Voxel Steps: Development diary


Hey, everyone!
I want to start a new project in Aug, so I need your friendly advice as I will be sailing uncharted waters.

I want to make a mobile-only app that will start off as a todo list with some perks and quirks; but eventually I plan to grow it into a full-fledged personal assistant solution. So far I’ve only created one mid-sized web app using Meteor full stack and Blaze as view layer. App will be free with a paid monthly option to sync your data to server db.

Here are my concerns:
1.What tech stack should I use? I was planning to go with Meteor + React Native (will have to learn it along the way), but what’s the ideal tech blend with the current technologies in the mobile dev world? In terms of learning curve and speed of development?
2.Is the server sync option a viable offer to attract paying customers? How much should it cost per month? (The target market is the US)
3.How to promote a mobile app? Simply put it on google play and wait for it to get traction on it’s own? I don’t really have a marketing budget on me.

Thanks in advance!


You want to reinvent the wheel and build another to do list app? What is special about server synchronization in a todo app? IMHO, you need to find a new idea, something that solves an actual unknown or unsolved problem! Did you do any market research on why your app would be better than the rest? I’m afraid you need to be really good at what you do in order to match other apps in this already established market.

So my advice is to:

  1. Find a niche market, because when you choose a specific group of people they will choose for you. If you choose everyone, they will not choose you back.

  2. Pick something closely related to yourself. Since you are going to work on this idea for a long time, motivation is a big factor (E.g: If you like playing football, build a scoreboard app for your local competition). The app I am currently working was first released in December of last year and I still work on it all the time, because many of my friends and family, including myself use it

  3. Do not worry about user adoption in the beginning stages. The first few weeks of my app being in the play store, resulted in only 500 app installs total. Right now its doing 250-300 installs a day by not spending any money on advertising. Your app will start to build traction by itself. There is absolutely no need for a big marketing budget if you know what people want and try to perfect a solution for them. Their appreciation results in good ratings and that will help you move up in terms of SEO. My app is now rank 4 if you search for “route planner”.

Hope this helps you. If you want to take a look at my Meteor app its here: https://myroutes.io


Thanks, good insight!
But how do you monetize?

Also, what about the tech side of my questions? Any advice?

ps. I’m just gonna copy the functionality of my own todo excel hightly customized sheet to mobile app version. I use it myself a lot and couldnt find any existing app that would closely satisfy my needs. So I’ll have to do it myself. I expect that I’m not alone and there are ppl out there that have similar needs to my own.


I’ll wait for people to come to me with money. Build something great and opportunities will arise by itself. There’s a risk by monetizing too early and getting greedy, you might limit your potential


Doesn’t anyone has to say something about the technical part?


I would recommend React Native. It feels more native on the device than Cordova. If your app grows you’ll probably feel the difference. The learning curve is “okay”. I had some struggle with a UI framework which gave me bad performance. After removing it and using own styles, everything is running smoothly. Another problem could be that there is no “official” Meteor package. I used react-native-meteor for my application, but it doesn’t use the “real” Tracker of Meteor and causes some unwanted behavior (mutliple re-renderings because a single Tracker change triggers all Trackers). There is now something new like meteor-client-bundler which could solve this problem, I just didn’t have the time to test it, yet (and it was released after I’ve finished my app).


I’m renaming this topic from ‘Need advice for mobile app’ to ‘Voxel Steps: Development diary’

I’ve given much thought to the concept of my app and I have decided to maintain a dev diary here.
Because Meteor is the only stack I know well and this community I highly value.
I alse expect having a diary here will keep me motivated to move this little proj fwd.

The app name is Voxel Steps.
‘Voxel’ is the name for a family of mobile apps related to productivity that I have in mind; doesn’t relate in any way to voxels in graphics :hugs:, it’s just a pleasant sounding word for my ears :blush:
‘Steps’ is because ‘task’ and ‘todo’ words are far too trite; and each task is essentially a step to a bigger goal or part of a bigger task - hope it’s not too farfetched :sweat_smile:


Above I’ve mentioned that I wanted to have two versions - free and paid; and my 1st take on it was that the paid version would have had server syncing of your local tasks.
More thinking on app design resulted in the decision to also add shared tasklists and task delegation to the paid version.

For starters I’ve decided to focus on building the ‘free’ part of the app first, ie the part where you can manage your own tasks, w\o any server involvement. Because I urgently need a mobile app for my own tasks!!! :joy:
So… the question is: do I even need a Meteor backend on this stage?

Secondly, I’m in the process of choosing a front-end framework; I have this article here that lists most prominent ones, but they all seem to utilize Cordova which has a reputation of not-that-ideal-of-a-solution. And yes, I do have plans to make my app bigger eventually, and they say Cordova sucks with bigger apps.
Also, thanks to @waldgeist - this topic has me really intrigued with react native & expo.io
Comments & suggestions?


Nice…good luck and I look forward to your journey.

In my experience we can presuppose too much of the market out there…as success/adoption of a product with any utility (you established that by your need) often depends more on what audience we can create/reach than ‘market conditions’.
Im waffling, but rather than ‘marketing to the whole world’ find the first users/customers group and then find the features/pricing that trigger conversion (download/use/sale).
You cd always release an early and free ‘MVP’ under another brand and go over analytics that way…then pivot and rebrand…

Plenty of success stories (I’m not vouching for their veracity) that might give you something: http://stuartkhall.com/posts/an-app-store-experiment

Also, this article is 100 years old in tech years - but may have some useful pointers: http://sourcebits.com/app-development-design-blog/paid-vs-free-apps-app-store-vs-google-play/

N.B black bar on the productivity column but take with a pinch of salt.
Also heres appannies app market forecast

Back to tech…RN is a great choice. Expo is the way to go for productivity and also it provides a lot out of box (push etc). Give a lot of thought to UX polish - its makes a great difference and this is where 60fps shows…little animations make people love a product (Animated api, I also like Victory from Formidable Labs for graphing etc etc)

I’ve been learning from Spencer Carli over at handlebars (and recommend everything he does) and anything I can find on github…(shout out to Ben Awad on github/youtube.

(btw. I’m working on an education app
Client: RN, Apollo |
BE: either Meteor or something like serverless-gql-lambda/dynamo/cognito)
because I think life should be either as easy or as interesting as possible.


@manuel, can I use VM with React Native? I really look forward to it!


You can. The only caveat is you need to use the components the way they’re intended to be used, not with VM bindings. The only bindings which I know will work are if, repeat, and ref.


Why such a limitation? Can you elaborate?


VM bindings work with html elements, not custom components (which React native has). Now that I think of it the text binding should work too because it transpiles to “regular” react.


Manuel, I’m really struggling to make VM work with Expo app I’ve created.
Is there a chance you could hack up a React Native example app? Similar to Meteor-VM example app.


I’ll create a hello world when I get the time.


Did you download the Expo app or use create-react-native-app? If create the app using Expo, there’s an interface that allows you to use the simulator – is that the part you’re having issues with?


Yes, I do use Expo. Everything works fine until I try to refactor standard RN component into a VM one. The parser complains about the viewmodel.js file.
Maybe some probs with .bablerc…? What do you got there?
Do you successfully use VM syntax in native components?


Status update
Expo app is working kool. I even managed to make it work in offline mode, so I can hack at my proj even when I dont have internet.
Current status
Learning React Native and building mobile apps in general;
Building 1st screen with Steps (tasklist) component


Good to know you got it working. I’m having all kinds of problems getting a basic android app to work (without VM). Phone link not working, Android emulator not running, etc.


Yeah, it takes some trial and error for sure :wink: