We just finished releasing a major update to myHomework where students can now join a Teachers.io class and automatically receive assignments, tests, syllabus, attachments and announcements directly on their devices. Every major release I rethink the design and try to make it look better than before. This time was no different. myHomework has been around for a couple of years now, so I’ve gathered enough assets that I think it’s time to write about its evolution, where it came from, what it means, etc…
It all started with the iPhone app in 2009. I was still in college, the iPhone SDK had come out, people were starting to write apps and become successfull, so I decided to do the same. I thought to myself that even if the app didn’t become successful at least it was a great thing to have on a resume. So I went out to B&N, bought one of the first books dedicated exclusively to Objective-C and started learning. A few days later I started to get the hang of it and started thinking of what kind of app to build.
Since I was still in school my biggest problem was staying organized. Even though my school used to give student planners for free I would always forget it in my dorm room, or lose it. I remember going to the App Store searching for a student planner app but the ones available were all ugly and you had to pay for it. So why not a student planner app that was free and looked cool? Well that’s what I decided to build…
While looking for some design inspiration I noticed that some apps were trying to mimic real life objects. I remember thinking that those apps looked really cool, so instead of making it look like any other app in the store with a blue navigation bar and a black toolbar I decided to make it look like a notebook. So I whipped out my basic tutorial, learned photoshop skills and started designing. I remember having some issues with the navigation design, I really didn’t want to add that black toolbar for navigation. So my girlfriend (now my wife) had this amazing idea of having the navigation look like sticky notes, so I decided to do it.
After buiding the app I had to come up with a name. Instead of coming up with a new word in the dictionary I wanted a name that actually meant something. Around that time a lot of apps were following the Apple wording trend of putting the letter ‘i’ in front of a word. I remember seeing iHomework, iStudent, iStudy and etc… I also couldn’t use just the word because they were already claimed. So I thought to myself: I’m building this app for me, so I can keep track of my classes, so I can keep track of my homework so I decided to use the word ‘my’ and I called it myHomework.
I launched myHomework, graduated from college, joined a really large corporation in Kansas City (Cerner) as a software engineer and left myHomework to the side. I then created a few other apps just for fun during my free time, such as the simple kids game called Touch Boom! and a 2010 world cup app called my Goal.
In 2010 I joined a team at Cerner to do web development for a new consumer product. While on that team I learned a lot about web development, especially from two guys: Ryan and Keith. Towards the end of that year the execs wanted a new product, but they wanted it to be built in only two weeks! So they put me, Ryan, Keith and a designer in a room and we got it done. After that we noticed that the 3 of us could work really well together so we started looking at some side projects to work on. Around that time myHomework was doing well, it had close to a million downloads and students were loving it, so we saw an opportunity there and decided to join forces and start a company and we called it Instin.
When that happened we decided to rebuild myHomework from scratch. I removed the sticky notes metaphor but kind of kept the notebook look and feel. The navigation was moved to a launcher view which kind of mimics the iPhone launcher. We noticed that worked really well and allowed us to add in new pages and features when needed. Around May 2011 we launched a new version of myHomework for iPhone, a website and an Android app.
During 2011 we got a lot more students using myHomework, a lot of feedback on how to improve it and a lot of requests for an iPad app. That’s when a new redesign of myHomework came to be, I ported the iPhone app into an universal app, improved the design to have a better texture and gradient and nearly the end of 2011 we launched myHomework for iPad.
2012 came around we noticed that by launching the iPad app we got a lot more downloads and users passing the 2 million download mark. While working on myHomework as a side project for nearly a year we learned a lot about the education space and how there is an opportunity to increase education with the use of technology. We also learned that the current offerings weren’t great and how students and teachers were not happy with what they had/have. So in May 2012 Keith, Ryan and I decided to quit our jobs to work full time on our company Instin and myHomework.
If you are wondering what Instin means, it stands for Einstein but without the ‘e’s
Since May 2012 we’ve been busy! We launched a Windows 8 app which you can read more about it here. We also launched a completely new design of myHomework’s website, iPhone and iPad app that’s a lot more crisp, clean and easy to touch. We also launched a new product called Teachers.io which is a place for teachers to organize their classes, assignments and resources and for students that are using myHomework to automatically download the teacher’s content on their devices and be reminded of when things are due.
With this new version of myHomework we are taking it to a new level. We are no longer just a student planner. Along with Teachers.io, myHomework is starting to become a classroom tool that hopefully will improve the experience that students and teachers are having in class and the current frustations will go away. With this new version we also have a more beautiful logo. The blue background represents the cover of the notebook where the pencil and eraser are placed on the top.
I’m extremelly exited about how far myHomework has gone and about what is yet to come. As we grow we are commited to making the life of students and teachers easier. Hopefully one day we will be able to look back and see what a great job we’ve done.