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My First App: The Good, Bad and Embarrassing.

seph_joe_ profile image seph ・3 min read

V1

I decided I wanted to make an app, something that I definitely would use in my day-to-day life. I decided to make Tasty Idea. It's an app that determines the ingredients in your food, and calculates the calories based on a typical serving size of them. It's pretty neat... but it didn't work.

I asked a few friends to test the first version on Test Flight. A couple liked it. A couple didn't. Most importantly, it crashed a lot. I got some constructive criticism, applied the changes and thought: "Brill! I did everything they've said", and launched it. The app was instantly rejected by Apple. It was crashing on launch.

I wanted to release Tasty Idea ASAP, but now I'd delayed myself further. I decided to take a long hard look, go back to the drawing board, and start again. I hadn't really listened to the feedback of my colleagues. They told me straight that they didn't understand the purpose of the app. It had way too many features, it wasn't MVP enough, and as such, none of the features really worked. None of them were fully developed and felt half-baked. My ambition to release an app clouded the judgement I generally have in work. If I wanted this app to go beyond being a neat side project, I had to treat it like the products I work on full time.

V1.1

So, I redesigned and rebuilt. I focused on what people said. I defined what Tasty Idea would be: a quicker way to log your food, and get the nutritional information you need. Perfect. That's the MVP. I released, and it was successfully accepted. I asked more people to test. And then, the embarrassment.

Did you actually release this?

I'm a bit of a traitor. I work on iOS, but have an Android phone. As such, I'd only ever tested the app on a simulator. What I didn't realise was the the keyboard, when up, hid almost every text field. A user couldn't see what they were typing. That meant that people weren't using the app because they simply couldn't.

I asked a few Redditors to look too. On smaller devices, which I didn't test on, submission buttons were obscured and couldn't be tapped. I was humiliated. I do this (to an okay degree) every day. And here I was, on my own project, getting the basics wrong. I had to do the hardest thing ever. I had to pull the app and fix the issues.

There were basic using interface/experience indicators missing too. It was unclear that the app was loading because I didn't put those in. I'd used the app so much I generally knew, subconsciously, how long it took to retrieve a food or prediction. I thought all users were me. This had to change.

V1.1.1

I decided on a patch update. The idea was right, the implementation was wrong. I spent a week working solidly on making sure every aspect was clear and worked. You knew when it was loading, when a button couldn't be tapped (and could actually tap the button). I was ready to go. In reality, this was my MVP.

The issue is, I'm now scared. I don't want people to test the app in case there's something I've missed. My impulsive act of releasing too early could have scared potential users away.

V1.2

I've now added more fully tested features to Tasty Idea, like notifications, saving suggested recipes and social sharing. More importantly, I planned properly, and tested properly. I was a little more agile, and now I'm proud of the app again.

What did I learn?

It's really easy to be impetuous on your own side projects. You're so proud of what you've done and think you've got the next big thing. You just want to get it into the hands of users. The key thing I've learnt is patience it capital. It's important to spend a little time looking at all those devices. Check it looks okay on every sized screen. It may be tedious, but it's a time investment. It saves you time in the long-run.

I've also learnt to focus on the basics first and do MVP. I preach it at work, and I ought to let it guide my side projects too. Now that it does, Tasty Idea is a fully functioning app with the features I've wanted from the start.

Discussion

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domysee profile image
Dominik Weber

Thank you for sharing your story.

I think it's great that you released early, even if it was a bit too early. Many developers work on a side-project, completely over-engineer it, and never get it in the hands of users.

Your way is definitely the better one :)