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Ask HN: Review Habbit - An App to Build Your Ideal Future Self with Habits
58 points by evac on Jan 29, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 38 comments
Site: www.habbit.me

Some Background: 2 years ago, I was a non-technical college student. At the time, I was homeschooling my younger sister when we had some difficulties with her self-discipline and productivity.

The Problem I'm Trying to Solve: We tried quite a number of productivity apps but they never really worked out in the long run. They were great at efficiently tracking, reminding, or organizing things, but they never really dealt with the psychological problem of motivation and perseverance. Then again, they probably weren't meant to since most developers aren't exactly behavior psychologists and most psychologists share their expertise by writing books, not programs.

And that's how I ended up spending an entire year researching habits, learning to code, and learning to design in photoshop in my spare time. Then it took another year to actually build the app. I managed to take care of all the designs, illustrations, writing, coding, hosting, etc.

First Experimental Solution: And what came out is Habbit, where your main objective is to build your future ideal self (or selves -- you have a future self at every age). And you do that by mastering the habits needed to create that future self, whether it's exercising for future fitness, learning for future knowledge, etc. For more details, there's a walkthrough demo you can try.

Hope you guys can try it out and let me know what works and what doesn't. Ideally, I'd like to make it a useful complement to your arsenal of productivity or self-development tools.




Wow, this is really clever! At first I was thinking, "what is this? Why is there a story?" ...but if you stick with it it's very, very good. You're a very gifted illustrator and storyteller. I actually thought you borrowed the illustrations from a storybook. If things don't work out with the app you may have a future as a children's author. In fact, maybe you could publish a book version of this as a companion to the app?

I wonder if the entire experience would be better if the entire UI for the walkthrough at the beginning was the storybook without the shelf(?) and the black background, then after the story is at the end make the "last page" a fullscreen app?

The dark colors and the image mirroring was distracting and it isn't clear what its purpose is until the screen rotates, which is a very cool effect. I wonder if there's a way to achieve the same effect without rotating the screen though.

That said, an app for building habits is something I've thought about before, and I think your execution and creativity is way better than anything I would've imagined. Gamification feels like a needed component, but I wouldn't have thought of this. It almost feels like Legend of Zelda for self improvement!


Thanks for your feedbacks! And you're right about needing a favicon soon, it's among the top items on my todo for design at the moment.

If all else fails though, I'm glad that I might have a career as a children's author! But really, thanks for your kind words about the illustrations and story-telling. They mean a lot to those countless drafts of redesigns and rewrites.

I especially like your idea of publishing a book version as a companion to the web. If the app grows big enough, I may very well do that!


Also, add a favicon... easily overlooked, but very helpful to have.


Holy shit thankfully I played through the beginning.

So here are some unedited experience thoughts so far (played 10 minutes or so with it):

-Something is off about the landing page. TBH I left and then came back because I felt like an asshole for leaving, but there was nothing on the home page that told me how that site would help me build habbits/fix my future site.

-Make it more indicative that the home page slideshow leads to getting started with the website, I was still confused when I hit the end and it said "A request for the habbit"... I again you almost lost me at this point, I didnt know that was when the badassery began.

-Then I filled out the form and the page moved magically and what seemed like an incomplete app looking for a start date mailing list was a app full of life, and I am immediately glad I stuck through

-I will be a constant tester to improve myself, and look forward to giving a lot of feedback. But for now definitely look into making the landing page more 'hooking' and more explanative.


Sorry about the confusion on the landing page, you're right that I definitely need to convey information better from the start. Glad that you tried it to the end though!


clickable link: http://www.habbit.me

This is interesting from other productivity apps (namely calendars and to do lists) that I've seen in the past. The witticism in your name reinforces the theme with the story, and the design for 'Mr.Habbit' is also unique. Design aside (which is nice, by the way), the interface is relatively easy to use and I've set a few habits for tomorrow.

edit: Found some areas of improvement, I'll add more to it if I can think of anything.

- The site (mainly images) take some time to load, and vary between three to five seconds. Still an OK waiting time -- not the best. More importantly, it takes some waiting time for logging in and out. The clock animation also lags a bit as it turns and zooms in. I like that it goes from sketchbook / drawing to cg art.

- There isn't an easy way to go to the "future self" section of the site other than manually typing or bookmarking "habbit.me/futureself". The other way is through clicking "Enter Time" at your account's dashboard. Might it be better to start right at the future self page (especially for logged in users), rather than starting at the dashboard every time?

That's pretty much all I can think of, if there's any more I'll add to this post. With a few improvements, I think that you definitely can go far and I wish you the best of luck.


Thanks for the insight, especially on the second point about the future self. I'll fix that when I can.


Glad to be of some help. Another thought: it'd be good if the closing arrow for the future self module was located maybe within the box. If not that, then making it easier to associate to would work.


