Tips for creating MVP's on the cheap

I’ve been working on side projects for about 3 years now.  During that time I’ve figured out good ways of avoiding racking up fees for software, services, and hosting.  If you like to prototype quickly and pivot often, these tips are for you!

Code can be written using a free IDE (Notepad++, Eclipse, Sublime Text).  If web-based, online tools like jsFiddle are very handy for quickly trying ideas in a browser.

Connecting/leveraging 3rd party services is usually free for developers.  After coming up with that great idea, validate it first before getting in too deep by first ensuring 1. that the info you want is accessible, 2. authentication is possible and 3. that you are able to extract the desired information.

Set up a homepage for the app.  Web hosting usually costs money so I use Tumblr.  It allows for custom domains and “free hosting” in a way - despite it actually being a blogging platform, it is easy enough to create various static landing pages, such as, containing custom CSS and JavaScript.

Mobile development: Creating apps and running them on your devices is free and made readily accessible by tons of material on the Web.  Unfortunately, there is no way around paying the fees that allow you to publish your apps on the App Stores.  Luckily, these costs are less than $100 each, so if you end up creating an App that has good traction/word-of-mouth, it’s worth it to give it a shot.  Leveraging your friends’ help will give you a wider range of devices to test on before submitting, too.

Server fees: If the app/website will need to rely on processing power/functionality beyond the likes of Tumblr, cloud-based services like Windows Azure or Heroku cost pennies to run a day and take away a lot of the headaches of administering a server. Both offer free trials as well, which is great when you are trying to determine an idea’s validity.

Don’t forget to back up that prototype code!  Learn Git and use Bitbucket for private code (currently the only major source control provider that does this) or Github for public/open source code.

Any tips that I missed here?  Let me know below!

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