Reflections on the 3 months of building Visuel for the iPhone

I think I might have done everything wrong ● 1
I hope not

I really hope to find the right target for the app. I believe it can be useful and am not ready to give up on it just yet.

Starting with the technology

This whole project started with a gif I saw on Dribble. (from Hoang Nguyen)

I thought it was an extremely cool interface for rating. In 2015, I implemented it and open-sourced it. After a while I thought - how cool would it be to put this over a camera preview? That way you could rate everything you see in real time. I did this and showed it to a few people, but no one shared my excitement. It has been sitting in a repository ever since.

I didn’t start by listening to people, I started with a dribbble gif.

The wager

At the beginning of February, I was having lunch with my cousin, who is also a developer, and we were a bit annoyed that we weren’t selling anything on the web. So we made a bet: “Have something people can buy online by April Fools’ Day”.

I just didn’t know what to build. I knew all the SaaS rules about niche targeting etc, but my big brain decided to ignore them.

Time for a side project

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” - A. Lincoln

Nope, not me. I was very short on time, because I’d just joined a new company, tried to prove myself, working in different time zones, etc. So I had about 2 evenings a week + some weekends. I’ve only spent about 5 hours thinking about what to build. The process went like this: “Something niche that can make money” - not interested, “this fancy picker you saw 7 years ago” - yeah, let’s do it.

So here I’m 3 months in. 2 months part-time, and last month full-time. I still can’t describe what I’ve built.

What is Visuel?

  • Is it a photo organizer? - yes
  • Is it for productivity? - yes, when working with physical objects & spaces
  • Is it a social app? - almost, everyone has a profile with photo albums.

Right now I believe the app is for everything but “nice pictures”. So really anything random that you might need to capture.

  • Someone recommending a book?
  • See a poster of an event you would like to go to?
  • Are you lending something and want to remember?
  • Are you making a grocery list?
  • Do you have something to fix around the house?
  • Do you want to set a deadline/reminder on any of these and mark it done when ready?

If your answer to any of these is yes, then here is the link to the App Store.

The app is so broad and I don’t know who my target audience is. Sounds bad, I know. Let’s see if there’s…

anything good about it?

A year ago I wrote an article about how I sold my last side project, but it was only now that I realised why it was so valuable to the buyer. Three letters, ASO. App Store Optimisation. It’s just so hard these days, I understand that Visuel is in the most competitive categories - Productivity and Camera - but man, you can’t even find it in the first 100 results when you type “Visuel” in the search. Whereas the previous project was very well positioned for most of the strategic keywords. Which I think is a huge value in itself.

Another thing is that back in the day it was OK to show a view controller with native animation. Now, compared to so many great applications, it looks outdated. While it’s fine for MVP, I think if you want your product to stand out, implementing “fluid design” is something worth investing in.

Another thing is that back in the day, it was ok to show a View Controller with native animation. Now, when compared to so many great apps, it looks outdated. While it’s ok for MVP, I think if you want your product to stand out, implementing the “fluid design” is something worth investing in.

Firebase Realtime Database - I have tried using Firebase in the past but have been put off. I don’t know what has changed, but this time it was a great experience. Very quick to prototype, easy to set up and realtime is just great, see for yourself:

good or bad?

I love the idea behind Visuel. I like the logo Alina made for me. I like working on it, tweeting about it. I like experimenting with new features - recently I worked on automatic image classification.

I don’t like that there are so few users. I don’t like that I have to find them, do the marketing. I don’t like the fact that if I don’t grow it, it will die.

In the end, it is a side project that I enjoy doing. Definitely not a well thought out business idea. I guess I can say this is my garden. 🌲