Skritter: Write Japanese release and short-term update goals


#1

It’s alive!

As of December 3rd, 2018, the Skritter: Write Japanese application is available for download on the iTunes App Store. The current version of the application is 100% free to use and focuses on the goal of helping anyone learn the basics of the Japanese writing system-- from Hiragana all the way to some high-frequency Kanji!

Yes, you read that correctly. Hiragana, Katakana, and basic Kanji decklists are 100% free to use for anyone. No subscription necessary to start mastering the basics of Japanese. Just open the application and start learning right away.

If you’ve been learning Chinese on Skritter and wanna explore what’s coming soon to your device, or just finally take the time to learn a little bit of Japanese, now is your chance!

What’s New?
Unlike previous versions of Skritter, we’ve focused all of our efforts on providing a more streamlined study experience. One that focuses on teaching and testing new materials before you even think about reviewing them and committing things to long-term memory. Our goal is to provide all of you with more control over how and when you learn new things on Skritter, and we think you’re going to like the changes we’ve made!

Now, you choose the decklist and the section, and we’ll take care of the rest. Learning mode helps guide you as you learn new Kana and Kanji, while testing mode allows you to customize your testing experience and focus on whatever vocabulary you wanna cram into your brain at that moment. The perfect weapon for preparing for quizzes and tests in the classroom, or just challenging yourself on things you’ve just finished learning on Skritter.

What’s Next?
These two modes are so dramatically different from previous versions of Skritter that we’ve decided to release this conservative version of Skritter and start generating feedback from all of you and new people not familiar with Skritter without delay.

Account access, and the ability to unlock review mode, access to hundreds of vocabulary decklists, starring, banning, custom mnemonics, etc. won’t be gone for long, but we wanted and needed to start generating some feedback on this system first. So that’s what we’ve decided to do.

Development Efforts
Now that the application is in the store, it’s time to focus our efforts on the things we know we need to make better. Here are the top two things we’re focused on at the moment.

  1. Improving Kana stroke tracing for Learning Mode and stroke order hints provided in the app.

Before you write your feedback about the app. I’ll just go out and say it-- Kana stroke tracing is a little rough at the moment. While the tracing dot does a great job of giving you a general sense of how Kana is written, there are certainly some areas for improvement.

Considering that Skritter Japanese on iOS offers zero ability to write Kana at the moment, we still see this as a big win for the application. But, we know we can make this experience better. So we’re doing just that. We have a plan of attack for making them better, and we’ll be working on that while we gather and collect feedback on the app and the new study flow.

  1. Bring back the log in button and the ability to create new accounts on iOS.

What is in the store right now is a guest experience. A chance to explore Skritter: Write Japanese and see if this application is the right fit for those interested in learning Japanese. However, it is far from the experience that you’ve come to expect. Especially if you’re already learning Japanese and have hundreds or thousands of things already in the queue.

We have been testing review mode internally for a few weeks, and while we’ve made some serious improvements, we’re not 100% satisfied with the experience just yet. The largest change we’re working right now is the ability to focus on the mistakes you’ve made during a review session. Unlike previous versions of Skritter, you’ll now be able to study the mistakes you’ve made during a review session and decrease the chances that you make the same mistakes in the future. Skritter’s ultimate goal is still long-term retention and helping you learn to read and write with confidence, and this is a huge step in that direction.

We’re so very close to getting things working the way we intend. And, once we do we’ll be rolling out a beta update to all of you to start gathering feedback while we continue to test the signup process for bringing new students into the Skritter experience.

Do you need to review on iOS?
If you’re currently using Skritter 3.0.20 than this update is probably going to feel like a step forward and a step back all in one. We’ll be rolling out updates quickly, but if you need need to review and don’t wanna settle for the classic iOS experience in the store you’ll wanna rollback to the previous version of the app for a bit. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Open TestFlight
  2. Select Skritter: Write Japanese
  3. Scroll down to Previous Builds
  4. Select 3.0.20
  5. Press Install

Updates to Android and Skritter: Write Chinese are coming soon. But we’re going to take a little time to polish up what we’ve got so we can give all the apps the attention they need to work well in your hands.

