Given deadlines, budgets, and other limitations, entrepreneurs should opt to trim the scope of a product/ feature list over sacrificing quality. Of course, if entrepreneurs are truly building an MVP, there won’t be too much room to trim.
In cases I’ve alluded to in my previous posts, many startups and wantrepreneurs make the mistake of jam-packing version 1.0 with several features without giving much attention to quality.
Having started a development shop recently with a couple previous partners, we must manage expectations. Many clients ask for feature-filled products from the get-go. We’ll provide them our thoughts on a more lean approach, but also give them what they asked for. Unsurprisingly, many companies and wantrepreneurs are sticker-shocked… some naivety to the technology and development world, many believe coding/ programming is simple and can be done cheaply.
With a budget half of our estimate, many still ask to fit all the features in believing they can sacrifice some level of quality in favor of more features. However, we push back – trimming scope rather than quality knowing that delivering all of the features would likely leave the product susceptible to quality issues.
In many markets, and indeed relationships, customers are less-forgiving regarding crashes and bugs vs. believing “in the vision” of what a product could be. That is, if customers are trialing a product, a feature-filled product with several bugs can be hard to use. Any feedback received will likely be around the bugs themselves.
Instead, the advisable route would be obtaining feedback regarding user experience and desired features – a well-built product with limited scope. User feedback would then lean towards “asking for new features” – the market pulls the startup in a direction with demand and products aren’t over-developed.
How could you argue features could be valued over quality? How else could stringent facets like timelines, budget, and the like be mitigated? What conditions would customers be more forgiving regarding quality of a new product or service?
Alicia Carr and The Purple Pocketbook
At 51.5 years old, you wouldn’t expect Alicia Carr to be an avid iOS programmer — I chuckled when she included the “half”. She’s a mother to three children and an energetic grandmother to seven grandchildren. She looks way too young to have so many grandchildren. Even as she’s busy running around taking care of everyone, in her waking hours, she’s buried in her MacBook coding away iOS apps.
Alicia sparked up a conversation with me at Starbucks yesterday out of the blue. She saw my Windows PC pulled up with my MacBook right next to it. It was obvious the moment she asked me, “What do you do?” that she was up to something of her own, and it wouldn’t take much time for her to spill the beans on her current passion and idea — The Purple Pocketbook.
The Purple Pocketbook can be found in the Apple App Store and on the Google Play Store
Over the course of the next 30 minutes, Alicia shared more of her story, her aspirations, her family, and her goals of the Purple Pocketbook, and given her passions in app development, I was intrigued to learn more about the Purple Pocketbook.
In 2005, Alicia lost her best friend to domestic violence. She put on a brave, stoic face telling me about how her friend was murdered in a front yard. Three gunshots. She was also a witness to her mother’s abuse, and her aunt was even on the brink of death after being stabbed multiple times by her then boyfriend. Then, there are countless friends and, yes, even daughters and other family members of hers who endured domestic abuse. To say Alicia has an intimate understanding of domestic violence and its ramifications would be an understatement, and that’s what set Alicia on her way to helping others understand and deal with domestic violence.
Alicia first became a Certified Empowerment and Relationship Life Coach in 2009 to help others. However, Alicia knew to help the masses, there would be a better way… building The Purple Pocketbook would be that way – the app empowering users to recognize domestic abuse and seek help safely.

