My journey to ownership in the tech world.
The desire to own
I craved a piece of the tech world, my piece of the tech world, a piece that I could call my very own, a piece that I built with my hands and my ideas and my effort. Ownership is so powerful and so desirable to me because for people like me, when so much is not yours, when so much has been taken from you, when so much is done for others, you crave having something of your own. For me, I wanted to own an app.
So who is this techie (at least, partly)?
A technology enthusiast who is creative and organized. And specifically, mobile apps are my favorite. There’s just something about that platform that draws me in and makes me want to create on it.
Learning from my first mobile app venture
My first endeavor into mobile app creation was so ambitious of an idea that my team and I — fresh out of college — really didn’t understand the technical effort required, and, the scope was just too big. Definitely not an MVP. But three years later, I found myself working on a new music-related mobile app idea.
I love music and I couldn’t part with wanting to merge music and technology.
And, not just any part of the music ecosystem, but my favorite part — music festivals.
A little bit about music festivals
In the music festival world, there are not a lot of people who look like me in the crowd, in marketing materials, in photos, and so many other facets of that lifestyle. Except if it is a music festival like AFROPUNK.
But in my true form, I am a renaissance woman and an explorer, and am attracted to and insert myself in places that people would not expect to find me. Thus is my nature.
Now to the app
I wanted to create something that I felt was missing in the music festival world. The organizer part of me was kicking in.
We often hear about diversity and inclusion in tech. True diversity and inclusion means including individuals with diverse thoughts, perspectives, and experiences. As a Black, female music festival goer and enthusiast, I am just that.
I wanted to focus on the music festival attendees’ experience before they got to the festival. In my opinion, this experience is an underserved niche. Thinking back to my first Coachella trip back in 2017, I wish this was already built.
So I created SIMPLIFEST.
And this is my journey in creating it.
The design process
I really love designing mobile app user interfaces (UI). I am not a digital product designer by trade, but I must say, I was pretty impressed and very proud of the work that I did given that I have no formal design training. I designed every app screen, the app icon, and enjoyed every minute of it. Again, I really love digital design. This definitely reflects in my product management style. I tend to pick up on UI and user experience (UX) elements that others may not heed. I am meticulous for sure. I think the impact of good UI and UX on digital products is at times underestimated.
Although creating my app screens was not work for me — because I enjoyed it — it was still a lot of work. Designing every screen, finding the right icons, making sure those icons worked together, font, sizing, color, contrast, keeping the UI interesting, etc. But, it all paid off, because some of the best feedback I received on the app was about the design:
“I LOVE the design. The entire app is not too cluttered, as I’ve seen with other apps.” — Jonah A.
“I found the app very easy to use.” — Donald V.
And, even the freelance full-stack developer whom I worked with — he’s awesome, by the way — said the final designs looked “wow, really nice.” Coming from a developer, that says a lot.
I did multiple iterations of my designs, but for the sake of simplicity, I had three main versions: 1) my initial designs, 2) the redesigns I did after I received feedback, and 3) the final designs after I received beta testing feedback — the designs which are now in my app’s MVP.
The prototyping process
After receiving my first round of feedback and doing redesigns (#2 from above), I built a prototype in InVision, my first digital prototyping tool, which I love for its features and simplicity.
With design and prototyping tools, I’ve found that the first one you use is usually the one you stick with.
This prototype carried me a long way. It allowed me to show many people what I had in mind and allowed me to receive feedback and generate new ideas.
The development process
First, I hired a full-stack developer through UpWork to create the technical design for my idea. To find the right tech partner, I conducted interviews, asking questions to understand level of technical expertise, how well we would work together, and level of organization and communication. I thank going to an engineering school and having engineering friends (Black, female engineers, I might add) for this ability to assess a potential tech partner.
Although I did not study engineering —I studied Business and Technology Management at NYU’s engineering school — I was able to understand and have a high-quality discussion on the technical design the developer I ultimately hired created in which he outlined the tech stack, its considerations, and the data flow.
To begin development, I created a project outline that included touchpoint cadence, milestones, and post-project agreements. We worked in an agile manner and stayed in frequent and constant contact, having pre-milestone kickoff, weekly, and ad-hoc touchpoints throughout the duration of the project. I onboarded him onto InVision and we did all of the quality assurance (QA) testing for the app. My background in QA definitely played a huge role here.
We did all of this remotely, and, overall, had a great working relationship, which directly contributed to the success of the app’s development.
The beta testing process
Over time, I generated signups from my app’s Instagram page, website, and in-person interactions, leading to a good pool of individuals to work with for beta testing.
I sent a clear beta testing email with instructions and let it rip!
I received feedback on positives, areas of improvement, and future ideas, so I would say it was a success!
The release preparation process
The launch process
Then, COVID-19 happened. And, because my app is music-festival related, it does not have much use at the moment.
But, I am still excited for my app’s launch, for which I think I’ll do a limited release.
So, if you’re interested in joining, I would love to have you sign up here!
And the journey continues
Developing a product never truly ends, in the true spirit of iteration and innovation. At the tender age of 26, I can say I built my own app as a solo creator, and no matter the outcome, I have my piece of the tech world. I gave something meaningful to other people with my hands and my ideas and my effort. I created for others and I owned for myself.