Happy Skrittering, everyone. Stay tuned for more updates. This is just the beginning.

Jake and The Skritter Team


Skritter Mobile Beta Updates
#2

Congratulations on the release!

I tried downloading it and learning some kana and it was fun.


#3

Thanks! Looking forward to bringing the same study flow and fun to Chinese very soon :slight_smile:


#4

I just downloaded.
I can’t seem to login and download my progress. Is this new app a kana only learning platform?


#5

Account access and all of your reviews are coming back very soon. This new release allows us to finally roll out beta updates on 3.1 while also generating some initial downloads and impressions from people new to Skritter. It was a tough decision to make internally, but it was necessary for some of our year-end company goals. Review mode is still being tested an improved as we’ve made some serious updates to the system that goes well beyond the SRS system of the past. Speaking of, you can still access 3.0.20 (latest released beta) from TestFlight by reverting back to a previous version and it will remain accessible for the next 44-days. We’ll have user access and review mode back in the app well before then, but your current options for studying Japanese on iOS with your account are that version or the classic Skritter Japanese app.

Sorry for any disappointment and I hope you can understand. As always, we appreciate all of your patience while we roll these changes out.


#6

So wait, we were promised a huge update to the bug ridden, poorly functioning current app (when it works) and we get a kana learning app which new learners can pick up in a week or two?
I have paying you for this?
This new app on first impression is already full of bugs (the “got it” text covers the definition of kana, the writing is clunky and the writing box changes shapes after typing).
This is utterly disappointing.
I want to pay you guys to improve a proper Japanese learning app for me to master the 常用漢字.
I will not be keeping my subscription with you. You seem to have just led us on.


#7

Sorry you feel that way. We’ve tried to manage expectations to the best of our ability and we will continue to improve the app and the Skritter experience as quickly as we can.

I think I speak for the entire team when I say that we’re as frustrated with this whole process you and others may be. Being in perpetual beta is no fun. And supporting beta and released apps on three platforms with different code bases makes it hard to make necessary changes. Especially from a team as small as ours. This isn’t the final step in that process. It’s one of the first.

We know the app isn’t perfect. It is the reason why we’ve released the free guest experience first. We wanna make sure that the basic learning and testing flow work well. Sounds like we have some bugs in that department. They might not be useful for learning Kana if you already know it, but these experiences have long been neglected on Skritter and are critical for keeping learning fun and engaging.

We had to start somewhere, so we started with the basics. You’re absolutely correct that learning Kana should really only take a few weeks of dedicated study, but if you don’t already know Kana or basic Kanji, then what good is an experience that aims to take you so much further on the path to fluency? The goal right now is to gather feedback and improve the basic concepts before rolling out the things that you and everyone else expect out of an app that accepts subscriptions.

Even if you don’t have an active subscription, please remember that you’ll always be able to review everything you’ve learned on Skritter to date with your account, and we hope that you’ll check back in on the app soon. Updates will keep rolling out and we’ll keep working to make Skritter better.


#8

I completely appreciate that you are a small team and have been working hard. I also appreciate your responses. I think we all agree the essential elements of Skritter are fantastic.
However, I have been suppporting you guys to find that the development has been for new learners to start learning for free. That doesn’t feel right to me at all.


#9

I totally understand. It’s why I focused so much of what I wrote on what’s coming next. Not in terms on months, but more like days or weeks. The review system and ability to study everything on Skritter is in the app and we’ve been testing on it daily. It’s just been hidden for a moment in time so we could get the app into the store and approved by Apple.

We’ve had so many bad experiences with Apple’s support team over the past few months that we were unsure what would happen and had to make a decision. We decided to push “submit” and see what happens. The good news is that we were approved without issue. It makes the work this week easy. Keep polishing up reviews and the offline experience so that you all have access to the same study flow and experience that we’ve been using and enjoying on the team. We’re working fast to get the full experience rolled out to all as quick as we can!


#10

Posting a quick update now that we’ve wrapped up our team meeting. Top priorities for the week are the following:

  1. Finish development improvements for decklist downloading and loading on guest and user accounts
  2. Release a beta update of the application that includes Review Mode support for logged in users.

