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Am I wasting my time building yet another task/timer app? (But this one's really different, I swear! 🥺)

So I read this great post started by Patrick @heylorenzut called "Are you ACTUALLY scratching your own itch?" and some really valuable comments from @mattkandler, @namkam5, @Primer, @JonathanOron, @mpodlasin, and @DanHulton. One of the best threads I've read on IH in a long time. If you read just one thing today, read this! 👍

After adding my own comments about the importance of talking to customers and getting out of your own head, I realized I'm probably not doing enough of that, and I should take some of my own medicine.

Everyone says "don't build another task management app", and for good reason – there are hundreds of solutions already out there (and I've tried about 50 of them), so this must be a solved problem. Right?

So here's why I'm building my own.

My productivity used to be erratic. I would typically have short bursts of high productivity followed by long periods of limping along. Then I discovered the Pomodoro method and now use time-tracking as a way to provide motivation and consistent work rhythm. This is not unpleasant time tracking as in "I have to track and report my time to my company" but more like how long-distance runners log miles and times as a source of achievement, progress, and pride.

I also keep track of a lot of projects and tasks, so I need a relatively robust and flexible task manager. For many years, I used (and loved) Todoist which fits 95% of my task management needs. But it doesn't have a time tracker. It does have integrations with other time tracking services but then I have to deal with two apps and an awkward user experience that just doesn't work for me.

Last, I'm aware that there are some very robust project management tools built for teams that have both task and time management. But I'm focused on individual productivity and the tangle of team features really clutter up those apps resulting in complicated and difficult-to-use UIs. Similarly, there are a couple good tools for freelancers, but they are cluttered with client management, CRM, invoicing and other tools I don't need.

🥁 So here are my app criteria: 🥁

  1. Flexible, robust but not over-complicated task management system (like Todoist)
  2. Integrated time tracking so I can use productivity tools like the Pomodoro method and time-boxing
  3. Not a team or free-lancer focused app to avoid feature/UI clutter
  4. Really good UI/UX

That last point is subjective and may be my Achilles heel: I have a high bar (probably unreasonably high) for UI/UX. Several times people have heard my criteria and said "Oh, you're looking for X." And I try X, and think "Wow, this UI is terrible. How can you use it?" And they look at me all puzzled and say, "What's the problem? I like it. Works for me." But I can't stand mediocre design or clumsy UX.

So that's what I'm building.

Does this resonate with you? Or am I wasting my time? 🤔

If you've gotten this far, thanks for reading this long post, and I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback.

Also if what I'm building sounds interesting to you and you want to be part of beta-testing and/or early-access, let me know in the comments below or shoot me an email at stevenkkim (at) gmail (dot) com.

Stay safe and keep on IHacking!

  1. 5

    Hi Steven,
    I love the energy and attitude!
    I'm old enough (and so are you, I took a peek at your profile ;-) ) to remember the 90's with hundreds of search engines - Yahoo, Altavista, Lycos, Dogpile and the list goes on and on.
    Today, you Google something. They were really late to the party but brought one feature that the others didn't have - speed. It also didn't hurt that they had a business plan unlike the rest of them LoL.
    I'm not saying your Todo app is the next Google, maybe yes or maybe no. But if you feel there are enough people who would want your version of this product, why not go for it?
    But, following the discussion on @heylorenzut post, I'd make DAMN sure that you know how to get to them. Work on your channels and do some "Mom Test" interviews.
    Really looking forward to learning about your journey!
    Jonathan
    PS If you want to chat about it, book me (for free of course) here: https://calendly.com/jonathanoron

    1. 2

      Thanks for the feedback, encouragement, and advice!

      Yes, I'm old enough to remember. Altavista was my jam for the pre-Google years. Wow, I'm old. But age and experience are assets, right? 😉

      Good advice on channels and "Mom Test" interviews. I think my channel strategy is going to be content marketing + SEO + email marketing. I've done a lot of writing before, I think this will be right up my alley and a good way to find my target customers. I think other channels like paid marketing and social media will cast too broad of a net.

      And thanks for offering free consults to the IH community – that's really amazing. I'll think take you up on that offer!

      1. 1

        Wow, I'm old. But age and experience are assets, right?

        https://hbr.org/2018/07/research-the-average-age-of-a-successful-startup-founder-is-45
        You're actually a bit young ;-)

        I think my channel strategy is going to be content marketing + SEO + email marketing

        That's great for the long term, but maybe hustle a bit before thinking at that scale:
        https://jonathanoron.substack.com/p/hustling-and-the-art-of-not-scaling

        And thanks for offering free consults to the IH community – that's really amazing. I'll think take you up on that offer!

        Looking forward to it!

        1. 1

          Yep, +1 for hustling and doing things that don't scale!

  2. 4

    "Really good UI/UX"

    That alone would sell me on your app vs a competitor!

    1. 1

      Thanks for the feedback! Now I just need to make sure that your definition of "Really good UI/UX" is the same as mine 😉

      1. 3

        I'm sure we do :) I'd be happy to be a beta tester if you end up going through with this project!

