48 Hours to MVP Using Twilio SMS Platform, Rails, And Twitter Bootstrap

I help entrepreneurs make minimum viable products fast. If you have questions email me at joshweinstein.me at gmail.

I’d only been in Saigon for a few days but my friend encouraged me to meet up with Mona Nikhanj. Mona had the wireframes for her idea, but no software.

The idea: ItsReadyText.com lets businesses send text messages to their customers when their orders are ready to be picked up. (Think businesses like optometrists, repair shops, and restaurants.) Mona had a good idea and a meeting with a potential customer in just a few days. She needed an MVP asap.

DAY1 : Choosing the relevant APIs.

I grabbed the excellent Twilio gem and started banging away at it in the console. A few minutes later I’m sending text messages. I love this API!

The Twilio gem is great. For the MVP I made a tiny service class to wrap the Twilio interface. Mr. Demeter might cry, but this is basically the entirety of our Twilio code:

client.account.sms.messages.create(params)

sms

DAY2 : Choosing and deploying the platform.

Next we just needed a web app to save phone numbers and let our customers text them. That should do for the demo.

comp-coffee

Lately I’ve been writing a ton of JavaScript and Backbone.js code, making modern, thick-client apps, but for this project all that felt like overkill.  Your standard Rails app and ActionView form helpers should do the trick.  I knew I’d need some JS eventually, as making the thing dead simple to use was a high priority, but I figured I’d see how far I could go with vanilla Rails.

So I fired up a new Rails 4 stack with Turbolinks in tow. Yes, Turbolinks.

I’d never used it before, so I wanted to see it first hand. Initially it made things impressively speedy for free, but in short order I ran smack into its DOM-ready squandering ways. So enter the band-aid gem that proxies turbo-ready to dom-ready. That seemed to take care of the issues I was seeing, but I’m pretty sure there’s a little caching glitch lurking there somewhere. So, it’s been fun Turbolinks, but I don’t think you’re going to make it through the next rev.

one-does-not-simply-turbolinks

So, all that said, how far did I get things with vanilla Rails? Pretty far. I ended up having to code up some JS to do a smart autocompleting find-or-create style dropdown for creating notifications and possibly creating new customers, all in the same go. Select2, I think you’re a keeper.

This project also gave me the opportunity to stretch my localization chops in a telephonic way, as It’s Ready is being marketed in multiple countries. So I leveraged the countries gem for telephone country codes and paired it with the venerable country_select gem.

Finally, I wrapped the thing in Twitter Bootstrap with a flat UI theme, worked out a few bugs, and pushed to Heroku.

So, a little consoling, a nice-lookin but hastily written Twitter Bootstrap “theme”, a handful of resources and views, some JavaScript icing, a little Heroku, and a couple days’ work, and the thing was online.