The no.1 rule of creating a Productivity app?

screen-3A few days ago I was approached to take a look at a new productivity application thats currently in beta called GTDNext, whilst I’m not looking for a new productivity app I do like to keep up to date with any new products that are in development.

My initial impressions are very favourable and I intend on writing a mini review when time allows. Due to it’s early beta nature the developers have all their focus on the core web product, they are striving to get that ‘right’ before creating any mobile versions. This for me is the right way to launch a productivity product, the core application (in this case the web app) has to be ‘solid and refined’ before progressing onto any other platforms.

This made me think about what my no.1 rule of creating a Productivity app would be?

h5_logoFor me it’s fairly simple, the solution has to be available everywhere. Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, Windows Mobile. The best way to accomplish this? Start with a great Web app.

For some reason the Apple Mac OSX and iOS platforms are king when it comes to productivity app development; Things, Omnifocus, Clear and a whole heap of others I’m thinking of you.

You see, It’s my biggest gripe with developers that create excellent products for Apple devices, I have to use a Windows device at work. My productivity work flow stops when I get to work. Windows is still the number 1 choice in the corporate world yet it seems to be so overlooked in native productivity app development.

Some workarounds do exist but it just makes things more complex where your task manager should be making things easier for you. This is one of the reasons I choose to use Nozbe.

The desktop solution is here already

Not too many years ago it was imagined that the whole world of app development would be on the web, html based apps were the way forward. Unfortunately the 1st few attempts could only be described as developers finding their feet, the apps were basic and slow.

Now web development has grown so far that the original dream of what a web app could be has now been realised and then there’s little reason for developers to develop individual desktop apps anymore.

Wunderlist-2Just take a look at the Google Chrome packaged app versions of Wunderlist or Workflowy, they look, act and feel just like a native desktop app on both my Windows laptop and my Mac desktop. This is what’s needed, Web apps that work on any desktop, as long as you have an Internet connection to start with you can also work offline with them.

Mobile is getting close also

screen-shot-2012-09-05-at-2-30-27-pm1-158x300Mobile still has a little further to come owning to the lack of 100% mobile data coverage. Web html5 apps lag behind specific app software, for example Asana uses a html5 app wrapper that’s usable but can be painfully slow in a low data coverage area. Anyone who’s ever taken out their phone and launched their html5 app in a mall/shopping centre in a low data coverage area trying to see what they put on their @errands list will know the frustration it brings.

Yes the html app is probably cached but it will always try to connect to the main server to check for the latest version and data, if you have a poor connection it causes you to curse the technology as your faced with a slow experience.

Final thoughts

For me, developers need to develop a great Web app that will cover all desktop platforms, Windows, Mac, Chromebook and Linux. If you can make it available as a packaged app (Through Google Chrome or dedicated Windows/Mac versions like Nozbe) even better.

Mobile versions of your product still need a dedicated app for now, until mobile coverage problems are resolved. Unless you can work around these issues!

Lastly, ignore Android and Windows users at your peril developers, everyone needs productivity apps!

  • It’s nice to see someone standing up for us Windows users!

    All too often I see mobile apps only for Android and iOs not for my beloved Win 8 phone or Surface.

  • Catch

    I agree – Windows is widely used in the corporate environment and has an extremely large user base in the developing countries.

    Something else that I find to be a deal breaker is an app that demands an internet connection at *any* time other than for syncing purposes. Not every (potential) user has that luxury when firing up the app. Wunderlist *was* my go to lists app, but not being able to use it after a boot-up when in an area lacking reception has made it useless.

    (Please excuse my late arrival and delayed comment.)

    • I too have struggled with to-do apps needing an internet connection at all times. The new ‘always syncing’ mode is great until it actually slows down the speed you can actually use the app on laugh as it checks for new data. I’ve been using Nozbe for a number of years now as it’s a standalone app available on Windows (work) and doesn’t need to sync at launch. It’s worth a look if your workflow includes Window and your internet connection isn’t 100% reliable.

