Interview with Chuck Longanecker (Hello Bar)
Hello Bar is an unobtrusive yet engaging web toolbar that sits at the top of your website.
I interviewed Chuck Longanecker, Hello Bar founder to find out more. This is the hundred and thirtieth in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Chuck!
How would you describe Hello Bar in under 50 words?
Hello Bar is a simple notification bar that sits on the top of your website and drives clicks to your most important content.
How would you describe yourself in one sentence?
Driven, optimistic and focused on having fun as a design entrepreneur.
Tell us how it all started – where did your vision for Hello Bar come from?
As a user experience company, we are always striving to make the web experience better. We asked ourselves, “What is the minimum goal of any website?” The answer that we came up with was “To deliver a simple message and call to action.”
Since all websites are different, we wanted to offer an unobtrusive, yet highly noticeable and consistent way to deliver a message and call to action. At the time, we really only had flash bars within web apps to confirm your changes were saved or to update you on downtime…etc. We figured this medium could be transferred to marketing websites and Hello Bar was born.
How long did it take to put together Hello Bar?
We built the first version of Hello Bar in 2 weeks. After that, we spent countless hours of design and scaling optimization.
What was technically the most challenging part of developing Hello Bar?
Figuring out how to use WordPress to build a website and optimizing both the bar serving platform and statistics once we started serving 20MM+ bars a day.
What made you sell Hello Bar in June 2012?
We never planned to sell Hello Bar, however, we started to receive offers and realized that an acquisition would fund bigger and more impactful projects for the design of the web.
You are founder of SlideDeck and digital-telepathy. Tell us more about these companies.
digital-telepathy is a user experience design company and the mothership for all our projects and UX clients. We employ about 20 designers and developers with the goal of improving the design of the web with our products and services. Most of the products come from the DT Labs division. We perform a lot of experiments with new ways to interact with web content and eventually build products from them.
SlideDeck was the first official product from DT Labs. We built SlideDeck to allow people to better tell their story on their website. It was one of the first sliders to be built and sold with jQuery and WordPress. We now have over 250,000 users and counting.
Do you think entrepreneurs are born or made?
Born and developed over time. It takes a bit of crazy and a lot of experience to be an entrepreneur. You are driven by something different than most people and I don’t think you can make that.
You could only afford to pay yourself $300 a month when you first started out. What kept you motivated?
I had some of the most fun in those times. I had good friends, lived in sunny San Diego and I got to make things up for a living. As they say, the best things in life are free.
You co-founded TEDxSanDiego. What is the most inspirational TED talk you have seen so far?
Do you have any new projects in the pipeline?
Always. We will continue to create simple website feature products and offer free versions here.
We are also working on evolving the way websites are designed so they are easier to build, use and work seamlessly on any device.
What do you wish you’d have known 5 years ago that you know now?
5 years ago, I wish I knew how to focus on the things that matter most. Life is 80% minutia, I think the secret is to focus on the things that make a difference.
What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?
Taking on projects just for the money. Whenever we closed on a large project without having a deep connection with the client, they have failed. We now work only on projects where we have a mutual respect and connection with the cause and client.
What web app or site could you not live without?
I love Quora. It’s much better than Googling for answers and is a blast to explore.
Name 3 trends that excite you.
1. Working within the z-axis of web content instead of opening new pages
2. An internet of things
3. Gesture based navigation
What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?
Not raising capital. We bootstrap everything, so we have to move slower and learn to work within constraints. However, this is also our strength since we are required to fail quickly and not waste time or energy on shiny objects.
What key goal have you yet to achieve?
I’d love to make a significant historic impact with the way that people interact with web content.
Which entrepreneurs do you most admire?
Those that are irreverent, built themselves up from nothing and invented new ways of doing things – Richard Branson, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs…etc.
What piece of advice would you give to someone starting up?
Always care about what you do and don’t be in a hurry to succeed.
What are you most excited about at the moment?
Moving from San Francisco back to San Diego to work directly with our team on our next product.
Evolving the way we create websites and allowing anyone to become a designer.
Finished reading? Check out Hello Bar!