Here at Sidekicker we love people who share our entrepreneurial spirit and are determined to find better ways of doing thing. One of our Sidekicks, Simon has been busy working on a new app to make tracking your gym workouts and progress as simple as possible. Gym Simple has just been launched in the App store, you can download it here. Read on to find out more about his experience so far.
Tell me about your new app and why you created it?
It’s probably easier to answer this question in reverse. Telling you why we created it will go a long way in explaining what the app is trying to do. Backwards I know. The idea began after I noticed, following a gym session, that I always ending up using the notepad app to record my exercises and weights. Occasionally I would download a fitness app that caught my attention, but I always found them too complicated, too clunky, and back I’d go to trusty notepad again, regular as clockwork. This really got me thinking of what I wanted from an app. I wanted to an easy to use app that would help enhance my fitness regimes and enable me to easily see the progress I had made. I wanted something Simple. I also, most importantly, wanted it for free. Thus the idea of Gym Simple was born.
Building on that idea, the app was very easy to design with simplicity at the core of the entire project. We got rid of the usual fitness fillers (stopwatch, calorie counter, exercise pictures etc) enabling a very simple and clean idea to come to the fore. The interface was designed to encourage swift movement between menus and quick, easy workout entry and reentry. We want users to save time, and energy, whether at the gym, or not. A key feature we are trying to offer is freedom when recording exercises and activities. We know that everyone has their own unique workouts and exercises. So we’ve reflected that in the ability to create and customise any activity imaginable. Customise icons can be used to distinguish exercises or highlight muscle groups, depending on what the user wants. Training sessions can be added retrospectively and edited anytime. Simplifying the app whether the user has hundreds of exercises or only a select few. The last goal of creation was an easy way to view the progress made, as this is a major factor in motivation. This meant that graphs were a must. Seeing improvement, or lack of such, is a big motivator in the gym or after a run. We wanted to incorporate clear and powerful graphs into the project and enable them instantly after training. So tell you about Gym Simple? Gym Simple is the parts of a fitness app you actually want to use. Allowing creation of exercises and workouts then the recording and analysis of them. That’s it really. We have added lots of enhancements in to make the experience as efficient and enjoyable as possible but in the end the description is… well… simple. No fee, no ads, just a simple place to keep all your fitness activities logged.
What has been the most challenging part of getting to launch?
The most difficult parts of getting Gym Simple from concept to the App store have been, like with every large project, the little things. Having a good idea for an app is easy. Writing the code is time consuming, certainly, but seems to naturally evolve as the idea itself flourishes. The most challenging part is the sections of the project not even considered when starting. The saying “the last 15% of a project takes 85% of the time” springs to mind. That last 15% takes the app from a good, but mediocre, idea to an involved, enjoyable and sellable product. When looking at the finished piece it is subtly obvious the difference these hours have made, it would only be looking at the unfinished project that it would be painfully obvious that something was missing. For example, with Gym Simple we wanted the user experience to be of the highest quality. When browsing the different views you might notice that the app cells seem to float just above the background casting a slight shadow down below. You might also pick up on the fact that the app remembers your previous entries of exercise units and training weight. The cells are slightly opaque giving the app a delicate and glassy feel. I could go on but hopefully you are beginning to get the picture. With Gym Simple we wanted everything to be as simple and intuitive as possible. We wanted the user to enjoy the navigation through the app, considering what big part of people’s lives exercise often is, instead of merely putting up with it.
The other little things I refer to are things I never even knew existed before beginning the project. In my previous jobs I have always been as a small cog in a big machine and there is a lot of comfort in knowing ones job and completing it. Being part of a small start up company is a completely different experience, not only am I a developer, I am also head of marketing, head of PR, head of human resources, office cleaner, tea maker, if it needs to be done then I need to do it. This has been an extremely steep learning curve for me, but also a very enjoyable one. Little things like learning the correct tone and format to email clients and customers with, learning how to write a press release, learning how to market a product and graphically design an interface. These are all jobs which a specialist performs in a large company. Working for a small business, every day there is a completely new and unknown task on my to-do list which has to be researched and practiced, this makes for a very bumpy, but exciting, ride.
