Sunday, 26 January 2014

Where to get App ideas

Who Am I

I'm a pretty good programmer.  After doing it for over a quarter of a century you sort of get good through absorption I think.  Sort of like wisdom.  If you do anything long enough you tend to end up pretty good at it.  So I can execute on almost anything asked of me for computers. 

There are lots of other good developers out there that are really good at writing programs.  I sort of compare us programming geeks to musicians (some that write their own music and some that don't).  There are some really great musicians out there than when given some sheet music can be amazing.  They can even do things with that music that are new in many ways with the original idea or framework in place.  But they don't come up with the foundational ideas.

Regular Life

In my day-job in software development I've had to hire lots of people (had to let a few go too but that's a different story).  The hardest sort of person, and the one in the most demand, is the person that can create from nothing.  Given a problem or even no obvious problem at all, they can create the solution.  Even, sometimes a solution to a problem we didn't even know we had.  I want those people.  They will get things done.  They will keep things moving, and more importantly they will not sit there staring at their monitors waiting for something to do.  They will just do it.

So, when it comes to Mobile Apps (yes, I include in Windows 8.1 as a mobile platform now) why aren't there more great apps?  There certainly are lots of great programmers.  The answer lies above.  Even though there are literally more than a million apps out there on various platforms, there really are very few good ones.  That's because there are so very few people that can think ahead and know the solution to the problems we didn't know we had.  Some developers want to write apps but have trouble sorting out where to begin.

Don't let fear stop you!

I like to think that I'm one of the creators, not just the players.  But most people can be creators if they don't let things stop them.  It's always easy to say "that's probably too difficult" or "nobody will like that idea".  But maybe you are wrong.

Don't skip something because you are afraid to fail... of course you might and probably will.  That's ok.  Every app I have ever written fails in some way.  But each subsequent app tends to not have the same problem.  I learn from my boo boos.  Never make the same mistake 3 times.  I gave up on never making the same mistake twice, it happens all too often.

Ideas come from...

Take a look at things around you.  See what people are really doing.  Get basic ideas from the world around you.  I watch my kids do something or make a simple comment on homework or something, and often it's the start of an idea.  Or, gasp, talk to your kids.  I bet they might divulge some cool idea without even knowing.  Talking with co-workers or people I associate with can sometimes give me great ideas.  I get ideas from going from a walk and watching people around me.  I get ideas from reading books.  Don't be afraid to ask people what THEY think would be a great App for their phone.  There is lots out there, don't be afraid to go for it.

Also go to sites like where they present App Ideas as challenges.  Some of them are great and not too difficult.  Plus if you build it, you get stuff (along with lots of personal satisfaction of course).  I've built 3 or 4 apps based on DVLUP challenges that I would not have thought of otherwise.

Sometimes the trick is not in the creation of the idea, quite often it's in recognizing it when you see it and then acting on it.  We see problems all around us all day long but often don't see the answer to the problems.  My biggest challenge is always the ideas, it probably is for most.  Another challenge is simplifying things.  I'm old school and used to building monolithic applications with hundreds of thousands of lines of code and a feature list long enough to break the proverbial camel's back.  With the App Idea, you need to think of just one thing it can do well.  Add other stuff later.  Keep it simple silly (ahem...).

So, always mine the world around you for ideas.  Don't look for big stuff, look for little things and get going and do it.