Photo by Matthias Jaidl
Photo by Matthias Jaidl

How we built an app in two weeks amid Covid-19

We are dotbite, an IT-company that designs and builds any kind of software with our own software products specifically designed for the higher education sector. As for many businesses, Covid-19 was a huge shock for us. From one day to the other universities were closed and classes and exams did not take place anymore. All of this left us with doubts about the future of our business and questions, we never hoped to be forced to deal with.

Despite all this, our team did not allow itself to be discouraged and decided to make the best out of this situation for us and the people around us, who depend on our help. And how could we accomplish this easier than with what we do best?

HILFMA-being there for each other

You probably came across Post-It’s on your apartment building message board at the beginning of the pandemic saying “If you need help with grocery shopping or something else, give me a call”. When Covid-19 overtook our day to day lives, people felt the urge to help each other and we wanted to be part of that. We wanted to make getting help easier for the people who needed help, especially the elderly, and we wanted to make helping more approachable for the ones who are able to help.

We decided to bring the idea of neighborhood assistance to everybody’s smartphone by building an app for iOS and Android. With our app we wanted to give people the chance to easily look for help in their surroundings. Moreover, people should be able to find those who are in need of help on the go, e.g. on their way to the grocery storeor the pharmacy. We wanted the helpers and the people who look for help to be able to communicate with each other in order to understand each other’s problems and help each other out more efficiently.

People can find and look for help easily via smartphone

After releasing the app, our next goal was to implement a second feature focusing on the support of local businesses. We wanted local businesses to have the opportunity to reach out to the HILFMA users by presenting their stores in the app. Not only people in need of help should be visible, but also local shops or service providers, like hairdressers or restaurants, in the surroundings of the HILFMA community. Our aim was to let people connect with places, where they could do their eco-friendly groceries or enjoy a warm coffee. Places, they might not know were right in front of them in the middle of their neighborhood.

Local shops can present themselves to the crowd in their surroundings

We built the app within two weeks. One Monday in March, we had the idea for the app. On Friday the following week, the app was available at the app stores, for both iOS and Android. After only two weeks “in store”, we already had more than 5.000 users. Two weeks after releasing the local shop-feature, we had over 500 shops presented in the app.

In the following chapters I want to share our experience of the whole process with you.

Agile Projectmanagement

Maybe you’ve already heard of agile projectmanagement, frameworks or development. At dotbite, we work with the Scrum, an agile development framework because it worked out quite well for us in the past.

We planned the development of the app in short periods, so called “Sprints”. We wanted to have a releasable product after only one or two-week Sprints, because we wanted to get our solution out there quickly.

To start with, we sat down together and discussed what we can achieve in one week, moved the backlog-items around and wrote the user-stories. From that point on every team member knew what to focus on and what the outcome should be after this sprint. The whole team was working towards the same goal.

Even though we have been working with this method for years, the Covid-restrictions made it challenging to keep up the work flow we were used to due to remote work and online meetings.

The first routine we implemented was our daily Zoom standup at 9 AM every day, where every team member reported about their accomplishments from the previous day, what they will do till tomorrow and with which tasks they would need help. The daily meetings were restricted to 15 minutes.

We have learned that it is quite important to have someone in the team, who always keeps an eye on the clock by reminding the team of the time limit (“5 minutes left, guys!”), so that everyone gets to the point quickly and keeps the focus on relevant topics only.

To come to an end: agile projectmanagement is all about communication and enabling ownership within the team. The whole team has the same definition of done, works towards the same goal and helps each other in order to achieve the Sprint-goal.

If you want to learn more about Scrum, we can really recommend visiting Scrum.org.

Flutter

We have been working with Flutter for years and are extremely happy with it. Without Flutter we would have never been able to build HILFMA within two weeks.

Let’s have a little deep dive into tech now!

Flutter is a framework for the development of mobile applications for the operating systems iOS and Android. It was developed by Google and was presented at the Dart Developer Summit 2015 for the first time.

In order to be able to use Flutter, the application needs to be written in Dart, which was not a big problem for us because of the many parallels to Java or C#. With Flutter, 99% of all mobile devices with the operating systems Android or iOS can be reached.

One of the biggest advantages of Flutter is that only one code base needs to be maintained. The entire application is written in Flutter and can be released on Android and iOS. If the necessary functionality is not provided by Flutter, native platform-specific components can be accessed directly. Wherever desired or necessary, the design can be defined specifically for each target platform.

If you want to find out more about Flutter visit their website here.

Ownership

We always push our team to enable ownership and give each individual the chance to be an entrepreneur within our company. This was even more important amid Covid-19. Now more than ever before we had to trust and rely on each other in order to achieve our goals quickly, but also with the high quality standard we expect our products to hold.

It was a really exciting and fun experience to see everyone in the team give more than ever while doing things they never did before just to reach our goals together.

Conclusion

In order to achieve specific requirements, you have to work closely within the team, but also keep ownership high. This team-dynamic combined with a good tech-stack will let you and your team achieve the unbelievable.

So did we: we had an idea, we built the app, we gained users in many countries and helped people in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. After building the local shop-feature within 2 weeks after the launch of HILFMA we helped many local entrepreneurs to make the best out of the situation.

So did we as dotbite by and with building HILFMA.

Who are we? WWe are a Vienna-based team of eight people, passionate about developing and designing websites, apps, logos, print and a lot more. Have a look at our work on our website www.dotbite.at

We hope you gained some new insights with this article. In case you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to contact us. We would love to hear from you and your experiences.

Building digital experiences with dotbite | Co-Founder of dotbite

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