What is Possible?

So you’ve got an idea for an app, but the most important question is, can your app be made?

Given infinite time and money, could this app be made real?

It’s really counter-intuitive, but there are some things that are really easy for people to do, but really hard for computers. But how can you tell ahead of time what’s easy and what’s not?

Here’s a simple rule of thumb. Take a feature that you want to put into your app, and ask yourself, How much effort is it for you to do that task? Counter-intuitively, the easier it is for you, the harder it usually is for a computer.

Take recognizing a face of a friend, or guessing what breed a dog is by looking at it, or knowing if you will like a book before you read it. These are all really easy tasks for a person to do, because that’s just what our brains are good at! We’re great at recognizing, predicting, and human intuition.

On the other hand, take things that are a lot of effort for most people to do. Complicated math, filling out paperwork correctly, and remembering complicated information precisely. These are all great things for an app!

So if your current app idea has a lot of tasks that feel very easy for a person to do, keep in mind that those things may be the hardest part of your app to make. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s impossible, but it may be harder.

Let’s go over some examples of things that would be very easy to put into an app:

  • Virtual paperwork: A form that asks some questions, and sends those answers as an email
  • A list of contact information
  • A series of collected videos on an educational topic
  • Let users request an appointment time

Some things that are pretty much impossible:

  • Identifying what is wrong with a car based on the noises it’s making
  • Letting people virtually try on clothes using their phone camera
  • take a photo of a product, and then find where to buy that product

And even if something looks not possible, that’s not the end of it. A great programmer’s job is to help you tweak some of those features and turn them into something possible.

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