        1. 1

          Thanks! I'll be sure to ping you when the time comes.

  3. 3

    Thanks for the shout :)

    I hear you on the really good UI/UX. There are so many products I've never tried, despite having every feature I'm looking for, because of this.

    @jonathanoron was just looking for a time tacker the other day so maybe he'll have useful feedback on whether this sounds good to him. (edit: hah, he beat me to it!)

    My concern with this idea is not about the quality of the product, but about your ability to monetize in a meaningful way. Because businesses in this space give away free plans for individuals and then charge for teams... we've been conditioned to think that tools like these for individuals should be free or crazy cheap.

    Basecamp is free for individuals. Toggl is free for individuals (it has a paid plan, but I honestly don't know what the benefit is). Todoist is $3/mo IIRC.

    Is there room for improvement to carve out a niche and make a better task management and time tracking app for individuals. 100% yes. I believe there is. But do you want to spend your days "hunting rabits"?

    In other news, not that you asked, but the thing that I WOULD pay for in a task management app (and the one I've considered building because, cmon, we've all thought about building our own task management apps amirite) is fully public task management (though you could add individual private items). eg let's call it "Open Build" and it's for building your project in open view, including todo list items, time tracking, and product updates. This is important to me for two reasons. 1. accountability. 2. generating interest as I build the thing.

    1. 1

      Thanks for the feedback!

      Re: pricing, yes this is major concern. The fact is it's an overcrowded competitive market which results in a race to the bottom on price. I'm not planning to do free or freemium. Running a freemium plan sounds awful to me. I'm thinking something like $10/month – which maybe is considered premium in this space? I know that most people will be perfectly happy using their pretty-good-and-free task apps. But my thinking (and it may be wishful thinking) is that there are people who value their productivity enough that they're willing to pay for a meaningful boost to their productivity. You could say I'm looking for the "pro-sumer" productivity market rather than the consumer market. For most people, $10/month for a task management is outrageously expensive. But for some people, it's a bargain if it truly makes you say 20% more productive. I'm looking for the latter type of customer.

      Thanks for sharing the "hunting rabbits" article – I hadn't read that one before, but it makes a ton of sense. Based on my target customer above, I think maybe I'm targeting deer, not rabbits? Or somewhere in between? Hopefully, I'm not chasing jackalope 😉

      I do justify my efforts by setting a low bar for myself – if I can even get something like $2k MRR or 200 paying customers, I'll be reasonably satisfied. I can just turn that into a side project and work on something else. But ideally, I'd like the app to generate more like $20k MRR so I can work on it full time. I know 2000 paying customers is definitely a challenge.

      And thanks for sharing your idea for a public task management feature. It wasn't on my radar, but I really like this idea because I don't think it would be too hard to add (famous last words 🙄) and it would be a nice marketing feature – I don't know if this is the right phrase but like "conspicuous consumption marketing".

      Question for you – have you looked for potential solutions for this? I'm not asking for you to do research for me, rather, I want to know whether this problem is important enough that you've tried out solutions.

      1. 1

        If you're not willing to use free or freemium i suggest doing something like a free 30 day trial. When you charge from the get-go on an unknown product, where users would opt-in by blind faith, you'll have a hard time getting new customers.

        Also IMHO 10$ a month is an outrageous price for such a simple tool. I've seen other pomodoro apps that offer similar features charge no more than 2-4$ / month.

        Compare the customer real-life value of your product. Disney+ has a massive selection of movies and shows able to occupy you for months if not years on end and their subscription costs less then yours.

        1. 1

          Hi Nikola, thanks for your feedback!

          I absolutely plan on having a free trial. Maybe 30 days, maybe 14 days, I'll probably run some experiments.

          I probably didn't do a good job describing my app, but it's definitely not going to be a simple Pomodoro app. It's going to be more like a combination of Todoist + Toggl (which are $3/mo and $10/mo for basic paid tiers respectively), or like Trello + Toggl (Trello is $10/mo for paid). Now, all 3 of those offer good free tiers so I suspect that the vast majority of users are on free. But they also all have a meaningful paying customer base. So is my pricing premium? I'd say definitely. It's not going to be for most people. But I hope enough people will see value and become customers.

          Last, I don't think it's useful to compare pricing across products. First, people generally don't compare pricing across different categories. For me the $8.25/mo I spend on Microsoft Office is more valuable than the $10/mo I spend on Spotify. But I don't get hung up over the comparison – both are useful to me so I buy both. Even comparing something like Office vs. Google Docs... the later is free, and I could easily replace Office with Google's Suite and be just as productive. But I just like Office better. Point is, people are not rational and they buy things for different reasons other than objective comparisons of value.

          Let's say that my app actually made you 25% more productive, letting you get the equivalents of 40 more hours of work done per month. Say you're time is worth $100/hour. Is $10/mo worthwhile to get an additional $4000/mo in value? Some people will do that calculation and say that's a no brainer. But then again, most people don't think like that, and most people will just have the gut reaction of "$10/mo for a task/timer app? That's ridiculous!"

