Interview: back to college with the School Planner app

โ€œAfter just two weeks of using Localazy, we got 15 volunteers helping translate the app to 5 more languages. Some features like ShareTM and the glossary are simply awesome!โ€ says Heysem Katibi, the developer of the School Planner app. Read more about his experience with Localazy in this interview.

The new school year is here! Early lessons, morning commutes, homework, and exams are back in full swing. Luckily, thanks to technology, it's never been easier to map out a study schedule than now. With the plethora of calendar apps currently available, every student can get an extra push to have a successful year, especially in college. Choosing one is really the hard part! Today we highlight an excellent option: School Planner, developed by Heysem Katibi and currently available in six different languages.

๐Ÿ—“๏ธ Enhanced productivity ๐Ÿ”—

Welcome, Heysem! Thank you for your time. Can you tell us a little about how School Planner works?

Hi! It helps students organize their classes and assignments. ๐Ÿ“š It's basically a smart organizer for students all around the world. I want it to cover all possible scenarios that might come across when you're studying. For example, I'm working on a grade calculator feature. I also have a memo recorder, class notes, statistics, and many more features are on my roadmap.

Who are your customers? (high schoolers, college students, post-grad...)

I only collect the absolute minimum amount of analytics from the app (only events and crash reports), so I can't know for sure who's using the app and for what. That being said, the app was designed with college students in mind. Also, most of the feedback I receive is from college students so I think it's safe to say that college students are the most frequent audience. ๐Ÿ˜„

When students choose School Planner as their app, what do you think is the unique value proposition that sets it apart from others?

The lack of a Timetable feature in other apps is what lead me to this project, and I really think that it's one of the standouts. It displays the user's weekly schedule in a timetable and gives the user the ability to add/remove classes right from there. Simple yet effective!

The app also has a vacation mode and an Exams tab. How do they work?

Vacation mode โ›ฑ๏ธ (aka "Holidays" in the app) is a highly requested feature. It automatically cancels usersโ€™ schedules on public holidays and whenever theyโ€™re on vacation. The app also has an option to restore canceled events for the entire holiday or just for one day. As for the Exams ๐Ÿ“ feature, it organizes users' tests and automatically sends exam reminders. I should also mention that exams aren't affected by holidays, so if (for some reason) a user has an exam on a holiday day, the exam is still going to show up on their schedule and they're still going to receive notifications related to that exam.

Can School Planner be integrated in a calendar app (Google/iCalendar)?

I had this feature on my roadmap for a long time, but I decided not to implement it because I didn't see how it would improve the user experience. School Planner already displays class schedules in a similar way to Calendar. It also sends reminders ๐Ÿ”” and allows for notification customizations such as changing notification time and deciding how many reminders users want to receive for a single class.

Some users are asking for a feature that allows them to share their schedule with friends, so I might decide to share the user schedule as a calendar event. ๐Ÿค” But synchronizing the entire schedule with Calendar isn't something I'm planning to do right now.

๐Ÿ“ฑ Programming from a young age ๐Ÿ”—

Can you tell us about your personal story of creating the app? What is your background, and why did you decide to jump on it?

When I was 12 years old, my older brother started teaching me VisualBasic 6.0, so by the time I was 15, I was doing some tasks for a local software company and getting paid for my work, which was very exciting to me. Later in college, I used an app called "Class Timetable" to organize my class schedule. It was a nice app, but it lacked some important features for me, such as Assignments and a weekly view of my classes. Also, the notifications weren't customizable, so after using it for a while, I ended up going back to using my notebook to keep track of my schedule and assignments.

"We're a family of developers. At first, I was just using the app myself but then we decided to publish it to the AppStore, and we immediately started getting new users"

When my younger brother (yeah, we're a family of developers ๐Ÿคฉ) saw my notebook, he decided to start working on an iOS app just to cover my needs, and soon enough, I jumped on board and also started working with him. At first, I was just using the app myself, but then we decided to publish the app to the AppStore, and we immediately started getting new users. ๐Ÿ‘ Seeing new people using our app was very exciting for us, so we also decided to start working on an Android app.

Nowadays, I've graduated from college, and I have a job, so I don't use the app myself anymore, but seeing the reviews on App Store and Google Play and receiving emails from users every day gives me the motivation to keep developing the app.

How is your product funded? What's your current runway?

Savings! ๐Ÿ’ฐI don't have a clear funding plan, to be honest. I have in-app purchases that remove the ads from the app, but School Planner is always to be usable in the free version, including all the fundamental features. I don't like the apps that push users toward paying: I want to keep it very usable for non-paying users as well.

What does success look like for your company?

To me, reaching 1 million downloads looks like a very nice step toward success. ๐Ÿ†The nice reviews I get on Google Play and App Store also make me super excited to keep developing the app. If one day I talk to a random student in college and they tell me that they're using School Planner to organize their college life, I'll consider the app to be a success.

What are the next steps and future plans for School Planner?

