I find infomercials hilarious. The hyperbolized problems that would likely never arise in a persons life are miraculously solved by something that could often be DIY-ed in minutes. The compulsion to buy something to solve a problem you don’t really have is subtle but powerful.
Why wait to have this problem when I can solve it for just $7.99 plus shipping and handling? Hold up, three more for free? Done and done.
The propensity for the focal point of a project to become blurred is not to be understated. You can spend weeks, months, even years working on something without once stopping and asking “what’s the point?” Serial entrepreneurs and accomplished thinkers often warn aspiring creators to think before creating. If there is no problem to be solved, there’s likely no solution.
In a class focused on creating an app, there is a certain level of risk regarding exactly this. You need to find a problem, a need, that many people want filled, and figure out how you’re going to solve it in a relatively short period with relatively limited resources. In our case, we saw a demand, and we saw that demand was met, but fell into the mindset that we could probably do it better. This is a dangerous place to be. We’re entering a market that’s already somewhat crowded. Users will have expectations of what to expect and there will be loyalties that need to be broken.
This weekend, I sat down with my two roommates. They’re tech-heads in their own right, so they were excited to be on the front-lines of an app’s development. Following consistently positive comments about our UI, there was more to be learned by what wasn’t said than what was. Our app, as it stands, has no real purpose. It’s a pretty journal entirely lacking in real utility. This isn’t to say that it won’t have real utility when it comes to our MVP, but now that the app looks exactly like we hoped it would, we need to ask ourselves why we made it in the first place.
Insights, vision, and some sort of grander purpose
There are a lot of exceptionally successful products and apps that really don’t seem like great ideas. Simple games, dime-a-dozen social platforms, they all seem like tools to waste even more time. Yet we use them, and we enjoy them, and the ones that succeed obviously found a niche and filled it. We’ve accomplished something incredibly exciting. We took an idea and made it a real thing. I believe that our app will have real utility, but now is the time to make that happen. An MVP meets the base requirements for a class where building an app is the goal, but we will be far from our maximum capabilities.
I envision our app providing real, useful, and beautiful insights that make our app worth coming back to over and over and over again. I deleted Headspace yesterday, and Daylio a few days before. These are great apps that fit the same niche we’ve found ourselves in, yet they failed to provide value to me in a tangible enough way for me to come back every day.
So, why did we decide to make a mood tracking app? Why did we decide to make an app at all? It’s not a particularly sexy idea. We probably won’t find ourselves featured on the cover of WIRED. Apple isn’t likely to buy it (though we welcome any offers). I won’t speak for our entire team, but I know that every effort to further strip away the taboo of mental health, to further aid people looking to take care of themselves, is a worthwhile endeavor and one I hope to achieve. I know I’ve got the right team to do it, and I think we are well on our way to making something with a real purpose.
I know this weeks update was lacking in updates, but there’s not a whole lot of sexy stuff that happened this week. I got sick, the rest of our group picked up my slack, and we’ve found ourselves about on track for the our sprint towards an MVP. We’ve worked on voice, we know how we’re going to user test, and there’s not a whole lot to tell of this week. Keeping the above in mind, the next two weeks have the potential to be very, very exciting, and we look forward to checking in again. Thanks for sticking it out.