This 24-Year Old Created a Viral COVID-Tracking Website
Guillaume Rozier is a 24-yeard old computer science student from France.
Early March 2020, as we weren’t yet speaking of lockdowns, Guillaume looked at the COVID-19 tracking website made by Johns Hopkins University.
With the data, he made a graph of France’s evolution of cases and compared it to the evolution of cases in Italy. Doing so, he realized that France was only 10 days behind its transalpine neighbor and that cases were about to explode.
Worried, he distributed the graph to his family and friends and realized they were very interested. Every day, at least one of his acquaintances asked him for an update of the graph.
Annoyed by the constant requests, Guillaume created a landing page and uploaded the graph, making it live. Within a week, he had 20 000 daily visitors.
Somewhat embarrassed by the simplicity of the original website, he made another one with a proper logo, an explicit URL, and other basic information related to the epidemic.
CovidTracker was born. Its popularity exploded.
The Recipe of Viral Content
The peculiarity of this story is that it happened by accident.
For Guillaume, it all started with the desire to understand how the epidemic compared in different countries. He made the website only after he realized that people were interested in knowing that too.
While Guillaume does not know exactly what made his Covid Tracker popular compared to other websites, he has some ideas.
First, the official COVID-tracking page of the government was grim and complicated to use. The user interface was unfriendly and the data were difficult to comprehend. As such, Guillaume explains that the success of his work is due to its simplicity.
CovidTracker is clear and simple. Anyone can understand the data without the need to have a Ph.D. in statistics.
A second aspect may be due to the fact that trust in French institutions is at its lowest point. The fact that the website was made by a simple citizen may also have contributed to its renown.
What We Can Learn From This Story
This story teaches us three business and marketing lessons.
First, you cannot know if something will be successful until you try and put it out there. Had Guillaume not talked about his graph to anyone, CovidTracker would have never seen the light of the day.
Guillaume never thought people were interested in the information he had. It is only when he shared it, that he found out about the value of his work.
Second, simplicity is crucial. Many users seem to have been turned off by the government’s website because of its poor user interface.
Many entrepreneurs and marketers believe one should invent a brand new product or technology to create a market and make billions. Yet, this isn’t the case. There are plenty of poorly designed products, websites, or interfaces out there that deserve to go through an extreme simplification remodeling.
The benefits of simplicity are immense. It broadens your pool of customers and makes your product more attractive. Computer programmers express this principle as KISS: Keep It Simple and Stupid. If your product is easy to use, people will be more likely to buy it than if it’s not.
Third, success comes to those that create value for others. Guillaume’s website worked because it broadcast information that citizens wanted to know. Had people not been interested in the evolution of the pandemic, Guillaume would not have created the website.
If you focus on designing a simple product that people want to consume/use because they find value in doing so, you drastically increase your chances to succeed.
No need to reinvent the wheel. The process doesn’t have to be complicated. It “just” needs to be valuable.