From Idea to MVP to Hacker News in 44 Hours

Achievement
Achievement
Image by SIphotography on Depositphotos

Days 1 and 2: The Idea Phase [2 hours]

My idea was to build Imgur for text. A simple and quick way for anyone to post and share rich text online — all without needing to set up a website or open an account. Rapid-fire and barrier-free publishing.

Day 3: Decisions [2 hours]

Monday afternoon I fleshed out the technology I’d be using to build the app. Choosing to use the newest and shiniest frameworks is a common mistake when devs start working on side projects. What should take one day takes five; what should be problem free becomes a can of worms as you spend more time learning and battling the technology than you do building the app.

Choosing an app name
Choosing an app name

Day 4: Building the UI [5 hours]

The core feature of the app was the rich text editor, so it had to be robust and user friendly. I decided to use a DevExpress component which was based on the Quill editor. My reasoning here was that I already had a license for their component suite, and my previous experience with DevExpress showed that support issues and questions were answered quickly — something that would come in handy on Day 10.

The HTML Editor
The HTML Editor
HTML Editor

Day 5: The Database & the Backend [4 hours]

Nothing too difficult or complex here. I wrote a script to create the required tables in SQL Server and hooked it all up to the app using the latest version of Entity Framework in .Net Core. I was working with a local instance of SQL Server at this time as I hadn’t yet set anything up in Azure — that would all come later.

Day 6: Polishing the Backend [8 hours]

This was my only full working day on the project and it was spent putting all the pieces together and making sure they flowed correctly.

The Logo

By now I knew I was a few working days away from going live, so I needed to get moving on the logo design. In the past I’ve used 99designs, spending a few hundred Euro a time, but this was a rough and ready MVP that might or might not have a future so I elected to go quick and cheap with a design team over on fiverr.com.

80% Complete — The Danger Zone

This is what I call the 80% stage, when most side projects come to a halt. Everything works — kind of — but there are outstanding issues that need fixing and a lot of little things that need to be done before you can release your app.

Day 7: Page Flow [3 hours]

This was a follow on from the previous day, fixing some issues with page flow caused by the catchall routing. Once I had that fixed and working I added in a delete option so the user could delete as well as edit an existing QuikPub.

Day 8: Unique ID Generation [6 hours]

Each user post generates and stores two unique string IDs that allow viewing or editing a post. Up to now I’d been using a few made-up IDs that I’d hard coded. The time had come to automate this.

Short URLs
Short URLs
Short URLs

Day 9: Website Theme [4 hours]

The logo arrived that morning. It was ok, but not great. I can live with it for now but if QuikPub proves to have legs I’ll have to get something more professional designed.

QuikPub logo
QuikPub logo

Day 10 : Bug Fixing and Content Writing [5 hours]

I spent a couple of hours writing the content for the Home page that morning. Getting this right is important. If a user has to ask what your app does, then your message is failing. Clear and simple English.

QuikPub home page
QuikPub home page
Home page

Day 11: Release Day [5 hours]

I was ready to go live. Everything was working, the page content was all there, colour schemes and images were all chosen and in place. But there were a few little items that needed to be finished off, as there always are with any project just before it goes live.

Day 12: Show Hacker News

It was on Friday afternoon, February 5th, after forty four hours of development that I posted to Hacker News. For anyone unfamiliar with Hacker News, it’s THE social news site for developers. They have a Show section that allows developers or start-ups who’ve built something new to post it and talk about it on the site, where it then moves up or down the rankings in a Reddit-like fashion.

Hacker News
Hacker News
Hacker News

Conclusion

There’s nothing particularly difficult about anything I did over the course of those forty four hours. Any developer with a little experience could have done the same. A strong UI developer could probably have shaved 10–15 hours off that time frame.

Serial app builder and contract software engineer, Dublin, Ireland. https://darrendevitt.com/

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