Sixlist: What It’s Like To Build Your Own App

Ryan Eghrari, a senior at University of Richmond, has bleached blond hair down to his shoulders, growing out of almost-black roots. Tall and thin with a strong jaw covered in a hint of facial hair, he’s not a guy you would imagine sitting in a room for months on end writing computer code to create his own website, but that’s exactly what he did.

Eghrari created Sixlist, a dating website, from scratch as a sophomore in college, a feat that he said should have been at least a four-man job.

Sixlist is a website that matches students at University of Richmond to other students only at the university based on who they already know and like.

The idea for Sixlist came to Eghrari when he was a freshman in college. He had created what he called a “hot or not” list, and thought it would be interesting to have a website or app that ranked students based on their attractiveness.

After receiving a no from his mother, who said the idea would just upset people, Eghrari came up with an idea that he thought would make people happy.

Eghrari explained the concept of Sixlist using the analogy of a middle school dance.

“Everyone wants to be with someone,” he said. “There’s someone you want to be with, and maybe someone else you might want to be with a little less.”

Eghrari said the problem is a lack of communication. Sixlist bridges the gap between people by taking a list of people they like and pairing them with someone who also likes them and has them on their list.

When he first started, Eghrari didn’t know what he was doing. He didn’t know whether there was an algorithm that could make the idea work, and he didn’t know anything about building a website or writing code. So, he changed his major from business to computer science.

Creating a website from scratch requires time, commitment, money and knowledge. Eghrari had to learn about DNS (Domain Name System) servers, create an HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) that controlled the fonts, colors, graphics and hyperlink effects within the site, and learn about CSS (Cascading Style Sheet), which controls how the code is organized on one page.

“Everyone sees Sixlist completely differently than what it actually looks like,” Eghrari said. “I work on something that’s probably close to a couple J.K. Rowling books worth of writing, probably a thousand files in a couple hundred different folders.”

After his freshman year, Eghrari had a web-design internship, during which he worked tirelessly on his project.

“I would wake up at, like, 9 a.m. and work until I died, basically, and I just repeated that all summer,” Eghrari said. “I pushed myself as hard as I could.”

When he was a junior, he began working with Aidan Winters, a friend who was also a computer-science major. They worked to find an algorithm that could do what Eghrari wanted to accomplish.

“I really had no idea if it was going to work,” Winters said.

After months without success, an epiphany came to Eghrari at 3 a.m. after studying all night for a test. Winters was the more advanced of the two at writing code at that time. He finished the algorithm in less than 30 minutes.  

“He could actually write what was in my head,” Eghrari said.

The first time they ran the code, however, it didn’t work. After a few changes they ran it again, and it worked.

At first, they were focused on how the site looked. When they launched the site, they got over 20,000 hits in the first weekend, and over 600 people signed up, Eghrari said.  

“I remember walking into D-Hall and seeing people on Sixlist and being like, ‘what the f—!?’” Eghrari said. People were actually using the website he had created.

“It was fun, but it was also strange, because I’ve never worked on something people actually used before,” Winters said.

After the first week, though, hits began to drop rapidly. There were problems with the server.

“The first version just wasn’t good enough to use,” Eghrari said. “People thought it was made by a kid, which is fair, because it was.”

Eghrari took the website offline after that, and the next summer began working on the current, fully functional version, which he calls “Version 1.” They added new features, such as events and search tools, and when they finally brought it back to Richmond in the fall of 2017, they launched it at the State University of New York at Cortland as well.

They hope the second time around will work out better, since they now have the server space to cater to a much larger audience.

“There is code that took us forever to write, but it is so much easier to do that than to try and get Sixlist actually going,” Winters said.

Aside from flyers, there haven’t been many marketing advances. Eghrari doesn’t like the idea of marketing, because it isn’t organic. The only way he sees the site succeeding is if people get excited about it.

Eghrari does not make any money from the website, because he just wants it to help people and make them happy. It’s not as superficial as other dating sites, he said, and he thinks it could actually work.

Even if the website isn’t 100 percent successful, Eghrari said he was more proud of actually creating something than worried about if people use it.

For now, the site has changed a lot, and will continue to change. Eghrari wants to be able to capture every aspect of the way people connect. Through advances of technology, he wants to find a better way to match people, even though he doesn’t know what that is yet.

“The dream is that someday I don’t even have to ask who you like,” Eghrari said. “Because who you like is way more complex than just making a list.”

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