tl;dr We built www.coworkingsa.co.za, a site that aggregates coworking spaces in South Africa.
We need a bigger office
When we launched OfferZen in December we used our apartment as the office. For the most part this worked fine, but in January we started growing the team and realized we needed to find real offices.
We didn’t want to tie ourselves into a long term rental contract, and someone had the idea of finding a private office inside a coworking space.
Finding the right coworking space
I assumed that finding a coworking space that fit our needs would take an hour or two. It turns out I completely underestimated the effort required. It ended up taking three full days to find a place!
It was extremely time consuming to compare coworking spaces based on the information on their websites. One of the most important considerations for us was internet connectivity. Almost every coworking spaces in the world claims super fast internet but as we found out the definition of super fast varies wildly. For some it means a 200mb fiber connection and for others it means a 20mb ADSL line.
I resorted to actually calling or visiting the spaces to test their wifi. As I gathered information about each space I recorded the information in a simple Google Sheet. After a few hours of frenzied research I realized I possibly had the most complete comparison of coworking spaces in Cape Town.
Sharing our research
With great power comes great responsibility. I realised it would save other people a ton of time if we shared the information.
I decided to turn my Google Sheet into a website! I wanted the site to be simple and beautiful, but before I could start coding I needed to get more data from each coworking space first.
I created a Google Form, and with some vague hope that it might just work, I emailed a bunch of coworking spaces and asked them to complete it. It totally worked! As the responses came in I started building www.coworkingsa.co.za.
How I built the site
I wanted to avoid using a real CMS like Wordpress, and started looking for other ways to manage the content on the site.
It turns out that it was possible to populate the site’s content directly from the Google Sheet I’d been using to record my research. I set up Middleman to pull data from the Google Sheet, dynamically build a page for each space, and convert those pages to static HTML!
If you’re interested in reading more about using Middleman with Google Sheets check out the Verge 50 Github repo.
Silicon Cape and Malva
A week after I decided to build the site we had the opportunity to show it to a very diverse group of spaces at the Coworking Africa conference.
I will be adding more coworking spaces from the rest of the country. I initially focused primarily on Cape Town because I had originally researched it, but Johannesburg has a growing coworking culture and there are a ton of cool spaces.
As more spaces are added it will become important to be able to to filter and search. I’m deciding between adding adding filters, and search built with something like Algolia.
If you know of a coworking space you’d like to add let me know and I’d be happy to add it. Just comment below with a link to the space, or if you are the owner of said space please complete this Google Form.