Your app’s initial version is like your first love: it doesn’t work but you can’t let go

I can’t believe it’s already been a month since I hired a designer and a developper to start working on my app Live2Leave (in case you need to catch up on what I’m talking about read this, this, this and this). 

Blogposts apart (thanks for reading them!) Daphnée (if you don’t know who she is, read this) and I have posted 114 beautiful Instragram trip recommendations, overused hashtags and emojis and made quite a few videos. As Vincent van Gogh once said (as used in one of Live2Leave’s Instagram pictures): “I now consider myself to be at the beginning of the beginning of making something serious.”(though we can all agree that as beautiful as Live2Leave is going to look, it will not be anything close to Van Gogh’s serious somethings).

From my 103 Balsamiq wirerames (the basic screens of the app that I designed with an online computer software, which you can read about here) the designer Evgeny and I worked on simplifying what is called the UX – yet another confusing techxpression that I had to Google as soon as I heard it. It means User Experience, and refers to the way a person interacts with the app. 

“It’s like Love”

The User Experience is what we spent most of our time on so far. It actually takes some serious skills to make an app instinctive, skills only a good designer can provide. When I started working with Evgeny, I had designed the screens on Balsamiq and they worked well with each other, but the app was far too complicated at first: too many buttons and too many steps were required for one single action. So the designer and I had to discuss carefully the concepts behind each function, and we had to get rid of some aspects that I first had thought were essential. Getting rid of something is actually very hard to accept when you care a lot about a product and spent a lot of time thinking about it: it feels like you are cheating on your initial idea, and the initial idea is always the one you love the most.

It’s like Love (when I don’t make culinary comparisons, I usually turn to love. In the end it’s probably because food and love are the same thing to me): your first love is always the one that you never completely get over, even though the ones that come after are usually better suited to you because you know better what you want/don’t want. There’s something irrational about having a first love, and that’s why we are so attached to it but also why it usually doesn’t work. For my app it was the same: the first version I came up with is the one I loved the most but it didn’t make complete sense. It was hard to let go, but once I did I became more rational about the newer versions. It’s now easier to accept when we need to change something. And with this newly acquired wisdom, Live2Leave will eventually become very good – not perfect, because perfect doesn’t exist and would be very boring if it did, but good enough to convince many users that it’s THE travel app they are waiting for. Not sure I can say the same thing about love, just because sometimes your newer versions of love are a**holes and a**holes, by definition, can’t be fixed. If that’s your case, make an app, it’s a lot more fulfilling.

“This app should enhance the users’ photos, not bury them with text.” 

Once we were done with the UX (if you’ve already forgotten what it means, I can’t help you, you are and will remain a non-techy Homo Sapiens for eternity), we started working on the visual design, in other words the way the app will look like (the colors, the font, the use of space, etc etc) For me, visual design = better than love and cheese (well, maybe not cheese, but you see what I mean). Finally, it wasn’t something I needed to Google, something I needed particular skills to get right. It was just about my gut feeling and my sense of aesthetics, two things I’m used to rely on as a video journalist. I gave general concept ideas to the designer, the main colors that I wanted, my idea for the logo, and a list of apps detailing which aspects I liked / didn’t like and what could be used for Live2Leave. Evgeny first came back to me with a version that I found too complicated: too many colors, too much going on for the eye, the photos were not highlighted enough. But visuals were the part I really wanted to bring out: trips are a compilation of images, first in your mind and then from the pictures you take, therefore this app should enhance the users’ photos, not bury them with text.  

“Extreme simplicity”

Here again my video journalism background helped me: I learned that you should never say what the image already shows – the text should just add information, not repeat what you see. And we needed to get straight to the point. For my app’s design, that was translated by “extreme simplicity.” So I asked the designer to cut down the colors and the text in various places. The result doesn’t disappoint: the app now looks sleeker and much more personal, not so commercial, which I believe is essential for Live2Leave, since it is based on friendship, and personal travel tales. It’s about what your friends like, not what a big commercial company wants you to buy. So here we are, one month closer to making Live2Leave real and here’s a sneak peek of one of the most simple screens:

Trips@2x

I have to admit that I’m in love with the current version, but I can’t say I won’t dump it for a prettier one.

You will have to wait a bit longer to see the rest, as the developer needs to give a heart to what is now just a beautiful face…

Céleste

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