          1. 1

            Hey Steven,

            that makes a lot more sense!

            So if you're (in a way) combining a todo list / task manager with time tracking, why not make freelancers your core audience? As a freelancer myself i would pay a much more premium price for a solid, no BS time tracking + invoicing tool. One of the things that really bugs me about freelancing is time tracking and invoicing. If your app can make that a breeze.....

            Personally, i think my threshold for something like that would be something like 40 $ / month (s/o to @heylorenzut for that price point).

            1. 1

              Hi Nikola,

              I think you're right, the freelancer market could be a good target market for this type of app. The main challenge for me is that I've never freelanced before, so I'm not sure I have an "insiders view" on what freelancers need.

              Still, I might try to build the task+timer app first, and if I see a lot of demand for an invoicing feature I can add that later.

              Also, there are a ton of time tracking + invoicing apps out there for freelancers. Have you tried any of these, and if so, why don't they work for you?

              https://www.getharvest.com/
              https://everhour.com/
              https://paydirtapp.com/
              https://www.paymoapp.com/
              https://hubstaff.com/freelance_time_tracking
              https://www.invoiceninja.com/
              https://due.com/time/
              https://www.hellobonsai.com/freelance-time-tracking
              https://myhours.com/freelance-time-tracking-app

              1. 1

                Happy to chat if you want to get a freelancer's take on this. Agreed that there are already many tools for freelancers. I think you can do better... but that might just be new idea-excitement talking.

                1. 1

                  Hey Patrick, thanks for the offer! I want to focus on getting a landing page and an alpha out over the next month then I'd love to chat.

      2. 1

        I'm not planning to do free or freemium.

        Hooray! Down with freemium (except for when it makes sense, lol)!

        I wonder if $10/mo is a weird middle ground where it's too expensive for the average person, and too cheap for the person looking for something premium. Just a thought. Considering that you're targeting people who really valuable their productivity, I'm really curious if you'd fare better charging $40/mo or something. Maybe not quite that high, but high enough that people look beyond the basic functionality of the thing and consider its implications on their productivity. Then with your clever copywriting, they can easily see how that if they're even 1% more productive it will easily pay for itself. Again, don't know if this would work, but MAYBE if you're targeting people on the very far edge of the productivity edge than your price needs to communicate the value.

        have you looked for potential solutions for this?

        Yeah, I paid for two months of wip.chat before canceling because it doesn't work for my flow, and have also done research into how to make todoist public. And thanks for keeping me honest with the question :)

        1. 2

          All good points on price. I think the answer is I'm going to have to try things out, experiment, and see what works.

          Thanks again for the public task list idea. If I do build that feature, you'll know it was because of you! 👊

          1. 1

            You should make me pay you for that feature before you build it.

            1. 1

              Yes indeed – you and a bunch of other people too 👍

    2. 1

      Great response, hadn't thought of that angle.
      On the other hand, I feel like I'd be happy to pay for something a few bucks even if the "second best" is free.
      Feeling conflicted here :)
      As always you raise great points!

      1. 2

        Feeling conflicted is normal! As I'm sure you know from the Mom Test, people have a hard time really knowing what they'd be willing to pay for.

  4. 2

    Being an individual who is working for a SAAS that provides the task management needs with time tracking and having extensive research of over 50 different products, I would agree to the fact that very few of them would be based on individual productivity without over complicating things for the user to the point where they stop using the product altogether.

    The idea is good and executable. The question is what would be your revenue source in this? Considering the target audience that and a UI/UX would be the make or break for you.

    1. 1

      Thanks for your feedback. I don't have a good answer for you quite yet, other than I think I need to target people who are willing to spend money for a "better" productivity app since there are already many options that are free or have a free tier. So I think this more of a "pro-sumer" target market than consumer. But I need to do more work to figure out exactly who to target and how.

  5. 2

    I've heard it argued that Typeform built an entire business around UI/UX. I don't know if that's true or not, but I think the point is that Typeform is not some crazy intense piece of software. It's just really friendly.

    I think the same can be true in lots of industries. As each year passes we're going to be ever-more swimming in internet fatigue and software fatigue, and I think will be increasingly drawn to software that doesn't give us anxiety.

    1. 1

      Hey Patrick,

      Another related theme is the unbundling vs. re-bundling of software (https://hbr.org/2014/06/how-to-succeed-in-business-by-bundling-and-unbundling).

      Some say it goes in cycles. In short, people get tired of complex, bloated apps and new entrants get an edge by creating unbundled, easy-to-use apps. Then the market gets saturated, and at some point people start saying "these apps aren't powerful enough, we need to start adding more functionality." Or the companies start saying, our "super simple app is great, but now we need to add more functionality to grow our revenues."

      I don't know where in the cycle we are, but my app is clearly in the re-bundle camp (combining task and time management). The UI/UX challenge is always how to bundle while keeping a good, coherent, non-bloated experience.

      https://techcrunch.com/2015/04/18/the-unbundling-of-everything/
      https://techcrunch.com/2016/12/10/software-is-due-for-a-bundling-event/

      1. 1

        I didn't realize there was a name for this phenomenon. This is great!

