Helping strangers find friendships across the world, fostering long-term relationships through random e-mail penpaling.

Background

I am the co-founder, designer, front-end developer, and marketing manager for Penpal Roulette,  a desktop site where users can sign-up and be randomly assigned to another user around the world for the purposes of e-mail penpaling, an interaction space where people could find more long-term and thoughtful interactions beyond those initial meetings.

Design and Development of Penpal Messaging System

  • I coded the system in XHTML, CSS, and PHP with MySQL database architecture with the aide of my associate Bretlan Fletcher. We now boast over five-hundred registered users with more joining each day.
  • The Penpal Messaging system allows for quick and easy sign-up with minimal hassle to the users. After signing up, users are automatically assigned to a partner user if one is available. If a partner is not available, new users are put into a que until new users sign-up. Mails are sent from our site, but delivered to a partners inbox, to ensure that users remain anonymous and encourage users to return to the site.
  • Working on Penpal Roulette was also my first experience working with jQuery and associated effects, such as lightbox and accordian menus. Styling with jQuery made things such as terms of service and about the site much more beautiful, but also presented usability challenges in not loading on right-click and not being useful for users with jscript disabled.
  • These are issues we will need to take up in the future with the site.

Google Suite, SEO and Advertising

  • In working on Penpal Roulette, I began to get a fuller view of the end-to-end nature of web development and the garbage collecting tasks entailed in operating a website. I spent additional time investigating search engine optimization and the Google suite of tools, including setting up Google Analytics, Adsense, and Adwords.
  • I dealt with larger questions of monetization and advertising, instituting Adsense ads on our pages and affiliate marketing with Amazon. I responded to user requests and feedback through iterations of design, and developed some local affiliate advertising campaigns to encourage use of the site.