Camping lists, made easy.
Making a Group Packing List Sucks
I’ve camped more than ever after moving to Colorado. Whether planning a small backpacking adventure or a large car-camping party, there’s always one problem I encountered: getting organized with a group is a pain.
Who’s bringing the eggs? Pots? Utensils? Creating a list for things the entire group needs to bring is almost impossible. Long chains of emails usually ensue, leading to confusion and incomplete gear when you’re out in the wild.
Eating My Own Dog Food
I like to solve my own problems in side-projects. That way, I start off knowing the pain points and value a solution enough to build it myself. Best case scenario, others feel the same way, worst case is I'll at least my my life easier.
However, this line of thinking can be dangerous if taken too far. It's great to solve my own problem with an app, but soon after identifying what problem I'm trying to solve and the least amount of work I need to in order to solve it, I'll need to start reaching out to other potential users and get their feedback.
If I'm lucky, others will sympathize with my problem and value a solution. Then, they will start to uncover nuances and related information that will help inform the product.
We took a hard look at how to organize a group camping adventure and realized that there’s a lot of bad ways to solve this problem: email chains, Google Sheets, to-do apps/lists, or phone calls.
All these solutions require some degree of pain. They take too long to set up, are hard to share, or are just too much work.
Pack Party’s lists would need to be easy to share, easy to create and reusable. Every time I organize a group adventure, I search my inbox for an email that is now over 5 years old with a packing list from my first trip in Colorado.
That's where we started.
Light & Easy
For this app to work, it needed to be simple to use, and easy to adopt. Using our history of camping in groups as a reference, we took a stab at the essential steps of planning a group camping trip:
- Set a date & location
- Share that date & location with friends
- Find out who’s going
- Share a packing list for shared things like food, utensils and drinks
- Figure out who’s bringing what
We started with a core set of UX requirements:
- Create a packing list for the group
- Share it with friends
- Tell the group what you’re going to bring
UX Design Philosophy
We started by wire framing out the essential parts of the workflow. We knew that users would need to create a trip somehow, and then add a list, but it was essential to order things in a natural way and make it as easy as possible . We looked to apps like Trello and Virgin America for inspiration.
Making it Easy
We knew that our users would need to see the value of this app right away. I didn’t want to bog them down in creating an account before they’d seen and felt the value of the app. It took a few iterations on wireframes and in code, but we finally arrived at a flow that would let new users create a trip and invite their friends without ever creating a profile.
With this sign up wizard flow, we’re able to get a new user started right away, and then shoot them an email later to complete their sign up process. Let’s put the fun stuff first, save the boring stuff for later!
The Right Tools for the Job
We are big fans of Laravel. In many ways, it made PHP fun again for us, so we initially aimed at using Laravel 5 to give us a leg up on the development. It didn’t take us long to discover Taylor Otwell’s extension of Laravel aimed at making building SAAS products easy. It’s called “Spark,” and it is awesome.
- User authentication is built in
- Roles and billing are built in
- Basic page views are built
- Reduces initial dev time
- Spark comes with it’s own styles, which usually is more trouble than it’s worth
- Along with styles, it has it's own views to overcome
- Although initial dev time is reduced, it's possible future dev time will be increased as the product grows
The Work Continues
We’ve rolled out our beta version of the app and will continue to make improvements. Our goal is to have a little more than a MVP when camping season rolls around again. We look forward to improving the design, adding features, and prepping our marketing campaign!