Redesigning an Unproductive but a Necessary App – Splitwise

This is a redesign of Splitwise – An Expense Sharing App

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Splitwise is an app that helps you keep a record of all the money you borrow or lend to people, helping you get paid back efficiently. People who don’t use this app keep track using a Notes App. People seem to be largely comfortable with the Notes App due to the simple input method. The problem arises in the long term though. The record-keeping starts out simple but gets very clumsy soon enough. There are so many combinations in terms of the individuals sharing an expense and the share of each individual, that understanding the records or doing the calculations gets very confusing. The maths is simple, that’s why most people think they can get by a Notes App, but it gets very confusing.

People tend to avoid a dedicated app because all this work doesn’t help them make or achieve something. It is just overhead work in an unfortunate situation. Splitwise is an ‘overheads necessity’. Hence, the challenge is:

To design an app where the UI flow correlates with the immediate thought flow of the user, akin to writing a sentence in a Notes App.

To that end, the most obvious thing an app like this needs is a widget. It must display a list of pre-defined groups, individuals, or a combination of them among whom an expense was recently shared. The current version doesn’t have a widget.

Why is the key-color Dark Blue?

For an app that notes expenses, green and red universally represents positive and negative respectively. Here, green is money you will get back, and red is money you have to pay back. Hence, blue is a natural choice for a neutral colour. A darker shade is used to visually highlight it from the rainbow of colours that will be used in our representations henceforth.

Why is the complimentary-color Orange?

Orange in our visual representations of the split will be used to denote the owner. And hence it is constant to any split and to further drive this point home visually, I have made it ubiquitous through the app. The most important buttons the user will be interacting with are orange, for example, the Add Expense button.

Continue reading “Redesigning an Unproductive but a Necessary App – Splitwise”

NANAji died–Story of a Beautiful Morning

The story of my NANA’s (maternal grandfather) death.

It’s been almost a year since my NANA died. Recently, my mom told me how he never saw his mother. She died when he was about 6 months old and was raised by his aunt. Mom was reminiscing, perhaps as a result of longing than pride in her Baba. Stories of his life were never really dramatically glorified, or repeated like family folklore. He led a very nonchalant life.

Born pre-independence, he was a Gandhian through and through. One of my favourite anecdotes from his life was how he loved my mother the most of his 6 children for she was her first-born daughter. Daughter – to celebrate a girl-child in the rural, conservative corner of India in the late 60s is as rare as education in his state of Bihar. But in his time, he was a graduate. In fact, More educated than most of his kids or grandkids today. Though what I always found attractive about him was he seemed to be the first elder who was clear in his ways of life yet never authoritative or imposed it on us. This is in a society where everybody was akin to a routine passed down generations, perhaps, as a cautionary mindset germinating from the terrors our nation has been through. But in this very chaos, he stood alone on his feet with his hand holding a book, rather than grabbing another hand. Continue reading “NANAji died–Story of a Beautiful Morning”

Decoding Brandon Woelfel.

When I recently asked “What comes to mind when you think, Brandon Woelfel?” on Instagram, everybody said the same one thing: Lights. But that’s not quite where the story lives.

Think of the stars. Everybody likes stars. It’s visceral to the human mind. A sea of sparkling lights. I often like to travel outside the city simply to look at the stars.

Think about the following scene: A “star” walking down the red carpet. A silhouette carving out glamour and sophistication in the sea of flashing lights. A staple frame of any red carpet sequence in a movie.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Brandon Woelfel?

When I recently asked that question on Instagram, everybody said the same one thing: Lights. Specifically, it’s a “bokeh of fairy lights.” It’s an over-simplified, inaccurate explanation of Brandon’s vibe. But that’s not quite where the story lives.

In our staple frame of the red carpet, a person walks by as all eyes are fixated to someone who literally carries the moniker of a “star”. The fixation, the heightened attention, is in the awareness that the “precious” moment will be over in the blink of an eye. A hysterical burst of camera flashes, “the sea of sparkling lights”, exemplifies the fleeting moment.

Continue reading “Decoding Brandon Woelfel.”

i’m CONDESCENDING

Why I tell my story – and why you should too.

