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.

Fear

Assumptions

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.

Interviews

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”.

Design

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).

Engineering

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.

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David A. Chang

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

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