The little bits have been both the most challenging and the most rewarding. Now this project is drawing to a close I can look back down the slope I have climbed and see how far I have come. Ahead is a path winding ever upwards which will take more hard work and late nights to ascend. But for now I can look at the product and be proud of this app which is being released, and of that 15% I worked so hard to complete.
Who are the people who will love using your app?
Gym Simple has been designed from the very beginning as an app for anyone who enjoys being fit and active. As a fitness addict myself I know that the exercises people get up to are often as weird and wonderful as they are. This was much of the inspiration for the product at the start. Regular gym apps don’t have the capability for a “pull ups on a door frame” exercise, or “dips on the kitchen chair”. We wanted this app to fit snuggly into the pocket of anyone out there that is looking for a convenient way to record and analyse their own unique fitness activities. There are lots of brilliant fitness apps out there, the best ones seem to be targeted at high performance athletes with one exercise on their mind. Elite running apps, hardcore gym apps, complicated cycling apps, there is something for every enthusiast out there. This was the crack in the market we have aimed to carve out. What about people that want to run during the week, play tennis at the weekends and maybe go for a swim? With the majority of people not being super extreme athletes we wanted to make an app for them.
The people that will enjoy using our app will range from teenagers just starting at the gym, women tracking their weight while on the latest diet, middle aged men deciding to do something about that paunch, you get the idea. This app will be enjoyed by people who want to change their lives through exercise and activity. Who want the satisfaction of loading up a graph of their weight and seeing it gradually falling. We want this app to be applicable and available to everyone. This was the major reason we made it free as we want normal people to use it and enjoy it.
What are the 2 products or services you couldn’t run your business without?
The first would have to be the website StackOverflow. For anyone that doesn’t program this won’t mean much to you. But if you’re thinking of doing any sort of programming then this will be the first website you check in the morning and the last one you use before bed. StackOverflow is a question and answer site for programmers. If you are stuck then the answer will be somewhere buried in the thousand of answered questions on this website. If you can’t find the answer to a question then you can post a new question and people will try their best to help you get the answer you need.
The great thing about this website is the pure amount of knowledge and experience with which the users have. It is completely moderated by users and doesn’t have ads meaning that everyone has the same goal while using it, learning and the spread of knowledge. If you assume that this service will fix all your problems for you, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Users expect a level of working to be shown when asking a question and won’t send you a completed project with all the bugs fixed. They will, though, look through your code and give you advice and help on where to progress next and ideas on solutions you might not have thought about.
The second product would have to be TestFlight. This is a cool program released by Apple which enables you to test an app and allow others to test it too. At the beginning of an apps life it can be tested on a computer, as it gets more advanced it can often only be tested on an iPhone but the developer must have a licence to enable this. TestFlight enables a developer to get the app out there for people to test it while it is being made instead of after its release to the app store. As you can imagine this is one of the most important parts of the whole process. Everyone has, at least once, spent time looking for something (a phone, a pair of glasses) only to find it in their hand all along, this is a very apt description of being an app developer. Imagine spending all day, every day, for months building something. When you come to test it you go through the same patterns as you have every time you have tested it before. When someone else comes along and says “the app doesn’t work” the developer will always wonder if they are just exceptionally stupid due to not being able to use it properly. It always comes down to the fact that there is something obviously wrong which I’ve have managed to miss after hours of testing. When developing an app the matra “assume who ever is using the app won’t act rationally” is a very good one. “The app breaks when someone enters a weight of 99,999kg” “But why would anyone enter that amount?” “Assume that some people will do it anyway”. TestFlight gives developers the power to idiot proof the app before launch saving on hundreds of bad reviews and bug fixes. A completely invaluable service.