Everyday I learn about new services and apps that continue to improve our day-to-day, making every task a manageable and enjoyable experience! Here are some of my favorites that I can’t imagine living without:
Venmo: Ah, a classic New York City struggle – “I don’t have cash… how do we split the bill?” or “I don’t have cash… can I pay you back tomorrow?” It’s always been a problem exchanging small amounts of money between friends and acquaintances – until now. Venmo is a fast and convenient way to make payments without running to an ATM. You can download the app to your smartphone or just visit venmo.com to either pay or charge someone for anything. I use this for paying my friends back for tacos or coffee, or even charging my roommates for utilities. The person charged gets a notification and making the payment is as easy as clicking a button. The days of feeling icky for reminding friends they owe you money are gone as are the days of feeling like a scumbag for forgetting to pay a friend back! Not only is the payment instant and transferred straight into/from your bank account, but the social aspect makes it fun and easy. Tell your friends about Venmo and call off your goons!
Mint: I’m going to go ahead and admit I have a shopping problem. I’ve often found myself in the middle of soho with bags of clothes and an empty wallet with no recollection of what happened. I’m usually happy as a (fabulously accessorized) clam buried in my new purchases until I check in on my bank account the next day. I realized that spending more on clothes than food is never a good thing. Thus, I checked myself into the shopaholic’s institute of Mint and can proudly say my shopping blackouts have disappeared almost completely ever since! Mint is the perfect way to keep track of all your finances in one place. I was able to analyze my spending habits over the past few months and figure out an appropriate budget. Mint also offers alerts, financial advice, and tips on saving. I always have an idea of where I am in my budget when I go shopping without seeing red the next day.
Spotify: I was a bit late on the Spotify bandwagon for one silly reason – it sounded too good to be true. Free access to all types of music? What’s the catch? But once I started using Spotify everyday, I became a true addict. Only in a few cases have I not been able to find a certain song or album I wanted. In addition to its enormous music library, Spotify makes it easy as pie to find new music, artists, playlists, and people to share with. The incorporation of Facebook and Twitter allows my friends to see what I’m listening to or share an artist they think I’d enjoy. I especially love the short artist bios equip with the band’s history and even a list of similar artists that I might like. Forget burning mixed CDs on iTunes – make a playlist on spotify and just click ‘share’! This feature has inspired me to make a new playlist every month so my friends (and I) can keep track of what I’m listening to that month. I even took the next step of subscribing to Spotify Premium. No commercials and offline listening (that’s right – listening to Spotify on my iPhone even on the subway!) for only $9.99 a month. Honestly, I use my Netflix less often than Spotify – it just makes sense.
How About We: Another classic New Yorker struggle – it’s so difficult to meet people. In a city of millions, it can often feel like a needle in a haystack situation… but worse. I’ve always had the same stigma against online dating as anyone has: it’s creepy and I’m not used to it. It was only after I read an interview with the How About We founders Brian Schechter and Aaron Schildkrout that I realized, Hey! Normal people do this! I’m normal (enough)! I visited the site out of curiosity and the next thing I knew, I had signed up and filled out a profile. Their motto of “chemistry happens offline” made a lot of sense to me and the service is just smart. Period. There’s no awkward back and forth messaging when you connect with someone – you both know you’re meeting up on a date that interests you both and you already have that in common. The general design and approach of How About We is completely non-threatening and puts dating anxiety at ease. And yes, I’m proud to say I met my current boyfriend on How About We. Although I was only on the site for less than a month, I’d say it was well worth a subscription!
Fab: In addition to tracking my finances via Mint, I also decided to rid my inbox from deal and shopping sites. I said goodbye to Gilt, Living Social, Groupon, etc. by unsubscribing from their daily emails. Not only was my inbox at full capacity every morning by 5 AM, but it was just plain distracting, leading to too many unnecessary purchases. The funny thing is, the only shopping site I still subscribe to is Fab. It’s a completely different shopping experience from the rest mainly because of the company’s attention to design and customer service. If I didn’t keep it around for the awesome products they sell, I would keep it around for its inspiring layouts and clean design of the site and app. It’s always an exciting time of day when the sale goes live at 11 AM EST!
Zoc Doc: Back in the suburbs of North Carolina, I had the same dentist, doctor, and optometrist since I could remember. It wasn’t until I moved to the big city that I realized that I needed to find trustworthy doctors to take care of me and it was incredibly stressful (ironically, not good for my health). I’ve had some pretty awful run-ins with doctors since I began living in NYC, and I was starting to think it was hopeless. Then I heard of Zoc Doc. As the Washington Post put it, “Zoc Doc is a revelation.” How the hell had no one thought of this before and how did they make it so easy?! Users simply enter their zip code, health insurance, and type of doctor they are searching for and within seconds, the Zoc Doc search yields a list of doctors complete with trustworthy, detailed reviews and ratings, distance from your address, and (this is the best part) available appointments for the upcoming weeks. Incredible. From there, the user chooses the doctor of their liking, books the appointment, and gets a confirmation from the doctor’s office as well as reminders the day before. Incredibly simple, useful, and healthy!
What I take away from this list of apps/services I use on a daily basis is the undeniable importance of good design. You don’t have to have a degree in graphic design or even a smartphone to understand and appreciate the significance of a user-friendly service. It’s all about the experience. All of the services I listed are simple ideas that were executed with the utmost care and detail, with the user’s best interest in mind. I know they say you should never judge a book by its cover, but when it comes to the digital world, how it looks has almost everything to do with it.