Here’s the situation: you’re an entrepreneur with a brilliant idea and a budget that looks a lot like $0. You can’t hire a professional web development firm, or recruit experienced development talent. You, however, are not one to let that stop you. You open up Ancestry.com, search your family tree far and wide, and finally come up with a solution.
Cousin Eddie. He’s really into tech, likes to toss around words like “hypertext”, and can work magic with your grandma’s printer. He’s also toyed around with making a few websites — and most importantly, he’s willing to work for the cost of a pizza and a 2-liter of Big K cola.
Despite these humble beginnings, you have big aspirations. You intend to shoot for the moon with this app. This could be the next Farmville. So you don’t want to box yourself in. You know that this development situation isn’t great, and you want to get as far as possible with it, without doing too much damage to your prospects down the road.
How do you work with cousin Eddie to avoid the biggest web and app development pitfalls, skirt around the lurking dangers, and work towards a situation where you can hand this off to a real development firm?
This is absolutely key, and it will save you from heartache. One of the biggest dangers at this point is to shoot so high, and imagine functionality so broad, that you are never able to get *anything* functional into production.
Focus ruthlessly. Pare away functionality, brainstorm things you can leave out, slice your favorite ideas to ribbons. Cut your app down to something so small, Eddie can’t help but make it happen. And when things go wrong, it will be obvious where the problem is, and what to do about it.
- Re-use anything you can get your hands on.
Don’t reinvent the wheel — or the blog. There are great solutions out there for blogging, for content management, for online commerce. They’ve been tested and revised and expanded by thousands of people. They will always be better and more robust than anything you and Eddie can slap together. Don’t try to build these things yourself. Instead, use what’s out there, and come back and revise things when Facebook is knocking down your door.
- Document, document, document.
Write down everything, from code decisions and technology choices to the relevant business structures and concepts. This will come in incredibly handy when you’re talking to a dev team down the road, and will save both you and them time, discovery, and unpleasant surprises. If you are building and growing your business, you will be learning an incredible amount along the way. Make sure you’re capturing that knowledge, and that it doesn’t disappear when cousin Eddie makes a career move into professional ice hockey.