My thoughts on: React Native and Firebase

I’ve had an increasing number of conversations over the past few weeks about both React Native and Firebase — mostly with non-technical founders who have been advised by those they trust that, before they embark on their app development, they should choose one (or both) of these technologies at the core of their stack.

I want to very briefly give my take on both of these, as a developer who has used both, and advised both for and against both.

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You’ve got a great idea! Here’s what to do next…

Big things start with a simple idea. But what I want to talk about today is how that simple idea grows bigger successfully. Specifically, I want to look at the very first step I believe all entrepreneurs should take before setting out to turn their grand vision into reality!

The vast majority of projects I have worked on in the past have come to me in one of three states:

  • The founder has an extremely simple, short and concise idea, and they are ready to build on that idea with the help of a technical consultant
  • The founder has an idea, and a big roadmap of features they eventually want to build — and they’ve been turning this idea over in their head for months or even years, refining and adding and removing features along the way
  • The founder has already started building, and along the way things got complicated, convoluted, confused or chaotic in some way and they need help getting it back on track.

My dream client is in that first state, of course. But more often than not, the founder is in state two, and has a big list of features they want at launch. But in order to avoid walking blindly into state 3, we need to take a step back and ask a couple questions first…

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First steps! What we build before we build…

For a lot of non-technical founders setting out to build their product, it can be hard to understand just how much work needs to be done before you write a single line of code! In this post, I will break down much of the ground work that needs to be done by your tech team before you start to actually build out your product.

This initial setup involves getting the following ready:

  1. Setting up your accounts with the app stores you plan to launch in
  2. Setting up your cloud hosting and database hosting plans
  3. Setting up your domain and configuring your SSL certificates
  4. Setting up your code repository
  5. Setting up an alpha/beta testing process for pre-release testing
  6. Setting up your task and bug tracking system
  7. Choosing the framework(s) you plan to leverage to build out your technology

While all of these steps are fairly straightforward, and common to just about every development project, they are nonetheless absolutely critical, and in some cases the decisions you make here can affect your company in the future — sometimes even very far into the future!

So let’s take a look at them one by one…

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Launching smart – Graphite Comics

Hands down the most terrifying phase of building a new tech startup is launch. So many pieces of a very complex puzzle have to come together at exactly the same time in exactly the right way for things to go right.

If you’ve never gone through it, you may be wondering what on Earth I’m on about. After all, isn’t the goal just to get the product out the door as fast as possible? Release early, release often and all that, right? Well, not in my experience. I have actually witnessed many products that launched way too early! But more importantly, I’ve seen teams that launched way too wrongly.

While experience is helpful in getting all of those moving parts in sync and timed up perfectly, it also contributes to that overall dread. The more products you’ve launched, the more you know how many things can go wrong, and just how slightly one variable can be off to throw the whole machine into chaos and, worst of all, how much luck is actually involved!

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Graphite March update: efficiency vs. economy

The March update of Graphite Comics just went live. It’s one of those updates that is very significant, with major changes under the hood — but which users will almost certainly not notice at all.

This makes for an interesting opportunity to talk about balancing needs in software development. In this case, we are looking at balancing speed and efficiency against operating costs. And even more interestingly, we can look at an example where a technical decision that improved efficiency and user experience evolved, over time, to actually have a detrimental effect on user experience!

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Scrawl updated with new features!

I’ve updated my social networking demo app Scrawl to include a couple often requested features – Universal links, email verification, and password reset.

In addition, I’ve integrated Mailgun into the backend application in order to allow the server to send email messages to users (which is obviously a requirement for two of these features).

If you are interested in a slightly deep dive into these features, read on!

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App development myths #2: The finished product

In this series of posts, I want to discuss several myths, misconceptions, and misunderstandings that threaten to derail inexperienced or non-technical founders of tech startups.  

Note: this post also appears on Glowdot with permission.

In the beginning stages of planning an app development, there are two ubiquitous questions that get asked, and they are the obvious ones:

  • How much will it cost to build this app?
  • How long will it take to build this app?

These are not unreasonable questions — indeed, when building anything the first two things you need to wrap your head around are budget and timeline.

However, these questions become much more difficult — if not impossible — to answer when it comes to software. Let’s look at why that is.

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Graphite Comics – for iOS, Android and the web

Graphite is a scalable, efficient and multi-platform graphical content distribution system for mobile devices and the web.

I designed and developed the backend system powering Graphite — a Node.js based system that is powered by several AWS services, in addition to some locally hosted server functionality (mostly to handle maintenance jobs and statistical analysis of the live system) and a media sharing system facilitating the onboarding of new users coming from social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.

I also developed the iOS app for Graphite — one of the biggest and most complex mobile projects I have ever taken on. Although on the surface Graphite seems quite simple, in fact the technology powering it is extremely sophisticated and complex.

In addition to developing the iOS app and the server-side platform, I current manage the development of every other current and future platform — including Android, the web, and a few other platforms on the roadmap.

You can download the public beta of Graphite on iOS and on Android and visit the Graphite website here.

If you need an app developed, reach out and let’s talk! You can contact me using the contact form on this site, via Skype at stromdotcom or by visiting my company website at https://glowdot.com.

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