Build vs Buy

Working in enterprise situations, you hear a lot about build vs buy: is it cheaper to create an IT solution yourself, or buy-in a solution from a third-party? It’s not always down to cost, obviously – other factors apply like requirements, security, privacy, integration into other systems, the supplier’s financial solidity, etc.

But ultimately, those are the two options. And they apply as much to the indiehacker community as to the enterprise one.

Let me give you an example:

I’ve been looking into building the mobile app for Notifium. I’m not a natural mobile developer and turning raw code into a compiled application for the app stores can be complex, particularly with Apple. So I’ve looked at a few solutions to help out on this.

The first was Ionic. They are a huge player in the mobile app space, and rightly so. They’ve brought a lot of value to the community, but are now very much gearing up to the larger customers, which puts even their cheapest “mobile build” solution out of the price bracket that smaller indie creators can afford, particularly if they’re in countries where the US dollar is expensive to buy with.

Additionally, from a personal point of view, I was using them for a while in the past, but then I hit a problem where my build was failing. So I reached out to support, who (to cut a long story short) said “it’s a problem with your app and we can’t offer you the detailed logs to help you try to fix it”.

That was the end of my relationship with all things Ionic.

So I just worked on the Android build for a while (which I can do on my Windows laptop), getting it to the point where I had a reliable process, then worked on the web UI for the admin tool. I’ve now come back to the mobile app, and need to build for iOS.

I don’t have mac. And Apple, in their glorious wisdom, have decided that you can’t submit an app to their app store unless you do it from a mac.

(This kind of thing is one of many reasons why I’ll never have an Apple product, ironically).

As a result, I’m currently trying Bitrise. I like Bitrise. They’ve been around for years, have a very flexible build process, support iOS builds and submission to the app store, so they tick all the boxes.

I built an template app using Cordova (the framework I’m using to build the mobile apps) – just a “hello world” kind of app, and it built on Bitrise without any issue.

Fantastic, I thought.

So I imported the actual Notifium app, and I hit a permission issue. Not with my code, but with Bitrise’s standard Cordova build workflow, and a standard Cordova set of files. So now we’re bouncing back and forth doing debugging via support tickets, which is a painful process.

So whilst that’s dragging along, I’m now renting a virtual Mac to see if I can get a process working that at least:

A. Works

B. I can debug

C. I can debug *quickly*

And yet people wonder why indie hackers sometimes build their own solution rather than use someone elses.

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