Carla White is the mastermind behind the Gratitude Journal, an incredible mobile app that gives you an opportunity to focus on the positive moments in your life. It’s so easy to find yourself worrying or dwelling on things that the mind decides to dance on. Forcing yourself to stop, reflect, and find those positive moments turns out to be a very useful strategy for gaining control of your emotional state–so long as you do it consistently. Gratitude Journal helps you do that.
The connection this has had with customers is inspirational. Since 2008 word has traveled through Business Insider, Forbes, NPR, and even Oprah–plus so many more.
In this interview we dive into some insightful thoughts that each of us have to battle with as we build our products on mobile.
If you know any other folks building mobile products I’d appreciate a share! Enjoy!
[alert color=”blue”]Quotes. They’re inspirational, wise and motivating. What is one of your favorite quotes that encourages you to keep pushing forward and that you would happily frame on one of your walls? What does it mean to you?[/alert]
“Do what you love to help others and you will always love what you do.”
That used to be my daily theme. I plastered it everywhere. But as I gain more life experiences, it’s shifting back to a quote I had on the back of my Chevy as I drove solo across the US twice
Everything we ever wanted is on the other side of fear. But what is fear? Expectations versus reality? What screws us up most in life is the picture in our head of how life is suppose to be. Don’t be afraid of discovering who you are and accepting what you find. Because what is on the other side will amaze you.
[alert color=”blue”]Let’s jump right into it! What made you decide to build mobile products? When and how did you get started on the journey you’re on now?[/alert]
After my dad suddenly passed away, I was a mess; I drank too much, gained weight, was uninterested in life, relationships were a mess and just going through the motions. I tried a few things to get me out of my rut, but nothing worked. Then I heard about something called the Gratitude Journal – it’s a journal where you write five things everyday that made you happy. This slowly rewires your brain to be naturally optimistic.
After two months of keeping my journal I was out for a walk and I realized that I was sleeping better, was healthier, lost weight, had job prospects and was truly all around happier. I guess this is what people call an “ah-ha” moment, but for me it was more like rainbows and unicorns dancing across the sky. I was blown over by how quickly and drastically my life had changed because of my Gratitude Journal. I instantly wanted to tell the world about this. That’s when I decided to create the Gratitude Journal app.
It was crazy because I had a flip phone, a few hundred bucks, and no clue how to make one. This was back in 2008 when there were no books, blogs or anyone in 1000 mile radius who could help me out.
If you had peered in my window back then, you would have seen me huddled at my computer working on my app from 5am – 7am, absorbed in design tools, messaging developers, and fumbling with Xcode–all before going into my day job. I was determined to figure out how to create an app because I wanted at least one person to discover the power of gratitude.
The app launched in December 2008 and paid for itself by noon the first day. It’s been living in the top charts on iTunes ever since and is now my full time job.
[alert color=”blue”]Take yourself back to the beginning of wanting to build a new product. How do you decide what idea to work on? Where do you hunt for inspiration or discover problems worth solving? What does this early discovery process look like?[/alert]
The idea was simple, but inspiration and help wasn’t. Thankfully the iOS developer community, in my experience, is actually an incredibly helpful, friendly and supportive group. What’s the reason for this?
My theory is that when this community first coalesced back in 2008, there were zero resources available besides the Apple Developer Portal. Like explorers climbing Mt Everest without a map, developers had to rely on each other for guidance, setting the tone for how the community interacts today.
[alert color=”blue”]Having a set of tools in your tool bag can be invaluable. Let’s imagine that you’re about to get ready to begin working on a new idea.How do you get started? What are your must-use tools? What’s your initial goal? How early do you plan to show what you’re building?[/alert]
I always start a project with pencils, crayons, markers and very large sheets of paper — not a computer. This gives me artistic freedom design software could never deliver. Computer mockups tempt me to spend too much time on unnecessary details before I’ve even grasped the basic concepts of what I’m creating.
Paper prototypes costs peanuts and can be done in minutes. Because it’s so cheap and easy, I can experiment with as many variations of my design as I like without wasting hours of work. It’s also a great way to document everything so I can go back to ideas I may have deleted on a computer.
[alert color=”blue”]Each product carries its own set of challenges. What product(s) are you currently working on? What has been some of the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome and/or have yet to overcome? What’s your biggest need?[/alert]
I’m currently working on the 3rd rewrite of Gratitude Journal. I started the new design nearly two years ago and carefully considered the programmer I would hire to build it with a plan to release in July 2014.
