Aspire to Be Useful and Elegant

What Makes a Good Product?

My favorite applications are ones that solve a simple task really, really well. The task or problem doesn’t have to be a grand, ambitious goal. Often the products I most enjoy using are ones that concentrate intently on solving relatively modest and mundane tasks.

Shazam is one of my favorite examples of this. When it first launched, the app didn’t have many features. In fact, the initial interface was little more than a single button. It identified the name and artist of a song by simply listening while the song played. That was it.

But that “it” was incredibly useful to me. More than simply being useful, the execution of the product was impeccable. A simple and beautiful UI that focused with laser precision on that one task. And the function was so remarkably reliable, especially for the time, that it seemed to border on magic.

That is a good software product in my mind.

Useful. Simple. Elegant. Reliable.

You Don’t Have to Be First

That was the type of product I wanted Spiral to be. When I first started toying with the idea for Spiral, one of the first questions I asked myself was, “does the world really need another notepad application?”

There were already quite a few handwriting notepad applications on the market. But very few of them were products I actually wanted to use. Many focused too heavily on the drawing and not close enough to the “quickly taking notes” use case. Others had user interfaces that weren’t good fits for a phone form factor. Others weren’t of the highest quality. I couldn’t find a single one I felt hit the mark of being useful, simple, elegant, and reliable.

So we went forward building Spiral. We viewed Spiral as a replacement for the pocket paper notepad and made sure that every aspect of the interface design and feature set worked to that end.

All of our competitors seemed to be trying to fit too much into the application. Many have a “zoom-out” drawing perspective that allows you to write on a much larger canvas than the phone’s screen. But every implementation is a little disorienting and really hard to use.

the people who want a feature like that don’t actually want the feature, what they want is an iPad

The feature is cool in concept, but not very practical in reality. We considered implementing something similar in Spiral, but I kept thinking to myself that the people who want a feature like that don’t actually want the feature, what they want is an iPad. We didn’t want to be distracted by features like that.

Room for More

Personally, I wish I saw more attention paid to applications that fill a simple need elegantly. It’s easy to discount applications that concentrate on small problems, but they often can be the most indispensable tools on your phone.

We like to think we hit the mark with Spiral. Give it a try today and see if you agree.

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