If you’re a UI designer, chances are you’ve had a conversation about Path in the last couple weeks. This conversation was probably initiated by someone you work with. Perhaps it was your product manager or your boss or the boss’ boss or maybe it was you. The conversation goes something like this:

Have you seen the new Path? Isn’t it awesome!? Why can’t we do something like that??

And who can blame you? Path is awesome! You should make something like it. But don’t kid yourself. The Path app is as rare as a magical unicorn, delivered from the heavens on a double rainbow.

Path feels hand crafted. The app absolutely oozes quality and an obsession with detail. The parallax background scrolling, the detailed textures, the cute little clock that shows where you are in the timeline. They are all delightful. But there is no better example of this than the “new” menu. That simple little plus button that sits nicely in thumb’s reach. Tap it and it responds immediately, with a springy little animation that says, “let’s do this”! Closing the menu is even more fun as the icons spin and collapse back into the button (see video below).

Releasing a product with this level of quality and attention to detail is incredibly rare. It practically never happens. Why not? Because even when a product team has been very conscious of creating a good experience, the vast majority of teams will eventually sacrifice bits of that experience to ship a product. It takes incredible discipline (and time, and money) to avoid making small sacrifices along the way that will eventually lead to a poor experience or, at the very least, one that doesn’t measure up to the level of the Path app.

For Path, the payoff for their attention to detail has been big. As of a few days ago, Path users were sharing 12 moments a second. The Path app has gained 30x the number of daily active users they used to have in the two and a half weeks since the app’s release and they have had 1 million users share their wake / sleep cycles (source).

In an interview at this year’s Le Web conference (video at bottom of post) Dave Morin, founder of Path, talks about what went into the design and development of Path 2.0. Here are the highlights:

  • Morin and team think of Path 2.0 as a “modern journal” and reached this point of clarity by talking with their customers
  • It took 1 year of design and development to deliver the current iPhone and Android apps
  • Morin describes Path as “a completely design-driven organization”
  • Path chose not to develop their app in HTML5 because they wanted the best possible performance, smooth scrolling, etc.
  • Some advice:
    • “Simplicity takes time… a lot of people launch too early”
    • Morin doesn’t recommend shipping minimum viable products to the app stores because of the high cost in bad reviews.
    • “Mobile iterations take a long time, so we spend a lot of extra time on quality”

So before you or your team waste a lot of energy being frustrated about why you can’t make an app as good as Path, remember what went into making that app and ask yourself if your team or organization are willing to apply the discipline, time and money needed to make something as good as Path 2.0. In the vast majority of cases, the answer is no and that’s precisely why an app like Path gets everyone’s attention.