If a company wants to make an app, they usually hire a UI/UX designer, a backend developer, and some front-end developers. Most of the times, they need 3 people for front-end: one for the web, one for Android, and one for iOS. That’s already 5 people that have to work together. To make that work, you’ll need someone that oversees all of it, because otherwise, it will become a mess. Now you need 6 people. Welcome to the average startup.
However, developer tools and speed has been improving! When the first smartphones arrived back in 2007, all apps had to be made natively for two or three different operating systems, separately. This is why you needed so many native developers: one for every operating system. But this has changed.
In this post, I'll discuss 7 reasons why writing useful apps on your own is becoming more and more viable.
1 — A great Native Cross-Platform Solution has emerged and is becoming full grown: React Native
In the past 10 years, several projects have tried to create cross-platform solutions to make apps quicker: PhoneGap, Xamarin, Appcelerator, Cordova. In my humble opinion, this is showing great progress compared to where we were, but they are not truly native and didn’t reach the quality standards the current-day app-user expects from a great app. But since 2015 there is a new kid on the block: React Native was open-sourced by Facebook. In the past couple of years this kid has been growing up, and now it’s really something; Apart from Facebook itself, other big companies like Wix, Artsy, Uber, AirBNB, Walmart have been adopting the technology with great success.
2 — Apollo for GraphQL makes handling data in your app easy as pie.
Apollo (and GraphQL itself) is a true revolution in data handling inside of your app. Before GraphQL it was extremely hard and a lot of work to create complex app experiences like pagination, subscriptions (live data updates) and persistent caching. Now, it’s all integrated into this one tool, Apollo. A few weeks back, Apollo 2.0 has been released (read this blog), which made a lot more possible. Now, we can all be masters of data.
3 — Using tools like Expo automates a lot of overhead.
The process of going to the app stores for both Android and iOS has always been a long process, and it still is. But at least with tools like Expo, these processes are becoming more and easier.
4 — Entrepreneurial Developers are given excellent content
Sites like Medium and books for entrepreneurs provide very insightful information on how to be an entrepreneur and not give up.
Communities on Slack are helping each other out and giving each other advice 24/7. Also, communities like Dev.to are really making you more connected than ever as an entrepreneurial developer.
5 — Open sourcing libraries is becoming the norm.
It is incredible what you can find nowadays. In my past year of programming with React Native I’ve seen amazing courses, tutorials and GitHub repositories, all for free. Being a developer doesn’t always mean that you have to write everything yourself. If you know how to use Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V, you’re halfway already. Sometimes you just have to put the right things together, and you’re done. Follow me on GitHub to see what I’ve star'ed. Also, this is a great list of resources.
6 — Moore’s law + Better DevOps automation is making it ever cheaper and easier to create apps for huge audiences with little effort.
I recently calculated that I could make a single GraphQL server that could handle 100 million requests per day. If you couple that to a offline-first app, you could handle loads of users for almost no money. In my opinion, this is moore’s law at it’s best: the money it costs to create an app for, say, one million active users, is approaching zero, if you’re doing it right.
7 — Digital reach is improving
Marketing is becoming better, and the power of word of mouth is still there. Real good apps will boil to the surface, with or without a marketing budget.
All in all, I think that these 7 products, techniques and trends are empowering us (Ambitious Developers with a dream) bigtime. Huge corporate software companies like Facebook and Google are sometimes immoral and are gaining too much power. But now we have the power to create better solutions to some of these problems!
P.S. I think it's very important to not grow your company too quickly, it's better to find the ultimate PMF. A good example is Instagram, that was bought by Facebook in 2012, while just having 13 employees, after existing just 15 months, for a staggering $1 billion USD. This is something to strive for.