To assume that you should click and read through what I have to say is condescending. To assume that someone should invest time and emotions to indulge in what you created is condescending. And that makes every artist inherently condescending.

After existing in the concealment of mystery that people allow you when you declare yourself a writer, or a photographer, or an ‘artist’ of any kind, when you finally click publish, the exposition that follows throws you in a paroxysm of self-consciousess. Hit publish and you’re implicitly demanding people to indulge in what you know will never be perfect, just done. But it’s important you share. Why?

For the same reason why you found any art to be important: CONNECTION. To have a piece of art resonate with you. A piece of art that finds you when you’re alone in your bedroom, when all the promotions, IMDB ratings, trending today columns, and aggressive recommendations – when all the noise shouting “you should indulge in this” dissolves and a work of art emerges out to you and occupies your mind playing on repeat, feeling something real. You connect!

It’s incredibly powerful to know that you’re not the only one facing a problem, asking a question, feeling an emotion, living an experience. All art is, perhaps, a bridge.

I started writing this blog and many others months ago. Tens of blogs occupy my drafts section but I keep coming back to this blog or should I say, “this blog keeps coming back to me.” And so I must complete. Even though I must live in the fear that this blog might not be perfect and objectively not the best use of your time and emotions, I must be done with it.

Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I find solace in that thought. It resonates with how I try to create. Write a lot and then aggressively edit. Click a lot of pictures and then aggressively pick. Choose what has value. Though cannot assure you if I can impart perfect value in return for what you invest in me. But then :

Continue reading “i’m CONDESCENDING”

The Fundamental flaws with IGTV

Instagram introduced IGTV, a platform for sharing long-form vertical videos, competing for your internet video appetite with YouTube. This will be a native video sharing platform for all instagrammers and IGTV’s success depends on leveraging the network effects of Instagram, or as I like to say, “Facebook’s Instagram.”

The dual-nature of Instagram’s network

We exercise a sense of exclusivity to our lives as we form relationships with people. Facebook’s aim was to represent this exclusive relationships online and provide every conceivable way to exchange digital content within these pre-agreed confines. But the exclusivity we wanna exercise to our online content is highly subjective, the nature of which is vaguely defined and is crudely labelled as “friendship”. As a result, this exclusivity watered down into irrelevancy as people accepted every friend request that came their way. This made sharing things on Facebook quite uncomfortable for many.

Private accounts is hugely popular among the Faceboook-first social media generation who migrated to Instagram. Now, people got a second chance to define the exclusivity they prefer for their online content. A sense of caution meant they invariably used the Private Accounts feature on Instagram. But mostly they use this exclusivity to largely restrict access based on pre-existing relationships, not unlike Facebook.

But this was very different from how people used to form relationships on Instagram. When it was originally conceived, the message was “follow if you like the content”, common across all content-first platforms like Youtube or Twitter which IGTV directly intends to compete. Private accounts ask the question “follow if you know the person”, very much like Facebook.

I will be exploring this dual-nature of networking on Instagram as IGTV intends to capitalize on the network effects of Instagram. Continue reading “The Fundamental flaws with IGTV”

Everybody is wrong about the Notch

The Notch gives, and not takes away, useful space. Software can help make that apparent.

Why is the Notch such an infamous design decision from Apple? People wished for the notch to go away more than they wished for the top and bottom bezels to go away on the iPhone 7 or even the new, Galaxy.

The Notch makes it look like you’re taking away some screen from the user, a cut out from our perfect rounded rectangle. Design making a limitation of engineering apparent. BUT, the notch allows for more pixels to be used by the software. So why do people wish it away? Continue reading “Everybody is wrong about the Notch”

The best way to consume anything longer than a Tweet

If you are someone who has not done much reading all their lives, picking up that book, owning your learning and developing a consistent habit to read can be a daunting task. I was one of them, but then Blogs changed me. A 300-page book can feel a bigger commitment, a 2-3 page blog may seem a good baby step.

Some of the really smart bloggers digestify, and simplify knowledge from books and observations into blogs.

Publishing on the internet means there are no publishers to convince. No editors trying to save their ass. Which is great for humanity. But it also means you have an endless stream of virtually infinite blogs at your click. And there’s no gatekeeper. You’re all on your own.

Continue reading “The best way to consume anything longer than a Tweet”