Website Updates are Easy via SMS with Text2Page

July 18, 2012
Written by
Jonathan Gottfried
Opinions expressed by Twilio contributors are their own

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Developer Paul Finn

Paul Finn is a software developer in Portsmouth, NH and founder of Route 3 Software. While hanging with a chef at local restaurant he wondered if there was a better way than a chalkboard to update patrons of the daily specials. The challenge for the restaurant was the time it took to update its website. Paul thought, what if you could just text in your updates? In just one evening, Text2Page was born.

Below Paul shares his story of how Text2Page came to life.

The Story Behind Text2Page

I got the idea for Text2Page when talking to a chef at a local restaurant. The restaurant offered amazing specials  every single night of the week. Unfortunately, the only way to check out a particular night’s special was to walk by the restaurant and read the chalkboard out front.

I asked if they ever thought about updating the restaurant’s website with the nightly specials – I imagined there was some sort of CMS or system the staff could use to edit the site.

Before we could even discuss CMS, the idea was shut down. The restaurant staff did not have a spare second, let alone the time to update their website every night. There would have to be a way for the restaurant staff to update the website  without a computer, in less than a minute, without leaving their station. At that moment, the idea for Text2Page was born. I mapped out the infrastructure for Text2Page later that night–on a napkin.

I had previous experience with the Twilio API, and years of experience building web applications. This knowledge allowed me to build efficiently, with little cost.  I based Text2Page on standard text messages, so no expensive mobile app was needed and it works on virtually any phone.

Text2Page offers real-time communication between business owners and potential customers using the business’s website. Being able to post revenue-driving updates (specials, events, one-time offers, etc) anytime and anywhere opens up  new opportunities to bring in new and returning customers. With Text2Page, updating any part of your website takes twenty seconds–not twenty minutes.

Construction Zone

I was looking for another side project to tackle when I got the idea for Text2Page, so the timing was perfect. I’m a big fan of Python and the Django framework, so I snagged the official Twilio-Python library and got to work. The basic infrastructure involves hosting a Javascript snippet that each customer adds to their website just once when they sign up with Text2Page.

Every time a customer signs up, I purchase a new number from Twilio and give it an SMS endpoint that parses the incoming message. When a customer sends a text message, I parse and store the body of the message in the cloud. Every time someone visits my customers’ website, that Javascript snippet pulls the last message received and displays it on their website. It’s simple, and it works wonderfully. Thanks to CSS, users are able to choose where and how their updates appear on their website.

Get Your Text On

Anyone with basic knowledge of webpages can add Text2Page to their site in just a few minutes. Everything is ready to copy and paste – it’s as easy as adding Google Analytics or other third-party scripts to your website. All users get a free trial to make sure that the Text2Page service is right for them.

It’s perfect clients that need to report critical information but might not have immediate access to a computer. For example, outdoor venues and amusement parks can post unexpected closings due to weather straight to their website from the parking lot – no computer needed.

Best of all, Text2Page works with any SMS-enabled phone. You don’t need an “app” or the latest cell phone to use Text2Page.

Moving Forward

Right now, I’m focused on building the user base. I know that with the power of cloud storage and Twilio I can grow without having to worry so much about my infrastructure. This frees up my time to focus on gathering feedback and finding out what works and what doesn’t with my users. I’m going to add a WordPress plug-in soon which should make it even easier for millions of WordPress users to add Text2Page to their website.

Paul enjoys building web applications with Python and learning about bootstrapped software companies. When he’s not writing code, he can be found on his mountain bike or playing frisbee. Follow Paul @paul_finn_.