This is a guest post from Rich Wagstaff. It's a excellent example of making things happen. I hope it inspires you to go launch something this week.
I challenged myself to make an app in 6 hours.
Why not? I read Stuart Hall’s article on Medium about how he made the 7 Minute Workout app in just 6 hours. I figured that if he could do it, why couldn’t I?
The Idea For the Challenge
The first thing I needed was an idea, so I asked myself the following questions:
- What do I need?
- What app would I actually use?
- What app would I use every day?
- Does the idea have one simple function I can program?
And what did I decide?
…A mindfulness app!
I was new to mindfulness and wanted to stay accountable to doing it every day. I also wanted to know when my mindfulness session was complete because opening my eyes to check the time was annoying. I tried the timer app on my phone but it always made me jump when it went off!
Another problem I had was staying focused during the mindfulness session. My mind would always wander and I was supposed to focus on my breath. Anything that helped to stay focused would be great.
I had the beginnings of an idea. To complete the app in 6 hours, I decided the app had to do just one thing very well.
Narrowing the Focus of the App
I considered how long the features would take to program and decided not to add accountability into the first version. Also, I had never programmed anything like the accountability system I wanted in the app.
So I just trashed the idea. I assumed it would take up too much time for this version.
I chose to put my attention on one feature only – focusing on your breath. The app would need to alert me to breathe in and breathe out, which would help to stop my mind from wandering.
With my core feature decided, I took out my notebook and sketched the wireframes. The wireframes consisted were just 3 simple screens and I proceeded to question everything aspect of them.
- Do I really need this function?
- Does that feature help the user?
- Is it essential or just nice to have?
- Can I make this even simpler?
- Will this take too much time?
I then made a quick mock up in Photoshop and started coding. Here’s what the first version looked like:
Pretty ghetto, right? 🙂 I made sure the screens only had what was needed.
Designing The Screens
The next step was writing down the features I needed to code on each screen. I found that chunking down the work like this “pulled” me through the programming process.
I had always just “freestyled” my way through before but this time I had a clear focus on what I had to code during each session. It was strangely satisfying. My programming was targeted and I had a definite end point.
Anyway, just under 6 hours later, the app was fully coded. Bingo!
It’s crazy how focused you get when faced with a deadline like this. Anything nonessential gets thrown out and you’re left with the essential core of your app.
But I Also Added Some Things
However, I did spend an extra 50 minutes on the icon and one hour making some nice screenshots. Plus the time to find keywords and writing my really short app description.
And let’s not forget the planning and preparation for each coding session. So, if we’re talking about creation to live on the App Store, it did take me longer than 6 hours.
Before I hit submit, I got a little carried away. Apple sent out their email about the Apple Watch a few days earlier and I couldn’t get the idea out of my mind for making my mindfulness app into an Apple Watch app.
I’d never made an Apple Watch app before.
Fortunately the watch app was so simple that I coded it in under 4 hours. It consisted of just a button and the breathing guide. Still, 4 hours isn’t bad for my first attempt!
So yes, the app did actually take longer than 6 hours. But that’s not really the point.
The point is that you can strip an app down to its bare essentials and get a fully working version in the App Store within a few days.
Biggest Takeaways From This Challenge
The challenge had some interesting learning points too.
- Decide what needs to be done before you start working on it. It sounds simple, but this little hack focused me, my work was done quicker and it was better quality. For example: I’m going to focus only on coding the progress bar function and then stop.
- A goal that excites and challenges me is highly motivational.
- When making your minimum viable product, stick to what you know. Don’t try to add lots of features in that you’ve not had experience programming before. Capitalize on everything you’ve already done.
- If something sticks in my head, there’s little hope of me ever dislodging it! Even if it means that I miss my deadline. It turned out to be an amazing choice though. The Apple Watch was about to be released which meant my app was approved within 3 days!
If you want to check out the app, you can find it here: https://itunes.apple.com/app/id982502810
It’s been updated since launch, so its current configuration wasn’t made in 6 hours.
I really hope you enjoyed reading this and I hope that it helps you!