Gil Ferreira of LineOne speaks about the importance of building on the base of open sources to excel with an app and his plans to grow his service.
LineOne is a service that takes the annoyance out of conference calling – particularly for those who hate punching in conference pins or misdialing pins. Compatible with any phone type, it works with the calendar, finds appointments which require you to dial in and automatically calls and connects you to the conference call.
What separates us from others is the amount of time and thought we put behind the user experience, says Gil Ferreira. “We studied the habits of many types of conference users, from the guy with a headset to the casual user. Our service’s features are based on our findings. One of our killer features is our smart assist. We learned that many heavy users will be late due to a long-running call. To handle this, we send a text to them. They can either reply when they are ready and we will call them back or we can even relay a message on their behalf to the conference, for example, ‘I’m going to be late by 10 minutes’.
Our niche market is small as far as competitors go. When we tried competitors’ products, it wasn’t as easy to get up and running as it should be – nor was the reliability or experience. We knew that we could make a better product and dove right in. My previous project was launched using the MVP methodology in mind but the time to launch was vastly different. Even though my project was scoped, it still took loads of time since I had to worry about each layer of my app.
Fast-forward a few years and the explosion of open source software, APIs and SaaS providers made it much easier for us developers. For comparison, my previous app took me about six months to get to my MVP. This project took about 2 months. That said, MVPs are a lot easier to get out into the world these days. Not only is it easier but with all the available tools it will be of higher quality as well.
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Although open source software has helped to develop software faster than competitors, Gil says what really counts is what you do with the software you choose.
Take Bootstrap, for example. You can leverage it to make an attractive site but chances are it will look like many of the other sites out there. To stand out, you need to build on top of the base open source provides you. The companies that care about user experience and code quality will excel. The others that focus solely on rushing features out will fall. The strategic advance I see for companies that excel is to automate their workflow. Once a feature/fix is done, there should be a process that is run against the code for best practices, to run tests and possibly deploy them automatically if everything checks out. It’s not just about speed. Quality comes first.
Moving forward with the app, Gil says the backend is most important to the company.
I’ve gone through building a backend many times. It requires a lot of work to get just right for the initial stages and for growth. With LineOne I only wanted to think about the data I was interested in saving. I didn’t want to worry about sizing, optimizing, etc. To delegate that, I chose Syncano, since they had an easy API and an intuitive dashboard. In our market, the frontend is shrinking – LineOne has a website but the meat of the app is actually ‘invisible’, meaning it integrates with other stuff such as your phone, text message app, calendar, etc. That is how you interact with it.
The main challenge we have now is connecting with our potential customers. It is tough to reach out to a community and make a lasting impression. So many things are thrown at the user every time they go online. Services such as Facebook ads can work if you have a boatload of money but they aren’t fostering the relationship we want for our community. We hope that someone cracks the code but for now, we plan on continually providing value. The users that we do have will fuel our growth through recommendations. With some strategic planning, continual improvements and a bit of luck, we will be heading in the right direction.