I wanted to wait for permission from Jonathan before posting about this project, and between one thing and another, I am hitting “publish” on this post in December, even though it was written in August…
So, I had this crazy idea the other day. (So far, nothing news worthy there…)
It all started when Jonathan Fields sent out a warm-up exercise for the Good Life Project summer camp, which Branden and I are attending. He asked us to keep track of how we fill each of three “buckets” each day: Contribution, Connection, and Vitality.
I’m not usually big on this personal-tracking kind of thing, and honestly I was having a hard time coming up with the motivation to keep a list. I started out ok, but it just kept falling off my radar.
And then I thought, what if there were an app for this?
If you know me in person, you know that the idea of using an app for anything doesn’t come my way very often. But, I’ve been really focused on making interactive designs using Processing, and last week a UX designer suggested that we might want to collaborate on something sometime.
The idea of collaborating got me thinking about what we could do that would be mutually beneficial. I need some design practice, and I’d like to figure out how to make interactive graphics in Processing. She has a lot of wireframes on her website, but it would probably be cool for her to have an interactive demo of one. That sounded like a potentially good project, but I am brand new at this and wanted to do some feasibility testing before biting off more than I can chew.
The idea of designing and roughing out an app for GLP was very attractive, because it gave me space to try some things before promising someone else that I could do them.
Also, writing an app is on Branden’s bucket list and has been for a long time, so I thought that he’d probably be willing to learn the hardcore back end stuff that makes things go (database architecture feels a little out of my area at the moment).
So, I sketched up some (very) rough and messy ideas, and started mucking about in Processing to see what was reasonable to expect.
The answer is: quite a lot. The more I look into what Processing (or its associated libraries) can do, the more I am convinced that it can do just about anything. I had to find a user-developed library called ControlP5 to get some of the features I want, but with very little effort I was able to get most of the pieces to compile on my computer using almost unedited sample code. (Of course, none of the settings are even remotely close to what I want yet and I don’t know how to change most of them, but…baby steps.)
So, the technical part was going to be (relatively) simple, though it will probably be far from easy to actually implement. That brought me back to the design.
I didn’t love the way the layout and format was working in my mock-up version. I’d originally conceived of this as a landscape app, but I just wasn’t loving it. I also have a much better version of what’s available now, and that has changed how I’m envisioning some parts of the design.
This morning, I went back to the drawing board and rotated the design into a slightly nicer portrait version.
That’s when things really started to take off.
While I was programming last night, I was noticing how hard it is to build an application at the same time as you’re designing it. That’s not really a surprise, but the experience did point out just how much easier my job would be if I knew exactly what I needed to build going in.
So today, I say down and drew up the new designs in Inkscape.
Not only was it helpful to think through each piece of the design really carefully, it was also very exciting to see the app coming together in real time.
I/we still need to build the code to make this thing a reality, but all of a sudden I feel like I know where I’m going and a little bit about how to get there, and I am finding myself looking forward to the journey.