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Thread: Non-Developer with mobile website/app idea, looking for guidance

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2014

    Non-Developer with mobile website/app idea, looking for guidance

    Hi everyone Ė

    Disclaimer right off the bat: Iím brand new here, and am by no means a professional web developer. Feel free to let me know if Iím off-base on anything, whether itís smaller stuff like semantics or larger stuff like big-picture thinking.

    With that said, I have an idea for a project and am looking for some guidance. Iíve done some preliminary research/googling, but think Iím at the point where Iím better off reaching out directly to the experts.

    In short, Iím trying to create an app or mobile website that helps Massachusetts residents make informed voting decisions on *state-level* elections (as opposed to the national-level races that receive overwhelming media coverage).

    As it currently stands, my basic outline is this:

    Screen 1: User is presented with a list of 10-15 political issues (gun control, minimum wage, taxes, etc.) and is prompted to select the 3 they consider ďmost importantĒ
    Screen 2: User is prompted to enter their zip code
    Screen 3: User is presented with a list of state-level elections that will be on their ballot in November based on their zip code. For each election the user is shown the candidates who are running, along with a quick summary of those candidatesí stances on the issues selected as Ďimportantí on Screen 1
    Maybe-stuff: User can sign in with twitter/facebook/etc to have their inputs from Screens 1 & 2 saved; User can elect to get push notifications on their phone or email reminders when one of their elections is upcoming.

    I believe I can handle the content, but am unsure of the technical aspect.

    Briefly, about me: I consider myself a beginner in terms of programming & web development, however I do have *some* familiarity. When I was younger I taught myself HTML, CSS, and a splash of Javascript in order to build a website for a family business, and recently I taught myself a (limited) amount of VBA in order to create a handful of Excel macros at work. Iím not intimidated by the thought of learning a programming language and doing coding myself, but I definitely realize it will take time & effort.

    With all of the above in mind, I have the following questions:
    1) Ideally, I would like this to be optimal for use on a smartphone. Should this be an actual app, or just a mobile-optimized website? (The response to this will almost certainly lead to additional questions)
    2) Given my experience level and assuming I could devote 1-3 hours per day, is this project something I could reasonably expect to finish on my own within a month? Or would I be better off seeking outside help? If I were to hire someone to do this, what rate should I reasonably expect to pay?
    3) Iíd like to include some form of advertising in this Ė not expecting to get rich, but at the very least would like to offset some of the time and/or monetary costs. Does this change anything from a development perspective?
    4) Is there anything important Iím overlooking? I realize Iím not an expert and Iím not going to become one overnight, but at the very least Iíd like to reduce the amount of ďunknown unknownsĒ in play here.

    In short: Whatís the best way for me to go about this? Any and all input is appreciated.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Living in Germany, I think I already know a similar website for German elections (called "Wahl-O-Mat" - see https://www.wahl-o-mat.de/europawahl2014/ as an example). Please tell me if this is what you are looking for (use Google translator to translate the page, if needed)

    As for your questions:
    1) I think, a website is better, since you can support all platforms (iOS, Android, WindowsPhone, WebOS, Symbian, Windows, OSX, Linux, Unix,...) at once. HTML5/CSS3 with mediaqueries etc. will be a huge help to make it always look nice.

    2) Depends. If you want it to look and feel nice and smooth, you will need to spend many hours on mainly learning advanced stuff, like semantic HTML, microformats, etc. and it will still not be satisfying, because you lack experience. Keep in mind: everyone starts small and you could use this project to gain experience and try out new things.
    If you just want a page that kinda works, a month with basic experience might work (with a backend to insert content).

    3) Not really. You just have to keep in mind where you want to place the advertisement and how your page will look afterwards. I personally do not like ads. They look ugly, are always in the way and cause additional traffic. But that's just me.

    4) You will need a webspace and a domain to make it look more professional and show the world that you are serious. Both will cost monthly (not more than $5/month). Also don't forget that a good layout and design is very important - don't underestimate it. I prefer flat designs (they are really easy to make for a developer with nearly 0 Photoshop skills and still look amazing and very clean)

    How you should get this started? IMHO: Start by getting experienced. This project is a great way to start, but do not expect the result to be perfect. Just managing to create a site which takes input (answers to questions) and calculating a result should be your primary goal. Maybe make it just work on a computer screen for now (since you will be developing on a computer). Debugging on a computer is a lot easier (I like the Chrome Dev Tools). After that, try to change the CSS with mediaqueries to make it look good on a smartphone. Last step would be to optimize your HTML and CSS to reduce traffic, speed up page render time, make it accessible, etc. The more homepages you make, the more those steps will melt into one or two steps, because you start understanding from experience, where you have to look out for what.

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