Homebound is an app that can’t help but make you feel good. Created by five colleagues at the Osijek, Croatia development firm PROTOTYP as a tool to help with at-home isolation during the COVID-19 crisis, it uses vibrant colors and beautiful interfaces to create a delightful experience for the user.
Not to mention, there is also a chatbot named Couchy.
Behind the fun and carefree exterior is a serious mission, however. The app allows users to manually collect contact tracing information. If the user falls ill with COVID-19, they can provide their contact history to health officials. The app offers an easy SMS integration to reach out to contacts while social distancing or to notify them if the user has tested positive, and it also uses gamification to help the user keep to schedules and routines while in isolation, a recommendation from the World Health Organization to maintain mental health.
And Couchy? Couchy is programmed to respond to the user’s questions about COVID-19 and social distancing, easing some of the anxiety around the unknowns of the virus.
“We had taken a look at the topics that were available for the hackathon, and with COVID-19 being a pretty new thing at the time in Croatia, we really wanted to create something that would help people not only keep track of their contacts, but also keep them engaged and happy during the difficult times,” said Adrian Bece, the project’s lead.
Let loose and go crazy
Homebound uses React and Firebase as its backbone, and it leans on Twilio Chat, Autopilot and Programmable SMS for functionalities. They built the app in about three weeks, savoring the opportunity along the way to create something out of the ordinary.
“Our typical projects are usually constrained by client requirements,’ and with Homebound we really wanted to let loose and go crazy with the design and experiment with the development aspect of it,” Bece said.
In addition to Bece, who handled frontend development, the team included backend engineers Vlatko Vlahek and Josip Ravas, marketing specialist Valentina Bermanec, and designer Igor Plac.
“We wanted to have a high focus on the UX and keeping everything happy and delightful, because we knew how the users are going to feel on the other end,” Bece said. “This is an app that should make you feel better about your own activities and your own everyday struggles and challenges. We wanted to have an app that encourages you to try new things, but also things that keep you mentally and physically healthy. And also to have a routine, because that is something that experts recommended during the time.”
Building since childhood
Bece got his first computer at age 6, and he’s been fascinated with experimenting and building ever since.
“I started out just playing around, but during middle school, I got interested in programming,” Bece said. “I started out in QBasic and then I moved into C, C++ and C#.”
Following a four-year stint in ecommerce out of college, where he earned certifications in Magento 1 and 2, Bece moved to PROTOTYP, a firm that continually challenges its members to refine their skillsets.
“We are always changing and improving ourselves, and that is why I ended up there,” Bece said. “There is such a need for developers to improve their skills. It's never static like it would be in ecommerce.”
Along those same lines, Bece’s next personal projects include a personal finance app and spending some more time learning in Firebase. An avid heavy metal fan, he also has plans to improve the cataloguing system he uses for his CD collection.
“I collect CDs, and I would like to expand it by writing short reviews, adding filters, and organizing the collection into categories,” Bece said. “Currently, I have it connected to the external API which collects all the data for the CD, like when it was released, the tracks on it, the genre, credits and other data. From here, I want to expand it and connect it with Firebase.”
Download the core files for Homebound on the Twilio CodeExchange.