How we shipped 3 apps in 30 days.
Building only what is necessary and nothing more is crucial to your success
The problem that we faced…
Every year iShapeBrows hosts 3 days conferences for the PMU (Permanent Makeup Industry). This year, because of COVID, the conference was all digital and held using Zoom. The conference was to have 300–400 attendees. Because the conference was digital though, certain problems surfaced.
How would users be able to view video demonstrations after the conference? How would we ensure that only those who attended the conference had access to the videos? How could we quickly administer the videos to all the attendees? These were all problems that needed immediate solving.
Another problem we had to solve was the issuing of certificates…
At every conference, attendees receive Certificates of Attendance. It’s a large part of the reason why people attended the conference in the first place.
Being that now we would meet none of these people in person, we needed a new way to administer the certificates.
In the past, some after receiving certificates called their Credit Card companies denying charges. So we also needed a way to deactivate certificates if something like that happened again.
As you can see, many problems needed figuring out.
How did we solve these problems super fast?
#1 Cut Features Aggressively
First, we designed the web app PMU Masterclasses, using Adobe XD. It would be the platform where we give video access to the attendees.
In the design phase, we focused only on having the essentials. There were features that we knew would be nice to have, but we cut them out.
Being willing to cut features is important. You must be willing to do it to ship on time. Cut features during the design phase. It’s much harder to cut features once development starts.
So when designing, if a feature is not essential, cut it. Once you have the product in front of customers you can start adding features slowly. Use your customer base to confirm feature sets. Don’t build a bunch of features and see what happens.
Once we had designed what we knew was necessary, we built it.
#2 Find and master the right tools for the job
We decided to use React for this Web Application.
I am a huge React fan, it’s very design caters to good coding practices (We won’t get into that in this article though). And I can write apps in React way faster than any other technology out there.
For the backend, we used Firebase.
Firebase is the tool I always use when first building an application. It’s uncanny how fast it is to set up (You’ll see some articles about why I choose Firebase in the future.)
We built an authentication system using both Firebase Auth and Auth0. That was somewhat of a pain, but we got through it. We used Auth0 to allow SSO with Zoom. We uploaded our videos to Vimeo. And for our custom server-side development, we used NodeJS/Express running on a Heroku instance.
The entire development process took about two weeks. Why? Because we used technologies designed for fast development. And we’ve learned the ins and outs of those technologies.
Now on PMU Masterclasses artists can purchase and take video-based classes.
For payment, we use Stripe. Another easy to set up service.
We integrated the administering of certificates into PMU Masterclasses. But we had to build another web app for the verification part.
PMU Certs, which is what we called the app, was also built using React. We used the same process. Figure out the most crucial features, and forget about everything else.
We built PMU Certs in two days and used it to distribute about 3900 certificates within the next few days.
The last app built was only somewhat connected to the conference. The owner of iShapeBrows wanted a way of digitizing her customer forms.
We needed to be able to create, update, and distribute all forms in a matter of minutes.
The app has two sides. The client-facing side. And the artist facing side.
The client-facing side is a web application built using Angular. All forms are dynamic, allowing us to add and remove forms at will.
The artist facing app is an iOS application. It runs on the iPhone and iPad. We used a library that we built called SwiftyBootstrap, which allowed us to cut development time practically in half (I’ll talk more about Swifty Bootstrap in later articles).
The app was first designed using Adobe XD. Once again for this app, we were serious about cutting features. We cut anything that was not necessary before we even started development.
Why did I write this article?
I didn’t write this article for you to see the tools we used and the speed at which we built technologies. I wrote this article to help you understand how to ship.
The more you can ship the better. Everything you build has no value until it’s presented in front of the world.
The tools that we use are all tools that help us to build and iterate fast.
Firebase Firestore can be set up in a matter of minutes, as can Heroku.
SwiftyBootstrap allows me to build User Interfaces for iPad, and iPhone simultaneously in half the time.
Firebase Hosting allows me to push web apps in a few lines of code.
Auth0 allows me to integrate SSO with little problems.
With the power of all these tools at your fingertips, you can ship insanely fast.
Cutting features is also so important. Know your customer’s problems, before you start developing. Only build what is necessary to solve the problem, nothing more. More features mean more distractions. So be careful about how many features you decide to have in your app.
Remember, it’s all about shipping. Products have no value on the shelf. Get them out there. Be aggressive about cutting features. Get your preferred toolset and then master each tool.
The tools in my belt that allow me to ship in short times are:
- Adobe XD
- Visual Studio Code (my favorite IDE at the moment)
Some other tools I use:
- Flaticon.com (for all my icons)
- Adobe Illustrator (for logos)
- Stripe (for payment processing)
- SnapKit (for easy AutoLayout with Xcode)
SwiftyBootstrap (It’s like Bootstrap but for Xcode. Currently it’s a private repo but if I get enough requests I’ll think about making it public)
Follow Ayo Ijidakinro to learn advertising techniques that have allowed him to make over $1.36 million in 36 months.