How to Build an App Without a Team

By Sunjay Armstead |
July 18, 2022
Laptop, notepad and coffee mug on wooden desk next to a window

Working with a team on an app is a power move. But what if you don’t have the luxury of working with a team? Here are five strategies to help you be successful and still love your work during the process.

1. Start on a Different Medium.

Okay, okay, hear me out. I love jumping strait into Notion and getting lost in the wonder of my big ideas. But it’s incredibly important to switch mediums from time to time. This helps you see with fresh eyes and think with a clearer mind.

I typically start in my sketchpad to organize my ideas. There I’ll include low fidelity wireframes, state diagrams, goals for the app, and ideas for future growth.

2. Aim for an MVP.

Building an app is a big deal. You need to think about the user experience (UX), user interface (UI), DevOps, marketing, frameworks …. are you overwhelmed yet? So start with a minimum viable product, or an MVP. Think about ways you can simplify your idea while still delivering core features. That will allow you to ship your code faster and make traction sooner. Progress not perfection!

3. Break it Down.

I get a brain freeze when trying to plan an app sometimes. Seriously, where do you even begin? I find it helpful in those moments to ask two fundamental questions: What are the different components of your app? And what are the parts that make up those components?

For example, the news app we’re building for this series will have a list of all article titles for a specific news source. Each article title will then link to an individual article.

4. Make Small Iterations.

In Agile workflows, software teams will typically write and point (or rank) user stories. During that process, it’s common to split up stories that require too many individual procedures. You should give yourself the same grace!

For example, say you intend to style an article list, build an article API, and write unit tests around both. Don’t do all of this in one branch. Work on one feature at a time.

First write the test and style the list. Push this up to GitHub and open a pull request (PR). Review your code and merge it into the main branch. Then follow the same process with building the API. Many small steps make for long walks.

5. Ask for Help.

Just because you’re currently working on an app alone doesn’t mean it should stay that way. Ask for help, mentorship, advice, and encouragement. You’ll be surprised how many people are more than happy to oblige.

While having a team is ideal, you can still build an app without a team using the five strategies outlined here. Mix up your mediums, aim for an MVP, break down your app into separate components, iterate in small spurts, and ask for help. You got this!