What are mistakes that native app developers make?

Written by: Reinder de Vries, March 22 2015, in App Development

Mistake: Reinventing the wheel, fueled by the Superhero Syndrome and the Not-Invented-Here Syndrome.

A few years back, when I was very busy with freelance development gigs, I needed a way to account and report my work hours. So, I fired up my code editor and created a nifty little tool that recorded start and stop times for each client.

Then, I found that for a lot of web projects I used the same functions and classes over and over again. I decided to put them in a framework, and put a lot of thought in the structural design of it.

Then, one of my clients needed a HTTP REST API back-end. I had just read up on Object-Relational Mapping and decided I should write a wrapper between MySQL and native PHP objects, to make saving and editing objects easier.

Of course, I learned a lot, but failed to see one personal flaw: I didn’t want to use someone elses open-source work, because I thought I could do it better. Custom always trumped standard work, I thought.

Superhero Syndrome and Not-Invented-Here Syndrome

Both syndromes are alike. Superhero Syndrome means that you fail to delegate work, because you think you can do better than those you’d delegate to. Not-Invented-Here Syndrome means you won’t use something you didn’t make, because you feel you must have made it yourself for it to be good.

How does this apply to app developers?

Well, in order to create an app for iPhone, all you need is Xcode. Technically, you can create an app from scratch without downloading one library.

The same doesn’t always apply for other development environments. To create a Bootstrap web app, or work with AngularJS, React or Node, you’ve already downloaded a dozen libraries and frameworks through the package manager. More often than not, these SDKs already work with their own frameworks and ease/force you into working with their way too.

For app native app development, that’s not always the case — you can get away with your own limited way of thinking and programming.

A downside however, of using too much libraries, is that you lose the intricate meaning and inner workings of the products you use. That makes you lazy as a developer, and more naive. Using higher functions means regression to the mean, and that causes more average programmers.

A Solution

Then, how do you solve this imbalance? The solution hides in the balance: use so much libraries to not invent everything yourself, but still invent enough to understand the inner workings of a library you use.

Consider this an exercise: before solving a structural programming problem (i.e.: how do I parse this JSON?), investigate at least 3 different libraries that can solve your problem. Order them on complexity, customizability and whether they’re part of a bigger framework that you do or don’t need. Pick one or two, work with them, and ultimately solve your problem.

Only then, you’ve used a framework without reinventing it yourself, without not knowing how it works.

Reinder de Vries

Reinder de Vries is a professional iOS developer. He teaches app developers how to build their own apps at LearnAppMaking.com. Since 2009 he has developed a few dozen apps for iOS, worked for global brands and lead development at several startups. When he’s not coding, he enjoys strong espresso and traveling.

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