Some Thoughts on Apps

For the past month or two, I’ve been tossing around this idea of creating my first app – and ever since my discovery of Visual Studio Community, the desire to create my own app has doubled.  Strange, considering I’m not an avid app user.  I do have social media apps like Pinterest and Tumblr on my phone; I’ve downloaded things like Piano Composer and various collage maker apps, only to play around with them once and then delete them.  I don’t know if apps just don’t hold my attention or if I just haven’t found ones that are useful to me.  The only apps I use regularly are Google Maps and my weather app – very practical.  I guess it makes sense, then, that the app I want to create is a practical one.  I want an app that will help me keep track of my tasks, whether it’s homework, cleaning, or grocery shopping.

2LifeWeddingsScreens-1And I know there are dozens like that already out there, but you look at any one of them and they’re so…blah (and kind of a pain to use).

As this article from Wired.com so succinctly puts it:

The first thing a to-do list needs is to-dos. If your list is incomplete or, worse, outdated, you simply aren’t going to do check it. This makes it imperative that developers make it really, really easy to create lists and add things to it. But technology isn’t especially good at this. “If you have to turn on your phone,” Allen says, “click here, click that little icon, go to there… Come on!” He sounds exasperated just thinking about it. “Input and output is too hard.” That’s one reason pen and paper remain so popular. Jotting things down is faster, easier, and better for cognition.

My husband and I used to use Google Keep for sharing grocery and Christmas lists.  The interface was easy to use, but it reminded me too much of the Notes app that’s included on iPhones, and I guess I just didn’t get the point of it.  Sure, it was great for seeing updates to your list – as long as you remembered to update it.  And that seems to be the Achilles’ heel of most of these list apps.  So why the heck would I want to create one?

“A lot of tech people I know are going back to paper,” organization and time-management guru David Allen tells me. “Because a paper planner … there’s still no better tool than a paper planner.”

I think one solution is to combine the “old” tech of pen and paper with the “new” tech of smartphones.  For as much as we like to do stuff on computers and other devices, there is just something inherently satisfying about writing on paper.  It’s a mark.  One you made.  And it will never look like anyone else’s.  Writing, drawing, or just marking on paper ties into our sense of individualism.  It’s something creative and stimulating.

Don’t believe me?  Then just look at the popularity of bullet journals.

jb8They’re all over social media.  Bullet journals have taken the old, staid idea of a planner and re-vamped it into something creative – something people want to show off.  Not only does it stimulate the grey area upstairs, it actually helps you remember what you wrote down.

Okay, that’s great, but – how does this translate to a list app?  Well, for one thing, I think we need to re-think input.  Styluses have never really disappeared and iOS 10 supports handwritten text messages.  It makes more sense, then, for a list app to have an input method people are familiar with when they make lists – writing things down.  List apps – any apps, for that matter –  should be fun; they should make you want to interact with them.  What’s the point of a downloading an app if you’re never going to use it?  Like a bullet journal, it should allow you to express your creativity.  The last thing the world needs is another boring list app.

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