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Happy Monday, everyone!
We made it to the 39th issue! Thank you to everyone who read last week’s issue ❤️
📆 Today I’m featuring Jordi Bruin.
Soosee is an app I wish I would have installed on my phone last year 😩 My wife was pregnant with our first child in 2020 and I had no idea how many foods/ingredients she wasn't supposed to eat. It was a lot of work looking at labels to make sure it didn't secretly contain one of those ingredients. It was also a long list of items so I often forgot what she could and couldn't have 🤦♂️ This all would have been much easier if we had Soosee installed! There are a bunch of different categories of foods that are built into Soosee that it can scan for... and "Pregnancy" foods is one of them! Just hold your phone up to a label and it will highlight and alert the ingredients that are on your list. It's so well done and so easy to use. Jordi has a real winner with Soosee!
Unmute is another app I'm personally excited about. I think I've mentioned this in some Indie Dev issues before but if not... I have a stutter 😇 My speech fluency is highly effected by the environment. My stutter won't show too often in casual conversations but one of the worst places for my stutter is on phone calls. I will often stutter at the start of phone calls when I need to say my name and what I'm calling for so I tend to not use the phone unless I really have to. But Unmute is going to make this a lot easier for me! Unmute uses Text-To-Speech to insert the spoken words into the phone call. I had no idea this was possible 🤯 Unmute allows me to save some common phrases or phrases that I'll be using for the specific call. I can also just freely type something at any point. I'm so excited about this app! It's not going to fully replace my voice but it will be nice to know I have a backup app that I can rely on to say words for me 😁
I highly recommend downloading Soosee and Unmute and following Jordi. These are both amazing utility apps and I'm waiting to see what else he creates in the future 🙃
👉 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?
I’m Jordi Bruin, live in Amsterdam in The Netherlands
2) Introduce yourself. Education? Background? Main job? Interests outside of tech? Interests inside of tech?
Around 2006 I had no clue what I wanted to do with my education and I ended up studying Management, Economics & Law (all grouped together in one, so no, I wasn’t doing a Triple Major 😜). In my third year after I failed a Minor in Entrepeneurship, a friend of a friend helped me score an internship at a tech agency called Triple in Alkmaar, a small-ish city in The Netherlands where I’m originally from. I loved working in the world of mobile apps, as I spent most of my free time playing with my iPhone and reading up on the industry. I got hired immediately afterwards and in the years since then me and a friend built out the creative team at Triple. Through the years I worked on some of the biggest apps in The Netherlands in roles ranging from (UX) designer, project manager, ‘developer’ and creative strategist, so I got to see the wide range of interesting things to work on. I started learning how to program in 2016 by taking an Objective-C project and copying it over into Swift file by file. I really wanted to be able to think of something in my head, and then make it into something real.
Outside of tech I spent most of my time with a few close friends and my family, and I love music and art in general. Inside of tech I’m super interested in how new technologies can be used in practical ways. I really enjoy brainstorming what a particular API can do if applied in unique ways.
3) Have you ever considered yourself an indie developer?
At the end of 2019 I left Triple to start my own company Good Snooze, because I wanted to build and make more things instead of spending time in meetings. A few months after my first projects, corona hit and the project I was working on got put on pause. During the first lockdown I started working on Soosee and when that took off I started seeing myself more and more as an indie developer! When the first people starting paying for something I had made, I knew I wanted to wind down client work and just focus on building projects I feel passionate about. I’m going to be focussing most of my time on my own projects from May onwards, while still being open to small projects for clients that I have a good relationship with.
4) What got you started/interested in creating your own applications outside of your “normal” job?
While still at Triple me and some colleagues made an app named LouLou, which made it super easy to plan a date for gatherings with friends. I loved how an idea I had in my head for making something easier, became a reality through design and development. It felt very empowering and I wanted to be able to do as much of that process myself so that I didn’t have to tap on someone’s shoulder every time I wanted to make a small improvement to the app. Within Triple I got a lot of responsibility and ownership for different projects, which sparked the mindset even now that I could just make stuff and put it out into the world.
5) How do you balance your time between friends/family, work, hobbies, and indie dev?
I have productive sprints spread out throughout the week. I get the most done at night so I usually try to go outside during the day and catch up with friends or family. I try to keep my products and features as simple as possible so that I don’t end up with a large workload as a result. And because I’m learning so much about how to become a better programmer every month, I’d rather do small bursts of work than to spend months on new architectures or refactors that I then want to redo a week after shipping.
My roommate and best friend is also an iOS developer, so there’s some overlap there as well, which helps. I have a few friends such as Antoine from SwiftLee that help me stay on track in terms of my indie goals, so it definitely helps to have a group of people around that understand what’s keeping you occupied.
6) Soosee - Ummmmm… this app is so easy to use! I’m kind of sad I didn’t know about this while my wife was pregnant! This would have made checking ingredients so much easier 🙂 Where did you get the idea for this? What was your initial goal?
My ex girlfriend in 2019 was allergic to oranges, and she did not speak Dutch. She once mentioned that she had to read the ingredient labels all the time. I had just watched one of the WWDC sessions that showcased a realtime business card scanner. I thought it would be a fun project to make an app that would warn her if food included anything she wanted to avoid. When corona hit we had already been broken up for a while, but I still had the original project. I decided that it would be nice to expand the functionality to work with any range of ingredients, across a wide range of allergies. After a week or two I posted a video on a Facebook group for people with allergies and the response blew me away. Within a week I had over 5000 people on the waitlist, so then I spent the next two months building it out to launch it at the end of May. I purposefully tried to keep the app very simple, because there’s still a lot I need to learn when it comes to developing great apps. I tried not to get too caught up in doing complex things that I didn’t fully understand.
