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37 Comments

Is it worth building an app just for me?

I'm currently in the process of building a mobile app. The likelihood of making money from this app is slim. At the very least, this project is something that means a lot to me, since this product is something that I myself need in my life.

The app is a customizable personal wellness tracker that is entirely private. It seems silly, given how saturated this space is. But I've personally felt a lot of frustration with the health/wellness trackers that currently exist in App Stores. They are either far too cluttered, in partnership with some corporate entity with whom I do not want to share my health data, or lacking in customization options.

My goal is to build the product that I currently need in my life and can't seem to find in the App Store.

I struggle with the idea that it is "pointless" to build an app that meets the very specific need of only one person (me). Is it worth the time, effort, and frustration to build an app that probably won't make me a dime?

At the same time, the level of delight it would bring me to create the product that is missing from my life might just validate the whole endeavour...

I'll be posting more about my app development peaks and valleys on my blog (N.B.: right now it's just stuff about my cat).

  1. 18

    Go for it!

    You've mentioned that the apps in the space are "either far too cluttered, in partnership with some corporate entity with whom I do not want to share my health data, or lacking in customization options".

    Have you thought about the reason for this? IMO a good % of those apps probably started simple. Then (as they gained in popularity), they probably:

    • Got a lot of feature requests (and found the more features the offer, the more people want to buy their premium memberships)

    • Needed to partner because they couldn't easily monetize the app, and found that selling data/partnerships is an easier option to make $

    B2C mobile apps are really tough. I've analyzed 490+ founder interviews and there were a few B2C mobile apps and many of them said something like this:

    I poured three months of all my free time into this app, and reading feedback from some users who complain about having to pay for the upgraded version of the app because they say they can get the charts free from the doctor's office was exasperating. I'm thinking about what I can build next to target businesses instead.

    Based on this, I'd assume the real reason for the clutter/partnerships/selling data is simply because these apps found it really, really hard to get money from actual users.

    1. 1

      thanks for the insight

  2. 9

    You absolutely should build this. Launch it without the expectation of any users besides yourself and document your learning process as you build. Engineering and building things is an inherently creative process. Not all creative processes need to make money. In your case, it sounds like you are going to gain value from the app in addition to it being a creative outlet.

    I wrote about the idea that building things doesn’t always have to be about making money or starting a business. You can build to learn and to create.

    1. 1

      I think when you're only focused on money you lose the creative motivation that got you making it in the first place.

  3. 8

    Hey,

    when I started my own app Maxout in April during lockdown, I was in the same situation. I just wanted an app to schedule my workouts but all the apps on the market were either really ugly, too complicated and time consuming to use or not that much better than pen & paper (what I was using at that time).

    So, I went ahead and built that project. And for months, I used it for myself only. But over time, people noticed that I was sharing something in my Insta stories that looked good and I seemed to use often, so people started asking questions about it.

    This made me opening it up a bit and now I'm building it out to invite more users. For a few months, I will try it out if it's worth it.

    But you know what? If it isn't successful, I will still keep the app and keep on going because I'm in love with what I have and I use it every single day right now <3

    1. 3

      This is very inspiring!

  4. 5

    If the time and money you loose on it doesn't impact you negatively, then definitely go for it. Even if you don't plan to monetize it right now doesn't mean that it won't become worth monetizing in the future. It may happen, that once you build it you'll discover other people who will also see the value in it. And even if that doesn't happen you can still get a lot of learning out of it.
    I also build things just because I need them and that I don't plan on monetizing, like this Chrome extension. Sometimes the need to scratch your own itch is just stronger 😄

    1. 2

      Completely agree with you! Cost-wise, all I can imagine is having a cost for the app developer program. So completely like catico said, it might be nice going for it just for your sake and creating something cool and that will be useful for you :)
      @catico cool extension :D

  5. 5

    I'd say yes it is. At best, there might be other people like you and you'll make some money. At worst, you'll solve your own problem and have a product that makes your own life easier. You'll also have a great portfolio piece and subject to talk about in any job interviews. Not to mention what you'll learn from taking a project from inception to release. It's really really hard to follow through on a project idea.

