Hackday Culture at Wattpad

Hack Friday

This post is brought to you by Wattpad Co-Founder and CEO Allen Lau.

Hackdays are the best way for a startup to support innovation. They give everyone a break from their normal day-to-day, and optimize the use of time and work. At Wattpad, some of our most popular features and products started as a hack.

Limited resources are common in most startups, and even in an environment of abundance it’s important to make the most of your resources.  The optimal hack project has a purpose. The best way to start thinking about your hack is by asking yourself two questions:

How is the product currently supporting user growth?

What can I do to strengthen the product and accelerate that growth?

Web

The diagram above visually demonstrates the best kind of hack project. Going with an idea that falls in the top left quadrant is obviously a safe choice. Unfortunately, most ideas fall in the other three quadrants.

The trick is to pick some interesting ideas that exist in the bottom left quadrant, where the green dots fall in this diagram. Invest a little in those ideas and test them through small experiments. Optimally, working on these ideas should push the dots toward the top left quadrant while avoiding a movement towards the bottom-right.

You might be surprised to learn how many important in-app features and related Wattpad apps started off as small experiments. Our recently launched SoundCloud audio integration for Android, and stand-alone apps like Covers and After Dark app, are all great examples of what a small team can do given the right structure.

The structure looks something like this:

Set a clear goal up front

  • what assumption are you trying to validate?

Form a small team 2-4 people max

  • this is key. It optimizes speed and decision making

Set a time limit of a week or two

  • time limits get things done faster and reduce risk

Always remember, the best hacks support your users in some way. The collective intelligence of your users is an endless supply of insight. Creating boxes, where users have to use things a certain way, keeps you from spotting how users are developing their unique behaviours.

These two questions and simple structure can help you set up a successful hack by uncovering opportunities to accelerate user growth. Recognizing those opportunities, however, requires knowledge sharing across the startup.

At Wattpad, our hack teams are user-obsessed and we have a strong record of rolling out new products and features that build off ideas that support user engagement and experience. Every employee is challenged to bring an idea to life in a single day as part of our monthly Hack Friday event

I encourage you to hack in a way that supports your users. Reduce risk by thinking in low-effort, high-reward, it will put you on the path to success.

Happy hacking!

Wattpad Introduces Redesigned iOS App

blog_v2

Today, we are excited to announce that we have launched a new version of our popular iOS app.  The latest version features a simple and more intuitive interface to help connect readers to relevant content, encourage story creation, and make it easy to manage social updates and interactions.

The updated app helps new users understand core Wattpad functions, and encourages existing users to engage in activities beyond reading. The new design introduces a navigation bar, which is always on screen and highlights the five core Wattpad experiences: Discover, Library, Write, Social Updates, and Profile.

It’s now even easier for readers to find great stories. The updated app showcases story cover images and story descriptions more prominently, and highlights user-curated reading lists. The new navigation bar places the Write option front and center to prompt existing writers to continue stories they’re already working on, and encourage new writers to try their hand at starting a story.

The redesign also combines several social elements into a single view. Now users can find their Newsfeed, Notifications, and Private Messages under one Social Updates tab.

All of these updates have resulted in an app that is simpler, more intuitive, and more engaging for the millions of people who share stories on Wattpad everyday.

To download the new Wattpad iOS app, visit the iTunes store.

Wattpad Partners with SoundCloud to Add Audio to Stories

blog_sc-1

We’re excited to announce a new way to experience Wattpad stories – with sound! The new feature available on our Android app lets Wattpadders add audio clips to their stories. They can create their own clips, or choose from the millions of sounds available on SoundCloud. This new feature lets Wattpadders create audiobooks, narrate dialogue, add soundtracks to their stories from their mobile device, and much more.  At the tap of a button, readers can enjoy a more immersive storytelling experience with sound effects and recorded messages from their favorite writers. “Audio clips can bring stories to life. Wattpad writers can use sound effects to add impact to a story, narrate an excerpt, or share a playlist to entertain their readers in a new way,” said Tarun Sachdeva, head of product at Wattpad.

screen_shot_2015-04-08_at_4.12.13_pm__1_

Wattpadders using the most up to date version of the Android app can start enjoying audio right now. Check out the following reading list showcasing Wattpad stories with sound

Announcing After Dark: a new app for romance readers 17+

blogpicture_afterdark_vrs1.1

Wattpad has recently launched After Dark, a free app that offers a curated reading experience for mature romance fans. After Dark was designed specifically for readers over the age of 17 who are looking for quality contemporary romance reading. The app’s sleek new interface presents a specific set of stories such as LGBTQ, Urban, and Fanfiction from the romance category—stories that have already proved popular with Wattpad users and Wattpad staff. Readers can comment and vote on After Dark stories just like on Wattpad.

After Dark was conceived of by a team of Wattpad employees at Hack Friday, our monthly hack-a-thon event. On Hack Friday, Wattpad developers and designers join forces with other employees to bring an idea or product update to life in a single day. The Hack Friday concept for After Dark was transformed into a full-fledged app in just two short weeks.

After Dark is available in the App Store for people 17 years of age and older in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

New story from Anna Todd in support of Free2Luv

Free11

Today, New York Times best-selling author and Wattpad celebrity Anna Todd will begin serializing a new, original story titled Free. Anna is writing the story to support the award-winning LGBTQ advocacy group, Free2Luv. She is an official ambassador for the group. Her story Free will increase awareness about the #Free2Luv campaign that encourages young people to take a pledge of kindness and tolerance in response to bullying.

To read Free on Wattpad, visit Anna Todd’s Wattpad profile. You can learn more about Free2Luv on their Wattpad profile and official website.

Wattpad Ratings: It’s easy

We’ve simplified the way we handle ratings for stories on Wattpad. Every story that is currently R-rated will now be called Mature. All other stories will no longer display a rating; these are appropriate for all readers.

This is the first step in our process to simplify rating. Now writers only need to rate their stories when they contain mature content.  This change works with existing systems Wattpad uses to detect and appropriately label mature content. For a complete list of what is considered mature content, check the Wattpad Content Guidelines.

If you’d like to keep up to date with future changes to ratings in the coming months, follow News & Updates on the Wattpad profile.

100 Million Strong

Over the weekend, Wattpad celebrated its 100 millionth upload. Every one of those uploads have now become a part of the Wattpad story, and we couldn’t be happier about sharing this story with all of you who have shared your own stories on Wattpad.

If you haven’t yet posted your story to Wattpad, now is the perfect time. Every day we hear the same story from successful Wattpad writers: that they started off as Wattpad readers, and they never thought they’d write a story.

Until they did.

Now it’s your turn to share your story, and we want to help you write it. Take the Just Write It pledge and take advantage of how-to videos from some of Wattpad’s most successful writers. Tell your story, and help us on our way to our next milestone: 1 billion uploads.