        I'm personally HEAVILY in the rebundling mindset... but that doesn't mean the market is. But I do have a couple of bets/assumptions that I hold on to and operate by, and one of them, copied from notebook, is:

        I believe that products like Basecamp are the future; products that cannibalize many other products all in one, but remain simple by saying no to many of the superfluous features.

        1. 1

          100% agree.

          I read Rework about 8 years ago. It totally blew my mind, and was the turning point when I started to become an Indiehacker. What I love about Basecamp is that they have strong foundational beliefs around design, problem-solving, UX, and teamwork. I'm pretty sure the folks at Basecamp don't think about bundling vs. re-bundling. They just focus on building the best solution from their belief system, and it's those principles that guide their product decisions.

          I don't actually agree with all their product and design choices. If I did, then I'd just use Basecamp rather than building my own productivity app. But I greatly admire their approach to building software and businesses.

          Companies that re-bundle without having a strong set of principles end up throwing in everything and the kitchen sink which often leads to bloated, over-complicated software but it certainly doesn't have to be that way, and Basecamp is proof of that.

  6. 2

    The biggest problem in a task management app is that your customer acquisition cost will be very high.

    If you're a solo developer you will lose months of dev time, If you can get someone to partner with you thats much better but there will still be some challenges.

    If your goal is to have a successful project that gives you a good stream of income, I would try and find another niche.

    If you're very hung up on the idea, I would suggest, create mockups on sketch or Figma of how it will look and feel, throw a landing page together and start marketing it.

    See how people respond and if you get enough sign ups then you have your green light without lost effort.

    1. 1

      Hi Naman,

      Thanks for the feedback, much appreciated.

      I'm sure CAC will be high for paid channels, if that's what you mean. My plan is to do content marketing + SEO + email. I know that's expensive in a different way – in terms of time and effort. Like many projects on IH, marketing/distribution is going to be the key challenge but I think I'm up for it.

      I hear your word of caution, and it's good to get sobering feedback. That's why I posted here in the first place.

      So I've already spent a couple of months in development, and at the end of the day I think I would be ok spending a few more months on this project even if it didn't go very far. If the only thing this app does is make myself more productive, that's a win for me. Low bar, I know. Maybe I'll regret it, maybe I won't. 🤔 Like most entrepreneurs, I have a bit of hubris that I can both make and market something much better than the competition – if I didn't believe that, I wouldn't have started in the first place.

      I like the idea of the landing page. I've read that advice a million times before, but I haven't done it. I should do it. I'm going to do it.

      Thanks again!

  7. 1

    I muss confess that I've been hanging around for a long time the concept of "take an existant idea and make it better", but a different perspective changed my point of view.
    I read From Zero to One, from Peter Thiel.
    Aside from giving an opinion, I would completely recommend you to read this book. His vision about innovation makes me quite anxious, cause it's realistic and although it may be the hardest path, it can lead to real improvements.

    1. 2

      I've read the book, and it is one of my favorites. That said, I think its application depends on the type of company you want to start and your goals. In particular, his ideas of 10x improvements and having "no competition" are really about startups and unicorns.

      Would I like a 10x company with no competition? Of course. But that isn't always realistic. If your idea is "only" a 2x improvement, maybe your business won't be a billion-dollar business but I still think you have a good shot at making a successful small business.

      1. 1

        Sure, who would'nt like to have a company like that?
        I think that's one of the hardest things with entreprenurship, uh, well said, most challenging from it.
        One success case that is remarkable for me is Stripe. 2 guys, one application that attacked an specific niche (developers willing to integrate easily payments) but they had some huge competitors, such as PayPal. Have you evaluated that case?
        From my point of view, that's the point. Innovating in any sector at any level, BUT focusing in an specific public. Who would have guessed that 9 years later Stripe would be avaluated at 35 Billion, F.Crazy!

        My questions to you are... What would make your app different? You emphasize the UI/UX but... What about it? I use Toggl, looks good but more important, WORKS great and it's versatile. If it worked the same but was uglier, I wouldn't care, from my perspective, functionality goes beyond appearence in the long term. CuriousFact, Stripe at the beginning was called /dev/payments, not that cool right?.

        My possible advice, if you ask, would be to look for a problem that people have. If your timer app solves it, you may got a chance. Focus in the problem and not so much in the idea, that problem may be common for many people.
        PS: sorry for being kind of though, comments like this just discourage you from getting things done, my only goal is to help you out :).

        1. 2

          Stripe is a very interesting case. When it first came out, I was very skeptical it would succeed because payment processing is such a low-margin business. But I underestimated how much better Stripe could be compared to Paypal/Authorize.net/Braintree etc. I think many people would say that Stripe is easily 10x better than those solutions. And so while the margins are low, the market is obviously enormous.

