In this article we will tell you how we built an app in two days. Hopefully you will be able to use it as a template next time you have an idea and want to test it out!
We adhere to the concept of the Minimum Viable Product (MVP). You can read about the strategy here.
What is the core functionality your idea needs to adopt its first users?
After answering this question, you can create your first product, get feedback, and continue cycling through that loop. Skanin is an example of this approach.
No matter what your idea, you must be able to distill the issue, the solution, and how someone will benefit from it. This is what we came up with:
The issue: Getting a status update on a car repair seemed manual and inconvenient. Customers usually have to make a phone call, and shops have to track down vehicles.
The solution: Tracking car repairs using QR tags. Auto shops stick a unique QR tag, that we provide, on each car. Every subsequent scan allows the shop to update the user on the status of the repair via instant SMS .
The benefit: Repair shops gain in efficiency; they would have to answer fewer phone calls and avoid manual lookups. Additionally, their customer satisfaction would increase.
Now that we had an idea. We had to decide how to tackle it efficiently.
Step 1 – Design an instinctive user interface.
We sketched out the flow of the app by focusing on the car dealers experience, eventually breaking down the process into two steps:
- Scan QR & Pair
- Input Status
The auto shop scan the QR tag and enter the customer’s phone number. After making a repair, an employee scans the QR again and sends a report directly to the customer.
Step 2 – Create an app that decodes QR
For quick development, Ionic is a great option. It generates builds for iOS, Android and the web. The components included in Ionic make UI development a breeze. Crucially, you can leverage smartphone hardware with Ionic’s robust ecosystem plugins. We reached for the Barcode Scanner Plugin to read QRs.
After integrating the QR reader our app read and associated QR tags with phone numbers! Skanin now just needed SMS capabilities.
Step 3 – Integrate SMS & MMS
To send messages, we created a very slim backend which used the Twilio API. Deploying this code to a Serverless Provider, our app just had to ping a REST endpoint to send a message. This took all of a couple of hours, and Skanin was now transmitting SMS notifications!
Step 4 – Testing
MVPs will inevitably contain some bugs, a tradeoff for the fast development time. To mitigate the number of issues, we ran a test suite we had developed alongside the app. We also designed some common user flows and tested these manually (like scanning a QR and sending a message). We would later catch maybe one glitch in production that we quickly patched.
All set to submit to both app stores!
With Skanin released, we created a strategy for adding users.
We knew the first users’ feedback was essential for determining:
- How we could better adapt the app to their needs
- Were we missing anything that would be really helpful?
- Did we include anything that was useless to our future customers?
- What features should we prioritize for the next iteration
We created a long list of leads that we would ask for feedback. We actually automated this step, building a web scraper that located nearby mechanics and parsed their emails out of their websites. Within a few hours, we neared a thousand people that we would pitch our app and ask for feedback.
The steps for testing the viability of your idea are simple. Remember to ask yourself:
- What is the core functionality your idea needs to get early customers?
- What is the quickest, leanest way to implement it?
You can find our final product here: Skanin
Feel free to comment other suggestions, tips or stories!