How I Designed & Built a Ruby on Rails App in 30 Days

RJ McCollam
4 min readAug 2, 2015

by RJ McCollam

The ability to have an idea and see it all the way to completion is pretty awesome. It’s something that I have wanted to be able to do for many many years. Even as I became a better front-end developer, and my eye for design improved, I was always missing the skills to actually design and develop a complete web app.

I had tried to learn Ruby on Rails for a year or two off or on. I did courses at online schools like Treehouse and CodeSchool, read books like The Rails Tutorial by Michael Hartl, and watched countless videos on YouTube of people doing their best to teach others.

The problem was that I was only copying what I saw these tutorials do instead of really understanding the why behind the code I was writing in my editor. When it came time for me actually build something without any help I fell flat on my face.

There is no substitute for hard work

Instead of giving up like I had before I decided this was going to be different. In fact I made that decision at the beginning of year. I was sick of always talking about the things I wanted to do and decided to shut up and make things happen.

The idea

So that brings us to the beginning of July, when I had the idea to build a project management app. As a freelancer I had tried the crazy amount of tools that exist already, but most of them are built for teams and are littered with a ton of features I didn’t need.

The idea to build something that I was going to use on a daily basis and wanted was a huge help in getting me from idea to launched app in 30 days. I didn’t have to worry about too much market research figuring out what people wanted, because I knew EXACTLY what I wanted and knew it would help me immediately.

Working off of inspiration

Drew Wilson is somebody that I have always looked up to. He does his own thing and designs and builds his own products. I remember when I found out about the book Execute that he and Josh Long co-wrote. It was an explanation of how Drew was able to take an idea for an app or a product and quickly execute it and launch it.

In it the main take away is that working off of inspiration is when you are at your most productive and can really get stuff done.

The excitement level while building my app stayed with me the whole 30 days and the more I made progress the more stoked I was to get it completed and out the door.

It will almost never be the perfect time

The idea to build a project management app could not have come at a worse time. A couple days after I decided to build this thing I landed the biggest project of my freelance career and it came with an insane deadline of being finished in a months time.

Now this would have been a pretty solid excuse for me to table my app, but I knew that if I did there would always be a reason for me to not work on it cause something more important came along.


This past month has been crazy to say the least and without help and support from the communities I belong to, it would have been really hard to make it through.

Especially the support from my wife. We both work from home and have a 5 year old daughter, and she really was understanding with me spending a lot of extra time at night in my office. Thanks hunny :)

Get over your fears and get shit done

At the end of the day the way that I designed, developed, and built some excitement for it was pure will. I made the decision to do this and I needed to make the deadline. More for myself than the people that were telling me they were excited for it.

It was good ol’ fashioned hard work that got things from inception to completion. Sorry if that wasn’t what you wanted to hear ;)

Meet Hector

Hector is what came from the past 30 days and is officially open for business. The promise of Hector is simple, all of your projects and todos in one place. No matter if you are working with other freelancers or by yourself you don’t have to worry about your projects being scattered across multiple teams, tags, or categories.

It’s the project management tool that I have always wanted.

Hector is completely free and you can sign up to start managing your workload at Hector.

RJ McCollam

I am a freelance web developer that loves learning and launching. I host a podcast and write content on