    I made Chapter24 (https://chapter24.app) for myself. The product philosophy and every feature is designed just "for me". I didn't do any user research or anything and I still don't have any paying users. However building and launching the project was incredibly good fun. I'm also motivated to write on my own blog now because it's powered by Chapter24 and I built the product just so I could use it to write a blog 😂

    So I'd definitely say, go for it!! What the worst that could happen? You'll end up with a finished app on an app store. Not a bad result at all :)

    1. 1

      HI ayush, Chapter24 looks great and easy to setup. I'm wondering how you managed to connect custom domains?

      1. 1

        Thanks @gieoon! I'm using CloudFront as a cache layer in front of all the hosted blogs. So for a custom domain, I just configure CloudFront to use the user provided custom domain and then I show the user the DNS config to point their domain name at the CloudFront distribution.

        Hope that made sense?

  6. 4

    @lexhaynes This is actually how I started my venture. I had a personal pain point and the current solutions just were not working for me. I created an application that I wanted to use and turns out a lot of people I showed it to wanted to use it as well. The best thing you can do is start. I'd highly suggest you go for it. If you need any help at all, feel free to reach out to me!

  7. 3

    Yes, as you said, it starts with a personal problem that you want to solve (e.g. repetitive work, etc.) or things you want to improve in your self (e.g. health, habits, learn faster, etc.).

    I, for example, have stuggled with social media addiction which affects my productivity a lot, so I created an app (https://dailynewsound.com) to fix it. It goes back to fundamentals really, and the fact that you experience it, means that others do as well.

    What you could also do is to add content (e.g. blogs or posts) and dig deep around your problem you are working on (fitness), strong enough that people will take notice.

    It also helps to frequently get feedback from IH community, as to how you can improve your product. But you'd still go with your gut feeling and later on, the user data/feedback to make your decisions.

  8. 3

    I would say it is worth it if you enjoy developing the app, otherwise it probably isn't. You should also not forget the knowledge and skills you will develop along the way, that can be invaluable! Enjoy the process and think of all the things you will learn, at the end of your journey you will have a tailored app as a bonus! That said, the perfect answer is to find something you enjoy working on, enjoy to use and can be enjoyed by others.

    1. 2

      It's so easy to get caught up in the idea that nothing has value unless it makes money. But doing something for the joy of it, especially in a year very much lacking in joy, is starting to feel more worth it :)

  9. 2

    Hi @lexhaynes, I say go for it! There's a reason people forever have been pottering in the garden shed or building ships in bottles. Building for yourself, learning and enjoying your craft can be very rewarding.

    I just arrived here because I've been building https://braintool.org for my personal use over the last couple of years and am now thinking maybe its good enough for other people to enjoy also.

    I'd say the key for a software project is that the first step is small enough that you can get to an MVP-For-Me stage without too much frustration. After that its all gravy!

    Good luck,
    Tony

    1. 1

      Wow, beautify that interface and this may be very profitable!

      1. 1

        Thanks @shockwave ! The beautify part is definitely a challenge!

  10. 2

    Hi Alexandra! I built my first mobile app for myself & now there's over 6k MAU. It doesn't pay the bills really but it helped me get my last job & it helps me immensely in other ways. I've had amazing conversations with 100s of users from all over the world that were seeking tools to better their mental health.

    The market will always be saturated in wellness, but if you truly care about the product & your users (including yourself) & can iterate the product over time it could turn into a much bigger thing than you can imagine. Hope that helps!

    Have you joined the Mobile group here on IH yet? Would love to have you join & share questions or content about your mobile app journey :)

    1. 2

      Thanks for the inspiration! I haven't joined the mobile group but I will now!

      1. 1

        Awesome @lexhaynes! All the best getting v1 of your app launched!

  11. 1

    I did exactly this with www.everyhour.xyz and learnt so much and gained so much confidence doing it.

    Also I just looked at your personal site and your portfolio is amazing!