          No need to apologize – I think all of your feedback and advice are sound. To be honest, I don't have a great answer. What I do have is a pretty long list of small problems that I have with existing solutions like Todoist and Toggl. I'm hoping that if I solve enough of these problems, maybe the product will be 2x better (at least in the eyes of some customers) and that'll be good enough.

          Here's an example: for a long time I was using Todoist to manage tasks and Toggl to track time. But the integration between the two isn't good and having to jump back and forth between two apps was frustrating. Technically, I was using 3 apps because I was using Toggl's desktop app and the web app because the desktop app has a Pomodoro tracker while the web app doesn't. I find that super annoying. If I combine this all into one app, then my workflow becomes much more streamlined. Is this a 10x feature? Definitely not. But it's a small win that would certainly increase my productivity. I have like 50 of these "small win" ideas.

          I do agree with you 100% that I need to find enough people that have these kinds of problems and are willing to pay for an app that solves them.

          Just curious, do you have any problems with Toggl or things you wished it could do? And what do you use to manage your tasks?

          1. 1

            Took too long, sorry. Thank you for you analysis about margins with Stripe, wasn't very aware of that. I was more impressed about how the focused in developers niche with a simple technological solution and it fulfilled a necessity that even developers weren't aware of.
            Regarding to your questions.... Hmmm certainly Toggl has worked fine for me, I haven't had problems with it. For my tasks, I'm old school and use a white-board for them haha. Your insight is very valuable, your idea might not be X10, but small improvements and fast iteration of your product taking into account customer's necessities is key. I don't have a clue what to say, there is a bunch of products for increasing your productivity and many people stick to a product and for them, seeing for another option is no need.
            It would be a shame to develop a super-ultra-amazing product and then got kicked out by the competence just because you couldn't sell it or they changed their product in 2 weeks to integrate your product's characteristic. That's competetion. They got thousands of hundreds, if not millions of dollars and will invest it all if they detect a thread.
            My advice: don't get blind by your idea, search for real problems, either personal, from your relatives or your community and solve it. No need to reinvent the wheel.

            1. 1

              Thanks for the feedback, there’s a lot to think about. I do think my idea solves real problems that I and others have ... but the challenges that you mention are real. I think I’m going to keep moving forward and see what happens.

  8. 1

    Well I'm almost sad I clicked this thread, but it was on the IH/start link! I've been hacking on my own version of this exactly (Todoist + Pomodoro + Trello). I can't wait to see what you've got cooking, but I think I'll pass on asking for the beta invite. I need a portfolio project, but when I'm done I hope to see your great idea come to life and might have another customer.

    This certainly does resonate me for the idea side, so keep pursuing it. I can't remember the metaphor right now (watch me try anyway...), but I subscribe to the idea that you either can divert a little water from a big stream of customers, or dam the river and create a lake that swallows the competition. When it comes to task/timer apps, I think you nailed it: There's room for plenty of them because everyone resonates with a different UX even if the strategy is the same underneath.

    In the search for productivity nirvana, you never know what is going to click for someone.

    1. 1

      Thanks Eric, I agree with your commentary. Good luck with your project too!

  9. 1

    I've been working on a similar issue/app for many years but am the only user :(.

    I'd give you feedback, and help you with testing. I think my use cases are different.

    If the app works for you then are you wasting your time? Sounds like what we both need is an app that tells us if we're wasting our time and that exists in Indie Hackers.

    1. 1

      Hey Al, thanks for offering to test the app. I'll let you know when it's ready.

      Just curious, what are your use cases?

      An app that tells whether we're wasting our time? That would be amazing 😂

      1. 1

        One use case was always to-do list and time-tracking combined. The main use case was always to eliminate annoying tasks like status reports and I don't care much on user interface as long as I can use the minimum steps to get the task done.

        Once you know how your time is spent you can do what I call STS (Smart Task Selection). System tells you best thing to work on based on deadlines, goals, the weather, time of day, etc.

        Though the list based tool I created called Listi.net is really a way to create organized lists and sublists with a number of productivity tools, shortcuts, creating books, Websites, Time-tracking, dashboards and time balancing.

        I'm currently working on securing it which is an unbelievable amount of work.

        I look forward to seeing what you have.

        1. 1

          Thanks for your feedback Al, it's always interesting to see how other people approach productivity and organization. I think you're right that our use cases are different, but there's some overlap too. I'd love to have your point of view on my app when it's ready. In the meantime good luck with your work!

  10. 1

    Sounds like a difficult but worthy endeavour. I think you should keep at it.

    1. 2

      Thanks for the encouragement!

  11. 1

    Hi Steven,

    Here's a few product strategy exercises for you to do to better understand why you should do this and what the unmet need might be that will set you apart:

    1. List out the jobs to be done - you can use the format :

    When (situation)__ I want _(motivation: what are they hoping to accomplish) Then _____(outcome / benefit)____.

    1. Pains / Gains (less of / more of)

    Basically what are the gains people make by using your product over others? What pains or barriers do you remove that people are experiencing currently with other products?

