Every designer can use quality feedback on a new idea, especially early in the conceptualizing phase. But what's the best way to get that feedback? Now in beta on iOS, Hatchli is a new app that's like Tinder for ideas. You post an image of your design idea or concept, and the community swipes left and right depending on whether they like it, commenting with more specific feedback if the mood strikes.
I thought Hatchli sounded promising, so I applied for the beta and played around with it. Here are four typical examples of the kind of designs Hatchli wanted my feedback on during my testing.
Edison bulbs? Copper pipe? Brass fittings? Oh sweetie. Etsy called. There's a maker in Minnesota who wants their business from 2014 back. Swiped left.
Stylish wipes (or, I guess, wijpes) for adult metrosexuals who want to surreptitiously freshen their crevices. These already exist under the frankly disgusting brand name "Dude Wipes," although I suspect those might be marketed more toward dedicated onanists. Either way, hard pass.
Literally the most depressing idea in the world. I'll let the copy—apparently written by a contributor to the Fat Goon Blog—speak for itself:
"Coffee shops are great spaces to work in . . . but what happens when it's 12:30 p.m., you've been working for a couple hours, and you get hungry? It's not worth it to leave, get food, and come back, but the pastries served at shops are terrible? After waiting 30 minutes, you finally surrender and get a pastry, which isn't filling at all. That's why there should be all-you-can-eat Internet cafes! Have meetings, work alone—all while eating."
I'll just say that I love the intangible link between the so-called problem (Internet coffee shops don't have good pastries) and the solution (coworking spaces should literally come with a la carte troughs slopping over with ranch-dipped bacon and deep-fried cheesy puffs). Extra points for the strange insistence that all-you-can-eat working should be done alone. Swiped left so hard—if only because, as a telecommuter, I fear this is where I could eventually end up.
A back-of-the-napkin scribble from some would-be Hatchli entrepreneur, the Laundo Ease promises to help you "never forget to switch your laundry over." How? Your guess is as good as mine: This drawing is literally all the information you're given on how this is supposed to work. If I had to guess, I'd say this is a stacked washer-and-dryer with a trap drawer between units, so that when the washing cycle is done, the laundry falls down to the dryer unit, which then automatically turns on. Not a bad idea, but something tells me the USPTO isn't going to accept this ludicrous drawing as a technical illustration.
In Tinder terms, all these "designs" would be the equivalent of the bro with the goatee and the backwards baseball cap lifting up his shirt to show off his abs in his selfie: goofuses who nearly defy parody.
But honestly, even the best ideas on Hatchli aren't much better than this. Almost grudgingly, here were a few ideas I swiped right on: a doorbell you could play a tune on like a piano, an augmented reality Pac-Man game that you play sort of like Pokémon Go, an app that would let anxious travelers practice using foreign airport and train station kiosks ahead of time, and so on. But all of these projects were united in a lack of detail on how they would actually work, or how they could become real products. They were just ideas—and ideas are a dime a dozen. You can't even say these are good designs, because design isn't just an idea. It's a method for execution, something Hatchli doesn't really let anyone supply.
The most frustrating thing about Hatchli, though, is when you see a truly great idea on the service, and can't do anything to act on it, or find out more. For example, the treatment of hip dysplasia in infants, which affects about three children out of every thousand, requires them to have their entire lower body bound in a cast for as long as six months—making it very hard for parents to stay mobile. Hatchli posted a great idea for the SafeSling: a sling for parents to carry around kids who have hip dysplasia. But if you wanted to learn more about the project or support it somehow? There's just no way to do so, outside of trying to Google it yourself. (Here's a link to the original design, by Caterina Rizzoni.)
So really, Hatchli isn't like Tinder at all. The nearest analog I can think of is HotOrNot, back when it was just about ranking people based on their selfies: a meaningless affirmation engine that never gets anyone laid, and feels dissatisfying and superficial all around. For the people behind these ideas, that might be enough encouragement to pursue their projects (or dissuade them from sinking time into something that's universally panned). But for the app to become something meaningful, it'll need buy-in from both idea generators and would-be consumers. The app is still in beta so there's plenty of room for the developers to add features. Because an ideas platform that's truly useful? That's hot.