Here’s a builder I’m working on as part of a puzzle app 🙂 I should write a longer blog post about the project instead of just dropping surprise screenshots here, but I’m just having fun coding it! 😉
Last week, I made a commitment that kind of scares me. A commitment that takes me out of my comfort zone. Today, I’m following through, and finally showing you my app! But first, a bit of context…
(or you can just skip ahead and see the app right away!)
Human working memory, our capacity to process different pieces of information at the same time, is generally accepted to be capped at around 4 to 7 things. That’s not a whole lot. Add a cocktail of cognitive biases to the mix, and suddenly we aren’t very good at seeing the big picture.
However, when we look at a puzzle one piece at a time we can generally figure out how to put it together. It just takes us a while because we can’t process all the pieces simultaneously. We aren’t machines after all! 🤖
As I mentioned in my first blog post, two years ago I was having a lot of trouble juggling everything in my life. It was really easy for me to optimize for a few things at a time, but past two or three my focus would fade and my ability to keep track of my progress along with it. I knew that If I hadn’t been to the gym in a week, that I should go, or if I was eating out a lot, that I should cook more. These were all checks that I could make myself, but they all took time, and I still had to remember to make them.
So I though, why not take this checking process, and offload it somewhere else? We don’t realize it, but in any given day we actually do a ton of number crunching, and a lot of it follows some pretty specific patterns. I’m oversimplifying, but for a question like “should I go to the gym today?”, things like how you’ve been eating lately and how active you’ve been will almost always weigh heavily towards your decision. Imagine a program that can crunch that data for you, and use it to come to the same decision you would.
If you can imagine it, you can create it. If you can dream it, you can become it.
–William Arthur Ward
And this is what I’m creating:
Compass is a life-logging app that helps you maintain balance in your life. It shows you what you need to work on the most right now, with a single glance, and it does this by gathering data and comparing it to the goals that you set in advance.
I imagine my app as a compass for your life, thus the name. It’s something that can instantly point you in the right direction, but it’s not going to keep harassing you to do stuff or try to run your life. It’s also a reference to an incredible device known as the alethiometer, from the fictional His Dark Materials trilogy, but that story is a whole blog post in itself!
While not strictly necessary when you app hasn’t even launched yet, logos are cool. I wanted something really simple, but with powerful symbols. It’s not quite done yet (I literally just used the shape builder tool in Photoshop), but I’ll have plenty of time to tweak it later.
The most important screen is the one with all the coloured circles on it. When things are going well in an area of your life, the symbol moves closer to the centre of the screen, becomes greener, and also a bit smaller. If thing aren’t going so well, the symbol moves towards the edges, becomes redder, and also a bit bigger. If you press on one of these symbols, a popup will appear and let you add your data. The position of the symbols in Compass is affected by your data and your goals, which can be changed in the Edit Goals panel.
The design still needs a lot of polishing, and there’s a lot of features left to build, but it works and so far I’m happy with it. 🙂
Sketches and what’s to come:
I want to clean up the interface a little bit, with three distinct screens: your Compass, goals, and stats.
I’m also planning on adding: automated data tracking, more options for your goals, custom goals, data exporting, notifications, iOS support, more stuff you can track, correlations between your data, etc… What you see is just the tip of the iceberg!
Right now, the data you log is stored both in the cloud and on your phone. It even works offline! I’m using something called Firebase to handle all of this, and as far as security goes it seems to be pretty good. You can’t access my data for example, unless I give you my email and password. I’d also like to use data in aggregate at some point, but only to benefit the people who are using the app. I will never sell your data, or give it away without your explicit consent, and I want to make it impossible for anyone to try to obtain it forcibly. I think it’s time for our personal information to start being used by us and not just by the Facebooks and Googles that are collecting it.
So, what do you think?
What’s good about it? What’s not? Would you use this app? What would you add? Why am I asking so many questions?
Your feedback would mean a lot to me, and is invaluable in helping this project grow 🌱. You can start a discussion in the comments section, or you can send me an email from the blog’s contact page. Either way, I cant wait to hear from you! 😀
If you’d like to follow along with this blog every week, you can also subscribe to my mailing list.
I promise, next week’s blog will be shorter. 😉
For the crazy ones:
Do you have an Android phone and want to try out Compass for yourself? Just fill out this form and I’ll add you to the list of approved testers! You’ll then get a link to download the App from the Google Play Store. If you find any bugs don’t be alarmed! Just let me know and I’ll fix it as soon as I can! I typically release updates 3-4 times a week
If there’s one thing I’ve realized in the last year, it’s that making an app is scary. Despite the wealth of resources out there, learning to code still feels a lot like a trip aboard the USS Enterprise: boldly going where no-one has gone before.
Of course, people have been there, Stack Overflow is a testament to that, but the universe of brackets and dot notation is so foreign at first that communicating in it feels like rowing without a paddle. Thankfully, with a little time and persistence it gets better! You learn to ask the right questions, and when you do get stuck it generally takes you less time to move forward again. The little things are also a lot more exciting at first, as shown in the graphs below. You go from being like “My Hello World works! I am a powerful wizard!” to “I named my listener method weightWatcher()! I am a powerful (and hilarious) wizard!”. The takeaway is that code is magic. ✨
Unfortunately, it’s not always a steady exponential climb. What I’m realizing now is that sharing an app is a lot scarier than making it. We’re three blog posts in and I haven’t even told you what my app does or payed for your dinner yet! I know that my blog’s tagline is “I have no idea what I’m doing”, but it’s not a crutch for inaction. A couple years ago, I hired Michelle Akin as a life coach, and one of the things that I took away from the experience was a better understanding of my fears and how they would hold me back.
If I let them.
Right now, sharing my app with the world is terrifying to me. Yes it works, but the design’s not done… it’s missing features… it has bugs… I could go on forever. Part of me wants to just keep working on it until it’s perfect, but that will never happen. I’ve put a ton of time into it and I’m scared of what people will think, but I’m at the point where I need feedback. Let’s break out of the comfort zone.
In next week’s blog post, I’m showing you my app.
There will be screenshots. There will be sketches. There will even be a comment box below the post if you want to give feedback. Or if you’ve pressed a mysterious button to receive it in your inbox, you’ll be able to hit reply and pour your heart out!
The commitment above comes from a powerful trick that I also learned from Michelle. If you’re scared of something, or if it’s outside of your comfort zone, you probably have a tendency not to attach a concrete time to it.
“I’ll get fit sometime next year.”
“I’ll start a blog when I have less on my plate.”
“I’ll learn to code once I feel ready.”
Stop doing this; it will help. If you need a reminder every now and then just bring out your inner Beyonce.
Cause if you liked it then you should have put a date on it. 🎶