Christopher Gimmer of BootstrapBay: Open Source Will Reach New Levels
There are many ways to hack your way to success and use some smart shortcuts that will save you time and money bootstrapping your startup. One of the most popular framework for websites is Bootstrap, with its flexibility and built-in features you can build your prototype in no time.
Today I am having Christopher Gimmer, a co-founder of BootstrapBay which is a premium marketplace of Bootstrap themes and templates. I’m talking with Christopher about Bootstrap, how he got started, what he has learnt bootstrapping a startup and much more.
Thanks for your time Chris. Can you shortly introduce yourself and your work?
Happy to be here Tomas.
I actually come from a finance background and was in no way involved with web design until I met Marc, my current co-founder. Marc was a self-taught programmer who, at the time we met, did it mainly as a hobby. Given our complimentary skillsets, we decided to start business together providing web design & development services.
We both had day jobs at the time and we were running the consulting business on the side. After running the business for a few years, we decided that client work wasn’t for us and we wanted to take a shot at building a product business.
What is your biggest passion and why?
It took me a while to find my passion but there’s no question that it’s growing a startup and putting something out there in the world. The thrill of acquiring users and creating value is something that really excites me.
Similarly, Marc is passionate about building products that people love to use. It’s exciting to see people use our product on a daily basis to make their lives easier.
How did you get into design?
Marc got into design years ago when he was tinkering with WordPress. After installing a free theme, he didn’t like the way the header looked. This theme didn’t have any theme options where you could change colors using a color picker. So after some Googling, he discovered that you could edit the CSS file to change the background colors. He changed it from green to blue and that was his first design experience. From there, he started reading more blogs, started learning more about CSS and HTML, and eventually built full templates on his own.
For myself, I didn’t know any code when we started our consulting business. After bringing on a few clients, I realized I better at least learn the basics in order to help out with the design work. I learned the fundamentals of HTML & CSS and then learned Bootstrap and WordPress. Still, I would not consider myself a true designer.
Why did you switch from service based to product based business?
Our biggest issue with consulting was not having total control over the design process. In comparison, a product business allows us to be more creative and gives us the freedom to build cool stuff. I guess like most entrepreneurs, we wanted to make our dent in the universe.
Another reason why we wanted to build a product business was the fact that we wanted to build a long-term asset that was not dependent on our time. You hear a lot of stories about people who’ve built up large successful service businesses only to realize they can’t get themselves out of them.
It’s definitely been a lot more difficult to build a product business but it’s been very rewarding nonetheless.
What the story behind BootstrapBay?
While we were consulting, we used Bootstrap for most of the sites we were building. The more we used it, the more we liked it. After doing some research, we realized the popularity of the framework was huge and it didn’t seem to be slowing down.
Using Google’s keyword planner, we found there was huge search volume for Bootstrap themes & templates and began thinking about building a niche marketplace. After studying the competition, we thought we could differentiate ourselves in the following ways:
Accepting nothing but high quality themes & templates.
Some of the marketplaces that carry Bootstrap themes will accept sub-par themes. This makes it a nightmare for buyers to sift through the listings. We thoroughly review each submission to ensure high design quality and clean code.
Providing outstanding customer support.
Some of the bigger marketplaces are known for slow support times and lengthy theme reviews. Being smaller and focused on Bootstrap enables us to review themes & answer customer support issues more quickly.
Focusing on community.
We don’t just want to sell themes & templates, we want to build a community. We try to accomplish this by providing helpful content and by interacting with our customers as much as possible.
What are the pros and cons of using frameworks?
The biggest pro is the increased speed of development, especially when creating a responsive website. There’s no more need to set breakpoints and build your own components. Cross-browser compatibility comes into play here as well.
Working with frameworks also provides consistency when working in teams. Since a framework provides pre-defined classes and standard ways of doing things, it reduces the inconsistencies when multiple people are involved with the project. This was actually one of the main reasons why Bootstrap was started.
Finally, if the framework has a large following (like Bootstrap does), it means a lof of people are developing tools for it and are able to help you out when needed.
The major complaint about frameworks is the lack of flexibility. Since frameworks have a standard grid, selectors and other code, you’ll need to override many of the default styles in order to achieve a very unique look.
Another criticism of frameworks is often the extra code. There’s no question that you won’t be using every bit of CSS and JS that comes with the framework, thus adding to the size of your site. With Bootstrap though, you do have the option of customizing the download to reduce file size.
How do you approach marketing?
Our main approach to marketing is to provide valuable content for our target market. We’ve put together resource lists, tutorials and helpful articles. Recently, we’ve been focusing on releasing free tools and components like our Bootstrap button pack.
Beyond releasing free content, we’re also working with affiliates and established web design blogs to feature our themes and our content. I’m also working on a few guest posts for some authoritative blogs.
We’ve had much more success approaching marketing in this way compared to the more old-school methods like banner ads.
How designers and entrepreneurs can maximize their efficiency using Bootstrap?
Entrepreneurs, especially those that are Bootstrapped, can benefit immensely from the speed and efficiency gained from a framework. Bootstrap allows entrepreneurs to prototype websites quickly and test their assumptions without the need to spend valuable time developing a complex site.
Designers can benefit from all the benefits we mentioned in the framework pros.
What are the growth hacks you’ve recently discovered?
Our biggest ‘hack’ thus far has been a blog post we wrote on the best places to get free stock photos. We did this using the SkyScraper technique that Brian Dean introduced on Backlinko.
It was so successful that Brian Dean featured us as a case study on his blog. This one post has given us a huge boost in SEO and a lot more eyeballs on our company.
What is your vision for BootstrapBay and the whole web?
BootstrapBay is still in its infancy and we have every intention to continue growing the company and acquire more users. Over the next year, we will be introducing many features that will improve the user experience for both buyers and sellers. Our goal is to become the best place on the internet to find premium Bootstrap themes & templates.
As far as the web goes, I think we’ll continue to see the open source movement being pushed to new levels. I’ve noticed that every time someone is hiring a developer, instead of asking for a resume they’ll ask for a link to their GitHub account.
In addition, I think we’ll continue to see a rise in nice specific communities as a means of interaction. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are getting way too noisy and I think a lot of people are turning to more focused communities like Dribbble, Product Hunt, and Indbound.org, among others.
Founded: April, 2014
Headquarters: Ottawa, Canada
People: Christopher Gimmer & Marc Chouinard
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