(If you didn’t know, Purple is the color associated with domestic violence and used to raise awareness much like pink is known for breast cancer.)
Alicia’s actually a tech-savvy woman having learned HTML back in 1995 before dabbling in JAVA and SQL. But it was years before Alicia really got into full-blown programming, and learned how to code for Apple’s iOS ecosystem. This was actually a funny story…
Back in 2011, Alicia recalls standing in line at the Apple store waiting to get her hands on the iPad. Being the ever extrovert and curious woman, she noticed a 16-year-old boy waiting to pick up the iPad himself. She was astounded his parents just gave him the cash to buy it, but when she asked the boy about the money, the boy told her that it was actually his money. He was actually a millionaire [self-proclaimed, anyways]. He built an app years prior and it had done very well. You can imagine what Alicia said next… “I want to do what you do!” 
She had always wanted to build and program, and given the quality of resources available to domestic violence victims, Alicia knew she could provide a better tool vis-a-vis an app teaching users what to look out for, laws and aids available to victims, local shelters, and the like.
In September 2013, Alicia started her iOS path with a 3-month online course. 
With the single course under her iOS belt, Alicia took on building the first version of the Purple Pocketbook in January 2014. It was all her own, and a challenge she was thrilled to undertake. 
She finished the app in March, but had to go through several refinements before Apple finally accepted Purple Pocketbook into its App Store on May 2, 2014. Alicia recalls this fondly and breathes deeply as if it was today. She remembered how much she wanted to just pack it all up after failed submissions, but her friends and family continually pushed her and supported her, willing her across the finish line.
The Purple Pocketbook includes the key points to educate users for the prevention of domestic violence and where/ how to seek help if in a domestic abuse situation
So today, it’s been a year since she “first finished” Purple Pocketbook. She’s focused the app on Georgia users as curating additional content including state laws and shelters requires extensive time researching. She hopes to one day go national, though. She’s got a little traction, but as most entrepreneurs will say, building an app is one thing, but the real challenge is getting users. For now, Alicia’s learning new areas she had never experienced including marketing and promoting the app — she’s continually reaching out to shelters across Georgia, reaching out to bloggers, tweeting, and the like. However, she’s still struggling with marketing.
We talked about a few routes including blogging. For Alicia and what she’s trying to accomplish, blogging and driving inbound traffic is important. Tweeting and Facebook posts are fine, and should be done. However, especially in domestic abuse, victims are not going to Twitter or Facebook for help. They’re likely going to Google for help, so adding content to her site and her app will help drive traffic and get her exposure.
Additionally, we talked about the opportunities for success stories, shelters, and the like to help guest write thereby helping her overcome her self-professed FEAR of writing. 
As with any entrepreneurial endeavor, there’s a host of things to do to market and “sell” the app, but it’s important to focus on the key points. However, she’s on a good path, and can focus more attention on marketing and getting users. Relying on others to help promote is much like outsourcing coding. For her, it makes more sense to continue to keep things “in-house” and find ways to market. 
Since she’s started coding, Alicia has also been attending several startup events and is an active member of Women Who Code. Perhaps her passions helping others, coding, and teaching will be an opportunity for her in the future to teach victims of domestic violence how to code as part of a recovery tool.
Alicia’s story is very inspiring as she’s working against the currents. She mentions how others constantly ask her why she’s learning how to program at a later age. She also mentions the difficulty in obtaining a full-time job in iOS development being a black woman; so instead, she takes on contract roles. For Alicia, she’s found a revitalizing formula in self-challenging and self-empowerment while striving for her greater purpose with coding and The Purple Pocketbook.
Would you like to get in touch with Alicia? You can email her at or follow her @purplpocketbook. You can download The Purple Pocketbook on the Apple App Storehere or on Google’s Play Store.

Dilbert comic by Scott Adams
I talked earlier about how and why I started to program in “These 3 Questions Led Me to Stop Waiting and Start Programming” back in December. I used the idea of Dee Duper – an online marketplace connecting parents in communities to buy and sell gently used kids goods.
The most popular “I wish” statement I hear from others today when I talk about what I do is: “I wish I had a good idea to start a company”. However, these days, a close second is “I wish I knew how to program”. It’s not just about entrepreneurship but companies big and small are looking for resources who not only understand business, but who have a technical capacity to do some coding, too.
There’s an inherent and subtle level of creativity with coding as well as layers of analytics involved. With the Internet of Thingsand the explosion of Big Data and mobile, I wouldn’t be surprised if some level of programming is introduced as part of core classes in high school and colleges soon.
So I don’t get carried away with paragraph after paragraph of… stuff, I’m going to share a quick list of what I’ve learned from getting started on iOS and building out Dee Duper. As always, I’m being specific about my experience, but any of these take-aways can be ported to any other programming – macros in Excel, SQL for databases, Ruby on Rails for web apps, etc.
Hopefully, these will help you stop waiting and empowering yourself to learn and put yourself ahead of the curve.

Keep programming day in, day out to keep your skills sharp.

The hardest part of programming isn’t getting started. In fact, getting started is the second hardest. The award for Hardest goes to… programming consistently. Like I said before, I had programmed in the past, but programming, like most skills, is perishable knowledge. It’s important to keep the skills fresh with continued practice.

Be prepared to delete and adapt when adopting new technology.

I decided to plunge into Apple’s new language Swift vs. Objective-C because Swift will be the programming language Apple preaches going forward, and I liked its clean syntax. However, when I started, Swift wasn’t officially released… having spent many months/ years in development, I had to do a lot of code refactoring when Swift was actuallyreleased at Apple’s event in September (2014). I had a bunch of code that needed to be updated because functions and classes were already obsolete/ deprecated.
Note: Refactoring is the process of “cleaning up” code via restructuring code, implementing more efficient syntax, etc. while keeping the behavior the same. The benefits happen behind the scenes beyond efficiency.

Big features may represent 90% of the tech, but the remaining 10% will take up 90% of your effort.

