How building an app with my friend is changing my life
I used to be a happy man five months ago. Five months ago, I watched TV shows, and had a few beers on Fridays. Five months ago, I didn’t even think I could be much happier, much more productive, and, well, that there was something better than beer.
A little introduction
I work as a Senior UX/UI Designer for the international financial group with a decent salary and a sweet 9-5. When I’m not spending time with my family, I do freelance projects on my spare time and keep an eye on the design industry. You get the idea; life’s alright.
One evening, over a cold one, I realized I am not moving forward. Over the past few years not only did my portfolio grow stale, but I had stopped learning. Although, having an outdated portfolio was nothing in comparison with a question I faced: “Am I bringing any value to this world?” Tough thoughts.
Working in a predefined corporate atmosphere is comfortable, but the longer you live this way, the harder it is to escape. And at the end of the day you are screwed: you can’t stay where you are — with the speed the world is moving today you are moving either forward or backward.
9-5 is softly killing both your creativity and productivity. It’s an illusion that you are safe. Safety ironically is one of the most dangerous things. When you’re safe, you don’t need to look for food. You don’t have to leave your cave — you are set. But to be healthy as a creative professional, you need a daily dose of uncertainty and risk.
So all of the above transformed into one simple thought:
I have to do anything to start doing something.
And anything means anything: I started to think, draw and write. I drew lots of digital illustrations and cartoons, even a series of comic strips. I wrote a children’s book, wrote a screen play for a short animated film, started to participate in design contests, monthly wallpaper collections by Smashing Magazine, and much more.
I strongly believe that everything in this world is intertwined and interconnected. If not, I couldn’t explain why on earth at this very moment I received the message.
“Hey, man. I’ve developed an Android app which has been hanging on Google Play for a while already, and the feedback is pretty good, but the design is so-so. If you are interested in redesigning it, let me know.”
This was from my university buddy Yarik, who moved to Berlin pretty much at the same time I moved to Toronto, and I hadn’t heard from him for what? Three years? Maybe, even longer.
To cut a short story even shorter, we redesigned the app.
Soon after the project was done, I realized we had some creative momentum. We were exchanging interesting and inspiring news, tools, articles, books and techniques. While working on the app, we developed an infrastructure using Slack, Drive, Hangouts, Viber, Trello, Axure, InVision, Marvel and many other great apps for effective collaboration and communication. So, we addressed the elephant in the room: should we explore building anything else together? Fortunately, there was an idea on the surface we both were committed to. And we never tested it. This is why:
You have to test ideas if your goal is to make money, rather than your dream come true.
So, we rolled up our sleeves, and got started.
How building an app with my friend is changing my life
- I started to learn more. The contents of my Kindle shifted from fictional to tech in a blink of an eye. In five months I devoured more information than for the previous five years. Hand-picked information, needed information, warm-welcomed information, which shed light on areas I didn’t even know existed.
- I started to plan better. When you only have three hours in the evening, your brain turns into a lightsaber, slicing off chunks of work you can complete with great precision. I never turn my computer on without knowing what exactly I want to accomplish.
- I became more responsible. Things changed forever when I saw the thread of Slack notifications beeping constantly on my phone. My friend was sitting out there pushing code to the repository on a Saturday night. Have you ever felt the guilt of teammates being productive, and you couldn’t help them out? I have. And it is one hell of a motivator.
- I started to value different perspectives. When I work alone on a project I sometimes get stuck with obvious choices and in-the-box thinking, missing other opinions and approaches. I may miss the mark, and what’s worse — I don’t even know what the mark is. Working with a like-minded friend helps me to validate any idea instantly, or develop them to something incredible.
- I became more decisive. We practice something we call “Atomic UX”. Decisions are made at the speed of light, and executed in rapid succession. This doesn’t mean we don’t test designs or code for usability or performance. It means that your gut is a much better critic than you may think.
- I became happier. Happiness to me is always having a dream. At the moment, my dream is to create a product that others will use and appreciate.
Building your own product simply feels right, it feels like you are doing something meaningful, which is pretty damn amazing.
On top of it all, working alongside a good friend is twice as fun. Aside from our work-focused communication, we exchange interesting videos and articles, discuss our daily issues, and get a piece of advice from each other on any matter. The time difference (him in Berlin still, and me in Toronto) only adds to the fun. When I wake up, I check the updates on the project first thing, it’s like checking the morning newspapers with a coffee and croissants. Wonderful.
Now we are in the middle of building our first product loliful.io where clever people can collaboratively create jokes. We’ll see what happens next, but for now I feel like this is the path I was meant to be on.