Written by Jonnie Hallman
I launched Cushion last week! After a year and a half, I finally did it, and if any sentence deserves an exclamation point, it’s that one—and this one! Unsurprisingly, I didn’t have the energy or capacity to write about the process leading up to the launch or in the thick of it, but I’ll try to put myself back into that mindset as best I could.
For the past seven months, friends have been asking me, “When are you going to launch?” And for the past seven months, I’ve been answering with, “At the end of the month.” I truly intended to release Cushion at the beginning of the year, but like most expected launch dates, it was a ridiculous goal. In my head, I thought I was at 95%, but realistically, that was on a scale of 0-150%.
There were countless features that Cushion needed to launch with or it would’ve fallen flat on its face. And, I know the whole MVP approach with the urgency to get anything out there and iterate later, but Cushion already had an MVP—the beta. The beta wasn’t feature-complete by any means and I still put it out there for people to use. It became my training wheels for the real release—I could get it the hands of others while still making an income from it. The “beta” label was less about its stability and more about my self-consciousness. I knew Cushion wasn’t up to my strict standards yet, so I labeled it “beta”.
As the months passed, I kept aiming for the end of each month, but I’d blink and find myself in the following month, still with a laundry list of to-dos. I finally set my sights on July, put my head down, and didn’t look up until all the loose ends were tied. Once I put the finishing touches on the app, the marketing website no longer felt like it belonged to Cushion—it was underwhelming and lacked personality. The website made Cushion seem like a side project, when it was actually a mature app—ready for launch.
I stepped away from the app and focused all of my attention on the website. I considered all of the problems I saw in the last one and amplified their solutions in the new one. Color has always played a big role in Cushion, so I filled the screen with it. Instead of downplaying its feature groups to small 2-liners, I gave them all their own pages in addition to summaries on the front page. I wanted everything to feel sufficient and consistent.
As the weekend approached, I started transitioning Cushion’s messaging from beta to release. “Thanks for testing out Cushion” became “Thanks for trying out Cushion.” Little by little, Cushion started to emerge from its shell. By the end of the weekend, everything was ready. Even though I was a couple weeks ahead of my end-of-the-month goal, I knew this was the moment. I felt like I put the last piece in the puzzle and I would launch that week no matter what.
The morning of the launch, I jumped out of bed after lying there with my eyes open for hours. I went about my typical morning routine, but with an extra skip in my step. I walked awkwardly to the studio—trying my hardest not to sprint there. I got to my desk and just sat there, watching the clock, and waiting for the right moment.
I hit send on the announcement tweet and just watched. As soon as I lifted my finger, notifications started to flood the top-right corner of my screen with favorites, retweets, and congratulatory mentions. As friends and long-time supporters spread the word about Cushion, I locked eyes with Cushion’s server graphs, expecting the worst.
But everything was fine. I didn’t need the extra servers I spun up for launch, but I felt much more comfortable with them there just in case. I spent the day just walking around the studio, watching the notifications drop from the top of my phone. I kept an eye on the graphs, but there were no fires to put out or gaping holes to fill, and no bugs that slipped through the cracks. After 10 months in beta, Cushion was a smooth ride through launch day. For the first time this year, I felt relieved.
The day after launch, Cushion reached #3 on Product Hunt and #1 on Designer News. Traffic saw a jump from launch day, but my Twitter streams were now filled with new faces instead of friends. I spent the day responding and just making myself available to answer questions. It felt strange not working on the codebase, and I had absolutely no urge to work on it. This week was for me to enjoy.
On the third day, I sent out the announcement email to the newsletter list of 3,000 strong and another wave came through. Like the days before it, Cushion remained calm and steady—no fire drills or hot fixes.
For the months leading up to launch, I expected the big day to be pandemonium. I imagined myself pushing fixes directly to master as beads of sweat rolled down my forehead. That day never came. Instead, I relaxed with friends at the studio and drank champagne that we found in the fridge. I like to think of that day as the perfect launch I would’ve never imagined.
Now that Cushion is live, I can finally forge ahead on all the features I’ve been postponing. I also anxiously await July 28th—the day the first trials start expiring. Because of the 14-day trial, I only have a rough idea of how well Cushion is doing. Based on the initial reception, however, I’m very optimistic—I think Cushion scratches a specific itch for a lot of freelancers.