Create more by doing less

Developers love creating stuff. This is why it’s super important to create an environment where a developer can relax, feel creative and build stuff. It’s not obvious, but we are artists. We are given a set of tools and then given a challenge without a manual or walkthough.

Like all crafts there are some parts that are repetitive and boring, they don’t require creativity or ingenuity. They just consume time and get the developer out of the flow. What if we could get rid of these obstacles?

Enter fastlane. The purpose of fastlane is to automate as much as possible so the developers can focus on creating amazing software. I setup fastlane at Acast and it has helped us shorten our deployment time from several hours to just a few minutes of work. I’ll tell you how we did it, and even share our config with you.


Repetitive tasks that can be automated

There are a lot of tasks that can be automated, but to keep this interesting for non-developers, let’s go through a common task. Updating screenshots of an iOS app before submitting a new version.

To update your screenshots you have to take new screenshots for every screen size. At Acast we have 4 screenshots per device. This means that we have to create 16 screenshots.

Once you got that done you might want to spend some time polishing these screenshots by updating time stamps, wrapping each screenshot with a device frame and adding some copy to each image.

And everytime you make a design update you have to start all over again.

Our screenshots look like this:

Screenshots for the Acast app

As you see every screenshot is wrapped with the correct device frame. Every wrapped screenshot is then placed on a gradient background and lastly the text above the device is added. Remember, this has to be done 16 times.

Once the screenshots are finished they have to be uploaded to iTunes Connect. If you’re doing this manually, go get a cup of coffee and your favourite slippers. It will take a while.

This entire process will most certainly involve multiple individuals and take precious time. Time that could have been spent on something better.


Creation of screenshots automatically

I’m going to do all of the above using fastlane. You can see it in the video I linked in my tweet below. I’ made the video using Lookback.


Summary

Fastlane is for more than creating screenshots. Here are some of the things that we’ve automated using fastlane.

  • Onboard new iOS developers to the team by installing what they need
  • Create and refresh push certificates
  • Run unit tests and UI tests
  • Bump version. Choose between patch, minor or major.
  • Submit beta to Testflight
  • Upload information that will be on the App Store. For example app description, release notes, keywords etc.
  • Compile app and submit to App Store for review

You don’t have to automate as much as we do, start off simple and feel it out. If you have any questions feel free get in touch.