Happy Monday, everyone!
We made it to the 29th issue! Thank you to everyone who read last week’s issue ❤️
📆 Today I’m featuring Sawyer Blatz.
👉 Please make sure to follow them or support them anyway you can! 😇 I’m excited to share their indie dev stories.
1) What is your name? Where do you live?
Sawyer Blatz, San Francisco. Originally from the Midwest.
2) Introduce yourself. Education? Background? Main job? Interests outside of tech? Interests inside of tech?
Hey everyone! I’m Sawyer. I went to Purdue for a degree in CS & Political Science, and graduated in 2018. In my last year of school I was lucky to get an internship at Mozilla (my first big one), and ended up securing an offer for after graduation. Once I finished up school, I moved out to SF where I now live with my boyfriend, Jaden.
My day job changed somewhat recently. In October I moved from Mozilla over to Slack, where I am an iOS engineer.
My interests outside of tech include: running, photography, politics, reading, and playing board/card games. I’m a huge Magic: the Gathering nerd; I used to play competitively, but now I play mostly online for fun.
3) Have you ever considered yourself an indie developer?
Prior to Nudget—definitely no. I had always been interested in the idea of doing my own projects, but it never felt feasible. Working one job can be hard enough most of the time. Nowadays I would definitely consider myself one, though :)
4) What got you started/interested in creating your own applications outside of your “normal” job?
I think the interest just came from having ideas for apps that didn’t exist! I knew I was going to have to build it if I wanted to use it, so it started out as a project for just me to use.
5) How do you balance your time between friends/family, work, hobbies, and indie dev?
It’s hard at times. Recently I’ve been carving out time specifically for development, and then the rest of my time I don’t allow myself to even think about Nudget. Even if I get the itch to work on it during one of my “off” days, I do my best to not cave, because I find myself getting super burnt out if I don’t have space away from the project. When I don’t make time for other things, it’s really easy for coding to consume all of my free time which isn’t a healthy balance for me.
6) Nudget - The Nudget onboarding is such a pleasant experience! I don’t feel that way with most onboardings. I didn’t feel over the top designed or just informational. It actually took me through the app but at a beginner level. So so good! Do you have any advice or tips on how to design a good onboarding experience?
I’m so glad you liked that! I think the biggest motivator for the onboarding was: keep it simple and get people in the actual app in less than a minute. I think a lot of apps these days, especially in the finance category, try to teach the user everything at once or hand hold them through a huge tutorial. I find that really frustrating as a user, and I’m sure others do too. People aren’t sure if they want to invest the time and energy into using a new app, so I try to get them through the onboarding as quickly as is reasonable!
7) Nudget - I also loved the alternative icon picker in the onboarding experience! Never seen that before. This is a great personalization touch! I think I picked a seasonal one. Do those change throughout the year?
They do! I probably spend more time than I should making all those different icons, but it’s secretly one of my favorite parts about working on a project that’s entirely my own. I get to play around with doing (very basic) digital design and art—something I would never get to do “professionally” day to day.
8) Nudget - I’m so so bad at budgeting and using budgeting apps but I think I could actually stick with Nudget. The Budget’s tab simply showing recurring expenses, spending money, and savings makes it so easy to think about budget. How did you come up with the concept of Nudget? Did you use a non-app version first before making Nudget?
I’m someone who loves personal finance, but I also know most people aren’t super passionate about it like I am. My goal with Nudget was to make budgeting approachable for people who often find it confusing, overwhelming, or not worthwhile by making it fun, painless, and insightful.
A lot of Nudget was inspired by my bad experiences with other budgeting apps. I had tried a million other apps to get myself to stick to a budget, and all of them frustrated me in some way. I knew from the beginning I wanted a manual tracking app since I felt apps like Mint made me feel I didn’t have control over changing the spending. There’s something about entering a purchase in that makes you feel like you have agency over changing your purchasing habits.
Then the biggest hurdle was: how do I make it as painless as possible to enter an expense. Most apps make it really difficult to enter an expense, with several modals you have to go through for each purchase. Like if I’m out with my friends for coffee (ya know, back when we could do that), I don’t want to fiddle on my phone entering in an expense for 30 seconds! That was really the motivation around making entry super fast. Defaulting users to not even use decimal places because I wanted entry to take one or two taps—just a few seconds. Tap the dollar amount and the category. You’re done!
9) Nudget - The Insights are so good! I think these are items I’ve manually scanned for in other budgeting apps but Nudget pulls these out for me 😊 How have insights evolved over Nudget’s history? Were these in from the start?
Insights are something I feel really sets Nudget apart, and the thing I’m most proud of in the app. The goal was to surface trends in people’s spending on a high level and in plain language so they knew where things were trending better or worse. Often when people are getting into budgeting it can feel daunting because they have no idea where their money is going each month or if that latte every few days is really what’s breaking the bank. Insights give you the signal you need to make better decisions without all the noise. What am I spending the most on recently? Where has my spending increased or decreased the most? Am I on track to be under budget this month? These are the sorts of questions I wanted to answer for people.
10) Nudget - What’s the hardest part of development and supporting a finance app?
Everyone thinks about their money differently! It’s impossible for me to support every type of budgeting strategy out there. One example is that some people prefer to budget per category whereas Nudget focuses on having a bucket of spending money that can be spent on anything. That’s largely because I’m a big proponent of simplifying the budgeting experience. If I spend a little more on dining this month and a little less on clothing, does that really matter? Why should those be separate budgets?
Obviously that’s just one example, but those sorts of differences in philosophies makes it really hard to support everyone who may be interested in a budgeting app.
11) Nudget - Not a question but I love the experimental feature for celebrating an expense 😛 Have this 🏆
Haha, that is definitely one of my favorite features. I’ve considered turning it on by default but I’m worried it’ll scare people off.
12) Nudget - What’s next for Nudget?! Any future feature you can share with us?
The 2.0 release will be out very soon which has some features that people have highly requested. The big one I’ll share is: iPad support! I’m really excited about how this update has turned out and I can’t wait to share it with everyone. Stay tuned!
13) What’s been the hardest part of being an indie dev? What the most fun part of being an indie dev?
Comparing yourself to others! I fall into this trap a lot. Everyone has different talents and when it’s a one-person operation, you have to wear all the hats. It can be really easy to look over at another dev who is stronger at something you’re weaker at and say, “I’m a failure!”. Not to mention the varying successes around you. Because you often only hear about the popular apps & devs, it’s easy to think that your project is horrible because you haven’t received a review from X publication or Apple hasn’t featured you. But every app and every dev is on their own journey. I just remind myself that this is supposed to be fun!
The most fun part about being an indie dev is getting to make all the decisions. Do I want to spend several weeks working on silly Holiday app icons & adding confetti? I can!
While wearing all the hats can be stressful at times, it’s also the most rewarding bit. I can choose what to prioritize. I can choose to grow my skills in design or code architecture or marketing by just focusing on different areas. In a 9-5 job you have some flexibility, but the creative control you have over your own project is so freeing.
14) Do you have any other indie devs that readers should follow / lookout for?
Too many to list here, but I’ll name a few :)
- @danielmgauthier - Developer of Oh Bother which is a gorgeous app that lets you set boundaries with roommates. You could learn a thing or two about design from him!
- @ryanashcraft - FoodNoms developer, great for calorie & macro tracking. Has also been a huge help with weird iCloud bugs & pricing strategy.
- @russshanahan - Developer of Happy Scale. He has helped me so much in my indie dev journey!
- @malinsundberg - Developer of Orbit, an awesome app for time tracking with a cute design.
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