Additionally, we anticipate at least one update to the App Store app that includes even more awesome audio as well as general bug fixes and improvements.

Stay tuned


#11

Is it alright to post feedback here ? Here is what i’ve noticed :

  • I like the look and the new distinction between learning and testing, although I’m looking forward to also having my regular review queue. I think I will use both and I hope that cards reviewed in test will be automatically taken out of the review queue.
  • I especially like the learning mode for kanji, with the 3 different steps.
  • Before having all the functionalities implemented, I think it would help a lot to have some things polished so that the app feels fluid and doesn’t get in the way of learning. I’m thinking about :
    • adding the familiar bounce when when scrolling to the top or bottom of a list
    • adding a search field whenever there is a list on the screen (list of words, list of sections, …)
    • adding the swipe to go back gesture
  • I see you’ve gone with some google app design which I don’t really like, like having a menu with some options on the left accessible from a top left button and having the options laid out on the bottom (why not have all the options in the same place?), or like having a pointless disc growing from where we tap sometimes.
  • When I see all the sections in a course, I like the progress bar displayed under every section. I think it would be nice to display it under the “x/y words studied” when I’m browsing words in the section itself.
  • I’d like to choose how many words I want to learn at once
  • Since you’ve given more importance to sections, which I like, I would LOVE more options when entering learning mode. These are the ones I would like the most :
    • chose to pick words from sections selected randomly
    • or choose a list of sections to pick from
    • chose a maximum number of new words per section
    • This would for example let me study 20 new words from random sections of Skritter Japanese 101 with not more than 3 new words from the same section.
  • I’ve noticed some unexpected behaviors :
    • I think it’s natural to tap on a completed character to go to the next prompt. This works in test mode but not in learning mode.
    • The images take some time to load. Again, it makes it feel like a clunky app that’s been ported (I don’t know the technicalities but I really feel like it’s loading a web page when I’m in the menus).

That’s all for now, I’ll come back if I have more. I’m looking froward to having access to my account on this new app. I hope that you have a plan to let people like @Murkt and me to test the new functionalities with our account and new words for free before maybe purchasing a subscription again.


#12

Thanks for the awesome feedback! We certainly have further action to take on improving the interface, and we’re working on fixing some of the loading issues you’ve mentioned as we speak. We’ll also keep some things you’ve mentioned in mind with regards to learning flow and section access. The app is still limited in functionality, so it’s a little hard to see the full picture just yet, but we’re working as fast as we can to get things patched up.

We’re trying to keep the learning experience simple and focused with a limit of five new words (and the ability to keep going further with the click of a button). The main thing missing at the moment (Review mode) is actually directly related to the learning experience. What happens after a learning session in complete is that the vocabs, once studied, will be added to your review queue so that you can commit them to long-term memory. I could see us exploring the option of adding further degrees of control to how much you can learn in one go in the future, but first we need to make sure that the functionality is 100% working as intended.

With regards to testing and access, the majority of the Skritter experience will still be accessible to any Skritter account that has study progress on it. So, things like Review, Learning Mode, and Testing Mode will open to all of the lists you’ve been previously studying on your account. We hope that this provides a comprehensive to everyone who has been supporting Skritter over the years and (hopefully) some incentive to opt-in to a subscription again in the future. At that point, if you’re still not convinced, please do let us know and we’ll see what we can do about adding additional time to your account for the full experience.

Again, thanks for taking the time to provide valuable feedback. We’re excited to get a more functional beta into all of your hands soon so we can kill some bugs, improve the interface even more, and make this app the best we can together!

Cheers,
Jake


#13

Quick update heading into the weekend. Testing for logged in accounts has resumed this week and we have a few things we want to fix up before rolling out a beta update for Skritter: Write Japanese that will allow for full access to Skritter account members. Jeremy is doing a battery of testing on the review experience from the perspective of a user with lots of items due. I’m focusing on testing things from a newbie experience. We’ll be comparing our notes after the weekend, fixing some bugs, and getting ready to deploy the update on TestFlight as quickly as we can.

Will keep the updates coming as things continue to develop.