The Story Behind Mandaboo

The story behind the Mandaboo web-series and app development.

Mandarin Monkey Tom


We have started a new webseries called ‘Mandaboo’. We also made an iOS app. 

The principle of the series is simple. 

Try to guess what Ula is talking about and create your own.

“A MVP is, basically, the simplest form of your product you can get away with putting out to market to start testing its value hypothesis. “

We wanted to create a fun way of honing your Mandarin Chinese listening skills and decided on this game as the best way. 

But we also wanted to incorporate speaking practice into it. And, so began the struggle to find a way to do it. 

We got together with our resident nerd Darian who eagerly opted to try out the ‘hardest idea’ we had in Mandaboo the app for iOS. 

After several, initial chats about the project which were essentially brainstorming sessions we finally wrote a few of the ideas down into a cohesive document. 

The document told the apps point and purpose. What the learner would be getting out of playing Mandaboo and so features we would love to see in the future and what would be possible for a MVP (Minimum Viable Product).

A MVP is, basically, the simplest form of your product you can get away with putting out to market to start testing its value hypothesis. 

That document over the next few days became a flow chart which outlined where each page would go and with what button. What the front and back end would have to look like to make sense for us and for users. 

Next on the to do, Mandaboo list was design. 

This is still going through iterations even though the apps functionality has already been set up. 

We are currently going through our feedback loops, where we will put out a new version of the app, collect feedback and improve it with the next iteration. 

These feature and functionality iterations generally always include design elements, whether it be a new button, new page or totally new section. Always fun. 

So far we have had many meetings to gather thoughts, create new exciting ways of helping people learn Mandarin Chinese. 

Our Process So Far

  1. Initial conversation (this also includes hypothesizing)
  2. Documenting ideas
  3. Prioritizing those ideas
  4. Flow chart design
  5. Starting App build
  6. Adding basic design elements whilst building
  7. Create MVP and release to small test group for feedback
  8. reiterate based on feedback and release to larger and larger test groups
  9. Release workable product for public release

Bare in mind, we haven’t made an app before and most starts ups wouldn’t take this burden upon themselves. It’s much easier but way more expensive to hire an app design company to do it for you. 

I will say though, the timescale when taking something like this on yourself is pretty demanding and take a lot longer than hiring a professional to do it for you. But, if, like us, you don’t have the money to fund a $20-50k app then you should be heading to Udemy to take a course in Swift coding. 

We have designed Mandaboo to help Chinese learners improve their listening and speaking skills.

It goes without saying, but with writing, that the best way to improve your Chinese listening skills is to listen to people speaking Mandarin. 

With the speaking its the same, but actually using the language on a daily basis. 

Mandaboo, incorporates both of these skills in one place and doesn’t baby you by teaching you what a ‘dog’ is or how to say ‘hello’. 

Every user gets to use their listening skills in play mode and gets to practice speaking in create mode. 

We are due for general release in the next few weeks and will be releasing the latest version of Mandaboo to a larger testing group over the next few days.  

Does This Mean We’ve Finished?

Not in the least bit. 

As the Carpenters once sang ‘we’ve only just begun’.

The most difficult thing about having an app or any product after release is keeping your customers interested and trying to help them to continue to use it. 

Apple tend to have an iteration of their product once every year sometimes every 6 months. We intend to release new and exciting things for Mandaboo every month.

That’s our intention. Whether we can deliver is another thing. We are going to learn and adapt as new situations appear. But of course, we are in high hopes and a very positive position.