A while ago a friend of mine — let’s call him “Bob” — told me he had an idea for a smartphone app. Something relatively simple that a lot of our friends could use in their life. I said I’d think it over.
Also recently I’d been watching my wife getting her feet wet with programming for a while. Watching her having her first successes with Python rekindled that old itch to create, to make something both useful and beautiful.
The idea of that app never left my mind. I found myself thinking up particularities of its implementation during my morning shower, or waking up with a solution to a possible obstacle fresh in my mind. That’s the sign.
The sign that I should get up, sit down and do something about it. There were some conversations and general excitement and yes, let’s make an app!
What’s our first step? Well, it seemed reasonable to sneak a peek at what the competition was doing first. The purpose of our app is quite specific, and there are several others already out there that seemingly fulfill that purpose.
So why bother? Why go through the effort to conceptualize, design, program, test, and publish a tool that’s supposed to solve a problem that may have already multiple solutions? And at first glance, it looked like that might be the end of that little endeavor already. Those apps looked pretty much exactly like what I had imagined ours to be like.
Finding your inner strength
Luckily, Bob had a lot more insight into the subject matter than me.
See, he said, as he pointed to our various competitors, that app can’t handle this common case very well. That one can’t handle it at all. When I look at this third one, all I see is feature bloat. It attempts to solve all kinds of problems that rarely show up during real life usage, and as a result, its user interface is littered with buttons you hardly ever need.
All of those apps had disadvantages well-known to their user base, and on top of that I’d call none of them a joy to use.
That helped us to find our focus. We know the people who will be using the app. We are the people who’ll be using it. What do our users want/need when they tap that icon? That’s what we’re going to give them.
- Focus on a clear cut functionality, not exactly bare bones, but rather bare bones +1, possibly +2. Five features that cover 80% of use cases, rather than 75 features that cover 137%.
- A clean user interface, avoid any clutter.
- Make it accessible to the point that anyone anywhere can use it.
These shall be our guidelines on this journey, and the many many arguments about how to do things that are sure to follow 😜
Thanks for reading. Follow the blog for more updates as our work on the app continues.