Tiller – a minimal time tracking device

Tiller – a minimal time tracking device

by Studio Joan

FFF chatted to Nick Hallam of Melbourne based design studio Joan about Tiller.

What is Tiller?

Tiller is a small device that lives on your desk, connected directly to your computer. When you turn or tap Tiller, an interface appears on your screen where you can scroll through tasks, and tap to start or stop a timer.

How did the idea for Tiller come about? 

When we started Joan (our digital product agency) we had created two dropbox folders. One was called Clients and the other Ideas. We all said if we ever had a good idea for a product we would try and make it and bring it to life if people liked it too. We quickly filled up the ideas folder, and after 6 months we came up with the idea of using hardware for helping us to track our time. It was idea number 50.

Running our studio, we knew we were making money and doing lots of work, but we didn’t know what jobs were profitable and what weren’t or what tasks or which people we really efficient. So we tried a bunch of apps and they were good, but we keep leaving them on or forgetting to use them.

“What we wanted to do with Tiller was make time tracking much more accessible and immediate. We intended for it to be a time tracking product. But as we kept working on it and using it ourselves, we found that the fact that it’s a physical object means that when you’re engaging with it, it brings a sort of mindfulness and a deliberateness to the work you’re doing.” –Co-founder Edward.

What where some of the design challenges you faced in developing the product?

OMG. Where do we start with this. The interface is basically a list, but I can’t tell you how many variations we have been through of the list UI. Vertical lists are good if you want to find something out of a group of 10-20 things, but after that they suck (remember iPods). Making that work and look beautiful has been tricky.

The hardware has been and continues to be difficult to. We’re getting right into the nuts and bolts of interaction design. Turning, tapping, pressing, touching etc. You want to make the hardware beautiful, but also feel amazing to use. We’ve ended up going with a capacitive touch surface with a physical turning. It feels nice, the bearing we use inside has a nice resistance. Choosing that was hard.

I could go on!

Do you have any advice for people who have a tonne of ideas on where to start?

Great question. Jack Dorsey (founder of Twitter and Square) has some great advice for this which he talks through in this interview (17:30 onwards). His advice, which we subscribe to, is that when you have a new idea, as soon as you can you should make a version of it real. A sketch or mockup or prototype is great. Then you need to show people and listen and watch how they react. The two outcomes of that process are either one, people don’t vibe with it and leave it alone for a while, or two the really like and it and can feel more confident in pursuing it.

For Tiller (before it was called that), we found an existing hardware dial, Tony built a pretty rough Mac app and we filmed a video of how we thought Tiller might work. We started showing it to friends who owned and worked in studios and the response was really positive. People wanted to buy it from us on the spot.

It was that feedback that told us we should spend more time looking at Tiller.

If you’re interested in supporting the project & get your hands on your own tracker head to their kickstarter page and make a pledge!

Felicia Eriksson

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