We’re in the final week of beta testing prior to launching Rego, Makalu’s second product for the iPhone. I wanted to share with you a few reflections on the experience of getting here.

Simple products are hard

We’ll post more about this after launch, including a video of all the UI revisions we’ve made, but once again we find ourselves profoundly intrigued by how difficult it is to create a great—simple, clear & elegant—user interface model.

As always, we found that a “great” model is rarely pre-conceived; rather, it’s discovered through lots and lots of iteration. When we post the video, we think you’ll be amazed at how many iterations a simple little app like Rego can experience!

Lessons learned

What makes Rego different is that it’s meant to be private. Unlike apps like Foursquare, you don’t have to worry that Rego’ing that wonderful little cafe you discovered is going to expose it to the rest of the world. Sure, you can share a place with a friend if you want—and we make it such that they can seamlessly import it into their own Rego—but it’s an explicit action the user has to take. By default, everything’s private.

Preparing for our beta, we innocently thought we’d do our testers a favor by pre-loading Rego with a number of already-captured places and moments.

Huge mistake!

Why? Because that simple little inclusion gave almost all our testers the impression that Rego was primarily for discovery and sharing, completely obscuring the most important aspect of Rego, it’s privacy. (One tester commented, that they found zero places captured near them. Of course—that’s the point!)

So that was a big lesson learned for us. We had been considering including one location—the Makalu office, where Rego was born—with the final 1.0 product, but having this beta experience behind us, we know that would be a bad, bad idea!

So instead, we’ll ship with some great blank slates.


Our biggest struggle is positioning.

We consciously crafted Rego to be a general utility that would adapt to a broad range of personal needs related to location. I might use Rego to keep track of my favorite restaurants and cafes. A real estate agent might use Rego to capture prospects and sales locations. An archeologist might use Rego to capture and classify “finds”. A fisherman might use Rego to track their catches. A tour guide might use Rego to package up interesting places for their clients.

In that respect, Rego is a general utility that would likely be of interest to everybody.

Great, right? Well, actually it’s not.

We’ve found it surprisingly difficult to effectively communicate that “general utility” value proposition. When my wife saw me Rego’ing my favorite cafes, she lost interest—that’s irrelevant to her. She didn’t see past my usage to how the facilities of the app could be useful to her. And we’ve found the same reaction from many of our beta testers.

But something interesting happened last week.

My wife scheduled a family weekend trip to Paris and I immediately decided to use Rego to both plan the trip and then capture memories in the form of notes and photos while there.

I began by Googling for interesting attractions, restaurants, and things to do in Paris. I then created places in Rego for all the ones I wanted to visit and organized them into a collection called “Paris Trip”. (I even added some notes with opening times, addresses, and phone numbers and a couple photos to help set the context when I’m there.)

Looking at the resulting map, I could immediately see that our hotel was 5km from most of the attractions we wanted to visit (unfortunately, though, it was too late to cancel.) So I also Rego’d the closest metro points.

Then while traveling in Paris, I used Rego constantly—to see what the closest “next attraction” was and to capture our memories in photos and notes attached to the places we visited (both the ones we’d planned, and new ones we discovered and Rego’d while there.)

After returning home, I blogged about the trip and posted a few public Rego shares for some of the places we visited. When those shares are viewed on iPhones, they can be directly imported into Rego—useful for others planning a trip to Paris who might want to experience some of the places we enjoyed.

The reaction to this article from several people, including my wife, went something like this:

Oh, wow—now I get Rego! It's the ultimate app for planning and documenting travels. I want it, I want it, I want it!

Planning and journaling travels will probably be the most common use case for Rego, and where its value will shine the most. But that’s just one of an infinite number of usages—which presents us with a delimma: Should we position Rego as a general purpose utility, or should we position it as a travel app?

Our current inclination is to position it as a travel app, but we’re torn over potentially losing the broader general-purpose market. We’ll likely be doing some A/B testing to help answer this question.

Coming soon

We’re going to be submitting Rego to the App Store next week, the first of March, and expect it to be available about a week after that.

Rego will be a free download, limited to about 10 places. An in-app purchase of $2.99 will unlock it for unlimited usage.

We’re planning to run a launch sale of $0.99 for about a week, so if you’d like to be notified when it’s available just head over to the Rego site and sign up today!