How to build a sh*tty app in 3 easy steps


I had a conversation recently with someone who wanted to build a custom app for their business through which they could sell their (amazing) green supplement. The app would be pretty simple and straightforward from the user’s perspective: choose your product, pay for it with your credit card, get a confirmation email. On the backend it would be more complicated than this, but nothing a million people haven’t done before. This app was doable. 

However, apps are expensive to build from the ground-up, and I couldn’t manage to bring the cost within this entrepreneur’s budget. 

I really liked this guy, I believed in his product, and I wanted him to have this app, whether we built it or not, so I started digging into the handful of online build-your-own app tools out there, hoping I could find one that he could use to create this app without the need to start from square one.

The frustration I felt over the 7 hours I spent trying to work with each of these tools in succession probably ranks in my top 10 most frustrating technology experiences. Not because they didn’t work, but because they didn’t allow me to create anything good. 

“Aesthetic engineering” is an emerging field that acknowledges the value of the “how” of technical functionality as much as the "what". You can achieve this with images, sound, an intuitive "user flow”. 

I am not an expert on aesthetic engineering, but there are a few basics that, when ignored, really ruffle my feathers. Inspired by my inability to create a decent, build-your-own app with the one function I needed, here are three pitfalls I encourage everyone to avoid at all cost.

How to build a sh*tty app in 3 easy steps:

  1. Have a ton of tab icons. Preferably gratuitous ones, AKA "Gratuitous Tabbing".
  2. Have a homescreen with options, the more the better. Whatever you do, do not give me what I want right away. Make me guess what I should do. 
  3. Make an app with static content. Don't give me a reason to open it ever again.

Plus! There's one bonus step for really digging yourself into a hole you can't get out of. It's all in the little video. 

Best wishes for the app of your dreams,