I actually got a TON done of the Dee Duper app in the first week surprisingly. However, it was all the fine-tuning and dealing with Constraints that had me incredibly frustrated and head buried in my hands at the desk.
This wasn’t so much of a big deal before when Apple had really just one size (iPhone 5s and earlier all had the same width), but once screen sizes change, you need to set limits and constraints right so your app doesn’t look ridiculous on the various screen width sizes. Then, you’ve gotta handle the exceptions of “well, what happens if a user selects this first before that?”
Rules are easy to plan for… exceptions are what crashes your app and aren’t explicitly planned for.
Note: Constraints are what dictate the size of images, labels, etc. to fit different sizes of screens.

Dealing with Apple’s Developer processes will infuriate everyone – account for this time if you want to launch by XYZ date.

Apple’s products are [usually] pretty great quality because the ecosystem is so tightly regulated. I never appreciated this so much till I started developing. I had to buy a MacBook to even program iOS in the first place. Then, there’s a ton of headache involved with just being ALLOWED to program. There are things like certification, provisioning profiles, etc. that you have to constantly share keys and authorize devices to even test, authorize people to be able to test your app, etc. It’s mind-numbing.
If someone makes this process easier (a few clicks maybe?!), he/ she can make a ton of money. The frustrations through these processes are MANY for newbies like me and even experienced pros, I’ve found.
If you want to launch on a particular day, you need to be wary of how long it may take for Apple to approve the app (or if it gets restricted).
Don’t forget that if you leverage other tech, you may also need to get approval from them, too, like Facebook.

When you’re down in the dumps of coding disarray, Google is your best friend.

I probably run a hundred searches a day for problems I have or for ways to build Dee Duper out better – probably because I’m that green. Some of the features I was trying to build have been attempted/ successfully implemented by other developers. So, there’s a high likelihood there are other developers who have had similar problems and solutions. Being able to Google these situations is great, but you have to get the search terms right or you get flooded with irrelevant content. Google will likely steer you to personal blogs and Stack Overflow posts to help. The development community is alive and strong. Though with new tech like Swift, the community is much, much smaller, and can be a bit more difficult to find help with.

Integrations to platforms can be stupidly easy.

Credit goes to the great startups today who have developed such great platforms that can be easily tapped into.
For Dee Duper, I leverage Facebook’s API (application programming interface) so users can sign up and log in easily. With it, too, I can show mutual connections/ friends. Facebook’s documentation is decent, and can really help get you started.
I also use Parse(acquired by Facebook in 2013) as my back-end – stores the data model, content, etc. so I don’t have to build one from scratch. It’s so simple to get started and running. Creating tables and running queries is a cinch. I also use Parse to send Push notifications. This is useful when Dee Duper users send messages to one another critical for buyer-seller interactions. Push notifications are great, too, for Saved Searches (like if you’re looking for a particular items with key search terms, you can save the search, and be alerted whenever someone posts a listing that matches your search).
These large platform integrations just makes building apps that much easier and faster.

It’s so easy to keep building, and going overboard, but you need to stay simple.

Plugging in my earbuds and sliding my hoodie over my head, it’s easy to just get cranking and keep going.
“Oh, that can be a cool feature to implement… hmm, I’ll do that!” And the next thing you know it, you’ve blown past your MVP (minimum viable product).
It’s easy to just keep going, and thus, spinning your wheels and delaying your launch. As much customer discovery as I’ve done, I need to get the product in people’s hands to test hypotheses like features, layouts, etc. If I keep building, I’ll never get this good insight.
I have a couple lists in my notebook and on my whiteboard at home with clear objectives of what the MVP is… everything else can come later after some testing and learning.

Building is easier than selling (in my view).

I like to sell. I like to work with people face-to-face to find how I can help them through my product/ service. However, building things like an app is way easier, I think. You can do it from anywhere pretty much and at any time. Except for some quirks, the computer and code is pretty unbiased towards you with not so many personality “differences”. Thus, it’s easy to get validation when things work or why things don’t work.
In sales or working with people, there’s so much more you’re not necessarily privy to because there’s a person on the other side with a mindset, an attitude, a life, etc. However, I still like the people interaction, so would rather hand over the technical reins when the timing is right.

It’s really easy to take your time or delay.

Dee Duper was approved for the Apple App Store on Monday, December 1, 2014. (First try – sweet!) However, it took me a while to publish it officially because I was scared about how it’d be perceived by others.
Fast forward to February 2015, and since its launch, I really haven’t marketed it at all. I think I was excited about Dee Duper as an idea and as a project to learn coding with. However, since then, I’ve developed a couple other apps. As a solo-preneur, I dictate what gets my attention and what doesn’t. My schedule is completely of my own choosing, and sadly, that could mean I focus on building so many different things without the focus of only one thing even after launching it recently.
I need to do some marketing, though, so that I can get feedback on the apps that I’ve built. At least this way, I can really work in the Lean Startup mindset of iterating and collecting feedback. 
Another Dilbert comic by Scott Adams… because they’re great.