November 2023 Review
December 07, 2023


I've been heads-down working on some major changes to What Did You Have For Dinner for the last couple of months and it's finally time to share them. If you're an active user of that site, this update should be interesting for you. If not, I'll try to keep it short!

I've practically rewritten the site twice since my last update to address two major issues:

New Functionality

New Functionality

Thanks so much to everyone who's been beta-testing for me. I've gotten some great feedback (and detailed bug reports), but the most helpful was also the harshest: The existing functionality of the site wasn't worth paying for.

I took that to heart and have been thinking about the site's value proposition a lot. An early description I used was "Your Culinary Lab Notebook", which made the focus of the site the notes you take on recipes and restaurants.

But I realized that the notes themselves aren't the value, it's the improvements to your future meals that the notes enable. This has led to a new guiding concept, which aims to make those improvements the focus: "Tend Your Culinary Garden." Like a gardener, just do a few minutes of work a day (logging your meals), and you'll be rewarded with a garden of culinary insights that will pay dividends in the future.

Some new features that showcase this ethos include:

  • Store Your Recipes - Import recipes to the site from websites or by taking a picture of a cookbook. We'll extract the recipe, and format it nicely for you to cook from later.

  • Living Recipes - When you log what you ate, write some notes on what you'd change. Our AI assistant will use the notes to suggest changes to the underlying recipe. Your recipes will seamlessly grow into the best version of themselves.

  • Share Your Personal Recipe - Generate a shareable link for friends to cook from too. They'll see the recipe update as you fine-tune it. Or they can import it into their own account, to start adapting it to their own taste.

I've got a number of ideas to continue moving the site in this direction, but I'd love to hear your thoughts too. If you're interested in trying out the new features, let me know and I can get you set up with a beta-testing account.


In researching success stories for single-developer products, I've found that there are three main ways they get enough customers to sustain themselves:

  1. Paid ads
  2. Creator's existing audience
  3. Great SEO

I'm not planning on running paid ads any time soon, and my existing audience is pretty small (although I suppose this post is an attempt to address that), so I've been focusing on learning as much about SEO as I can.

I've already done a lot of experimentation on Where Should I Live?, which has still been getting ~30,000 visitors a month largely on the back of organic search. One of the takeaways from that project has been the importance of your major pages loading A. fast and B. with all the content already rendered.

For those less familiar with web development: in the past, all web pages sent HTML directly to your browser, which then rendered that HTML into the page you see. In recent years, it's become more common to instead send instructions (in the form of JavaScript code) for the browser to create the HTML itself. This is often great for the developer (easier to write, easier to maintain), but it's terrible for SEO, because search engines (often) don't run JavaScript when considering how to rank your site. This means that if you want your page to show up in search results, you need to send the HTML directly.

My old framework made this very difficult, so I took the opportunity to rewrite the entire site in a new one (Quasar) that makes it easier. SEO impacts move slowly, so stay-tuned for whether this effort was an enormous waste of time! (Don't worry, there were other good reasons to switch frameworks too.)

Goals From Last Time

1. Get 10 paying customers for WDYHFD

Grade: C

I've got 3 paying customers so far (thank you all!), but I haven't been promoting the site while I was working on adding new features. Now that those are done(ish), I'll be aiming for this goal again.

2. Have a successful in-person trivia night

Grade: A

It went great, and I've already done a second one! There are some significant differences to hosting in person, but I'm starting to get the hang of it. Shockingly, it's nice to actually hear the audience, rather than telling bad jokes to a silent computer screen like I'm used to.

Goals For Next Time

SEO changes take a notoriously long time to take effect, so I'm setting this goal quite low in the hopes of seeing some early results. Right now my organic traffic is ~0, so getting here will give me somewhere to grow from.

2. Get 10 paying customers (again)

Running it back! I'm going to focus on SEO, but I also have some low-hanging marketing fruit that I've been neglecting. I'll post about the new-and-improved site in a few different places and see if I can pick up any traction and get a few paying customers.

3. Build something new and fun

When I have work I don't like doing (like marketing/SEO), I tend to procrastinate by building lots of features that aren't strictly necessary yet. I'm going to try to resist this temptation, then reward myself by building something small and fun. I've already got a very silly idea, so stay tuned.

See you next time!