When Your Side Project Gets a Side Project

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 2 min read

When I launched Today Weather back in August, I did so with the intention of using the web app as a proof of concept and understand 2 things:

  1. Could I create a product people liked?
  2. Was there interest out there for another weather app?

The answer to both of these (thankfully) was yes. Today Weather has not taken over the market, but it's doing well enough and the reactions I've gotten have been incredibly kind overall.

I'm happy with the end result of the project, but what most people want is an app on their phone for the weather. Native apps get you push notifications, widgets, Apple Watch apps, and more. Websites are great, but they don't let you do all that, and Today Weather's reach would be much greater if it was running locally on a smartphone.

Because of this, my goal after a couple days of launching the website (and adding the most requested features) was to develop an iOS app for Today Weather.

It's now been just over 2 months and I'm nowhere near done with the app, but it's coming along. One of the struggles I've had is in adapting my knowledge to Swift and iOS's frameworks. I'm much more comfortable in PHP and JavaScript. HTML and CSS just make sense to me in a way that auto layout on iOS simply does not yet.

It's so frustrating to get to try to do something in a new language that is incredibly simple to do in the old language you already know. There are things I can do with a couple lines of PHP that I am struggling to accomplish at all in Swift. The tools are there, but I need to uncover them.

Out of this frustration has come another side project. As I was banging my head against a wall in Xcode, I hopped over to my test server and started fiddling around with creating a tool I would use myself. Over the past couple weeks I've put together a nice little site that makes it easier and faster to search the iOS App Store straight from your web browser.

The pitch for the site is that it should be easier for writers like me to find links and basic information about apps without using the App Store app (which does not do split screen on iOS) or iTunes on the Mac. As a web app, it also means I can pull this information from any device with a web browser, so Android, Windows, and even Linux machines can get this information.

Below is a short video of it in action in its current form. I need to spend a little more time in it to make is something worth releasing publicly, but I do plan in releasing it soon.