Wow. Just wow is all I can say. HUGE props to anyone who can learn to code and design in just a year and put out the kind of website you did (design, illustrations, interaction etc). I was expecting to see a cliche SaaS app website, but love that you took a story approach which brought me right in.

A few thoughts:

- Very hard to see the logo. I respect and understand that you are going for a subtle look with it, but maybe a hint brighter would be nice.

- Didn't realize when I was creating my "self" that I had to click the speech bubbles from my future "self" in order to advance forward.

Other than that - awesome work.


Thanks for your feedback! And certainly - I realize that the site title is a little difficult to see. I'll try to improve that in my next design iteration. (Same goes for the second point that you mentioned.)


No problem. What do you do full-time?


I'm a recent graduate from UC Berkeley actually and, since Habbit became such an important project to me, I decided to continue working on this as my full-time job instead. :)


Best of luck!


Wow this is beautiful. The opening captured my attention well and it guided me through everything so that I knew exactly what was going on. I love the little story at the beginning. The site engages me emotionally which is something that a generic goal tracking site wouldn't do. I'm going to give the site a go around to start some habits I've been wanting to start and see if it helps.

As an aside, do you have a monetization strategy for this site?


Thank you for the kind words, I really appreciate you taking the time to review!

As for my business model, you pay what you feel it's worth. At the end of every month, you can review your progress and set your price. While that might not be a contemporary method, I feel that each individual will probably derive different levels of value from Habbit. :)


You might want to do some kind of emotional connection before "donating" paying (1), and review the studies on "pay what you wish".

I can't find the best one I saw (which I believe said to set a default price), but I found these others:

http://www.freakonomics.com/2010/07/20/how-to-maximize-pay-w...

this one is long, but has a section on "pay what you wish" midway through.

http://conversionxl.com/pricing-experiments-you-might-not-kn...

(1) I mean something like saying: "you accomplished X goal this month !!!". Probably someone else has more specific advice :) , I've never tried pay-as-you wish myself, but seen lots of previous advice here!


Also, it seems that if you click on the Enter button on the first page under the clock more than once, it will zoom in too far.


Oh boy, thanks for catching that!


Exactly, this is great, the design is impressive, and the engaging story at the start engages you emotionally :) as dcolgan says.

I'll add my "wow" to the list. Based on the responses, you definitely hit the right chord. AND it's a problem worth solving.


Stunning site and remarkably original approach to an old problem. I look forward to giving this a proper trial.

I dont suppose you have data on the age distribution of people using the site? My 13 year old self might have sniggered at the storybook style but the way you've dealt with the psychology of motivation and habits seems suitable for all ages.


Ok this is awesome. I really need this. When I try to change my way of life, I mostly do a good job in the beginning but than all of a sudden I find myself once again where I left off. It is really frustrating. I need to find something more sustainable. So I hope this helps me Thnx!


Honestly one of the coolest sites I've seen in a while, but if I hadn't read the comments, I would have left the site right away- there's no hook to get a user to stay there!

But the design and effects/transitions are crazy awesome and they're pulled off perfectly. I really like how it gets you to think about who you want to be first- so then you can choose habits that will help you get there. To be honest though, I'm currently using an app Lift that I found a few days ago. If you made a mobile version of this, I would switch in a heartbeat, however!


I'm glad that you like it! And thanks for the feedback, I'll definitely be working on how to better hook users on the homepage.

I plan on having a mobile version of the app too, but as I'm still only one person working on the web app full-time, it might be a while before that future mobile app comes out. In the meantime, I hope your current app works out for you!


This is unique. I have no idea how well it can convert or whether or not it will actually work and help users, but it is lovingly made and I hope you flush it out.

I think there is something here.


misc quick random thoughts

I loved the intro. I've seen the Epic Win framing, but a friend I found who was using it ended up not turning it on to see all the things they were not epically winning at. This made me think of The Diamond Age.

I thought I'd gotten it wrong and that instead of my name, I was supposed to have entered a habit, think I misunderstood the text.

How do I undo task completion? Things got slightly confusing after entering three habits. I didn't realise I'd started one, then refreshed and completed it accidentally. The rotating green circle showing Done is nice, but erk, I am not worthy yet! Maybe similar and other-colour to show something is in progress?

(edit; I guess that Done Today relates to the growing of the plant? Apologies, I'm slightly confused. I'll leave it open and come back later.)

(edit2; got it started but not green now)

Even though it says done, I can't start another task. I check the first task, almost forgetting that I need to mouseover the figure and click (having to wait to mouseover to get the advice doesn't help, someone might not try that) to enter the task options. I can pause it there, then change. Doing that from the clock page would be one less hidden away click. Also, a transition to get into the task zone could help? If that stalk is going to grow as time goes by, make it pulse glow or something to gain intrigue?

