Got a business idea for website or app? Here is how to create it on your own.

2013-07-10 17:01

Did you ever have a really interesting business idea for a cool website or a mobile app? In my previous article I discussed the pros and cons of innovative business ideas. If you have familiarized yourself with the pros and cons of technology based businesses, and are still interested in pursuing a technology-based business, in this article I will explain how you can create the technology for that business even if you are not an engineer.

Typically, people who are not software engineers are forced to put their business ideas on hold because hiring someone to build the idea would be too expensive, and most engineers do not want to create someone else’s idea for free.

Well, what if I told you that you can learn to create that website or app relatively easily on your own? Would you give it a try? In this article I will explain which skills you need to create your own website or app, and how you can create your idea for free, and without depending on anyone else. And if you don’t already have a business idea to try, take a look at an article I wrote in the past about how to get business ideas so you can follow along. And now let’s get right to learning how you can build your own technology-based business, starting with some fundamentals.

The fundamentals of any website or app

First, let’s get a sense for the fundamentals. The best way to understand how websites or apps work is to understand something called the 3-tier architecture. The 3 tiers are

1) The visual layer everyone sees when they come to a website or an app.

2) The server layer where there is code to make the site or app function properly.

3) The database layer where data is stored.

First let’s take a look at how these layers work together. Since nearly all sites have an ability to sign in or create an account, as an example, let’s go over what happens when someone enters their user credentials into a login screen on a website.

The form to enter the login and password is obviously on the visual layer because we see it and interact with it. When the user presses the submit button on the login form, the form is usually configured to make a server call. The username and password that is entered into the form is sent to the server. The server then does a few simple things like validating that the parameters sent are not empty. If everything is ok with the parameters, then the server connects to the database, and checks whether the username and password match an existing record in the database. If there is a match, the server logs you in and directs you to the next page that appears after the user logs in. And if there is no match, the server sends a message to the visual layer with the error to show you that you entered incorrect login information.

Here is a visual representation of how all that functions starting from the browser on the right and going to the left:

Now let’s go over how you can get a handle on all three of these layers as painlessly as possible, starting with the visual layer.

The visual layer

Luckily, there is a really simple way to create the design and functionality of your visual layer without needing technical or design skills. The most popular (and free!) service to create and manage your visual layer is Wordpress.org. And if you get stuck on any part of setting up your site with Wordpress, you can ask questions on various Wordpress forums such as this Wordpress answers where you can get questions answered in as little as a few minutes. For many types of sites such as blogs, content-heavy sites, or basic small-business sites with just a few pages and no complex functionality, the only layer needed is the visual layer so this may actually be enough for your needs.

The server layer

If your website does need complicated functionality, you will need to learn to write some server code. Learning to write server code is the most complicated of the three layers. You have to research which programming language you want to learn and choose one. The most popular language at the moment is Ruby. And the full set of technologies that make Ruby so popular is called Ruby on Rails. There are many tutorials online for getting started.

This is the part of building the technology of your business ideas where you have to get serious because it will take some time to grasp the ideas and be able to write some server code. If you get stuck, a great resource where you can get help is StackOverflow. There are many brilliant software engineers who answer technical and programming questions there for free. And if you want to get more into various geeky technical topics, sites like g33ktalk (pronounced GeekTalk) offer videos and articles about various technical subjects from top engineers. But sites like g33ktalk can be a bit too advanced. So try it only if you are feeling really geeky, and begin to take a real interest in programming.

The database layer

The most common database used today is MySQL. It is free and relatively easy to set up and connect to your server. Similarly to the process of learning a new programming language, when you get stuck, you can ask questions on StackOverflow and people there can help you. But overall, learning the basic use of MySQL is not terribly difficult and should not be too much of a problem. Plus there are some tools in Ruby on Rails that simplify working with the database.

Summing up

As you can see, while the process of creating your own technology-based business is not entirely simple, but it isn’t too terribly complicated either. So there is no reason to be intimidated by it. And there are many tools and resources to help you simplify many parts of creating your own website. So as long as you put in the effort, and use the available resources well, you can empower yourself to create almost any website or app on your own. This way you will be able to create your current ideas as well as any interesting business ideas that you have in the future, and put yourself on a path to turning your dreams and ideas into reality. Good luck!

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