I put's new app through the newborn stress test

By Sarah Lacy , written on May 6, 2013

From The News Desk

Back in March, I wrote about The Honest Company launching its first iPhone app -- a powerful and important first step in the company becoming more than a modern consumer packaged goods player, but a lifestyle brand.

Since I was 40 weeks pregnant at the time and in a unique position among tech bloggers to test it out, I promised to report back on the job Honest had done. I've been using it at least 15 times a day since I brought my baby home and have a lot of opinions.

In short: This is the best baby tracking app I've used by a mile. My night nurse, who has used a dozen of these with different clients, agreed. But this was also an easy category to win, as most of the world's cutting edge UI experts aren't exactly trying to revolutionize the world of breast feeding and diaper changing.

But that doesn't mean the app will revolutionize Honest's business. There are more than a few little annoyances with the app, and as I wrote in my first article, the company has an uphill challenge if it wants moms to use the app for more than those first few weeks they bring the baby home from the hospital. Hopefully this is the beginning of more content Honest will use the app to deliver. There's a huge hole in the market for a hip, trusted, ecofriendly platform to speak to new moms, and this is the perfect company to fill it.

Here are the things that are great about the app. The look and feel is leagues better than most of the apps on the market. It's elegant and feels like a venture backed firm has designed it. And it's sophisticated. Like Honest's diaper designs it speaks to a modern, hip mother. I appreciated the clean icons to represent different things, not -- say -- a pile of poop to represent a messy diaper. It wasn't cutesy or hokey or cringe-worthy -- very hard to find in the mom space. It wasn't overly pink for girls or overly blue for boys.

I like that you customize the page with your own baby's photos, rather than looking at clip art or lame designs or, say, Elmo.

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One thing that made the UI so easy to navigate was that it's pretty much completely ripped off of Path's UI. It has the same plus sign in the corner that balloons out into all of the things you can do with the app, and a timeline of your baby's care on the main screen.

But hey, like most subscription commerce companies, Honest isn't a tech company first, and it doesn't pretend to be. To that end, for existing Honest customers, customizing and updating your bundles are way, way easier with the app, and it's nice to have that in the same place as the log of your baby's activity.

In terms of the bad, it's a lot of minor stuff. There are too many clicks to start recording a feeding time, considering you are also juggling a baby and how many times you do it a day. And all too often I forget to stop recording it. To wit: This is me pretty much constantly these days. Not easy to click six buttons on a touch screen while all this is going on:

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I get the team had a challenge here because they want the full functionality of selecting whether it's a breast or bottle feed and which side, etc. But perhaps there could be a default. A mom that isn't breast feeding shouldn't have to keep clicking bottle every time she feeds her child.

One thing I liked is that you can either time as you feed or enter it manually if your phone was out of reach. But it was very hard to figure out how to back-date manual feed, and when you do, they don't show up in the timeline when they occurred, they show up when you entered them. Not hugely helpful for scanning a timeline.

Also, Honest needs to build special functionality for nannies -- badly. They've said this is in the road map but it's important to do soon, because that's how the app is really going to spread. It's great if parents love you, but they're only going to have so many kids. Nannies and night nurses frequently work in collectives with other child care professionals and go between families. Frequently those families are leaning heavily on them for recommendations and advice. They're also likely working with families who want the convenience of Honest bundles and don't mind paying a slight premium for a stylish, ecofriendly product. This is the audience I'd be catering to first and foremost.

As it stands now, in order to use the app, my night nurse had to log in with my credentials and not everyone wants to hand over user information and passwords -- particularly when it is tied to an ecommerce account. Similarly, if she were working with several clients at once, there's no way to easily toggle back and forth between them.

While she felt it was better than other apps she'd used, there were additional features that she wished were in there that I hadn't thought of. For one thing, there's no special functionality for twins and tracking tandem feeding. And there's no easy place to add notes. She leaves work at 6 am when I'm pretty groggy and usually updates me with details on how the night went by email. You can add notes to events like diaper changes and feedings, but that means I have to go hunting for them. Easy fixes like these would make a big difference for professionals.

If you don't have kids, you've probably stopped reading because the above gripes are so minor. For a first generation product in a space that hasn't had a lot of innovation, it's pretty great. It's a nice add on service for existing customers, for sure.

But what will it do for Honest the company?

The app has functionality to track milestones as your child grows, and I'm still dubious whether we'll use all of that once Evie is out of the newborn phase. I'm four weeks in and already I'm growing weary of it. We're in enough of a rhythm that I've long since stopped recording diaper changes, and I'm getting pretty lazy when it comes to recording feeding. We set up a page for our 19-month-old that so far just has a cute picture of him.


But it's possible we'd use it to track height and weight, since we're already familiar with the app, and it's on us when we're at the doctor's office. We've always regretted not doing a better job of recording those milestones with our one year old. But we already had one check up since using it, and we forgot to record the updated height and weight. That doesn't bode well for the future.

As I suggested to the company before, I'd recommend building out the prenatal content and tracking functions to get parents hooked before bringing the baby home. That at least would lengthen engagement by nine months -- and nine months when the parents have more free time.

But the key to its success will be the key to the diaper game generally: You have to get them while they're young and parents are forming these habits for the first time. And, for that to happen, Honest should be doing whatever they can to get more child care professionals -- not fewer-- using the app. And thinking about what parents really need once those first few chaos-filled weeks are done.