7) Soosee - I’m trying to imagine how much fun you must have had testing Soosee 😛 There are a lot of different packing types and fonts and probably in different languages? Did you do a lot of testing by just walking around in a grocery store? Were there some ingredients that were harder to test or make work than others?
Six months before I started really building Soosee I was on a road trip with friends through South East Europe. I already had the idea in my head for what I wanted to build at some point, so I cut out packaging of breakfast cereals from Croatia and Montenegro. Those labels are still in my little notebook with packaging labels that was by my side for most of April and May of 2020! I would put my phone in holder aimed at the packaging so that I could easily test recognition speed and the output from the text recognition frameworks.
Apple makes most of this pretty straight forward to start with, but there is some nuance when it comes to special characters or combinations of words. For example, after launch I received a message from someone from Sweden who told me that the app was not working with characters such as ā ê and ø. The fixes for that were easy, but it showed how difficult it can be to support a wide range of languages on a high level. And then there’s cans with reflective or see-through labels that gave me some trouble at the start. I got some great suggestions from Ryan Ashcraft from Foodnoms and from Damir Stuhec from Highlighted that helped tremendously.
8) Soosee - I’m really in love with your “Supporter” screen 😍 It’s so colorful and clean and the well placed reviews made me want to instant buy a support tier 😇 I actually took screenshots of it because I didn’t want to lose it. Not really a question but have this 🏆 for having such a beautiful IAP screen!
Thanks! I actually added took inspiration and added those reviews after a discussion I saw on Twitter when Curtis Herbert from Slopes was redesigning his IAP screen. I’m still experimenting with it, because last week I made some adjustments to that screen and the trial signups tanked 📉😅.
9) Soosee - Where does the name Soosee come from?! I’ve been trying to hypothesize but haven’t come up with anything yet 🙃
In The Netherlands we have a sweet baked good named Soesjes, it’s basically whipped cream with dough around it. That ex girlfriend who was allergic to oranges, loved soesjes, so I thought it would be fitting to name the app after the thing she loved, while it would help her avoid the things she hated. I like it when my apps have fun names, because they’re more fun to talk about like we’re doing now 😉
10) Unmute - I love this app! I saw a retweet of it this week and had to download it. I have a stutter and phone calls are so hard for me to make… especially the introduction where I need to say my name and what I need. Having my phone speak for me is 🔥 Where did you get inspiration to create this app?
Over the last few weeks I’ve been building a big new feature for Soosee, Travel Cards. It will help people when they’re abroad to explain their allergies to waiters by translating common sentences into different languages. I’m using text-to-speech to help out there, and I came across a new property named mixToTelephonyUplink, which allows you to route the TTS output into an active phone call. I was fascinated by it, but couldn’t come up with a great use case yet. I shared it on Twitter and Akuduliaty mentioned “accessibility for mute people”. I decided to make it the next weekend during the Big Brain hackathon.
11) Unmute - I think I also saw you made this in a weekend??? Is that correct? 🤯 When I usually make things in a weekend it’s fueled by rage that the thing doesn’t exist (or exist the way I want) yet. What drove you to go hard on creating and releasing Unmute?
I had already did a lot of the hard work in the weeks prior for Soosee, so I managed to get a first version up and running really quickly. The hackathon started at 9PM on Saturday, and I went to bed at 3AM after submitting the first build to Testflight. Thanks to SwiftUI it’s now really easy to make a good looking and simple to use app in very little time. I decided to keep the feature set as simple as possible so I could get it out and get feedback on potential use cases. I submitted to the app and it got approved at 1 AM on Monday morning, so the turnaround time was 30 hours, which is pretty crazy if you remember what it was likes even a few years ago with sometimes week-long review times.
12) Soosee and Unmute - What’s next for Soosee and Unmute?! Any fun new features you can share with us? 😌
The Travel Cards I mentioned before are coming at the end of the month. I attended a workshop in early April about building great Apple Watch apps and the cards are a great fit there as well so I’m finishing up on that too. When that’s done I plan to redesign the onboarding and general user experience of Soosee so that I can hit the ground running when iOS 15 is announced in early June. I’m hoping for a CoreData replacement, because I’ve been dreading learning that.. Oh, and I’ve also said that I want to have an Android version of Soosee out in May so that’s going to be challenging as well 😉
For Unmute I’m planning to keep the functionality simple for now, and use it as a project to learn best practices for accessibility. I’m filming a YouTube series where I go through all the ways I can make the app more accessible. I think it will be a nice learning experience and resource for other people as well.
13) What’s been the hardest part of being an indie dev? What the most fun part of being an indie dev?
The feeling of impostor syndrome creeps up on me every now and then. I get hundreds of amazing positive responses to Soosee, where people tell me it changes their lives, and I just shrug them off as if that’s to be expected. But then, when one person writes something mean, it can stick with me for weeks or months. I’m trying to focus on the positive parts more and more, because knowing that something I’ve made can help other people so much is definitely the most rewarding part of making your own products.
14) Is there anything else you’d like to tell the indie dev community about you?
I would suggest everyone to just build something small that helps you and then put it out into the world. The feedback, compliments, business opportunities and friendships I’ve gotten in return have been really nice. Be kind to others and help them out, and you’ll see that they will do the same for you. Even if you don’t think your projects or feedback is ‘worthy’.
15) Do you have any other indie devs that readers should follow / lookout for?
Michael Tigas is someone I look to for inspiration a lot. He reached out to me on Twitter when he had just started building Focused Work and we’ve become friends since then. He has a drive to constantly improve his app with really nice implementations that fit the ecosystem. And I’m not sure if he is considered an indie dev, but my favorite YouTuber is Stewart Lynch has been making absolutely amazing tutorials for intermediate Swift development. In general the openness and willingness to help others in our community has been extremely valuable to me.
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