore – https://coffice-city.com/singapore

Ubud – https://coffice-city.com/ubud

Kyoto – https://coffice-city.com/kyoto

Mars City (Mars) – https://coffice-city.com/mars

Sea of tranquility (Moon) – https://coffice-city.com/moon

Add a cafe/city

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