Codename “dogfood”, a New Side Project

Last August, whilst I was working on releasing version 2.0 of Reminder+, I had an urge to work a text-entry (and editing) style application. The goal of the app:

Make it fast to write snippets of text on an iPhone.

I spent a handful of hours putting something basic together and then went back to Reminder+. I kept the (very rough) app on my phone, to use in the background… it disappeared when I upgraded to iOS 9.

Was there any value?

I started to think about the app again over the Christmas break and so put it back on my phone.

The ‘app’ was essentially a collection of controls to manipulate the cursor position or text selection. In isolation these controls were useful for writing and editing text, but I was less certain that the overall package was compelling as an app.

This is what I was considering:

  • A single text entry screen, like a “scratch pad” of sorts, with an advanced keyboard accessory view.
  • Workflow: write the text you need and then jump to the app where you want to use it.

So I put it to the test.

The first course of dog food

The app went onto the dock. I used it. Daily.

Fairly quickly, I started to form the opinion that, working with this original vision, the app simply wasn’t appealing enough. There was too much effort in switching between apps for a small task (even in cases when it was a net win).

But the controls did work nicely, and I do like to be able to write, productively, on the phone1

A second course of dog food

So what about more general purpose note taking and writing?

A new goal emerged:

Enable users to be productive, writing on an iPhone, by improving the review, editing and correction of text.

No longer a scratchpad, a writing app, for short and long bodies of text.

An app I that I would use, myself2.

And now I really am eating my own dog food. I’m using the app regularly – to write my blog posts – and have been doing so since early January. And I continue to find it useful.

Stepping back, it feels like a great example of having a customer / user to help drive the development of a piece of software.

Every time I use the app I refine my view of what works and what doesn’t. What is the next most important feature to add? For the 1.0, what is necessary and what can be left behind?

So it’s a new side project. Codename dogfood.

  1. Note that, around this time, I did consider a keyboard extension. I dropped that notion for a combination of technical and user experience based reasons.
  2. In place of another writing app, for example, the rather awesome iA Writer that I’ve been using, previously.
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