I throw down my phone in disgust.
“This app is talking to me like it’s my friend. It’s not my friend, it’s a period app!”
“You have never sounded more like you were on your period than just then,” Sam says, crossing his arms, unsure how to proceed. Whatever move he’s about to make, he thinks better of it and extricates himself completely.
One of my favourite apps is Clue. It’s a period tracking app that helps women and people who menstruate predict their menstrual cycle, PMS, and fertile window, but it’s led by science and design and as a result is clear, easy to use, and beautiful. Based in Berlin, Clue was founded by Ida Tin in 2013, a woman who before starting Clue used to lead motorcycle tours around the world.
But since I have been using it since January 2014, I did wonder if there was something better.
So I downloaded Eve. And Eve tried to be my gal pal.
If Eve was a flesh and blood woman, she would read Cosmopolitan, drink white wine spritzers and claim Kim Kardashian as her spirit animal. Now I love Kim K as much as the next person (and the occasional white wine spritzer), but I don’t need pep talks from my period apps (“You are capable of handling anything that comes your way!” shouts my so-called Cycle Scope) or quizzed (“FACT OR FICTION: Having sex can help regulate your menstrual cycle.”) Eve’s point of differentiation is its community where women can share stories and ask advice. There are a lot of selfies involved.
I have plenty of people to talk about my period with. Actually, periods are quite a common topic of discussion among women, because we literally spend a quarter of our time dealing with them. I found out about menstrual cups from my friends, for example. I’ve also noticed the topic appearing more often in art and entertainment (“Period Sex” is a recurring song in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and in John, a play by Annie Baker, one character’s debilitating period pains help steer the play in its wonderful direction). So I’m not looking for that in a period tracking app.
I did try others, briefly, too. But none were as good as Clue.
Diversity by design
Many of Clue’s users are transgender men, and there are transgender men on the team who give their input into use of gendered language. “The transgender community is really important to us,” Tin told the Guardian. “But being truly inclusive is really hard. I think we’ve done a better job than anyone out there, but we still have a lot to do.”
They are definitely making progress. When I started using Clue, the icons used to track sexual activity suggested a male partner, the assumption being that all users were heterosexual women concerned entirely with their fertility. Now, however, the icons are ungendered: flip flops for unprotected and a boot for protected. Clue’s Creative Director Katrin Friedmann describes the design journey in a blog post, saying the results is in keeping with “what we are moving towards in terms of design: humor, but with emotional intelligence.”
I appreciate that although I am a heteronormative woman, Clue’s vision includes everyone in it. Clue is not a pink, frilly app, and although it has made assumptions about its users in the past, the team at Clue always seems to be revisiting their app with openness, understanding, and a willingness to improve.
What comes next
Clue still clearly has a lot of scope to reach new users. “Our single biggest market is the US and we have a pretty young demographic, which is basically as a result of our acquisition channels more than as a result of the product,” says Tin. “I think we could, and will have in the future, a much more diverse age group.”
App Store Optimisation forms a core part of their current strategy, and informs not just their performance marketing but also other marketing campaigns and branding as well.
But the most interesting thing about the direction Clue is going in is how they’re utilising the vast data sets they’ve collected to empower their users in bigger and better ways.
The app can be a powerful tool when monitoring your own health, which is the direction Tin wants to continue going in. I’ve pulled up Clue in my doctor’s office when asked when my last period was, and I can see how it would be a useful tool to share if there was anything of concern to discuss. Clue is creating a way to use the tracked data to inform conversations with doctors, as well as chosen individuals.
As Clue continues to add function and emotion to its product, it’s now also adding its own ecosystem: you can now share your data with friends and family, creating an easy and secure way to begin conversations about periods, fertility and health, or as, Danielle Henderson writes, just because “SOMEONE has to know when it’s a good time to surprise you with a pizza.”
Clue has also released an integration with Fitbit in order to see if there is a correlation between heart rate and the menstrual cycle.
Beyond that, Tin has ideas to build a device that can be optimised for each user and that is more powerful than the wearables currently on the market. “I feel there is so much potential with building sensors that can go into the body on a molecular level.”
I love Clue. I love that Ida Tin is at the forefront, leading with big ideas. I love that they are serious about periods and female health, but also approach them with a mixture of humour and integrity. I love that Clue has created something that is clear, easy to use, and constantly improving.
Being a woman can be really confusing. But it’s also really fascinating. It’s good to know that serious innovations are happening in the world of femtech giving us a better grasp of– and therefore more control over– our own bodies.