One of the projects I undertook during my time as a Sole Trader, was the Socialite iOS PhoneGap prototype for Get Socialite Ltd. I spent the time as both Sole Trader and Senior Developer working remotely.
The application was created to help users find new interests across multiple mediums and keep them up to date and stop them missing on out on latest releases.
It was a concept that I saw potential in and had wondered about making similar systems myself. I always thought there must be patterns that linked peoples media prefrences across multiple nodes (Film/TV/Sports/Music/Gaming) that would only become visible after analysing large data sets.
I was approached directly to develop the prototype and convinced the founders at the time that using PhoneGap would be the best way to get the app off the ground. This was possible due to PhoneGap’s fast development time and my existing skillset with HTML/CSS/JS. An added bonus would be the rapid development of an Android counterpart later on, using most of the code already developed for the iOS app.
Within a year the prototype was released and gaining traction in the Apple App Store. Following the release of the app Get Socialite Ltd successfully completed a second round of funding and asked me to come on board full-time, which I gladly acepted.
A second developer was also hired, who I worked very closely with as they developed a web scraper and API in the back end to gather the media release information. We also worked with a graphic designer who produced the website and smartphone app designs. Together we built attractive apps and websites that were fed with up to date information presented in an easy to consume layout.
I enjoyed the challenges of trying to acheive a 100% match to the designer’s graphics, but always made a good case for toning done UI features when the development cost would out weigh the benefit to the end user and the investors. Sometimes a simpler animation would be a better choice to ensure increased performance and cross browser support (one of the downsides to choosing a PhoneGap route for app development, relying on the native web browser view)
One of the most satisfying features developed was the Push Notifcation system, that told users of the app when new content was released for a TV series or Music artists. Once they’d indicated their initial interests, the app would let the user know when new content was available, with the TV channel or Music download links provided.
It was a challenge to get it working, but I was pleased enough with the solution that I offered it up to the Stack Overflow community, and it’s earnt me a great deal of community rep since then:
How do I get Parse.com Push Notifications working in a Cordova/Phonegap Android app?
Some of the tools I used to stay productive while working remotely:
- Harvest – for accurate time keeping and invoicing
- Skype – to keep in touch with the other team members and provide asyncronous communication
- Pomodoro Technique – a technique to maximise productivity and minimise distractions, works well only if you have the self control to stick to your timed slots.
An aspect of working at the company I found harder to deal with, was striking a good balance between developing new features quickly, to show investors, and spending more time re-iterating old features to make them more stable for existing users.
As a developer, I felt the need to constantly rewrite what I’d done within a few months, and do it better. As a stakeholder in a small team, I also wanted to see the explosive growth that comes from a successful startup.
While the product never reached the heights that we’d all hoped for, it had a good run and reached a user base of over 10,000 users within a year of it’s release and secured funding from independant and government investment.