10 Things I Learned While Building An App

Even though there’s a ton of stuff left to do on codesnipp.it, I’m REALLY glad it’s finally out in beta and being used. We’ve spent tons of time and work on it and was worried no one would use it!

Building your own app is a completely different experience from working with a client. You really have no guidelines to go on and no one’s paying you for the work (and you’ll most likely end up spending money).

As we were building an app, I took it upon myself to do a ton of reading online and off and listening to podcasts about app building. I’ve certainly learned a lot, although most of it has come from the experience itself.

So if you’re thinking of starting your own app, keep these points in mind!

1. The Power of Your Circle

It was amazing how much help, time and resources we got from everyone who’d only heard of the general concept. Once they realized how awesome the idea was for the app, they were eager to donate some help. So thanks everyone for your help and especially ZeHosting who’s dealt with us finagaling their servers and TriLion Studios who did the beautiful design.

2. No Matter How Long You Think It’s  Going To Take…Double It

I estimated that it would only take us 2 months to finish the entire application. Less than halfway through, however, we began moving features to a second and third planned beta. If you have the time to spare, give yourself extra time to get all the coding done.

3. Launch Beta On Time With The Fewest Features as Possible

Even though you should give yourself extra time, you should also try to launch as quick as possible and then make small updates quickly and often. When we launched codesnipp.it Monday, you couldn’t even change your temporary password or have an avatar! These small features were added in just a bit after launch – and most people didn’t mind. People realize that the app isn’t going to be perfect when in beta, so take advantage of that knowledge.

4. Everyone Has an Opinion On Your App…And A Complaint

I had several rounds of “opinions” that I garnered from close contacts and friends on the web about the app, all the way from just the idea to the design to the full site. Everyone had a different opinion about design, layout, features and the way things work. It’s great to listen to these guys because they often have great ideas, but that doesn’t mean you have to do everything they say. Take their opinions with a grain of salt.

Also, people will always complain no matter how many features you do have. Just remember this when you’re contemplating whether to add an additional 500 features to the app.

5. Everyone Loves A Beta

Betas are great for testing out the app, but they’re also great for building anticipate and participation. People love being first to the next big thing, so have a beta sign up form while you’re in development.

6. If It’s A Good Idea, People Will Help You

I mentioned above about how much help we’ve received from everyone. The cool thing is, if you’ve got a great idea and a nice presence on the web, a lot of people will actually offer to help you! If you do let people help, make sure you pay them back in return work, free ads or some kind of shout out!

7. There Will Always Be Haters, No Matter How Awesome The App Is

You know Twitter and Facebook, the two most popular apps ever, have a ton of haters. Your app probably will too. Some people just want something to be mad at. You’re free to ignore these ones.

8. It Will Never Be Perfect…So Just Do It

I was afraid to hit “Go” on our beta invite script because I’d knew then that I wouldn’t be able to stop people from checking out the app. What if something broke? What if it’s messed up in IE (like I care?)? Nothing will ever be perfect so just pull the trigger – turns out the small bugs we had didn’t actually hamper the workings of the app all that much.

Also, it’s good to do a small “pre-beta” test for a few hours with 10-20 people just to make sure it’s ready.

9. Plan On Spending The Last Weekend Working 24/7

Yes, we worked the entire Memorial weekend to get the app out to you – plus it was my little sister’s high school graduation as well. Plus I had about 6-7 client projects scheduled at the same time – and I have to work this entire week. Yes, I’m very, very tired. But I’m also very, very proud 😉

10. If Something Sucks The First Time, You Can Always Fix It In Beta 2

We had no avatars, no account details, no color coding and no search when we launched. We now have partial account details and avatars. We plan to not have an actual “beta 2” or “beta 3” but instead plan to add a new feature each week or so until we’re finished – and even though we’ve paired features down to the essentials we still have a long way to go.

Also, some things don’t have to work perfectly the first time. Currently, we have a limit of 20 posts for each free account, while the number updates itself, it only does it on reload (not AJAX like the rest of the site). This is something we plan to fix later.

Your Apps

What have you learned while making your own apps or projects?

image by Bart Claeys