    1. Unlike

    The unlike exercise is one that comes out of creating a value prop statement and high concept pitch.

    Basically you write down all the things you will do that will make you different. Here's a couple real world examples:

    1. Unlike Airtable, ProofHub allows teams to keep track of their billable and non-billable hours of projects using Timesheet and time reports.

    2. Unlike Airtable, ProofHub allows teams to plan and visualize pieces of a project together in a timeline view using a Gantt chart.

    These are easy to do and may help you get at the heart of what will set you apart besides "better UX". Then you can come up with a high concept pitch for your product based on this and even potentially market it before building.

    Cheers!

    1. 1

      Hey Chaz, I was just checking out ProofHub (hadn't heard of them before), and I thought it was an interesting example because they face a similar problem that I have. When I read their website and compare them against their competitors like Basecamp, Asana, Wrike, Trello etc. there is so much overlap in core features (e.g. task management, calendar, team chat, file management) that it's hard for me to see major points of differentiation. Obviously there are many small differences in UI, design, little features. But to me they pretty much all do the same thing, it's just a matter of user preference unless one of the "little features" is really important to a particular user. Is ProofHub doing something wrong, or is this just the nature of being in a crowded space?

      When I look at my app vs. existing solutions, I can point to many small differences and improvements. But at the end of the day, it's personal project/task/time-tracking – the core functionality is the same.

      I could absolutely use existing solutions to solve my problem. If there were just a few annoyances that's ok. But once I start running into 20, 30, 50 annoyances in an existing app, I just don't want to use it anymore – it's just not a pleasant experience. That's why I want to build my own.

      Any thoughts on this? Thanks!

      1. 1

        Yes they all generally do the same things. I think the question is how do you stand out? Do you stand out by doing those same things better (define better - usually has to be 4x)? By offering a few things that are missing (or again addressing unmet needs or a specific use case of a specific set of people)?

        It's hard to get people to switch so often people won't consider a product unless there is an itch they can't scratch (something core missing) or the product doesn't solve their problem in a way they want (the job to be done or unmet need isn't fulfilled).

        Definitely if there are enough annoyances someone might switch but also think of the switching cost (someone has to divest themself of the previous product and re-invest in you).

        Sometimes better UX can make a difference (say a simpler more focused product with better micro-interactions) and there's certainly something to be said for that but UX only goes so far.

        I do think you should do product teardowns of various "task" products but maybe you'll find an insight that will lead to the thing that won't simply remove annoyances or friction but actually create a new novel approach to getting things done.

        1. 1

          Chaz, I agree with all your points. Thanks again for the feedback and discussion. This has been super helpful! Really has helped me start to crystalize my thoughts on differentiation.

          1. 1

            No worries happy to offer any thoughts. At the end of the day yes, you want to build things people want, but sometimes the experiment is just as fun. I always learn through making.

    2. 1

      Hey Chaz, thanks for sharing this and perfect timing too! I'm currently working on building a landing page to do some pre-marketing and customer discovery, and these exercises will definitely be useful. Thanks!

      1. 1

        Awesome. Yeah I'm a big believer in validating a core set of value props first. Here's a landing page I did for a service I was working on: https://www.placelistapp.com/

        I created this after doing a survey - if you want to get an idea for how to do that I can send you an example as well.

        I've worked on a lot of these types of products related to behavior change (whether it's working out, weight loss, or simply doing / accomplishing something etc. There's a few challenges people have when it comes to doing / accomplishing something:

        1. Sometimes they don't know where to start.
        2. They don't break things down into small accomplishable pieces so often to do lists become daunting and hard to actually "complete"
        3. People don't often pre-plan or take time to reflect.

        /chaz

        1. 1

          Hi Chaz,

          I would love to see your survey example.

          100% agree with you on those 3 challenges. I plan to address them in my app.

          I really appreciate you taking the time to comment here. I know I've read various forms of this advice over the years, but sometimes things just don't come together until someone gives you a prompt at the right moment. "When the student is ready, the teacher appears." 🙂

          Thanks again!

          1. 1

            Yeah here's the survey. - https://forms.gle/QpcPS8bXZeCRMZtE9

            Generally what I wanted to find out is a) validate my assumption on what I think the problem is b) understand how often people faced it (and when the last they faced it) and c) then present them with a few high level value props to see which ones resonate.

            If nothing else it gives you more of a sense of how people think of their challenges and what they struggle with.

            This actually helped me re-think a bit of what was most important. Placelist isn't something I'll probably continue for other reasons but it did give me alot of information.

            And sometimes you can even learn something that will give you an "aha" moment to chase something else.

  12. 1

    I'm surprised that no-one mentioned TickTick. It's flexible, robust like Todoist, have Pomodoro feature built-in. Not sure about time-boxing but with time-recurring tasks you probably can do that too.

    1. 1

      Thanks for the recommendation. I'm familiar with TickTick. It's a decent app and obviously quite popular, but there are a number of issues I have with TickTick, so it just doesn't work for me. Thanks though.

