I’ve been pretty quiet on here for the past few months - that’s because a second, all-new CARROT app is launching this Thursday, 8/15. More details soon!
On CARROT, iOS development & design
CARROT 3.0 Changelog: Extended Edition
Less than 2 months after CARROT first graced the App Store with her presence, I’m proud to announce that Version 3.0 is now available! This update is another huge one, with your three most-requested features: reminders, recurring tasks, and Siri integration. As before, I thought I’d do an “extended edition” of the changelog since there’s a lot going on here.
Greetings, lazy humans. Because I am a benevolent overlord, I come bearing an update with your most-requested features.
- Reminders/due dates (Unlocks at Level 18). Having trouble remembering what you’re supposed to be doing? Don’t worry, it happens to all meatbags! Just double tap on a task to set a reminder.
When you double tap on a task, you can select when you want to be reminded: later today (3 hours from now), tomorrow (tomorrow at 8 am), next week (next Monday at 8 am), or pick date (go crazy and pick any time you like!).
Once you’ve set a reminder, a blue dot will appear next to the task. For tasks that are past due, this dot will turn red.
To clear a reminder, just double tap the task and then tap clear reminder.
- Hard difficulty mode (Level 22). Looking for a challenge? Type “CARROT hard mode” in my command line and I’ll get fed up with you much more quickly.
Created expressly for CARROT’s sickest, most masochistic minions. You have just four hours to get something done before she’ll start getting pissed off.
- Siri sync (Level 24). Get Siri to do your dirty work for you! Tell her, “Remind me to kick a hipster on Friday at 9pm” and I’ll import the task the next time you launch me. (For more details, tap Support > Help in my menu.)
When you first activate the Siri/Reminders integration, CARROT will pull whatever you have in your “Reminders” list in Apple’s Reminders app into her list. When CARROT creates the new task, she will complete the corresponding item in the Reminders app so you don’t get reminded twice. (The task doesn’t get deleted from your Reminders app – you can still find it in your “Completed” list.)
If you don’t want all of your reminders to get imported into CARROT, add a new list named “CARROT” (all caps!) to the Reminders app. Next, quit CARROT by double tapping the home button and removing her from the multitasking drawer. Then, tell Siri “Add feed attack ostriches to my CARROT list.” When you next launch CARROT, this task will get added to your list. (Meanwhile, if you tell Siri “remind me to stop being lazy,” this item will remain in your default reminders list.)
If you’re having trouble, make sure that you have a list named either “Reminders” or “CARROT” in Apple’s Reminders app. (Capitalization matters!) Then, ensure iCloud sync is turned on for Reminders. Finally, quit and relaunch CARROT – she can only look for new lists on a full relaunch.
Note: CARROT does not yet understand location-based reminders.
- Recurring tasks (Level 28). Sick of entering tasks like “blink” and “waste space” over and over again? You’re in luck! Now, when setting a reminder, you can make common tasks repeat.
Just double tap a task, then tap “pick date.” Pick the date and time you’d like your reminder to start, then tap “recur” to choose whether you’d like this to be a daily, weekly, or monthly reminder.
To clear a recurring task, delete it from your list.
Note: Once you complete a recurring task, you have to wait one hour before you can complete it again. No cheating!
Here’s the rest of the changes that didn’t make it into the App Store’s update notes:
- Ecstatic Mood (Level 75).
- Proud that you hit Todo List Zero? Share the news with all your social media friends!
- Sped up the “pull to create a task” gesture.
- Tap the box at the top of the screen to scroll your list to the top.
- Tap the transparent overlay when adding/editing a task to dismiss the keyboard.
- Made the “toggle icon” command more obvious.
- Fixed a couple of annoying bugs, including one that causes text to overlap and another that causes the menu to get stuck.
- A bunch of little changes… and some fun surprises.
Two months since launch, two epic updates out the door. Rest assured, my Maker has much more in store for you. Follow @CARROT_app on Twitter to stay up to date on the latest news.
Because 3.0 took so long to get approved (it was submitted to Apple on February 25th), I’m already halfway done yet another huge update.
3.0 focused on adding “boring”/”useful” todo list features; 4.0 will focus on fun stuff.
Thanks so much for all your support. If you like this update and want to see more in the future, make sure you go and rate (or re-rate) CARROT in the App Store!
Opening up Game Center
CARROT doesn’t just encourage you to get things done – she motivates you to get more things done. You want to see what she’s going to say next, you want to earn more points, and you’re dying to earn that next unlock.