I'm currently working on a highly requested feature which is Grades. Users want to register their exam results and then ask the app to convert them to a letter grading system or even calculate the minimum grade they have to get in the final exam for them to pass. I'm thinking about adding some premium features as well, like class statistics, more home screen widgets, and more themes.

๐Ÿ“ Tips for aspiring developers ๐Ÿ”—

Do you think the drive for entrepreneurship is something people are either born with or not, or is it something that can be taught?

I absolutely think that everything can be learned/taught. When I talk to people (especially from the tech world) about how I'm 26, and I already have 10+ years of experience in programming, they always assume that I'm naturally talented and that I was born with some kind of "smart" gene. The truth is that my older brother started teaching me programming when I was 12 years old. So to me, it doesn't have anything to do with being smart: I just started learning earlier than others.

Can you tell us about your other projects? (Habit Tracking, Pomodoroโ€ฆ) What would you like to do next?

Habit Tracking ๐ŸŒก๏ธ, Pomodoro โฑ๏ธ, and School Planner ๐ŸŽ’ are all projects we developed with my brother to solve problems we were facing ourselves. For example, I use Pomodoro daily to track my time and to understand how many hours I spend doing something on a monthly basis. I don't know what my upcoming projects are going to be, but nowadays, I'm really focusing on artificial intelligence and ๐Ÿค– machine learning, so I'm hoping that my next idea is related to those fields.

Overview of the Pomodoro time tracking app, also created by Katibi.

What is the main driver that motivates you to keep taking on your business ventures? Did your motives change over the years?

I simply enjoy programming, and that has been pushing me so far. ๐Ÿ’ช

Any advice to young entrepreneurs who want to launch their own projects, especially in this competitive market?

I personally learned not to work on features just because I liked them. I once spent three weeks working on a really complicated feature that I thought was going to be very popular, only to realize that almost nobody needed it. So Iโ€™d advise always working on stuff requested by the users since those are the features that will make them happy and bring more people to the app.

If you could start again with School Planner, what would you do differently from todayโ€™s perspective?

I might have started with a back end other than Firebase, maybe even a local database, because it's somewhat expansive as the app is getting bigger. It's starting to slow down development. ๐Ÿ˜• I also wouldn't have done some features just because I liked them (without any feedback from users) because I realized that what I like isn't usually what users need.

"To young entrepeneurs: always work on stuff requested by the users. What you like isn't usually what users need"

What do you think โ€“ how will your industry look like about 10 years from now?

I don't see smartphones going away any time soon, so mobile apps (and among them, productivity apps ๐Ÿƒโ€โ™€๏ธ) are going to keep being relevant for the coming 10 years. However, I believe that making apps for mobile will become easier and will require less and less technical knowledge, similar to what WordPress and other products did to the web.

๐Ÿ’ฌ Localizing the app ๐Ÿ”—

What services or products do you really like to use on your own?

I liked using Swift very much when it first came out, so I immediately converted a project I was working on at the time to that language. I eventually regretted it, because it wasn't mature enough to be in a production app. That's why I was very excited when Kotlin was announced as an official language for Android, as it has so many Swift features. ๐Ÿ˜Œ

Today, I use Kotlin with Android Studio for the Android app, and Swift with XCode for the iOS app. I also like Jira and Trello for tracking issues and building a roadmap. Additionally, i use a combination of Sketch and Figma to make my designs and use Fork to manage my Git version control.

"When I found Localazy, I was very impressed. The product is very polished, it allows for external volunteers, and some features like ShareTM, machine translation suggestions and the glossary are simply awesome"

What is your motivation for localization?

I started School Planner exclusively in English. At the time, I had about 10 daily active users (DAU). Then I decided to translate it into the other two languages I speak, and I almost immediately saw that my DAU count jumped to 25-30. So I started asking friends to help me translate the app, and by the time I had 6 languages, my DAU was around 1500. โœŒ๏ธ

When users started sending me emails asking for more languages - and even offering to help with the translation process - I did some research online and found Localazy. I was very impressed. The product is very polished, it allows for external volunteers, and some features like ShareTM, machine translation suggestions, and the glossary are simply awesome.

Do you have a favorite feature?

I have to say that the shared translations pool feature is absolutely brilliant. I can't get over the feeling when I go translate a string, and I find a translation used in, like, 700 other projects. It gives me the confidence to immediately accept the translation every time.

Explore how ShareTM works in this guide! For more info on our translation pool feature, check out more blog articles here.

In which languages is the app available right now? Which are the next ones you're thinking of implementing?

School Planner is currently available in 6 languages:

  • English
  • French
  • Arabic
  • German
  • Turkish
  • Spanish

After just two weeks of using Localazy, we got 15 volunteers to help translate the app to 5 more languages. ๐Ÿ‘ ย At the time Iโ€™m writing this, Portuguese is 48%, Russian is 59%, and Italian is 27% done, thanks to the awesome ShareTM feature and to all the people participating.

Is there something you would like to add?

I'm really excited to start seeing School Planner in other languages. I hope many volunteers join in to translate the app. And thank you again for your amazing product!

Thank you, Heysem! Check School Planner, Habit Tracker, and other open-source projects on their GitHub profile.

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