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.
Will from SEO Melbourne helps people find your business online. Read about his journey and top tips.
1. Tell me about your business and why you started it
I had spent over 10 years in the big corporate environment and had the chance to take a package and embraced it. The big corporate environment really makes it difficult to create and implement innovative and effective marketing strategies. I really wanted to work with people who were entrepreneurially minded business owners with a strong focus on making their business more successful. It is so much more fun helping people who are willing and able to be helped. My business has evolved from traditional marketing consulting into internet marketing including a big focus on ranking business sites on page 1 of Google (search engine optimization or seo as it’s often known). In recent months my business evolved further with the introduction of an internet marketing coaching program which is aimed at business owners who want to do some work themselves but need an experienced guide and some support. This has really taken off and in coming months I will be launching an internet marketing membership site which teach only things that work right now each month to members. This means that no matter what the size of the business they can still get access to information that will specifically help them grow their business using simple internet marketing techniques.
2. What has been the hardest thing about starting your own business?
The toughest thing has been the isolation that comes from running a home based internet marketing business. I have worked to overcome this with networking and attending as many business events as I can. There are many people in the same situation and when you connect with them everyone benefits. The other critical thing is making sure that my revenue is diversified across a range of products/services and clients. You need your business to have this otherwise it is too dependent on a small number of things and if something changes (as business always does) you can find yourself in trouble.
3. What are your top 2 marketing tips that really helped your business grow?
1. You absolutely must know who your ideal client in as much detail as possible. If you know this then it makes it easier to find them and easier to create marketing that they will respond to. This is really valuable now with the incredible targeting capabilities within Facebook Ads.
2. You must make them an offer they can’t refuse. Business is built on know, like and trust. The relationship starts out with the prospect highly (and rightly) sceptical of your business. So make it easy for them to come into your business. Offer some free help or valuable information to get them on your list and keep communicating valuable things with them until they are ready to become a client.
4. What is your vision for your business?
To be helping as many entrepreneurially minded business owners around the World as I can. Either via coaching or my upcoming membership site. I want to allow people to create the life they want through having a successful business. The business is a vehicle for that and should not be all consuming or stressful.William has been kind enough to offer Sidekicker blog readers a free e-book highlighting 10 mistakes small business owners make with their website, you can download it here.
1. How did your business start and why?
Willow & Blake started as an online publication headed by myself, Bree Johnson and Jess Hatzis. We met while studying at university and working the same part time job. We all had an interest in writing across food, lifestyle and music and wanted to clash heads and see what the result would be.
We won a competition through marketing agency, Cassette to have our website built. I ended up working at the agency for almost two years as a copywriter and social media manager, while Jess worked at 360 Music Agency as head publicist and Bree as Editorial Assistant at Broadsheet. Winning the competition caused us to reassess what it was we wanted our brand to be about. Rather than writing about those three aforementioned things, we wanted to write about the brains behind them. We figured there were enough people writing the same shit every day– we were over it, and were pretty sure the rest of the world was too. We wanted to discuss these peoples’ ideas, insecurities, idiosyncrasies etc. Find out information that no-one knew, or that the people in question wanted to tell the world– as a result Willow & Blake’s ‘Things' section was born (formerly known as 'The Attic')
2. Tell me about your business and the vision for your company?
In two years our brand has evolved immensely. Our website received a lot of attention and with it came several freelance requests. Eventually, Jess and I decided to jump ship and start the business side of Willow & Blake, and Bree followed a year later. We now work across brand strategy and tone of voice development, which we execute across copywriting, social media, editorial and PR content. We work both B2B and with various branding agencies in providing creative content, from the finance or tech industry to fashion, food, and retail clients. This year we developed our own product, frank - to which we’ve been able to roll out full brand and creative control- it’s been fun getting thousands of girls naked across the world, just look up #thefrankeffect on Instagram.
3. What are some of the challenges you have faced?
Growing our business from two girls working in a lounge room to an agency of six has been one hell of a ride. Working around one wobbly desk that we found on a nature strip, to our own desks and chairs that we can slide across the room in– and not break– has been one of the most tangible achievements- apart from the increase in our bank balances. Every month- if not week- we look at our workload and clientele and assess what’s working for us and what isn’t. We often throw ourselves into projects and let the adrenaline and challenge of the new lead the way, but this can result in some projects being more challenging than others.
4. We all know how hard it is to grow a business, have you got any marketing tips to share?
Social media has played a huge role for our own businesses growth, however we started in a time when Facebook provided a far greater return than present. Still, we’re adamant that we talk about all things Willow- not just the services we provide for our clients. We knew that most of our friends didn’t want to hear about us writing for a real estate company or a bank, that they’d rather hear what music we’re listening to, or what images are having us in fits of hysteria on our office floor. So we kept out conversations on social a mix of work/lifestyle related posts. One other thing: Hustle, but be patient. We ‘re pretty adamant about walking our own talk- if we say we’re going to do something, we generally do it. We work extremely hard to develop personal relationships with everyone we meet. There are endless business opportunities available, it just depends how you approach them. And these things take time, and will continue to do so. We’re still learning and see so much scope for new business, new timezones etc for Willow.
Oh and don’t forget to stop, look around, and enjoy the ride.
Erika Geraerts // the glass is for the taking