Building a product to solve my own problem: Why I’m building Wantt

A story about a UX Designer learning to code, building a product that so far only solves their own problem, and the learnings.

This article, and following articles will tell the short story of my journey from taking my own problem, solving it by building a product I’m calling “Wantt”, while learning valuable coding skills along the way.

I will aim to cover my approaches to code as a designer, and the challenges I have faced. Hopefully it is a good read for other designers looking to build their own products.


Introducing, myself

I’m Nick, a UX & Product Designer who has always wanted to learn to code. I’m just like the thousands of other dreamers that browse the Product Hunt “Today” feed each morning, wishing I could just quit my job and make my own thing, instead of somebody else’s. The dream that one day I would make money off my thing, then continue to make more things for the rest of my life. Then set up a street food stall..

I’ve always had the ideas, but never the skills and determination to actually bring them to life. Something always got in the way, whether that be my lack of coding ability, or life events.

I can validate ideas, sketch stuff out, speak to people, but, when it comes to actually conceiving a piece of software or web based product, I’ve always been stuck at the limitations of a basic prototype. Sure I have friends and contacts that I could ask to help me, but sometimes you just want to do it yourself. I’ve got no money to pay a developer or friend, and if you don’t pay them, you can’t be like:

Dude, haven’t you finished that feature yet?

I’ve got some experience with coding. I did some at university (RIP ActionScript 3), and actually started my career as a front-end template builder (albeit 3 months long), meaning I could create a simple website and do some basic JS.

I enjoyed coding, and it was always a skill gap I’ve always wanted to plug, for self-fulfilment and also to help with my career. I am constantly inspired by designers like Meng To that are the complete product designer package, being able to ideate, design and build whatever they imagined.

I realised that to be able to start to build all the ideas in my head, I needed to at least know full stack web development, so I could just get some MVPs built out. I started a full-stack web development course on Udemy (thoroughly recommend this one) and that’s the start of this story..

The problem, and the idea

I was about half way through the course when 1st October 2017 came around, and I got the first text from my Mum about Christmas.. 🤦🏻‍

Mum: Christmas present ideas please xx

She likes to be prepared, bless her.

As November came and progressed, I started to get more comms about Christmas. This time from the rest of my family.

Behold: the full time job that is Christmas gift buying in my family..this is just some of the emails.

In total this Christmas there were:

  • Multiple group emails. Multiple reply threads to those same emails, each with different recipients because they don’t want others to see what they are buying them. Confusing 🤷🏻‍
  • A main WhatsApp group, with everyone asking each other to send them present ideas.
  • Multiple WhatsApp groups, each group leaving someone out to discuss what each person is getting that person. Usually the name of the group was the name of the person left out, so sometimes you would accidentally reply to the person thinking you were sending it to the private group..whoops 🤦🏻‍.
  • Amazon wish lists. Some people sent amazon wish lists, which was nice, but it didn’t remove the bought items sometimes, so you still had to try and work out who has bought what, and what is available to buy!
  • Google docs. This was my wish list. This was my attempt at centralising the list in one place and reducing the amount of work I had to do. The idea was to let everyone see what I would like, in which they could arrange between themselves. It worked..a bit. People forgot the link, and it still had the issue of people not knowing what each person had bought. If they marked it saying “Lara is buying this”, I would see and that would ruin the surprise! I know..first world problems..
  • Good old conversations on the phone

Anyway, you are probably seeing the headache here. This has happened every year, for as long as I can remember. To give you some context, I have 3 siblings, each with a partner, and parents. We usually buy 1–3 presents per person/couple.. I started to think, there must be a better way of doing this.

I had a look at a few “wish list” websites, but they were all either too complicated and bloated, or they only allowed you to add stuff that they were selling. I also had a look at a few apps, and they were just too bloated and not sticky enough. Not to mention, to get my family using it, it’s got to be REALLY easy to use and sticky.

I thought, f**k it, Im going to make my own one, and learn some things along the way.

Getting started

I’m a UX professional. I research, design and work with digital products for a living. So, you would imagine that I would know where to start with this.

Identify the problem: Yep, tick

Identify the user needs: Yep, tick. I just interviewed myself

Validate the idea/need: Ermm..kind of

This is when I said to myself, I don’t need to validate it with any other people, except for my family. Right now, I am doing this to solve my problem and my families’, and as a learning project for coding. If I need it, and my family needs it, that’s all the validation I need. The UXer side of my brain died a little inside, but it made sense.

That’s all the validation I need, onward!

What about competitors?

As I said before, I used a few, but nothing really stuck with me. Also, right now I don’t really care if something else can do it better. I’m doing this as a learning project, and if all that comes of it is a product I can use simply with my friends and family at Christmas, and I gain coding skills as a result..I’m fine with that.

Meet my “project brief”

1 whiteboard sketch later and I was ready to start coding!

Wait. What, no designs?

Nah, I was trying to run this “lean”, and I had less than a month until Christmas. I wanted to get some validation on a working prototype before Christmas. Bear in mind I hadn’t even got to the sections of the course I would need to build this yet.

I started coding.

Initial planning in progress, when I had reached a level in the course to plan the build of “wishlist”.
I ended up having to buy myself that Nespresso machine..

Present day

Right now, at the time of writing (April 2018), I have been building this product for around 4 months, in the evenings and weekends. I didn’t get a basic prototype up in time for Christmas, but I did for my birthday, on 10th January 👍.
My family were my testers. Find out how it went in the next articles!

I’m calling the product Wantt, because you list things you want, and “Want” is a far too expensive domain name..😉
I am so near having an MVP ready. I will be using it, along with some friends and family too. I wonder if others will find it useful.

I’ve built to the initial project brief above, so a user can expect:

  • Create a wish list and add items you want
  • Share that list with other Wantt users
  • List viewers can mark off what they are going to/have bought
  • Once marked off, that item can’t be marked by anyone else, and your name will show as you are buying it
  • The list owner doesn’t see any of this marking activity

UPDATE: The MVP is live at https://www.wantt.it and you can use it for all your gifting needs! I’ve got over 600 users and all is going well. I’ll be bringing new features in when I can, and hopefully get round to writing the follow up articles about my progress!

I will be posting more articles in this story, following my development process from project setup, to advanced features (advanced for noobs like me), and deployment. Hopefully this will be insightful for any others wishing to build their own products too. Stay tuned for these articles.

You can follow me here, if you like the sound of the above ramblings: Twitter, LinkedIn, Product Hunt.


This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by 313,216+ people.

Subscribe to receive our top stories here.