Last year I spent a few weeks putting together a simple Android app for my brother (Garage Games). It was a straightforward app for the most part, I learned a little about using the Parse framework, image loading, etc… but the main goal of the app was to actually deliver something to the Play store. I had been playing around with Android development, off and on, for a year or so but never had anything I was invested enough in to see to completion. I figured by releasing something I would break the dam and start becoming a prolific app developer.
Fast forward a year and it is still the only app I have to my name. Not a big deal, lack of ideas, life getting in the way, it happens. I did decide to think about a manageable project I could get done with limited time over the course of a few weeks or months. Enter the Middle Creek Disc Golf App (Google Play Store Link). I play disc golf, I enjoy it, but I have a lot of friends who REALLY enjoy it, so it is always a topic of conversation. It is also a rapidly growing sport, in my area there have been a handful of new courses opened or started to be built over the past couple of years. Point being: there might actually be a market of people out there willing to download an app related to the sport.
I won’t go into the details here, but the app basically provides an overview of a specific disc golf course in my area. A scorecard, hole overviews, playing tips, etc… the kind of stuff you would expect to see in an app dedicated to a golf course.
The real point of anything I do on the side is to learn something new. There were no new technologies in play here, I used Parse again to store the data being loaded by the app. I did spend a lot of time in GIMP generating pretty pictures, but that isn’t exactly a resume builder. So, what did I actually learn? Honestly, not a whole lot that I hadn’t done before.
So, with no obvious technical advantages to developing this app, why do it? Mainly because I wanted the experience of developing something with the hopes of strangers downloading it. My previously published app had an audience of about 10 people. The hiccups and quirks could be overlooked because everybody who would be downloading it knows me personally. Optimize the image loading and caching? Nah, no need…polish up the visuals for a consistent look which follows the Android standard guidelines? Why bother?
Also, having just launched the app, I’m looking forward to seeing how it does, or doesn’t, get off the ground and find an audience. With an audience comes honest scrutiny which is important. I think it looks okay, passable at least, but will others uninstall immediately after seeing my poor excuse for a popup dialog? I don’t have any illusions that this will get hundreds of installs, but if it even makes the rounds through my disc golfing friends and friends-of-friends, it will be a new experience in having a product reach a wider audience than a small circle of friends.