A tool for outstanding websites: Readymag’s CEO on the journey from start-up to sustainable business
After its launch in 2013, Readymag’s tool for designing websites was named the ‘Product of the Day’ at Product Hunt, made a successful pivot, switched to a sustainable business model, and became a universal playground where the most incredible ideas are born and realised. Having reached its 10th birthday, Readymag’s Co-founder & CEO Diana Kasay has stopped by to share the unique journey of the company and product with us.
Before we begin, let’s introduce Readymag. Readymag is a browser-based design tool that helps create all kinds of online publications without coding. It preaches total creative freedom and offers advanced animations, 5,000+ free fonts with an option to tweak them and add custom ones, and features for smooth teamwork and client delivery.
In its initial form, Readymag was contrived by Ukrainian designer Anton Herasymenko. “The proto-idea sparked around 2009: back then, together with a friend we were working on relaunching an existing digital magazine. We both shared a deep love for visual culture and editorial design, and I believe he was the one who introduced me to all these iconic magazines like Dazed & Confused, Man About Town and 032с. Working together, we were speculating a lot about the death of print and how the design process and distribution will change with the arrival of the iPad. The magazine relaunch unfortunately never happened and we both decided to focus on other projects, but I was left with this unsatisfied desire and curiosity to explore and fantasise about the future of independent digital publishing and the new tools that would serve this future,” Herasymenko recalls.
His initial vision was circling around online magazines and a new tool that would allow anyone to publish one without writing any code; colliding the beauty and precision of print layouts with the aliveness of the web. “There were tools like InDesign and Quark for print, but I wanted something more interactive, fun, and simple for the web. It shouldn’t be template-based as a freeform canvas is essential to give the feeling of freedom while designing,” Herasymenko adds.
He started making the first sketches in Kyiv at the beginning of 2011 as a pet project and after a year showed Kasay the mockups of the tool. The concept got the name ‘Readymag.’ Shortly after, the third co-founder, Kirill Danchenko, joined the team and took on development.
From the very first days of development, the then-small team merely breathed with it. The founders had no salaries and invested every free dollar into the product. By error and trial, they developed a beta version and shared it with the design community to get feedback. As soon as Readymag became a fully viable tool, it was time for a launch.
‘This landmark moment of 2013 caught me riding a car across a desert in the USA. I logged into the mail agent and, stricken, observed the flow of signup notifications flooding my mailbox,” Kasay remembers.
Right after the launch, Readymag became the ‘Product of the Day’ at Product Hunt. Before that, the founders got little-to-no response from investors but the success with Product Hunt helped the venture to raise its first round. Over the first months, The Huffington Post and Al Jazeera became the first big Readymag clients and actively used the tool for digital editorials.
Although Readymag started out as a tool for web magazines, the founders – and users – soon noticed that the product was more powerful and exceeded the niche. “Our vision about magazines altered a lot right after we released the prototype, as people started to use Readymag to design all things web, like portfolios, pitch decks, and visual stories. That was really surprising and inspiring to see. That’s why we decided to develop Readymag as a tool to design websites,” Herasymenko adds.
At the beginning of 2016, Herasymenko and Danchenko left Readymag, and Kasay became the CEO. “As the only person at the company’s wheel, I asked myself how I see its future and where I feel like navigating the business,” recalls Kasay, “I realised the quality of the product, its aesthetics and the team mattered the most to me. Since then I’ve been putting my effort into making Readymag a sustainable business without venture fuss for capitalisation.”
In 2019, Readymag came to that very point where it had not simply overcome the growth crisis but was able to engage in social activities. It started offering students and NGOs subscription discounts so that they could learn, grow and gain attention. From 2022, Readymag gives free subscriptions to Ukrainian designers and Ukrainian charity initiatives.
Also, Readymag speaks up with its editorials. The first important passion project, ‘Designing Women,’ entirely created with the tool, came to life in 2019 and marked the onset of the feminist agenda Readymag supports. This editorial was followed by other legacy long reads, such as Design Stories, Enso, and partnerships with international design organisations: Type Directors Club, Femme Type, and many others. In 2023, Readymag supported etceteras – a feminist festival of design and publishing, held in Porto, Portugal by Futuress.org, by creating and hosting a colourful landing page.
With the growing social activity, the Readymag team was also growing in quality and quantity. Currently, fewer than 50 people in 16 countries deliver a product that meets the needs of design amateurs and professionals, but Kasay believes, “the team are just punks and will always be.”
Readymag is a perfect fit for design geeks and people for whom the aesthetic component is critical. For them, it is not just a tool but a part of the cultural code. “There exist classic website builders, where people assemble pages from bricks. And there is Readymag – which is focused on design processes and experiences: with it, designers craft and combine elements to get a unique chemical reaction – that results in an outstanding website,” Diana Kasay emphasises.