What to build? A dilemma
How do you choose which of your many ideas to pursue? Do you choose the one with the interesting technologies that you want to explore, or do you go for the one that you think would be the most useful?
I am currently suffering from this dilemma in relation to which app I concentrate on as my ‘signature’ app. If you’ve got time to build one app, in this case an iPhone app, to demonstrate your skill as a programmer to future potential clients, how do you decide what to do? I have 3 choices in this regard:
- Hikers footpath planner. A really complex and difficult app that will take a long time to put together but that demonstrates all my skill as a back end developer while also showing an ability to do some nice things with the front end. This app, although sounding ideal, is a risk. I have limited time and the app is complex enough that it might not meet the App Store requirements on stability within the time frame and, with my current dev time limited to evenings and weekends, might not get be completed to the final most impressive stage by the time my (admittedly self imposed) deadline come around. This app has, I believe, a wide audience, but only if done exactly right.
- OCR Menu reader and translator. An app that allows me to explore some really interesting technologies and demonstrate some skills with both backend and front end work. The app, however, would be trying to compete directly with another app, Google Goggles. Do I really want to develop in my spare time an app that could potentially be utterly eclipsed by a company who have million of dollars to spend on getting it right?
- Open Plaques. An app that demonstrates some back and front end skills and that solves a specific purpose for a group of passionate individuals. This app would provide a service to this group of people that would not only ease the lives of the owners and developers of the Open plaques site but also make is much easier for users of the site to add content. This also will use some of the technologies that would be used in the OCR menu reader.
So I guess the question is, is it better to make something that is popular and useful, or something that shows off my skills but with an uncertain audience or competing against a much more powerful opponent? I can’t help thinking that the popular app, if I add lots of bells a whistles, would be the way to go. I can always work on the hikers app at a later date, for if nothing else I want one even if it never makes it as far as the app store. Maybe I should just take a well learned lesson from Software Development, KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid). If anyone has any opinions, I would really like to hear them.