  13. 1

    I'm a UI UX designer myself who happens to be working in an exact space. I have a task management app in my mind I'm gathering feedback on. I would love to know when your website is ready.

    I've got pretty high expectations of UI UX from you. If it's nice, I might just use it. ;) Haven't found any good UI UX for todo apps lately.

    1. 2

      Hi Neu, I hope my app can meet your expectations! I'm self-taught in UI/UX so I'm sure there are some skills I'm lacking. But as a user, I think I know good UI/UX when I see it.

      I know you're dissatisfied with the todo apps, but I'm curious to know what you think is the best todo app of the bunch. Also curious to know what apps in general you love for their UI/UX.

      1. 1

        I think we are pretty much the same. I want a kickass design and no bullsh UX. I want it to work flawlessly and smoothly. I want it minimal, want to categorize my tasks, want a history of all checked items, could add notes/comments on my tasks. I think as a designer you get it.

        1. 1

          Thanks for the feedback Neu. I hope I can deliver on your expectations!

  14. 1

    There's a lot to digest here, thanks for your thoughts, and for sharing that other post too! Which was a quick read by the way, sometimes I see those links and I dread it's gonna be another 15' gone 😄

    This definitely resonates with me and I guess validates how "task management app" is such a crowded space, as I've been using the pomodoro technique for quite a while... and just last week I was experimenting again with Forest as my timer app, when I thought:

    Hey, I would love to build a slick version of the other "productivity / task management" pro-tip that I actually adhere to and find extremely helpful!

    So I spent my evenings building this: https://topthreethings.com/

    Today's the first day it's actually usable for me, so that's great, but there's a long road ahead to turn it into a product.

    I'll definitely be taking a bit of a break to clear my head and try to gather feedback (and I don't mean just from the site / my idea directly, I want to ask people "Mom test"-style how do they get things done, if they struggle, what they've attempted, why it didn't stick, why it did...)... but then it's the hard decision of how much more time do I want to spend on this, before I have a real chance to validate if people would be buying a version of it; and what version would that be? How many "oh that's been done by X" can I go through before losing motivation?

    If part of the proposition is "top UI/UX", which I do think it should be, then I would need to bring a proper UX person in, which means more time and money!

    But I guess, not to play the victim too much: Despite sometimes thinking I'd rather be playing FFVII, I've been having fun building this and it's exciting to try to follow on an app idea all the way through. Even if it means time and money. Even if it's likely to drown in an over-saturated market and never make anything!

    Maybe it's because I've never had a product go all the way before that I really want to carry through with this: It's not gonna be "wasting my time" if I get the lessons of going through those processes. It's probably different for someone who has!

    But you can always learn I suppose. If you've got a few "I built it and nobody came" projects under your belt, you can still build things that will give you learnings even if they don't succeed; so long as you don't do the same mistakes that didn't get you to success before.

    So, what do you think you'll be learning by building this? If your app criteria is the app criteria of enough people you can reach? If scratching your own itch is enough? How it is to try to make a product that combines the best things of products you've enjoyed using?

    1. 2

      Hi Johnny,

      I generally agree with your point of view here. I think most people don't achieve "success" on their first try, and trying to build, market and ship anything is a good way to get experience. Where people get themselves into trouble is if they don't learn from mistakes (e.g. avoiding marketing and taking the "if I build it they will come" approach). Another issue I see if people trying build businesses as a way to quickly replace income (e.g. I just quit/lost my job and I have 6 months of savings and want to start a business to replace my income.)

      What do you think you'll be learning by building this?

      In my career, I've always taken the approach of learning skills that I think will be useful in the future. This is the third Indiehacker business I've worked on. The first one was a content business (ebooks) where I did mostly writing, but also a little design and website work. The second I joined a small mobile app business and leveled up my skills in design and marketing. With this new project, I've really had to level-up my web dev skills. So every step of the way, I try to build new skills that will be useful. I do find learning to be intrinsically gratifying. But at some point, skills don't pay the bills and the damn thing just has to make money.

      If your app criteria is the app criteria of enough people you can reach?

      Yes, that's definitely a goal. The app criteria needs to resonate with enough people who are willing to pay.

      If scratching your own itch is enough?

      I'd say yes and no. I am building this for myself and even if it doesn't succeed commercially, I will continue to use it for myself. But my primary goal is to build a business that can support me and my family, and in that regard "scratching my own itch" isn't enough.

      How it is to try to make a product that combines the best things of products you've enjoyed using?

      This is kind of an open-ended question, but I'd say that if you're just combining the best things there's a risk that the product ends up both derivative and haphazard. I absolutely take note of the best features of products I use, but I also have a vision of the product I want to make that is constantly evolving.

      In your case, I encourage you to keep working on your thing as long as it's fun and you're learning things. These days I absolutely love building stuff, it's actually one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling things in my life. FWIW, I used to play a lot of video games when I was younger (including the original FFVII 😉). And in my 20's and early 30's, I thought I'd love video games forever. But these days I find video games completely boring and interesting compared to working on my project. I guess people change 🤷‍♂️

      1. 1

        Hey, thanks for getting back to me!

