I have built dozens of applications in the past few years. Most of them for iOS, some for the Mac, some for the Web. Looking back, most of them had modest aspirations, but some were very promising and could become bigger than I thought. But they didn’t. And over time I abandoned them all.
Some of those apps could just “live on” on their own, but software eventually expires, like fruit. If you don’t keep updating it to match the operating system UI and continuously update it, software dies.
In the last couple years I focused 100% on training developers to create Web applications, and this is where I found tremendous personal satisfaction.
But I recently started working on a new app.
They say “never start with an idea, start with a problem”.
This was the scenario: I was working on many different projects at the same time, and I wanted a nice way of managing them.
What’s the next thing I want to do in my electronics components exploration journey? And what was the last thing I did?
Why did I stop working on that wood table project? Oh yeah, I need to go to the store which is a 1-hour drive.
What was the item I have to buy to finish my new battery upgrade on the van? Ah yes I have it in the Amazon cart.
I couldn’t find a good project management application that helped me, so I used a bunch of different tools like my whiteboard, paper, and on the computer Notes, Things, WorkFlowy and MindNode.
Those apps work nicely but they are not strictly solving my problem. I could use them to solve my problem, but… no.
So I started looking at what people commonly use for project management. Oh I mean projects management. Managing all my projects, all at the same time.
I looked everywhere on the Web and all I could find was either TODO apps, or project management for teams. Oh yes I could use those tools by myself, but all those tools assume you work on projects with a team.
Why? Why can’t I have a first-class experience without having all the team focused features that look at me, and increases my already high cognitive load?
I also asked on Twitter but nothing came up. I then abandoned the concept for a couple weeks.
Then a few days ago I got back to this train of thought because I realized I was working on to many projects at the same time, again. I always do. I can’t go from start to finish on one project, I always move on with several. It’s how I roll.
One evening at 11PM I started drawing something on paper. I am very bad at drawing so I won’t show you the results.
Then some days later, in the evening (my best creative time) I opened Balsamiq Wireframes and started drawing some screens.
That app is phenomenal because it lets you work on concepts without losing yourself in the tiny details. I love it.
After a while I had 2 screens ready. The list of projects, and the project detail page.
Nothing fancy, nothing groundbreaking.
No business plan. No business model canvas.
Some of those stories are simply amazing, and I particularly resonate with the ones where a solo individual creates something out of nothing, and this thing is now providing a full-time income for them.
I am fortunate in that I make my full-time income through my online programming training courses, so I don’t have monetary expectations from this app.
All my past attempts at creating applications were attempts at creating a business that could become my full-time income.
I think this is a key difference. Money creates some kind of expectation that 99% of the applications never meet.
With money removed from the equation, what is left?
I want to create this application not to sell it, not to become rich out of it, but to create a useful software. A beautiful piece of software.
Something that I will use every day, to begin with.
Then maybe I could also release this application to the public and see if someone likes it, but the main goal is to build it for myself.
That’s what I will base all the requirements upon. I do not care if other people need additional features because I just want to build an app tailored to how I believe the app should be.
If this makes the app compelling enough that someone will find useful, that’s AMAZING.
But first and foremost, it must be the app of my dreams.
Any app I build and maintain must be an app I use every day.
That’s the only way for me. I can’t imagine, seeing what I saw in the past, working on an app that is not going to be useful to me. Not just useful, essential.
I consider this kind of application essential, in the same way that for me is essential a mind map, a simple TODO list and a calendar.
I want to use Notes for quick notes, MindNode and WorkFlowy for downloading thoughts from my mind, but then when it comes to managing a project, I want to use my tool.
I would use it every day to have a bird’s eye view to see all the projects I am actively working on, the ones I put on hold, the ones I have completed or cancelled.
I would use it to decide which project I am going to work on that particular day. I am free to decide what to work on, unless I have some deadlines pending.
I would use it to look at the current status of a project, what are its next milestones and its timeline so far, and more.
I would use it to look back at my progress when I ask myself “what have I done in the past few weeks?”. That’s compelling to me, because I have a terrible memory and I tend to forget about the work I complete.
See, I would use it for a lot of things.
This makes it worth exploring if:
- I really want to do it, and it’s not a fad that will disappear in a few days
- I am really willing to create and maintain it for years