A Solo Developer’s Journey to the Top of Google Play

The COVID-19 pandemic brought about an unprecedented challenge: the global shortage of masks. In response to this crisis, governments worldwide implemented mask rationing policies, and Taiwan was no exception. Amidst this backdrop, I, a solo developer, embarked on a journey to create a mobile application that would help individuals navigate the complexities of mask rationing in Taiwan.

Mask Map 1.0

On February 6, 2020, Taiwan’s mask rationing system went into effect. Inspired by the initial surge in demand for mask-related information, I worked tirelessly over the next 48 hours to develop the first iteration of my mask map application. This initial version, released on February 8, 2020, provided users with a basic map interface displaying the locations of participating pharmacies and a search functionality.

Early Challenges and Community Outreach

While the initial release garnered some positive feedback, it quickly became apparent that the mask rationing system was generating friction between the public and pharmacies. Overwhelmed by the influx of inquiries and frustrated by the policy’s limitations, some pharmacies resorted to hanging up “sold out” signs even when they had masks in stock.

To address these concerns, I implemented a feedback mechanism in version 1.2.0, allowing users and pharmacy staff to report real-time mask availability. However, this feature presented its own challenges, as it relied heavily on the honesty and vigilance of community members.

Adapting to Evolving Needs

As the pandemic progressed and the government refined its mask rationing policies, I continued to iterate on my application, introducing new features and enhancements. Version 1.3.0 incorporated pharmacy operating hours, while version 1.4.0 introduced a queueing system indicator, based on the observation that pharmacies using a queueing system tended to have more masks in stock.

The most significant breakthrough came with version 1.5.0, which introduced a mask inventory tracking feature. By analyzing the historical inventory data of pharmacies, I could identify those that were less likely to be out of stock. This feature proved to be a game-changer, propelling the application to the top spot on the Google Play Store’s free rankings within three days of its release.

Platform Suspension and Lessons Learned

Despite the application’s meteoric rise, it was not without its challenges. On March 18, 2020, my application was suspended from the Google Play Store due to a violation of the platform’s policies. While I attempted to rectify the issue, I ultimately decided to step back from the project as the mask rationing system was becoming less relevant due to increased mask availability.

This experience taught me several valuable lessons. First, the importance of agility and responsiveness in adapting to rapidly evolving situations. Second, the power of community engagement and feedback in shaping a product’s direction. Finally, the delicate balance between providing a valuable service and adhering to platform guidelines.

A Reflection on Solo Development

Throughout this journey, I have witnessed the transformative power of technology in addressing real-world challenges. As a solo developer, I was able to quickly conceptualize, develop, and deploy a solution that made a tangible impact on the lives of countless individuals.

While the mask rationing system has since been phased out, the lessons learned from this experience continue to inform my approach to software development. I remain committed to utilizing technology to solve problems, improve lives, and make a positive impact on the world.