How I built Progress App – Time Tracker

Identify the Problem

I’d like to think that I’m no different than most of the developers out there. We identify a problem that we encounter and automatically begin thinking of possible solutions.

My problem was a simple one, this time. I wanted to start a side-project ( if you must know – it failed half way through ), but this time, after reading a couple of articles about side-projects, I decided to pay attention to how much time I spend on my side-projects. And I’ve always wanted to know just how much time does something take up exactly. It’s easy to think “ohh it will take me just 3 days”, then spend almost 2 weeks on a project (like when building this application), and finally just loose track of your time completely ( for example now I have no idea how long did it actually take me to build the Progress App ), sure I can do some simple date-hour-calculation “I worked from A date to  B date about C hours a day, which means that I worked D hours”, but that is just not good enough, and it gets even worse when you have a very flexible schedule (like I’ve always had), because you manage your own work. I don’t want to repeat the “3 days to 2 weeks” mistake ever again! Without simple time tracking, I know that I will get lost again and again. This just had to stop!

Search for a Time Tracker

If I would build an application for each problem that I encounter, I would have a lot of problems and close to no solutions. Instead I use the search and gladly buy solutions. My initial search was on the Android Market, because I own a Samsung Galaxy S3 ( we’ll come to the “How did an Android app become an iPhone app?” question later ), and I was confused. Not a single application did that seemingly simple thing. Sure, there are time trackers for all sorts of things, egg timers, running-tracker buddies, freelancer time trackers (like harvest), etc. I didn’t need all that complexity. I wanted a couple of labeled chronometers. Was it too much to ask ? I guess so.

I must admit, that I might have ignored a couple of applications out there. But even if I have, it just means that I reached a certain level of frustration and decided not to bother anymore. Moreover, they probably didn’t fit to my “Simple application” criteria,  because really, I was going to give somebody a 1$ for a simple application, nobody wanted my $.

Define a Solution

After all the frustration, the defining the solution was easy. A simple application that lets me  time my projects/tasks. Emphasis on simple. And of course I should be able to delete tasks, edit the labels and reset their timers.

Right now I’m timing how long does it take me to write this article. I called the timer “Writing Article”. When I’m done with writing, I’ll just stop the timer and see how long did it take me to write all this. The next time I’ll write an article, I’ll reset the timer and see how long is that article going to take. And so on. This was the solution I was looking for.

Fixing The Problem

For the past year I’ve been building applications with Appcelerator Titanium, which has been a very… let’s say “dynamic” experience, but I’ll talk about that another time. For now – all you need to know is that Titanium promises a solution to build cross-platform applications, and because I’m no good in Objective-C (and because I have an Android phone) I decided to build my application in Titanium (with JavaScript). So I did.

Android Idea, iPhone App

What started out as an idea for the Application for my Android phone had just shifted into an iOS Application idea. How? It’s simple, really.

From my experience Android market is a poor place (in comparison with Apple App Store). Applications just don’t sell, users are dissatisfied a lot more, and paid applications aren’t popular. Even further (I know I said I wouldn’t talk about it here) Titanium is just no good for Android. All that combined, and I just didn’t see the value of investing another 25$ for a marketplace membership (which isn’t expensive at all, after Apple’s 99$). 

Even further. Android applications require a lot more work, not just because of Titanium, but because of Android. Android is a nice, open operating system, but it comes with it’s own set of problems. For example if you think responsive design is hard, try doing responsive apps, that have to account for all the different screen sizes and systems that the application should be run on. I have no idea how real android developers actually get by.

So I had an idea for Android App, I built it for iOS, and I’m using it alone (with 2 other peeps) on my Android, because after all, I wanted to track my time!

 

Conclusion

My girlfriend is a Designer/Illustrator, so I had it easy. I asked her to make a nice icon/splash screen and the UI Design. We gave the design a lot more thought than I initially anticipated, but in the end, I think we built a nice little application.

At this point, I’m not sure if I am ever going to publish the application on Google Play store, because of (again) Appcelerator Titanium, the application isn’t just as responsive as I’d like it to be (as in – you have to wait a few ms until a tap event is registered) . I believe that the application should provide value if it’s being sold, and I think that the slight lag (that I’m okay with, but I didn’t buy the application from someone else) defeats the feel of the application a bit. But releasing it for free on Android market wouldn’t just be fair to iOS users, so – Android, you lost yet another app.

It took 6 days for App Store to approve my application, so here it is:

Progress App Icon 

Progress App: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/progress-app/id594906155?ls=1&mt=8

 

Sublime Susy

Sublime Susy 0.1

I just uploaded my initial commit to Github with snippets for the Compass Susy Grid system.
This is version 0.00001, which means I have no idea if I’ve made spelling errors or forgot something, but we’ll fix them over time, right ?

I hope that in the future we can add in some auto-completion for Susy variables, etc, but for now, I hope that you’re going to like my Susy Snippets