College is a special time like no other when you can explore, adventure, and experiment as much as you can. One of my favorite experiences was working on a software engineering project with a team of 3 other people for our software engineering course. While brainstorming an idea, we realized how tricky it can be to live with other people and how common it is for college students especially to run into housemate issues. So, as a solution, we developed a React Native app called Homie that centralizes household tasks (i.e.: chores, bills, and communal groceries/items).
With so many software engineers out there amidst a booming tech culture, it is humbling to discover that the ideas you come up with and believe to be novel and unique actually already exist in the market. While we rode a high from our initial brainstorming to build a solution that we thought would be innovative and life-changing, our enthusiasm quickly dampened when we found out that there were already a few apps like that in existence.
However, we also learned that it was helpful to have models based on a similar idea. We could study these models as a template to see what features would be good to include and what features were unnecessary or poorly designed. At the same time, we could develop our own original features to improve existing market models of centralizing household tasks. Through this process, I realized how innovation turns on building better and different iterations of past ideas, and I was excited to get to work.
We had less than 3 months to complete a deployable product, so a lot of our grand plans did not actually come to life given the short time frame. However, we were able to complete most of the main functionalities. Our app includes 5 features: a chore wheel, a grocery list, in-app payments, a dashboard of notifications and updates, and a notification system. The last two features are still incomplete in the project demo.
As you can see in the demo video above, we had a login/signup screen before entering the home screen of the app where you can register a new household or join an existing household. From there, our home screen is where the dashboard should take place and the navigation bar on the bottom allows users to access the other features.
Our database was set up using Firebase where there are multiple households as keys and there are multiple user accounts under each household key. Each user key holds their associated data (i.e.: items that the user added to the grocery list, the chore they are currently in charge of, and payments they are requesting or being requested for).
The UI design is definitely not what we imagined, but the overall concept was to keep it sleek to emanate the feeling of a clean household. While I was choosing the color scheme of our app, I thought of giving the buttons a wooden look so my teammate Ben had told me to find the color of the most expensive wood. College students may be broke, but at least we can ball out… virtually? 🙂
Since this project was for a class and all of us were busy being seniors in college, we never followed up on the app after Fall 2018. I would be down to link up with my team again to see where Homie’s potential would take us, but I’m more invested in my current projects right now that involve AI/ML. Maybe one day, we can reinvent this app with machine intelligence!