So imagine what adding the social/competitive layer of a leaderboard to the app would do for your motivation. Getting stuff done wouldn’t be just a solo endeavor anymore; you’d be actively competing against friends, family, and Internet strangers to see who’s kicking the most ass in real life.
But CARROT’s listed in the Productivity section of the App Store, so she can’t use Game Center’s leaderboard feature.
This, despite the fact that CARROT is just as much a game as she is a todo list. You earn points and levels for completing tasks. You receive rewards and unlock app upgrades for leveling up. You play mini-games to earn extra points. You get to participate in an epic story that spans 30 levels. You manage the sadistic AI construct CARROT, who’s essentially a virtual pet, to keep her happy.
These, to me, are some of the very things that make a game a game.
Of course, CARROT’s a pretty unique case – there aren’t any other gamified todo lists with a story and a virtual pet that berates you for being lazy. If Apple allowed CARROT to use Game Center, they’d have to open it up to everybody.
Would that be such a bad thing, though?
Before the advent of Game Center, iOS games used a number of different services, like OpenFeint and Plus+, to host leaderboards and achievements. It was a mess for players, since their data was scattered and they had to keep track of different logins. This in turn made it difficult to build up a network of friends, as the next popular game to come along might use a completely different service and you’d have to build up your friends list all over again.
Game Center was designed to fix these problems and, to a large extent, it’s been successful. It has millions of users, it’s used by just about every game that’s been released in the past few years, and – because it’s built into iOS – you’re always logged in.
Now, however, we’re starting to see history repeat itself with gamification apps.
Since they can’t use Game Center, apps like Fitocracy, Wake n Shake, and Zombie, Run! have no choice but to build their own leaderboard- and achievement-tracking systems. It’s not a good experience for users, since they have to go through the trouble of logging into these systems only to discover that none of their friends are on there. And it’s not a good experience for developers, since they have to spend the time building a new system from scratch – and paying for server costs – when a perfectly good free service already exists, baked right into iOS.
Letting gamification apps into Game Center wouldn’t hurt the ecosystem in any way that I can think of beyond the fact that some developers will undoubtedly overdo it. That’s a problem that can crop up with any feature, though, and it’s usually self-correcting over time as developers learn best practices.
The question it really boils down to is this: would it detract from the user experience if you start earning achievements in your favorite RSS reader? You personally might not like gamification all that much, but it’s hard to argue that Game Center functionality could make otherwise boring apps more social, engaging, and entertaining for a lot of people.
Gamification apps are only going to get more popular as time goes on. I’d love to see Apple broaden their definition of what constitutes a game so that apps like CARROT can take their rightful place on the green felt poker table of Game Center.
Unlocking the minimalist app
When I set out to build CARROT, I needed the todo list to get out of the way so that CARROT’s twisted personality could shine.
That meant designing the simplest todo list on the App Store. Just pull down to add a new task, swipe right to complete it. That’s it.
No completed tasks to manage, no lists to get lost in, no UI walkthroughs to memorize. And gestural cues, like the launch animation that reminds you how to open the menu and create a new task, are there to help out just in case you haven’t used her in a while.
CARROT’s launch trailer.
After CARROT launched, I inevitably got a bunch of feature requests from CARROT’s admirers. “CARROT’s adorable, but why can’t I see my completed tasks?” “I’m in love with CARROT, but I need to be able to edit tasks before I can ask for her hand in marriage!” “I am interested in worshipping CARROT as my new god. But first, I want push notifications!”
App designers, myself included, have fallen head over heels for this minimalist trend. Flat design is beautiful, and it’s new and different in the iOS world. But the minimalist apps we’re producing are sometimes so devoid of features that it’s difficult to use them for anything beyond the novelty factor.
Adding a bunch of features to any app is a tricky proposition, of course, let alone to a minimalist one. At least with a skeuomorphic design, you can get away with having a bunch of different buttons on one screen; with a flat design, you just can’t.
So what to do?
As with many of the things that make CARROT unique as a todo list, I looked to games for inspiration.
When you play a game, you start out with only one or two basic abilities. New ones are introduced over the course of the game, once you’ve gotten used to messing with the old ones.
Plants vs. Zombies, for example, starts you off with just the simple peashooter. All it can do is shoot a little pea at the approaching undead. Every few levels, though, a new plant gets added to your arsenal; one explodes, another acts like a magnet, and another swallows zombies whole. You have plenty of time with each plant to learn how to use it.
PopCap never would’ve hooked the casual market if they threw all 40+ plants at you in the first level and expected you to figure out what they all did. The slow ramping up of features is what makes the game so easy to get into, even for people who don’t normally play games.
