Choosing an app Idea #buildszn

Today is one week in to #BUILDSZN and as promised I’m posting an update. I committed to updating on specific dates because without a deadline and public accountability procrastination will get the best of me and nothing will happen.

Procrastination is the God of Death of Ideas. To that I say “Not Today!”

Here we go! This is what happened over the past week.

I chose an app idea!

The first thing that needed to be decided is “What am I building?”

I started with five ideas. I compared these ideas on a few factors like “Does a market exist?”, “Do I know the technology?”, and “Would I use this app?”  

Here are the five ideas I considered:

  1. A wish list or favorites SaaS that can work with any ecommerce platform, stock photo site, or a design portfolio site. The platform would provide analytics helping site owners know what products are popular at given times, and among different segments of customers.
  2. An app that can be pointed at a large set of pictures and video (think an S3 bucket, or a Dropbox account). The app would provide statistics, apply some facial recognition and scene recognition to apply metadata, and make it easier to catalog and search through large amounts of data. I have about 18 years worth of photos and videos in my digital archives and if I’m ever going to do anything with all these photos/videos I’ll need some help! Also, I want this app to be totally private. I don’t want any of the data or metadata shared with a 3rd party.
  3. A “Private by Design” app using Snips platform that would be a voice enabled home controller and would incorporate data and run a central TV. The idea would be a way to have a voice activated device to say something like “Hey, [computer], show pictures from Roman’s 5th birthday party on the living room TV.”
  4. A Shopify app where I could add functionality to store owners that doesn’t currently exist.
  5. A reporting tool like, but focused on Easy Digital Downloads (EDD).

Some of these ideas would require me to learn technologies (machine learning, voice control) or research industries (photo/video, home electronics) where I have no prior experience. Because #BUILDSZN is only two months I need to use of all the advantages and existing knowledge I possess to make a January 1st launch date.

When I look at my current knowledge three things stand out:

  1. I know how to code PHP.
  2. I’ve run a plugin shop with EDD for four years and know what type of data a store owner would be looking for.
  3. I know several other developers who run plugin shops using EDD.

Given these advantages I chose idea #5 – Build a reporting SaaS for EDD. I talked about this choice a little more in Episode 13 of my podcast Has Opinions.

Background on the reporting SaaS idea is a reporting SaaS for WooCommerce founded by Bryce Adams. I’ve known Bryce for a few years from the internet and we were both WooThemes Ninjas in a past life. I’ve recommended a few customers to Metorik over the years and have seen it in action. The feature set is impressive. It’s a fantastic app. I really want to use it on my plugin shop, but there was a problem – I sell my WooCommerce plugins with Easy Digital Downloads. 

Bryce and I are members of Post Status – a private newsletter and Slack community for WordPress professionals. Over the years I’ve asked Bryce a few times in Post Status about Metorik for EDD. I’d say stuff like, “I’d love to use Metorik on When are you going to port this to EDD?” Bryce has always responded that he has no desire to move outside of WooCommerce.

So another part of my motivation to build an app like Metorik is so that I can use it on my own site. Hooray dogfooding!

What to do when your idea is not original (spoiler: it’s not)

I wrote the announcement for #BUILDSZN during the afternoon on November 4, 2018. About one hour before I finished writing the announcement I received a Twitter mention with the message:

We have developed a reporting SASS[sic] tool [redacted] for #eddwp, would you like to try it out sometimes ?

What are the odds? The exact day I’m planning and choosing an idea someone reaches out to me cold to say they are doing the same thing.  I gotta say I was disappointed…for about 5 minutes.

I remembered that there are no original ideas and the internet is a big, big place. If there is big enough internet for all of the email marketing platforms and time tracking apps that exist, then it’s big enough for a couple of niche reporting apps.

Ideas really aren’t that important. After the idea success really comes down to execution. Like Derek Sivers says – Ideas are just a multiplier of execution ( 

I’d say if someone is already building your idea don’t be discouraged. Find a way to do what they are doing better, or specialize and focus on a tighter niche than the competition.

Chose a framework

Because I know how to code with PHP+Javascript choosing a framework was easy. I’m going to use Laravel and some of the additional framework add-ons like Spark and Nova. Again, I’m only giving myself two months of build time so I’m going to look for ways to save time.

I’ve spent the past week watching a ton of Laravel videos on YouTube. I also watched Laracasts’ Vue 2 Step by Step series. I don’t have an active subscription to Laracasts, but might re-subscribe on Black Friday.

I also watched Steve Schoger’s Refactoring UI videos which are totally amazing and get your brain into deep thinking on UI complexity and how to make an interface that’s great for users.

I haven’t started coding yet, but will do that in the upcoming week after I spend some time architecting the app.

Non-Coding stuff

I plan to do some Twitch live streaming so I setup OBS and did some test streams. I didn’t save them because they were really short and not interesting.

I setup a project in Harvest the app I use to track time for client work. This will give me some perspective on how long tasks are taking me. 

Money spent

I will keep a running tally of money that I’ve spent on #BUILDSZN for anyone interested. Because I’m focusing on launching in two months and am funding this out of my other businesses I’m not too concerned about spending money when it makes sense and saves time. Here’s what I’ve used so far:

ConvertKit – ($29/month) I have a free ConvertKit account since they are a client and I build/support their WordPress plugins. I used my free account to collect emails for the first week, but will probably migrate this to a paid account.

Domain Name – ($13.98 / year ) I have a domain in mind for this app so I bought it even though it’s not final.

Private GitHub Repo – ($7 / month) My other business pays for unlimited private repos at GitHub, so I’m going to setup this app there. If I was just getting started I’d pay for GitHub’s personal unlimited repositories. This isn’t necessary by any means, but it fits into a workflow that I’m comfortable with.

That’s it for week one! I’m excited to get down to planning and coding this week. Thanks for reading this far and for joining me on this journey!

If you have any questions please get in touch here.

See you next week!