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word from the wise: how to create an app with… the lass behind ‘making things’, megan elizabeth

Since Megan Elizabeth took home the 2017 frankie Good Stuff Small Business category award for her ethical yarn project Wool Days, she’s been pretty damn busy. Over the past year or so, she’s been focusing her attention on Making Things, an app that allows you to download craft patterns (and do a heap of other cool things, too). We took the opportunity to ask her how one goes about launching a lovely app, and what do you know, she told us. Scroll down to have a read.

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Can you give us a quick rundown of the Making Things app? We had an idea for a new format of knitting and crochet patterns – one that you can interact with on your phone or computer, allowing you to add notes, jump between sections and bookmark with ease (because paper patterns can be a bit of a pain!). So we created something really simple, shared it with our community, and together we’re creating something amazing. Feedback, suggestions and ideas from our community decide what we build next!

The app is a work in progress and I hope it always will be. It’s fun to keep adding new voices, thinking about what making means to us and how we want to include it in our lives, and constantly asking, ‘Wouldn’t it be amazing if …?’

At the moment, you can discover and make you favourite patterns in the app – with some pretty cool features – anywhere you are (because your phone will probably be there, too).

What inspired you to create an app? My partner Rob loves tech (especially designing beautiful experiences) and I love making, so our worlds were constantly bumping and intertwining, in work and play. We knew there was an app in our future somewhere! We kept coming back to this idea we were playing with, so shared it with a few people. They immediately became almost as obsessed as we were, sharing ideas and helping us refine it. Pretty quickly, more people we joining us, and more ideas made for a better app. So now we’re building something amazing – together!

Did you have any tech experience up to this point? No more than troubleshooting a remote with a flat battery! Code is like knitting – another language. It’s a language that Rob speaks fluently, so we compliment each other well.

Who did you collaborate with for this? My other half, Rob. We started Wool Days together and now have gone all in again with Making Things. We love working together (we really do – ask our team!). And of course there’s our community – we’re here to bring their ideas to life!

Did you draw inspiration from other apps or programs? We draw most of our inspiration directly from our community. And then Rob goes off and soaks up all the inspiration and turns it into all these really cool features.

Do you have an ongoing team of helpers, or is it pretty much just you? At the start it was just Rob and I. Now there are five of us – which is amazing.

We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the program we just went through, Startmate. Startmate is Australia’s leading accelerator, which means they back the most ambitious Australian founders as they build world-class companies. It was a truly incredible experience and I couldn’t recommend it highly enough to anyone thinking about (or currently running) an ambitious company.

What were the biggest challenges involved in getting the Making Things app up and running? Finding the time to do all the things! Even though we put everything else in our lives on pause (which has its own set of challenges) to focus 100 per cent on Making Things, there’s still never enough time in the day to get everything done!

Any skills you’ve picked up along the way? Learning and doing at the same time. A recipe for a slightly stressful/hectic way of doing things, but man do things get done! Waiting until something is perfect, or you feel ready, means nothing gets done – you’ve just got to dive in.

What’s the most fun thing about making an app? All the ideas. Working with our community to think about how we would do this, or what that would look like is a whole lot of fun.

How about the least fun thing? Ha ha, all of the ideas! I have to keep focused and remember that each idea has to be designed, scoped, built, tested and deployed – it kind of takes the buzz out of it sometimes. But then it’s done and something that was only an idea a few weeks ago is now real… one idea at a time.

What do you wish you’d known before you got started with this project? Everything takes 10 times longer than you think it will, even if you plan for it to take 10 times longer.

How do you envisage the app and its community growing in the future? The amazing thing about technology is that it gives you the ability to form close connections with people that share your passion, no matter where in the world you live. I want the app to become the online home for makers – the place where we indulge and share our passion for making things.

Would you say that launching an app is an all-consuming endeavour, or is it something that folks could do as a side-project? It could be either. Designing and building an app takes a lot of energy, but the scale ranges from something you do in your spare time to learn some new skills and build something cool, to an app that has customers and needs constant updates – something that you get a little obsessed over. For me, it’s all-consuming.

What’s the most important thing someone thinking of starting an app should know? Stop thinking, start doing! Don’t worry about making it perfect, just get started and you’ll learn so much along the way.

Any other wisdom about app-making you’d care to share with the frankie readers? It’s a lot of hard work, a lot of details and a lot of compromises. But it’s awesome and everyone thinking about building an app should absolutely go for it – it’s such a rewarding journey. There are so many resources out there now that app-building is accessible for almost everyone.

To find out more about Making Things, direct your peepers over this way. To learn more about the Good Stuff awards, pop over yonder. Sweet snap by Heather Lighton.

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