I’ve wanted to make an iPhone app for ages now, but it’s always been a far-off “when I have the time and energy to learn how to code” thing. Recently, I realized that I have an urgently needed app in mind that’s based on Siracusa’s Annoyance-driven development: All the existing apps in this space are ugly and unstable, and all of them lack certain core features. I recently realized that I can either keep saying I’d like to make this app well into my forties, by which time I probably still won’t have managed to teach myself enough coding to pull it off, or I can feel out the developer community and see if anyone is interested in helping out on the coding end while I tackle art, production, marketing, QA, et cetera.
I want to make a calendar that tracks women’s health and reproductive cycles. I know, boring, but stay with me. ALL of the apps in that space are so ugly it makes me want to cry.
As you can see, these apps are almost exclusively pink or lilac or -maybe- some other pastel shade. They’re 80% flower-driven design (because I’m a delicate flower? F-ck off. Because when I got my period I flowered as a woman? Also f-ck off. Because this whole bleeding inconveniently every month is all a beautiful part of nature, therefore look at this flower? Shut up and f-ck off. Because women run around in a field in Massengil commercials? Go douche yourself and then f-ck off). Ahem. I don’t care for the look. I’m betting that most men and women who read this post will agree with me, even if they wouldn’t have used quite as many F-bombs to make the point.
Colors and motifs aside, these apps have stretched UI elements and horrible fonts and weirdly low contrast text and some of the worst textures/skeuomorphic design choices that make Podcasts.app look like a home run. They have no idea what “retina” means. And they all seem to be made by men who don’t understand what features and design choices makes this type of app useful and appealing to women.
Marco Arment noticed this dearth of decent design when he and his wife had their baby boy Adam, so he created a breastfeeding timer app with laudably simple design. When he first released this app, he mentioned that similar pregnancy-related stuff, like baby naming apps, were just appalling. That hasn’t changed yet. His beautiful, clean, simple, and functional design eventually inspired me to try to apply the same principles to a cycle-tracking app.
Aside from design complaints, there are also functionality problems in this category. These apps crash constantly. They have no calendar integration and no ability to export data to iCal or other common calendar formats, and no helpful push messaging options*. They require you to input made-up guesstimates or to configure data that you probably don’t have if you need a cycle-tracking app. They generally exist in a freemium model, but the freemium apps are so bad and the features described in the paid versions so pointless, that I’ve never been inspired to shell out for a “premium” version. (Neither has any woman I’ve ever met.)
Furthermore, why does anyone bother tracking their cycle in the first place? Besides knowing when your period will arrive, there are two basic things such an app should be able to help you do:
- Get pregnant.
- NOT get pregnant.
Guess which feature is missing from every single app I’ve tested? That’s right: none of them help track your cycle to avoid making a baby. Read that over again. Of every single app I’ve ever tested (and I’ve been searching for a good fit ever since the iOS App Store came into existence), NONE of them are designed to help you avoid an unwanted pregnancy. There are tons of ways to optimize becoming pregnant, with varying windows of optimal conception, but all you can do is aggregate said data and attempt to extract a reasonable “safe” window. Heck, there’s even an app that lets you select a desired birth date or Zodiac sign, and back-calculate an ideal window of conception (!!), yet there is no choice that teaches women how to avoid having sex when they might be likely to get unintentionally pregnant. The rhythm method (as it’s called) is a valid primary or secondary birth control method for so many people, but you wouldn’t know it from the iOS marketplace.
So, I want to create an app that includes both let’s-make-a-baby and let’s-not-make-a-baby modes. I want something that integrates with iCal and ideally Google Cal (or vcal), or any other calendar that the iPhone community might suggest. I want logical, configurable push notifications to shove some tampons in my purse, or that I should start using condoms to avoid unwanted pregnancies for the next X days. I want a non-embarrassing reminder that I’m probably ovulating and should go jump my husband even if he’s in the middle of a complicated Tomb Raider level. (Er, for example.) I want a clean, non-condescending design that my husband wouldn’t mind having on his own phone, in case he felt like picking up tampons or jumping me in the middle of a complicated blog post. And most of all, I want everything to just WORK. (And if there are useful features that I’m not thinking of or that come to my attention over time, I’d like the app built on a framework that lets me layer in new features.)
It’s a long shot that any developers out there would want to take time out of their busy profitable coding endeavors to help fill this marketplace void by coding such an app. But if I can talk you into helping on the coding end, I’ll do literally everything else and will of course share revenue on the app. And heck, if I get a positive response to this, maybe I’ll start investigating crowd-sourcing the development of this app, so I can really get excellent design and programming without feeling like I need to learn three new careers of my own to pull it off. I may also circle back to the realization that I have to do every aspect myself, including programming, and that’s OK too. I know there are more and more resources available to teach me, and that most developers aren’t wild about the idea of a revenue-sharing model since they’re just as stretched thin as I am. But I’m kinda supposed to be writing a book and growing my business and generally earning money via other time-consuming channels, and therefore this app probably isn’t going to happen in the immediate future if it remains a one-woman project. So if you think you might know someone who would want to connect, please put us in touch!
*To be fair, one app recently added a push notification option for tampons. However, it can’t be adjusted or configured to read custom text or to notify at a different time than the app’s auto-calculated choice, and you can’t export any such reminder to useful places like Reminders/Calendar/Mail, let alone OmniFocus, Drafts, Evernote, etc.