  12. 1

    Ya i'm on the same bus and i think if its your first real project then better to build it and learn than keep waiting for some world changing idea... i'm building https://www.indiehackers.com/product/teamlink for myself and my tech teams and would be happy to collaborate/give-feedback to others in same boat.

  13. 1

    Definitely!

    Worst case you learn how to build an app.
    Best case, others also need it and you have a potential business!

  14. 1

    I am all about building -- and really polishing -- my personal tools, even if they're never seen by anyone else. Spending a week or two building out a new tool or connecting a feature in an existing one is pretty much always time well spent: the worst case is that I end up with a new superpower (hello, automatic cloud orchestration tooling).

    And in the best case I end up with a standalone, interesting, pre-validated product like the revenue forecaster I use to look at growth metrics from the future 🚀!

  15. 1

    Hi Alexandra,

    Absolutely. First, you'll learn a lot. Second, you might find others could use it.

    I created one for myself as well - it adds an option into the Share menu on my android, so I can post the URL to airtable, where I'm building up a list of a certain type of tool online. It saves bookmarking it and trying to add it manually. It took me a few hours to write (I guess around 7-8), but it saves me maybe 2-3 minutes every time I use it, which mounts up over time.

    Plus it just feels great to do something in 1/4 the number of clicks it normally takes :-)

    Andy

  16. 1

    Could you please send more details ( what functionality would you like to have etc.) concerning your future app?

  17. 1

    Good luck, you may find others that have similar needs.

  18. 1

    Hi Alexandra! If you have a strict budget you need to test market demand for your product. The best way to do it - launch an MVP of your project. It saves you a lot of money in the future and helps to identify the "pains" of your future customers. For more detailed information you could read this article https://linkupst.com/blog/what-is-the-discovery-phase-and-why-is-it-necessary

  19. 1

    Build it and share it here so I can check it out (and very possibly use it haha)!

  20. 1

    Many successful ventures started as "pointless" ideas - good on you for giving it a go! How have progressed so far?

  21. 1

    I'm in the same boat. I want to build a "media archive journal" app for myself and I've been struggling with whether it's a worthwhile use of my time to build it or not. Although I haven't opened Glide in almost a month, I actually have a session with my Glide mentor tonight.

    I hope you build the app. I say go for it!

  22. 1

    Privacy matters more and more. If you store the data in NoSql or storage method on the users device, people would pay for it rather than get it for "free" and the user be the "product". I've been watching this trend for the past year now of decentralized apps, especially in certain segments where privacy matters the most. Health/wellness seems like a perfect place to implement this.

  23. 1

    Somehow the probability that somebody as the same problems is very enormous. Go for it 💪🏾💪🏾💪🏾

  24. 1

    You should definitely build it. Not only you will enjoy the whole process of building something which is going to solve one of YOUR need, there are some chances that there exist people who will like it as well.

    Take my project, Designtack, for example. I didn't know if it was something people would need because there already exists giant alternatives but I was happy that it will solve my problem of content marketing. Turns out, I have people paying for the tool I built and I use.

  25. 1

    No brainer. Build it. You will learn a lot, it will be challenging and you will get a lot of satisfaction from doing it. Also, 'The likelihood of making money from this app is slim' is an untested assumption.

    Do you want to make money from building an app? If yes, then the best way to do this, is find and speak to others who are also frustrated with the apps in the market. You can easily do this through ethnographic research (observing peoples behaviour). Read the reviews of the app, particularly the bad ones. Who else feels your pain? Find online communities and reach out to people, speak to them.

    As per others on the thread, happy to help with advice etc, don't hesitate to reach out. Best of luck, look forward to hearing how you get on!

  26. 1

    Yes! I'm building Hitsnag, which shoots what you email yourself straight to the productivity app it needs to be in. I email myself all the time and usually its the problems you encounter the most that cause one to create a useful solution for many. You should def ask around for some validation and make sure the cost stays low.

    Hitsnag's waitlist 🙏
    https://www.producthunt.com/upcoming/hitsnag/

  27. 1

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