iPhone Application Design: A Time Tracking App

By | July 13, 2008

Outline

It’s pretty hackneyed, but I could actually use a decent application for tracking my times and expenses on my iPhone. I work 9 – 10 hours a day, on various projects, and sometimes have to resort to looking at my sent and received emails to find out what I was actually doing.

Requirements

I have a fairly simple list of requirements for tracking time:

  • Track time starting ‘now’
  • Track time against a project
  • Track time against a project task
  • Allow editing of billable time
  • Allow projects and tasks to be pre-populated
  • Associate a comment with billable time
  • Generate a simple report and email it

Given these requirements, it looks like the most important aspect of the application is the ability to add new periods of billable time, and to view what you’ve recently worked on.

Thoughts on Implementation

Bearing in mind that this is an iPhone application, performance must be fast, and the user interface must be clear, clean and smooth.

Other features should include being able to view work by project, and setting up projects and tasks.

Non-features in a version 0.5, but which are probably work thinking about include the ability to generate and track an actual invoice.

Doing a Mock-Up

I haven’t seen much information on the web about how to design an iPhone application, so at least for me, I’m looking for a comfortable and lightweight way to pull the ‘feel’ of an application together.

I started with Pencil software for Firefox, but it seemed clunky and difficult to use. Especially, the process and changing fonts, and laying out pieces of text seemed to be harder than necessary.

Next up and much more comfortable was the Apple presentation software Keynote. I was able to fairly quickly over the course of a couple of hours, distill the needed views and data down into a few screens.

The following shows what I ended up with.

iPhone Time Tracking App Mock-Up

This mock-up consists of just the regular Keynote text blocks in bold and regular 18 point text. It couldn’t really be much simpler, but I think it’s starting to look like a real application.

3 thoughts on “iPhone Application Design: A Time Tracking App

  1. UglyAmerican

    Really interesting stuff. Great to read about time tracking requirements from a practitioner. It seems as if almost every app in the space began that way. The way I read your list, tracking time from ‘now’ is a timer? Given that this information is being entered from a phone, how would you value being able to integrate call information with your time tracking app? And would you value functionality that allowed you to take any email and track time against it – for instance time to compose? Check out PositiveWare for our take on web based time tracking. Obviously supporting the iPhone is a next step for us.

    Reply
  2. John

    Though not available yet on the iPhone, Intervals does do everything you listed. Intervals is web-based time tracking and task management. We are currently working on the iPhone interface. Sign up for a free 30 day trial and let us know your thoughts on adding an iPhone interface.
    http://www.myintervals.com

    Reply
  3. jonathan Post author

    @UA: Thanks for the kind words. I’ll take a look. Of course I’m ‘scratching an itch’ here, so I rarely track time any more finely than 30 minutes or so, and being a manager / developer, my context-switch time between tasks is quite slow, so I possibly have a different perspective than a lawyer or doctor.

    @John: I’ll take a look at Intervals. Thanks!

    Reply

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