The Foot Mom

A tech inspiration story

Andy Dent
Andy Dent
Jun 8, 2020 · 4 min read
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There’s a foot in Touchgram.

It’s there as a sample in the Faves section — you can go ahead and tickle the foot and hear a young Mom giggling.

The story behind that foot example needs telling, to more than the few people I’ve mentioned it to face-to-face. It was one of my best moments, as a startup founder, of shutting up and listening.

In Perth, Western Australia, we have a fortnightly Meetup called Morning Startup. Founders come to hear speakers on startup-relevant topics and pitch, formally to the crowd or just in-person. People who are just interested in the startup scene often attend. It’s a good chance to run your ideas past complete strangers, and ask them to be unkind.

Some time in 2014 I was at one of these events and talking to a woman about my idea for “touch messages”. It was embarrassingly early in the concept of “blah blah something send pictures blah blah react to touch”.

Fortunately, I had the sense to shut up when she started trying to relate to my description. She said something like:

I work FIFO (Fly-in, Fly-out) at a minesite 3 weeks at a stretch. Could I send a picture of my foot home to my toddler, and, when she tickles my foot, she would hear me laugh?

That example became my go-to explanation and inspiration. I was going through the Founder Institute that year and the foot example became the core of my pitch. If you’ve met me at an event, you’ve probably heard a version of it. The tickling foot was the first pure playback example I got working in the earliest Touchgram prototype.

When I’m telling that story in-person, there’s a point where about 90% of people start to smile. Almost everyone can relate to it.

If you want to get started with Touchgram and see the Foot example, here’s how (for iPhone users only, sorry, Android is coming later in 2020).

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Partial screenshot of Messages on iPhone showing the Touchgram icon
  1. Download Touchgram from the App Store
  2. Go into Messages.
  3. Create a new message by tapping the Touchgram icon
  4. Tap the Faves star
  5. As a first-time user, there are probably no favorites visible. Tap the Tool button (Wrench) down the bottom.
  6. Choose Add Samples. (See more details on our help page).
  7. Tap on a row like
    Foot tickle lots with hearts
    and press the Play button.

(For anyone interested in product design or development.)

There’s a whole theory of product design backwards where you start with theoretical product and try to work out what’s needed to deliver that experience.

Touchgram has been, and still is, very much built in that manner.

When I was going through the Founder Institute, I showed off PowerPoint decks of conceptual screens. Sometimes, in design discussions, it was rough pencil sketches. As soon as possible, though, I started getting something running on the phone. This was a proof of experience. If nothing else, I could hand someone a phone and they could tickle inside the foot and probably hear laughter (depending on the crowd).

So, for a few years, there’s been a rough foot example buried in Touchgram which was created purely in code — no user could re-create that experience. There’s this bit of code, two sounds and a foot picture bundled in the app:

tgTouchgram(title:"Foot Tickle lots with Hearts", scenes:[
tgScene(
background:tgImageBackground(imageName:"Foot.png"), triggers:[
tgTriggerWigglesInArea(
numWiggles:7,
action:tgSoundAction(soundName: "mumLaugh.mp3"),
touches:tgTouches(footOutline),
failAction:tgSoundAction(soundName: "gameBuzzerWrong.mp3"),
hint:nil,
trackingHint: tgTrackingNodeRenderer(
maker:tgEmitterNodeMaker(fileNamed: "HeartSparks"))
)
])
]),

Most of the time, when extending Touchgram features, the order goes something like this:

  1. Think up some silly Dad-jokey example that you can’t do with the existing features.
  2. Sleep on it, in case the next day realisation dawns that you can do something like that already.
  3. Create code to Play a Touchgram with that new feature.
  4. Write a sample in code, like the one you see above. (For the developers in the audience, an expanded set of such hard-coded samples is used repeatedly in our unit test suite.)
  5. Play with this sample Touchgram, added to the Faves list, and see if the feature is really worth having.
  6. Design the user experience of how to Create a Touchgram with this new feature included. (Possibly go back to step 3 having realised it’s cool to Play but would be too hard to Create.)
  7. Ship a version with the new editor and wait for feedback.

If you’re interested in other back-stories of Touchgram, check out

Touchgram

Stories about the gesture-based messaging product Touchgram

Andy Dent

Written by

Andy Dent

Touchgram interactive messaging CEO/Founder looking for art, sound & advertising partners. Martial artist. Parent of adults. Coder & designer 30+yrs. Australian

Touchgram

Touchgram

Stories about the gesture-based messaging product Touchgram

Andy Dent

Written by

Andy Dent

Touchgram interactive messaging CEO/Founder looking for art, sound & advertising partners. Martial artist. Parent of adults. Coder & designer 30+yrs. Australian

Touchgram

Touchgram

Stories about the gesture-based messaging product Touchgram

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