Building Kitify, my first modern web app (in Rails)
July 28, 2012
This entry is the first in a series about Kitify (source code), a web app I built that was originally intended to let DIY project creators easily sell kits for their projects. You can see all the published entries by clicking here.
Kitify makes it easy and fun for do-it-yourself project creators to document, share and sell kits for their projects, via web-based “kit creation software” and a backend logistics network for selling complete kits when requested. (Check it out if you have a moment – it doesn’t even require an account to get started!)
I got the idea for Kitify while building this vacuum-forming machine. The Instructable for this is great – it only takes about $100 worth of parts to build something that will make impressive, cool-looking plastic molds. But it took me forever to actually track down all the necessary parts, including a couple of wasted trips to Home Depot.
I thought it’d be great to have a service that accepts an Instructable, like the vacuum-forming machine instructions, as input. The business then boxes up all the parts that are necessary to build the project, and ships you that, as a kit. That’s what the name means, too – Kitify is a service that makes written instructions into kits. We’d make our money through a large markup, which consumers would be willing to pay since they wouldn’t have to spend time and money on gathering parts.
The real competitive advantage a company like Kitify could build is kit-building knowledge:
Where to source parts (so you’ll pay us for finding components for you)
How to get them cheaply (so we can maximize our profit while charging plausible prices)
What the correct parts are to buy (so you’ll pay us to ensure you have the correct parts)
Advice on assembly (so you’ll pay us for the time we save you)
Custom-made parts that make assembly easier (saves you time, and makes sourcing easier for us)
Since DIY is an increasingly popular pastime in the US, and one that I’m personally passionate about, I thought this would be a really interesting idea to pursue.
Over the next few entries, I’ll write about the process of researching and building Kitify, which included a fair amount of market research and a lot of writing pitches (both of which were probably superfluous in retrospect), and finally learning how to write a proper, modern web application in Ruby on Rails.