      • Catch

        @Markus: If you can use the Nozbe standalone Windows app without an internet connection (at start-up) it must be a feature of the paid version. I have evaluated the *free* version and found that it definitely needs an internet connection to login and use it (without a connection, one is stuck on the login screen). This is a core functionality that I am looking for, and if the unpaid version has such basic “missing functionality” I cannot be bothered to shell out for it.

        While I understand the reasoning that *many* users have the ability for connecting to a server on initialisation of an app, I know that this is not always true. Since productivity means being able to follow a given plan of action and any deviation from that plan results in less productivity, having to login at a given time to use an app is a hindrance.

        Furthermore I understand the business aspect of demanding connectivity – the makers don’t want you to be able to use their app as a standalone without locking you in somehow. Can’t say I condone this attitude unless it is specifically and transparently indicated on their website – I am not essentially after *free*.

        I cannot stress enough how incompatible in the *real world* an app that needs start-up connectivity is.

        • Hi Catch: Currently I am able to use the new OneNobe windows version offline happily. I initially sync all my data at home to my Windows PC then I am able to open the application when on the train to work, I move items around, create new tasks/prorjects.I can see the app trying to sync but just displays a warning triangle.The next time I do get connectivity it all syncs happily. Worth taking a 2nd look if you haven’t tried the new version? http://nozbe.com/apps/

          • Catch

            Hi Marcus

            Thanks for your feedback and explanation. I actually did try the new Nozbe version 2.0.9c (is that something else than the OneNozbe you mention?) when I stumbled onto your site and left my first message. After my primary eval, I closed my free account. So…

            Believing myself to be just as fallible as the next guy, I signed up again (just now) and reinstalled on Windows 7. Either we’re getting our wires crossed or we don’t work the same way.

            1. I login via the Nozbe Windows app (I have internet connection)
            2. I work in the Nozbe Windows app
            3. I close the app – completely with the “switch” in the bottom left corner.
            4. I lose my internet connection (I switch off my wifi)
            5. I start the Nozbe Windows app
            6. Error message and I can’t get past the login screen

            That’s a very basic test for me. I haven’t gone any further by switching off my laptop entirely or rebooting. My conclusion is that Nozbe *demands* a connection to their cred-server and, ergo, is just as useless to me as all the others.

            If you, on the other hand, just put your laptop to sleep after syncing without logging out of Nozbe, my guess is that you’ll have full usage as you describe, but I haven’t tried that.

            I appreciate your interest, and if I’m doing something wrong please open my eyes!!

          • 3. I close the app – completely with the “switch” in the bottom left corner

            This actually logs you out of Nozbe and clears all local data. You should just close the app using the ‘x’ on the top right of the window. When you launch the app ‘offline’ (no internet) you should be logged in and have access to your data. This works for me 🙂

          • Catch

            Thanks Marcus, I am aware of that. However, that is NOT the same as being able to use the app when offline – you need to be online when you start using it and that is not always possible, hence it is not really possible to use Nozbe offline. To sync, the internet connection is obviously imperative, but why on earth *every* modern app needs connectivity to start up is beyond me – there are other ways to ensure legitimate use of software.

            It seems that you and the Nozbe support team have situations in which you never need to turn off your systems when working. The cases I reference do, be it to travel or disconnect from a power supply for a longer period of time. When restarting the computer, it is often the case that no internet is available at the *new* location.

            It is the way it is and some of us don’t have all that *cloud-cover* that many of you enjoy!

          • I see what you mean, sometimes Nozbe does demand a sync when you power on. Have you found a solution, software or analogue that you use?

          • Catch

            Yes – but it’s tedious and involves dropboxing etc. Most software will allow for a container file on a network or VM drive and that’s what is applied here – some even use OneNote as a tasklist.

            A simple to-do/task-list that enhances productivity and syncs when online is still missing. I just use a plain text file personally and do some shifting around with cut-and-paste – works for me, but isn’t elegant or the way to go for most.