One can enter items for future years. I see now I then choose to 'Set as Active Future Self'. I like that idea of context switching, the "future as existence in progress", but the UX/IA is not entirely intuitive yet. A way to jump between myselves from the panelled screen would be quicker.

How far might you looking to use the metaphors? "Story Mode" for the younger at heart? Golden thread and such could be worth using. Or a pool of suggested habits? Or questions that can be answered to help gain insight (and track past selves later on)? Or Oblique Strategies? Or an anonymously networked Half Bakery like spiders web that can be visited and interacted with.. And/or a dream diary?

Could a length of time be involved for some types of habit that require it? "'Do something for 35 minutes related to your _project work_!', suggests the Habbit to your Second Future Self, as you both stroll along the banks of time.."

Somehow suggest to users to bookmark and maybe pin the tab?


Wow, thanks for your wealth of feedbacks! It's especially valuable to me since I'm so used to the interface that I wasn't quite sure which part of the interface might not be as intuitive as I liked.

Thanks also for your ideas, definitely considering some of them already!


Glad I could help some, and thanks for creating the site. Any chance of a basic blog or Twitter for notification of changes?


Yep, probably going to get a basic blog up by the end of this week (as soon as I take care of a dozen urgent things on my todo list!)


One really annoying thing is that I ran thru the whole story and added my habits... then wanted to save by creating a profile. Typed in my email address and preferred password. And then it stopped working. Both the buttons didn't work, clicking on the greyed-out area didn't work either. You had a great app there buddy, but just lost me and potentially many others.

(For bug tracking, I'm running Chrome 25.0.1364.58


Thanks for letting me know. It seems that there were some problems at around the time you were on the site (judging by the time you posted this comment). I'm looking into it right so hopefully it doesn't happen again.


This is so cool! There are a few issues (clock hands load before the face does; no detailed 'about' section) but it's pretty impressive as it is.

Since I'm following in your footsteps and about to start the 'build' phase, I'm curious about the tools you used: which host, stack, framework etc, and why did you choose them? Did you learn everything from scratch?

Congrats on the launch btw, it's quite a feat:)


Thanks, glad you like what you see!

As for the tools I used, it's currently hosted on Heroku and I built the app on the Meteor framework and MongoDB database. I chose them to let me focus primarily on the core app and design. That way, while I still had to know enough to use them, I didn't need to spend another couple months learning the deep ends of all the technology.

In so far as learning from scratch, I actually already had a basic foundation in the areas I needed to learn. In design, I grew up as an avid artist who enjoyed drawing, crafting, and doing some crappy graphic designs...at one point, I was even seriously considering becoming an architect. So picking up photoshop and building my graphic design skills weren't too bad for me.

In programming, I took an AP computer science course in high school and loved it. I unfortunately didn't continue programming afterward, so my ninja java skills are pretty non-existent by now. Nevertheless, it probably helped me see programming as something I could learn instead of this complete black box of mystery that truly non-technical people would see.

So I feel it would be unfair toward others who had none of these backgrounds to say that I truly learned everything from scratch. Beyond these basic skills though, yes, I had to start from all the itty-bitty basics of web development, such as the different languages available, figuring out what the heck is a library/plug-in/framework/jquery, using the console, how to deploy, and so many other first-time experiences that I can't list them all. I'm happy to say that these are second-nature to me by now though, so if I had to do it all again, I think I could probably build Habbit in half the time.


Thanks, Meteor looks amazing, it could well replace what I'm currently looking at!

Our backgrounds are so similar (down to the 'considering becoming an architect' part) it's scary - you've given me confidence that I can pull this off on my own:)


In that case, good luck to your next venture! :D


I really liked it. Imaginative. There's millions of startups now trying to solve (mostly) the same set of problems. I think a good new twist is needed, but also to pull people in. Capture their imagination, and this did it for me.

Keep at it because you obviously have some terrific creative ideas.


Wow, honestly.. wow. My initial impressions are that this is fantastic and I am already planning on sticking with it!

You say "where your main objective is to build your future ideal self (or selves -- you have a future self at every age)" in the OP. How can you have more than 1 future self?


Thanks, glad your first impression is so positive! And of course, I'll be working hard to make it sure it stays fantastic for the long-term.

As for future selves, I'm making the assumption that what you want to be at 30 is different from what you want to be at 60. So even if they're both in the future, they're in different stages of your future.

And in the short-term, I'm assuming that some might focus on improving a different aspect of themselves each year, like focusing on exercise and fitness for one year and master those habits, then move on the next year to focus on finance and career, and so on. From that perspective, you'll have slightly different selves and goals in each year.

Those are just my assumptions for now though. I'll probably observe and improve the use of future selves over time based on actual usage.


This is so beautiful! I will use it to set some habits i failed in the past.




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