As it turns out, I didn’t do enough due diligence in screening him. His work was way behind schedule, his code was full of bugs, and in the end he left me high and dry with unusable code. At the same time, iOS8 was released and the version of Gratitude Journal on the iTunes store simply crashed when it was opened. It was junk.
About that same time I managed to find a talented developer who slowly worked out the long laundry list of bugs and about a month later (October) and we got the app to a fair enough state to submit to Apple. But it was still buggy and living through the customer feedback from that was the hardest part of my app career.
I now realize the extent of Internet bullying and it isn’t pretty. I was called all sorts of names that would make a drunken sailor blush. Everyday I received hate filled emails, tweets, posts — for an app designed to make people find the good in things. As ironic as it is, it’s also tragic. It speaks volumes about just how many people on this planet need to dig deep and work on their inner peace.
We’ve had to rewrite most of the code from the first developer and large feature sets had to be pulled, but as I write this a new release is going to iTunes that should calm the storm for a few weeks.
My advice is to make it easy for customers to contact you with bugs so the bad news comes to you directly rather than through an iTunes review. Also, take the time to reply and let them know you’re on the case.
Unfortunately the negative feedback you receive feels as if it outweighs the positive because it includes stronger language and more exclamation points. You may actually have more happy customers than dissatisfied ones, but you’re unaware because the complaints sound louder and satisfied customers are less likely to leave comments.
[alert color=”blue”]Building an audience for a new product can be incredibly challenging for newcomers to the mobile space. Even veterans stumble with this one. How have you got the word out about products you’ve created? Is there one thing that you make sure to do with every product you create?[/alert]
Don’t make the mistake of thinking about marketing after the app is built. It will feel like you’re trying to win the Tour de France on a tricycle. You’ll be desperately trying to keep up instead of riding the wave of excitement in your shiny new app. You need to start your marketing BEFORE anything else.
As soon as you have a good notion about your app, get the word out and crank up the buzz machine. Sure, you might not know what you’re going to call it, what it will look like, but you can still connect with your tribe, share your passions, ignite excitement and make some new friends.
Now I could write an entire book about marketing apps. The secret to getting noticed is kicking off your marketing campaign as soon as you decide to create an app, not once it’s live on iTunes. Also, marketing isn’t about hustling, exaggerating, or tricking people into buying your app. It’s sharing stories and engaging your audience. Learn how to make your audience come to you because they want to hear what you have to say.
[alert color=”blue”]Let’s go back to some of your the first products you’ve worked on. What’s one of the biggest mistakes that you ran into? How did you learn and adapt?[/alert]
My biggest mistake was trying to aim for a large target audience thinking it would result in larger sales. I just overloaded my app with too many features, trying to please too many people, sinking it to the bottom of iTunes store.
Success is adversely proportional to the size of your target market. Aim to be a big fish in a small pond. This keeps your focus narrowed and your features limited.
[alert color=”blue”]Take a moment to talk to the new guy or gal, hungry to build a mobile product. If you could give them one piece of advice as they begin their journey, what is the #1 thing they should not ignore?[/alert]
Spend most of your time and budget on the design and marketing, not on coding all sorts of features. If people can’t figure out how to use your app or even find it, it doesn’t matter what features you have.
Invest plenty of time to ensure anyone (including your neighbor who just got his first iPad yesterday) can understand your app in 15 seconds or less. Don’t let your ego dictate your design. Let go of your original ideas by testing your layouts on real people over and over.
Next, kick off your marketing as soon as possible. It takes time to crank up the hype machine so start as soon as you can.
[alert color=”blue”]There are a lot of resources out there that we can take advantage of even if it’s not directly applicable to products. Are there any books, or articles, that you’ve read recently that’s worth sharing?[/alert]
I wrote the book “Idea to iPhone” so anyone can create successful apps. I return to it over and over to guide myself through the process.
My next best resource are the other iOS producers I’ve made friends with over the years.
[alert color=”blue”]Thanks so much for your time! Where can we find you online and keep up to date with what you’re up to?[/alert]
Learn more about The Gratitude Journal at www.getgratitude.co
Read more about me: www.carla.is
Find me on Facebook: facebook.com/thegratitudeapp