Focus Mode

Today I discovered and bought a “focussed writing app” called “iA Writer”. It is a purposefully minimal writing app which aims to help writers focus in several ways. One specific way is called “focus mode”. Focus mode fades most all the text to gray, leaving only the sentence you are currently writing in black.

iA Writer’s focus mode seems to propel you forward. It keeps you moving and helps avoid the habit of revising and rewriting. Writing completely first and then revising only afterwards is my favorite mode of writing. iA Writer fits the bill perfectly for this.

Besides helping you move forward, focus mode also keeps any distractions out of the way. For example, iA writer readily tracks your word count. But only when you pause for a few seconds. Then, it calmly and quietly appears at the bottom of the screen.

Besides word count, you also get character count and estimated reading time. Combined with OS-X’s fullscreen mode it just makes me want to write. It makes me want to use the product. How many pieces of non-gaming software can you say that about?

Which leads me to a thought. What would “focus mode” look like in a web app? To help answer that question, I take inspiration from iA Writer and Basecamp. When I am working in each of these products, I feel productive and focussed. I feel a sense of progress and accomplishment. I feel at ease with my work.

Why is that? What are the elements of iA Writer and Basecamp that could lend themselves to a CRM product? I can think of a few.

Minimal Choices

I am not asked to make many decisions. Without spending effort configuring settings, customizing options, or organizing my environment; each interaction with the product feels like a productive use of effort. Without a lot of navigation options or elements to decide among, I can move quickly.


iA Writer and Basecamp respond almost immediately to my actions. This makes the products enjoyable to use. It keeps workflow moving forward. It eliminates the cognitive overhead that comes with worrying about getting delayed or having to wait for the app to do something if I hit the wrong button.


Both products have a feel of “what could go wrong?” There is little room for doubt about if you are using it right, wondering if there is a better way to use it or worrying about it failing. Both automatically save your work. In Basecamp you can recover accidentally deleted content. You can edit comments and history. Because most actions are un-doable, there is less pause when working in the tools. You don’t find yourself asking “should I do this or not”. You just do it.


iA Writer and Basecamp have excellent font choices. The fonts are large, readable, and solid. Coming full circle to the theme of focus, a larger font allows for less text which means more focus on the text you do see. Instead of cluttering up a screen with volumes of text, these products use a large, readable font and count on you to scroll as needed.

Focussed App

I think there is a market for apps which take a focussed approach. Even in these days of “simplicity” and “clean UIs”, most apps have way, way, way too much activity on their UIs, present too many choices, are too fragile, and too slow. We’re kicking off design and development of an app to change all of that for one specific business need. Stay tuned!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: