Reflections on Five Months of App Building

David A. Chang
Jun 25, 2019 · 4 min read

I spent the last 5 months building a social habit tracking app with two other friends. We currently have a working MVP, and are looking to continue to learn & build for the next few months as well. The following are my takeaways from these past few months.



What is truly crucial to build? Note: The way our app ended up is pretty barebones and solid for an MVP to start getting usage data from tbh. BUT I think we ended up here after a lot of random (and inefficient) debate, and critical feature cutting before the deadline. Pretty lucky.

Great example: Designed an entire monetization screen, but ended up just verbally telling people I would cut them off from the service and only keep them on if they venmo’ed me $3. Very little time and effort, very effective in gathering results. This is how I should have aimed to prove or disprove every assumption, but I didn’t — and didn’t even have assumptions listed out in the first place.

I was very afraid of being wrong and instead tried to execute (design & eng) our way to a solution, which in 99.99% of cases will almost certainly not be the right one. What about measuring? What about learning? And continuing to ideate? Well, I guess that can be done after five months of work lmao.

Should have mapped out our assumptions and found the most most most bootstrap-y way to validate them before any substantial design/engineering work progressed.


That’s fucking great news! And we can all move on and pivot or figure out a better way to do shit. Luckily I think we have a small amount of proof that shows that we are “right”, but we could have really proven things early on and made decisions with better grounding.

Our snapchat habit group was a great proof of concept, should have been WAY more intentional about that and emphasized/forced everyone to get into a group with their friends and act a team captain/cheerleader/starter to prove that this could at least exist with a very strong “leader”.


How do we come to better design decisions in the future?

I think possibly more iterations — obviously design is easier to modify and create multiple new iterations from scratch as opposed to full-on engineering implementation. However, regardless if we had one design or 5 designs to choose from, the design decisions we made would always feel intentional but in reality, were not. There was no underlying design theme or really solid foundation we based design decisions on. Just a loose overarching theme of “competitiveness”, “cooperation”, “flexing”, “slacking”, etc. No validation or prioritization on those characteristics either, just a hunch. That is probably one of the reasons why it was so hard to reach a conclusion — especially in the beginning with our app layout. And also I am not that great of a designer lmao.

Design decisions were not grounded… in anything concrete. Not sure what the right answer is to ground our decisions, but probably has something to do with how we want to make users feel (and which user demo & actions we’re targeting).


Most of the time did not provide enough context around why we should build, how we should build, or the prioritization on what we should build first. Luckily, Young Guo & Ryan Yue have big brains and organized most everything I threw at them and somehow built everything.

General Communication

Although, in reference to the other blurbs, was never sure if the “clear course” was also the right course.

An update to the story.

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Join The Startup’s +788K followers.

Sign up for Top 10 Stories

By The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Subscribe to receive The Startup's top 10 most read stories — delivered straight into your inbox, once a week. Take a look.

By signing up, you will create a Medium account if you don’t already have one. Review our Privacy Policy for more information about our privacy practices.

Check your inbox
Medium sent you an email at to complete your subscription.

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +788K followers.

David A. Chang

Written by

I like products and I like people. Mostly. Building stuff at SprintRay.

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +788K followers.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store