What it is
Homebits is a mobile-first application that allows immigrants to store and share those "little bits of home" they find in their adopted hometown. Think Yelp or Foursquare for familiar/friendly experiences in a strange land.
What it does
Very simple UI for allowing users to drop pins ("bits") on a map as breadcrumbs that will be useful to others of the same national/regional/ethnic origin. These may be:
- Community & social services organizations
- Places of worship.
- Businesses and professionals that speak your native tongue.
- Restaurants with familiar tastes, smells, & cultural influences.
- Potential employers whom employ, or may even be, members of your expat community.
...& anything else that can help future immigrants of the same origin feel a little more at home in their new land, just like it did for you.
How we built it
Key to innovating on this theme for us was tailoring the data available to each user on the basis of a shared place of origin. In other words, once a user has told us where they are from once, points of interest are then always filtered to those that have been recommended by others from the same region.
Otherwise, we are drawing heavily upon the user's familiarity with other applications on the same device, such as those for navigation (Google Maps, Waze, etc.) and local discovery (Yelp, Foursquare).
Challenges we ran into
No designer: As a team of orphans who just met Friday, we quickly reached our 8-person limit without a real designer on the roster. The result is a product that still needs some design TLC, but whose concept places function over form and delivers well.
Not all skillsets are plug-and-play: Half our dev team came from a different stack than the other half. They adapted well and made it work, but not without some pain and setbacks, some fairly late in the game.
Inventory hacking: obviously an application like this requires some inventory as a map with no points of interest on it solves nothing. While we were able to establish a number of supply-side strategies for finding relevant reviews and data with which to populate the database at launch; time spent debugging eliminated our ability to test any of our hypotheses for an effective supply hack.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
First and foremost, we truly feel that homebits addresses each and every focus area included in the challenge in a real and evergreen way.
We've come up with a UI that is language- and literacy-agnostic; using iconography and common UI elements to create an application that can be understood and navigated by anyone whom is already accustomed to using other applications on their device.
Rather than hold out for a designer, we chose to be inclusive, adapted well and came out with a product that we're all proud of. We hope you'll agree it was the right call.
What we learned
Remote work is great, but the ability to lean over and talk something out is not something whose value can be overlooked when time + resources are limited.
What's next for Homebits
We just met each other Friday. No promises yet :)