LAC01: What is the Live App Challenge

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Live App Challenge

For a while I’ve wanted to build an app and document the whole process as I go, here on Codenutz. This seemed like a great opportunity to do something fun and different so the Live App Challenge was born!

A little background

My app development team at ItsMonkie Solutions use Xamarin to build apps for our customers, and I thought I’d get up to speed. I’ve really wanted to build something with Xamarin for a while, and writing the cross platform mobile development guide really cemented the decision.

I enjoy working with C# and Visual Studio more than any other development tool – they work really well, and I’ve used them extensively. At the same time I do really enjoy web development, and have always loved Javascript, but I can’t deny that the tooling for Javascript isn’t the best, and I really didn’t enjoy my foray into PhoneGap.

So I decided to make an app in Xamarin – both for fun, and to help me get more familiar with it.

Whats the app going to be

I do believe in lean startup principles, and feel that you should follow a path of customer development and build, measure, learn loops. But that said, as I highlighted in my article about reasons to make an app you have to understand what you’re trying to build in order to achieve your goals, and sometimes you just want to build something. In my case, I’ve got the following primary goals for building this app:

  1. Get really familiar with xamarin and xamarin.forms.
  2. Have some fun.
  3. Write some articles about it.

For this reason I wanted to make something that I have an interest in, something that I enjoy and can have fun with…and maybe even find useful! So being a bit of a Marvel comic nerd, I’ve decided to make an app to catalog my comic collection. It might not be the most original idea and won’t likely make any money, but it will be fun!

The other reason I’ve chosen this idea is that it will cover some really key aspects of app design and development that I’d like to get under my belt. These are working with:

  • Mobile UI elements such as list views, images etc.
  • Using the camera an possibly manipulating the images.
  • CRUD operations on a local database.
  • Syncing a local database to a cloud service.
  • Exporting a local database to a service like dropbox.
  • Integrating with a 3rd party API provider (to get comic information)

The Plan and MVP (Minimum Viable Product)

I thought I should state a rough plan of what I’d like the app to do, and how I’m going to tackle it. This way I’m committed to actually deliver the thing and will keep myself on track. Even though I’m not primarily concerned with monetizing the app, I ‘m still going to approach the project by building an MVP, mostly to ensure I deliver something as quickly as possible, but also to learn what features are most important.

I will be releasing the app to the Google Play store in MVP form, so you will be able to download it, play with it and use it on Android. I won’t be releasing the MVP’s to the app store due to the stringent release policies and long lead times, sorry!

First MVP Features

I have given this a little thought so I’m cheating here a bit here! My MVP work-list is what I believe the minimum thing this app needs to do in order to be in any way usable, and deliver useful feedback. I’m not really constructing any proper experiments as my first MVP is mostly to elicit ideas and get fuzzy pointers about what direction to head in.

  • It must list out all comic series.
  • It must allow me to add new collections.
  • It must allow me to list which comics I own in those collections.
  • Each collection and its contents must be editable.

The Basic App Design & Wireframes

I don’t want to get caught up in graphic design so if I can leverage some app template and/or a UI kit then that would be great. Equally I dont want to spend weeks perusing app tempates. The first iteration may be very rough around the edges graphically…in true MVP style!

Codenutz Comics

Codenutz Comics

So thats it, Codenutz Comics is what I’m going to be making over the next few weeks and discovering some of the idiosyncrasies that comes with Xamarin and Xamarin.Forms.

If you’d like to install the app and provide feedback that’d be great, I’ll provide links and information here as to whats happening, and when releases will be made. If you have any feature requests, or suggestions then please get in touch by either commenting here on codenutz.com or drop me and email or tweet. And the same goes if you would like any more information about the process, or what I’m writing about.

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