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Overcoming fear by using fear

I don’t mind telling you, there’s a level of fear associated in building something on your own.

Here’s a list of potential anxieties if you’re interested:

  • What if the app won’t work right…
  • What if the developer won’t be able to complete the task…
  • It might cost too much to make it…
  • Maybe it won’t sell well and we’ll lose money…
  • Someone could steal our design and calls it FAMgeek or something…

Really, those fears are pretty easy to overcome if nobody knows what you’re doing.

But what if there are suddenly thousands of people who know, see it online, email you, share it with their firends, all wanting to know when it’s available.

That’s another kind of fear entirely. The other fears only affect us and our pocketbook. That fear affects other people and how they feel about us.

It’s for that very reason we launched the website early, began promoting FAMnerd early — because we could use that fear to overcome other fears. We’re using that fear as a driver.

Thank you for your emails and encouragement! We love hearing from you and getting a feel for your enthusiasm for FAMnerd. Even your stories of disappointment with other apps are helpful because it reminds us why we’re doing this in the first place: because nobody else did.

If FAMnerd already existed, we’d be using it. But it doesn’t, so we have to build it for Annette.

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Why FAMnerd is THE iPhone app for the Fertility Awareness Method

When we first had the idea to develop FAMnerd, one of the first things we did was to see if someone had already developed a FAM iPhone app.

They had. I was bummed.

But after we took a closer look at the apps available, we realized we didn’t like any of them. The point of having a FAM app on your iPhone was to make charting easier, not to make it more cumbersome and less useful.

Here are some of the things we didn’t like about the other FAM iPhone apps, and why we created FAMnerd the way we did.

  • Using a calendar view to display FAM information. A calendar view serves absolutely no purpose in FAM. All of the signs you record in FAM exist to be put into a chart format, so you can see the big picture of fertility changes over time. A calendar doesn’t help with this at all.
  • When you use calendar view you’re forced to squeeze a pile of information onto a teeny tiny date on a calendar. The app developers had to create a legend of colors and shapes to represent detailed FAM information on the calendar, but if you don’t know what each color or shape represents, you’re out of luck. Icons used in FAM charting should be intuitive; you shouldn’t need a legend.
  • The interface for entering FAM information didn’t make any sense. Why use a touchpad to enter in 9-7-.-3 when you can use a scrollwheel to quickly choose your temperature? We wanted to use existing iPhone interfaces so you wouldn’t have to learn anything new to use FAMnerd.
  • One app forced us to create a password that we would have to enter every single time we opened the app. We understand that some people will want a password to protect their intimate fertility data, but not everyone will. You should be able to set a password if you want to, but the app shouldn’t force you into it.
  • Another app incorporated surprisingly nice design elements. The developers had obviously worked with a designer to make sure that the app didn’t look like a 4th grade science project. But the designer allowed the graphic elements to take over the app, to the point that part of the screen was always obscured by the pretty design. We like pretty, but we also want to be able to see the whole screen. The iPhone ain’t huge and there isn’t any room for wasted space when you’re displaying the detailed information that FAM requires.
  • The charts were TERRIBLE! The whole point of charting is to create a CHART. The design of the charts wasn’t pleasing and the icons didn’t make sense. None of the charts were interactive, so if you wanted to edit data for a particular day you had to go all the way back to the data entry screen. We wanted to be able to tap on a day on FAMnerd’s chart, pull up all the information entered on that day and edit it, if necessary. Plus we wanted the chart to be pretty. The chart is what you’re going to use to assess your fertility, so we wanted it to look nice and make sense.

So after looking through all the existing iPhone apps for the Fertility Awareness Method, we decided we’d just have to make our own. We hope you’ll enjoy using FAMnerd.

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Why doesn’t FAMnerd show more information on the chart?

We know that some PC-based apps let you place seemingly unlimited amounts of information on your charts, and some of you would like to do that with the app. We hear you, but listen to our point of view. Well kept charts are extremely gratifying to look at, it’s the equivalent of a well kept diary for some. Believe me, we really do understand that; Annette is a complete nerd when it comes to charting. Everything goes into her chart from temps to miles ran to flow volume in mL.

But FAMnerd is intended to help FAM users get started with FAM and keep the accurate charts necessary for using FAM. It’s robust enough for advanced users to keep records of how many glasses of water they drank (not that you’d need to record that), but we intentionally keep the chart simple and immediately gratifying.

We may create an iPad version if there’s enough demand, where charts could become more complex and contain more data, but for now, the iPhone screen dictates how much information can be displayed on the chart.

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What can you record?

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First talks with a developer

I met with a young iPhone developer to discuss FAMnerd, and he had some suggestions that will make the app better (and cheaper) to develop.

While he’s still in grad school and booked til the summer, we’ll be retaining him as a consultant on the project as we search for the right person.

Most of FAMnerd uses conventional iPhone inputs, except for the chart. The chart will be the biggest programming challenge of the app, and it has to be just right.

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FAMnerd wouldn’t exist if someone had already made it.

An iPhone is a perfect place to record, chart, and interpret fertility signs, and we’re not alone in this thinking.

Seriously, there are a number of apps out there for tracking fertility signs.

They just got it wrong!

We were disappointed after Annette spent money on apps that were clunky to use and had static charts that lacked even basic information.

The apps were awkward at best — using the wrong inputs for temperature, requiring lengthy setup, and had charts divided by calendar month rather than cycle! Who made these?

If you hand us lemons, we’ll hand them back to you and demand apples. Or in this case, we’re going to grow our own.

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On mockups and planning

Everyone says, “We want [insert app name here] to be as simple to use as possible.” But simple ain’t easy.

Charts are Gratifying, Setup Isn’t

You shouldn’t have to set up the app before you start working. You should be able to go from zero to looking at your charts immediately. Yes, you can change some stuff, but you shouldn’t have to configure the whole app just to get started.

Convention Over Configuration

Annette and I spent nights poring over iPhone interface conventions. One of the principle mistakes some app developers make is using buttons, sliders, and other built-in widgets in a way that’s counter-intuitive to the user.

We focused on making actions feel natural — a flow in how the app responds to the user. It should almost feel like you’ve been here before.

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