My 13 year old published his first app called Aarti Guide on the AppStore. It is connected with the festival of Ganesha, the elephant-headed god, and was available on the App Store on 29th August, the first day of the festival. This was his first iOS development project after being self-taught through courses on Udemy and books. I thought this would be a good excuse to get him oriented with building a product the right way, rather than immediately jumping into code, which he couldn’t wait to do 🙂 What better use could summer holidays be put to than learning about Agile and Product Management?!!
During the Ganesha festival, people go to their friends’ houses to pay obeisances to Ganesha and sing songs, known as aartis. Some of these songs are in Marathi, and some are slokas in Sanskrit. People can recite a few of them from memory, but also need to refer to booklets written in the Devanagari script. There are never enough booklets for everyone to use. As a result, many people simply clap in rhythm while the singing is going on and cannot participate fully. Moreover, the second generation of children, especially those born and growing up in the US, are not engaged in this ritual because they do not know the aartis and cannot read them in Devanagari. From our own experience, our 9 year old would find it very challenging to stay engaged during this whole process. There is also no specific order in which the aartis are recited, people generally have a good handle on the first three aartis, but after that it is ad-hoc. In one recital session, people typically sing between 5 and 15 aartis and slokas.
So we thought, with the festival soon approaching, it would be a good idea to take this up as a project. Most people already have a smartphone. Why not build an app that effectively replaced the aarti booklet, and thereby allow everybody attending a recital session to fully participate with the use of their phones to read the aartis they did not know by heart. An improvement on the booklet would be by way of transliteration of the aartis in English for the younger generation to follow along and read.
Target Customer Segment & User Personas
Who would be the customers of this app? We identified our customer segment as Marathi-speaking families having a smartphone or tablet to download and use the app.
Who would be the users of this app? We came up with two user personas:
- Adults who read and speak Marathi, who may or may not know a few aartis by heart, and need to refer to a booklet
- Second generation children at least 9 years old, who do not read and barely speak Marathi, but are very adept and savvy at using their parents’ smartphones and tablets
We felt this simple outline was sufficient to know who we would be designing the product for.
Minimum Viable Product
As we started to talk with prospective users of the app, a long list of capabilities started to emerge.
- Most booklets had at least 20 different aartis and slokas, covering songs for all the popular gods. So if the app was going to replace the booklet, it had to have at least an equal number available in the app.
- Ability to read the aarti in Devanagari and English
- Not more than two clicks to get to the detailed lyrics of an aarti. As the aartis are sung in a rather fast tempo, having too many clicks would slow down the process. The app should not interfere with the natural rhythm of singing the aartis.
- Ability to order the list in the desired sequence
- Create and store a playlist of aartis in the desired sequence
- Share the ordered playlist of aartis with other users, so that there would be no guessing of which aarti to sing next
- Support iOS and Android
This was quite a long list and since our developer was a fresh beginner with newly minted knowledge of iOS, we felt it was best to keep it simple rather than too ambitious and not lose his motivation in the project 🙂 So we decided to define the MVP as shown by the red colored items in the list above. We also decided to only support the iPhone and not iPad for the MVP. Most people do not go to other people’s houses with their own iPads, but they always have their iPhone with them.
As my son went about setting up his project in Xcode, we drew some mockups of the user interface on the whiteboard and showed them to some users. As development started in Agile mode, the goal was to have a working build every three days, essentially two builds a week. Sometimes my son would run into issues, and get stuck and have to ask questions on Slashdot. Other times he would decide to take the week off and do what summer vacations are good for – sleeping, reading, playing and hanging out with friends. But there was a deadline. The app had to be on the Appstore on Aug 29th, and that meant it had to be submitted to Apple at least a week prior. So the pressure of the deadline kept the development real 🙂
It was a proud feeling to have the 1.0 MVP delivered, packaged and submitted to the AppStore a week before the festival was to start. The app was available for download on Aug 29th as intended! Friends and family in the US and India were informed through emails and Facebook.
A few people were kind to submit positive reviews on the AppStore, while many people gave feedback via emails, some of it below. Most importantly, people called and told about how their children could participate by reading the aartis in English.
I downloaded it and came in very handy for the aartis. This time I could participate fully without just humming with the others.
What a nice app. Just downloaded.
Hey congratulations Viren, we use your app last night, it was very useful.
Good job Viren!! All your efforts were totally worth it!! We followed your sequence during the Aartis too. It would be nice if we could enlarge the font – not sure how hard that is. Keep up the good work!
All in all, it was a worthwhile project for Viren as he got to apply what he learnt, and build something that solved a need and was useful for a lot of people.
Some screenshots from interim builds below.