3 Things to Consider When Building Your First App
When you’re learning to code, tutorials and screencasts can be a helpful way to get started. But to really internalize how things work, it’s important to get started on building on your app as soon as possible. Besides, launching your own products is probably why you wanted to start learning anyway.
As the coding sessions with my CodeMentor are set to wrap up next month, two weeks ago we decided it was time to get to work on something original. After completing the excellent Ruby on Rails Tutorial by Michael Hartl, I put some thought into what I wanted to build.
Being the parent of a young child, I decided on a Q&A/Linksharing site for parents. As I’ve been learning to code, it’s been helpful to have the Stack Overflow community to rely on to help answer questions. It’d be great for new parents to have something similar. As I thought through what to work on, a few criteria became clear to me that seemed helpful to share.
Here are some important characteristics to consider when building your first app:
You Should Be Excited to Use It
This seems obvious, but it’s worth focusing on. Don’t worry if it’s a viable business or not. Don’t worry about whether there is a huge market for it. Don’t worry if something like this already exists. Just make sure it’s something you’re passionate about, and are excited to see exist in the world. You’re going to hit roadblocks as you go and things will be extremely frustrating at times, so it’s important that you have genuine enthusiasm for what you’re working on to carry you through the bumps
It Should Have Relatively Common Functionality
Now isn’t the time to be try to build features no one has ever built before. While the user experience can be unique, the more common the feature set, the more answers you’ll find online when you have questions. For my app, the core features are link sharing, threaded comments, and upvoting/downvoting. They have all been built countless times before, so every time I’m stuck, I can usually find some helpful advice online to keep me moving forward.
Be Wary of Third-Party Platforms
The more third-party platforms that are part of your project, the more you will have to learn about each specific service. Some back-end services are well worth the cost of learning, like hosting your project on Heroku for example. But when thinking through the user experience, relying on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, or Foursquare can quickly ramp up the complexity of your project. Each API you work with introduces another separate learning curve. Keep things simple.
The idea of using an app you build yourself is extremely motivating, and can help form a love of programming early on. Just make sure to keep some simple rules in mind when deciding what to work on to help ensure you’ll actually get it done.
Missed our earlier posts? Catch-up on our journey to finally learning to code with our previous posts:
- Being Technical isn’t “Binary”: Shipyard Cofounders’ Coding Journey
- Startup Co-founders’ Coding Journey: From Newbie to Informed
- Non-Technical Startup Cofounders Learn How to Build Simple Web App from Scratch
- Learning to Code with a Mentor is All About the 1:1 Interaction
About the Author
This article was written by Mark Webster from ShipyardNYC. Mark and his two other co-founders, Vipin and Minesh, are participating in Codementor’s Featured Stars Program, where they will work with a dedicated mentor to bolster their understanding of programming concepts and become better entrepreneurs.