        It's all interesting points but I'll highlight a couple of things from your response, one is the "I have 6 months of savings and want to start a business to replace my income"! I think that type of thinking is both common and "dangerous", not necessarily bold. There's a lot of romanticism for truly being an indie hacker but, hey, working for "the man" can give you more freedom than slaving over your own project, trying to make it work before your savings run out and can't afford to pay rent.

        Sure, in the dream endgame scenario where you have the user-base and you've automated or delegated most things, that will give you more freedom, but until then a great salary in a field you enjoy will give you more freedom... out of hours.

        From your replies it seems you have a great approach to finding that dream endgame and it's not gonna be "do or die, has to happen now". I recommend holding on to that even if projects don't quite pan out. "Skills don't pay the bills" so it's understandable to get a bit antsier every time, but still: the more skills and learnings you have, the more you load the dice in your favour for the next project to succeed.

        Of course you have way more practical experience on that front, I do wonder how my views will change as I get deeper in that forest myself!

        ---

        On the "people change" front, that's for sure, and I'd say my appetites change on a monthly, maybe weekly, basis! Sometimes I do want to go hard on app development, sometimes on learning a new skill, sometimes on writing, sometimes on photography, sometimes on gaming!

        A lifestyle like that is something I'd want my own "brand" to promote, which is another thing I'm trying to figure out... And listing just the top three things I'd want to achieve in my day is helping loads.

        1. 2

          Hi Johnny, thanks for taking the time to reply – I agree with all your points. Hopefully we both get to the promised land someday. Good luck with your journey!

  15. 1

    I think your app criteria is similar to wip.chat and makerlog. But they are more about social and public

    1. 1

      Thanks! I'll check them out.

  16. 1

    Depends what you mean by wasting your time :)

    If you're building something you love, great! If you're looking for a business, there's definitely no guarantees.

    I think productivity apps can be a trap here. Everyone has their own personal expectations and work flows for productivity, todo, or notes. That means many people could be scratching their own itch and building something that only they themselves would pay for. Or only a few people in the world would pay for, but there isn't a clear cost-effective path for acquiring these customers.

    That said, good luck on it!

    (Btw, I'm using this as a note-to-self also. I initially built Minute for myself, but as a notes app, I have the exact same concerns that I mentioned above.)

    1. 2

      Hey Alex, obviously I'd like to do both – build something I love that turns into a full-fledged business. I think I'm conflicted here on what constitutes a "waste of time." I think I make myself feel better by saying that if I build something I love that's useful to me it's not a waste. But if I'm really honest, I want the business to succeed, and building a product that doesn't get many customers would probably be a waste in my book, particularly since I know intellectually that many have taken this path before (trying to build a personal productivity app) and failed.

      I appreciate the encouragement and the word of caution. Part of the reason I made this post is that most of the time I feel like I have real insights on why this productivity app will succeed and not be another statistic. Other days, I'm not sure whether I'm just fooling myself and making the same mistakes that thousands of people have made before me.

      I can see why you're concerned too. Minute looks really nice and well-designed. But am I persuaded to use it instead of my Moleskine and Word document? At present I'm not convinced. But I hope you get there!

      1. 1

        Part of the reason I made this post is that most of the time I feel like I have real insights on why this productivity app will succeed and not be another statistic. Other days, I'm not sure whether I'm just fooling myself and making the same mistakes that thousands of people have made before me.

        I'm going through this at the moment.

        A part of potential customers seems to like the work while the other part of the potential customers doesn't. Not sure what to do.

        1. 2

          Have you spoken to the customers that don't like it to really understand why?

          1. 1

            You know how when you try to explain an idea to someone, people reply with something like Oh, "so it's something like this(similar product)?" And when you say yes, the conversations shifts into you versus this product they compared you against and the discussion turns out to be pointless.

            That's what happened. I wanted to start a project where freelancers could list out tasks for clients to know how much work has been completed but, well, it looks like PROOFHUB does the work much better than I do and tbh I kinda like the product.

            I think I will move on to another idea. Thank you for following. Let me know if there is anything I could do for you. :)

            1. 2

              Well, sometimes it's a blessing in disguise to recognize that something isn't working and move on to the next thing. Good luck on your next idea!

              1. 1

                An entrepreneur suggested me to not give up on my current project because he thinks to leave a work unfinished develops inconsistency in later years. To be honest, I feel confused. :/

                1. 2

                  Check out “The Dip” by Seth Godin, “A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit”

                  Or just watch this YouTube summary of the book: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ySQFbVr1whg

                  1. 1

                    Found the right thing at the (seemingly) right time. Thanks :)

  17. 1

    I'd love to be part of beta testing! [email protected] Also not to plug but I have https://www.orbitnow.app which had the goal of being very flexible, you're welcome to steal from or critique it.

    1. 2

      Great! I will add you to the list.

      I have to say, Orbit is by far the most original, playful time tracker I have ever seen, and I've seen a lot. So kudos for that!

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