New Orleans developer builds a simple, clean app to help organize your life

It’s that time of year when everyone is starting to feel a lot like Santa. With so many things to do, we’re making a list (or two, or three) and checking it twice an hour, because we might be a little obsessed. Sure, there are an array of productivity apps available to help us get more organized. But sometimes, keeping up with them starts to feel like another item on the to-dos.

Personally, even though I have an Android with Every App Conceivable to Man, I usually end up writing my lists the old-fashioned way: a pencil and a pad with lots of scribbles and eraser smudges.

Since I’ve never quite been able to become totally paperless, I was pleased when I came across Matthew Shwery and his nifty, obviously simple minimaList in my twitter feed recently.

In an email today, Shwery answered a quick list of 5 questions I had for him.

1.) Where did the idea for minimaList come from?

My wife and I wanted a list we could easily share and access from anywhere, no matter what the device. I became frustrated with the surplus of list apps that failed at one thing: simplicity. It’s a list. I wanted to just write it and not have the app get in the way of that. The more I thought about having to log in to do what I normally would have done with pen & paper seemed over-optimized, at least for the common to-do list. This presented a great chance to play with technologies I wanted to learn while providing a tool we could use.

2.) Your app was developed to be mobile friendly, but isn’t available in an app store. What was the thinking behind that?

I haven’t developed a native app before, so making minimaList for iOS or Android seemed a bit daunting at first. Web apps still provide the most versatile functionality – minimaList works on almost any smart phone or tablet device – and I only had to develop it once. While native apps for minimaList are not out there yet, they certainly are on the horizon.

3.) I think what I like most about minimaList is that checked off items are removed and new items can be added, making it possible to have a list for an ongoing project or semi-regular tasks like groceries. What are some cool lists you or your friends have created using your app?

I’ve seen a few completely public lists shared on twitter or facebook where larger groups of people interact with a list. The more tight-knit the group, the more beneficial the list.

Most of the lists I’ve interacted with have to do with food: New Orleans restaurants, groceries, top 10 things to eat. That or the inevitable ‘Honey Do’ list.

4) What is it that you think people like so much about making lists?

I think it’s a bit cathartic. When we can’t interpret progress, we feel discouraged. For some, lists ‘increase productivity’ or help focus ideas into actionable steps. It’s an easy way to clarify thoughts, to write our goals and hopefully reach/complete them. For me, it’s a nice way to communicate what groceries we need at home.

5.) How did you get into app development? What are some other projects you’ve worked on?

I got started as a cross-over from graphic design into designing websites. When I moved to New Orleans I got involved with the developer community and learned new technologies, much to the credit of Joe Ellis. I worked with him at Squarefour (I know, I know…) developing web sites/apps for Launchpad Ignition and many other New Orleans companies, and some of our own – namely a Japanese language study tool called Read the Kanji. I also worked on VoteIt, a decision-making platform and initiated BarCamp 2011’s project Noladex.

I’m currently working on a news webapp for New Orleans, combining New Orleans’ many great sources. You can keep up with me on twitter @mshwery or online: