An Interview with Quentin Zervaas

An interview with Quentin Zervaas, an independent app developer & the creator of habit-tracking app Streaks.

Example habits in the habit-tracking app Streaks.
From the Streaks website,

Quentin Zervaas is an independent app developer.

Who are you, and what do you do?

I’m Quentin Zervaas, an independent app developer. I make several apps, including Streaks, which won an Apple Design Award in 2016. Streaks is an app for forming habits, which encourages you to complete your tasks on a daily basis.

How did you get interested in that?

I’ve always been into computers and programming them. When the Internet started to get popular in the 90s, I learned web development and did that for many years. When the iPhone came along, I started building apps. I published my first app in 2010.

What tools & gear do you use? (Could be hardware, software, something else entirely.)

I have a bunch of Apple gear - my main machine is a 16” M1 Max MacBook Pro, but as I build app for iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and Apple TV, I have most of these devices too.

Besides the tools, what are the routines & habits that help you get your work done?

At any given time with development I have many different tasks going on. For example, in developing for the upcoming iOS 16 release, I have about 5 or 6 different pull requests on Streaks just for each new thing I’m working on. So I try to do some work on each of them every day - even if for only a few minutes.

I track writing, reading, meditation, journaling, vitamins, as well as entertainment (trying for a book, a movie, and an album per week), and more. What habits are you trying to make or break right now?

The big things for me work-wise are just making sure I’m on track towards an overall goal. So again, with developing for iOS 16, we know approximately when that will be released, so that’s the main timeline in my mind.

On a personal level, the big one for me is getting outside - even if it’s just for a 15 minute walk, I do find that to centre me somewhat. Having little kids makes it really hard to keep on top of sleep and other things, as pretty much everything you do centres around their routines (and inability to listen!).

Streaks has been out since 2015 and it's still actively updated. That's almost half the time since the iPhone was released, and almost exactly half the time since the App Store was released in 2008. What has the journey been like so far? What’s next?

It’s been pretty crazy. We launched in June 2015, and we were lucky to get some instant success and coverage on some high profile web sites. We won the Apple Design Award a year later, and that’s given us a good platform - and the confidence - to keep building upon its success.

We also built a workouts app called Streaks Workout. This was originally for Apple TV when tvOS first came out, and builds on the same concepts as the main Streaks app, but specifically for working out instead.

As a follow-up, how does it feel to make something so long-lasting?

We have many more app ideas and feature ideas that keep things fresh and interesting. It is very satisfying building something with such sustained success, but we are still very motivated to keep improving it and putting some new ideas out into the world.

What resources (books, videos, etc.) or advice do you have for people that might be interested in what you do?

There are so many resources out now for building iPhone apps. When I started, there were very few, so there was a lot of trial and error. The biggest bit of advice for another developer is if you haven’t yet published an app, do it! In all likelihood it won’t be a smash hit, but you will learn so much that the next one will be even better.

I don’t recalled the exact number, but I’ve probably published 20 or 30 apps in my time - each to varying levels of success.

How do you relax or take a break? How do you avoid burnout?

I’m terrible at this, but having kids kind of forces breaks upon you! But aside from that, I try and force myself to get out and do exercise, even when you don’t want to.

Besides Streaks, what are some things you've worked on or created that you're proud or fond of?

I’ve worked on a bunch of different software projects over the years - rather than naming specific things I’ve been proud of, the thing I most enjoy about these projects is the feedback I get from users. It’s really satisfying to hear peoples’ experience with the products I make (or help make).

Who or what inspires or motivates you; or, alternatively, that you admire?

I think what motivates me the most is seeing the cool stuff other developers do. There’s so many apps out there where I try and think “Dang, I wish I’d done that”.

What would be your dream setup?

A cocktail at the beach.

Anything else you'd like to add?

Thanks for your interest in my development routines!