This same thinking is easily carried over to CARROT. You start off with the ability to create and complete tasks, then you unlock additional features as you kick ass in real life and level up in her game.
CARROT’s 2.0 update trailer.
You’ll have already used the basic pull to create and swipe to complete gestures for a day or two (or for five minutes if you’re cheating) by the time a long-press-and-drag gesture for rearranging tasks is introduced at level 3. Your brain’s ready to learn that new gesture.
A couple levels later, I can get rid of the animation that plays when you tap a task. If you’ve used CARROT for that long, you’re not going to forget how to complete a task; the animation, used as a cue to remind you about the swipe-to-complete gesture, is no longer needed. So now that tap gesture can be repurposed for a more advanced feature (editing the task, in this case).
This system also allows me to do a bunch of crazy stuff that I could never get away with in any other app.
Once you hit level 7, for example, you can type “CARROT I’m bored” into her command line to get a suggestion on something for you to do. In any other app, if it was included at all, a feature like this would be buried in a help screen, destined to be unearthed only by the poweruser. But because I’m meting out each unlockable over time, I can highlight it as a reward for hitting a specific level. It then becomes just as prominent as any other feature because everyone who has reached that level will have been forced to read about it. This prominence, and the fact that it’s presented to you separately from other features, makes it much more likely you’ll actually try it out.
Another example – I wanted CARROT to be able to send you amusing/creepy/amusingly creepy push notifications when you haven’t used her for a while (i.e., “You look so peaceful when you sleep.”). I knew that new users to the app would likely get annoyed with such a feature, however; it might even cause them to delete her. But it works great with the unlockables system: if you’ve made it to level 13 and unlocked the alerts, then you probably like CARROT enough to get messages from her every once in a while.
In addition to filling out her feature set, unlockables also give you agency. You’re not a passive user of CARROT. Instead, your actions are actively making her a better app. You want to unlock your list of completed tasks? Or the new bonus round mini-game feature? You’d best get some shit done in real life.
The unlockables thus give you something to work towards – and a reason to keep coming back to her. That was one of my main goals in building CARROT in the first place: to create a todo list that gave you a real reason to keep using it (as opposed to a toy that you open once, enter in a few tasks, then promptly forget about and never launch again).
Finally, the unlockables reward the people who matter most: CARROT’s dedicated fans. After spending 5 minutes with most productivity/utility apps, you’ll have seen everything there is to see. CARROT, meanwhile, has surprises waiting around every corner. You could use her for a year and still not see everything she has to offer. (And that’s not counting all the new content I’ve got planned.) So, while the majority of users might not reach the higher levels, those who do will be delighted by the rewards waiting for them.
Some people will undoubtedly be annoyed that they have to use CARROT for days just to unlock features that’d be standard in any other todo list app.
But that’s fine. CARROT isn’t like other todo list apps.
She’s an experiment. She’s ever-changing. And she’s never going to be perfect or complete.
That, to me, is the most exciting thing about this sadistic little app.
Take her for a spin if you haven’t already.
2.0 Changelog: Extended Edition
The actual CARROT 2.0 changelog was way too long to include in the “What’s New” section on the App Store, so I thought I’d do an extended edition with more details. My comments are in italics. Take it away, CARROT!
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I just wanted to post a quick note of thanks to CARROT users everywhere. The response so far has been nothing short of amazing. People all over the world have fallen in love with CARROT and her twisted personality, and all I did was create a todo list that I personally would enjoy using. I expected to get a total of maybe 30 downloads.
I’m so glad you all proved me wrong that I’ve been working nonstop on a special surprise.
CARROT’s first update, packed with so many new features that I felt confident calling it CARROT 2.0, was just submitted for review to the App Store last night – just three short weeks after 1.0 premiered.
You’ll be happy to hear that I have significantly extended the amount of time it takes before CARROT starts getting angry with you. It’ll also be much easier to make her happy once you do piss her off. (Originally, I had intended for CARROT’s angry state to be her default state, and for it to be nearly impossible to leave that state. But, to my surprise, people really care about keeping CARROT happy.)
The other huge change is the addition of some more advanced todo list features. I found a clever way to implement them without compromising CARROT’s easy-to-use minimalist design. This will begin the process of transforming her from a fun toy into a truly useful app. But more on that later.
I’m very excited about Version 2.0, as well as the groundwork it lays for future updates. I hope to produce relatively frequent updates with additional todo list features, entertaining personality quirks for CARROT, and new story chapters.
Your continued support is not just much appreciated – it’s essential to ensuring these big content updates keep coming!