Well invites users to get things done with friends

Well is a new “social to-do list” app for iOS devices from Jeraff, Inc. The app claims to “finally get social to-do lists right” and is available now as a free Universal download.

The concept behind Well is relatively simple: it allows users to make lists on a variety of topics, share them with the world, invite suggestions from other users and start discussions. Public lists show whether or not the user has “checked off” or completed an item, and other users are able to “relist” individual to-do items onto their own lists if they spot something that they might be interested in. At present the app is being used for everything from sharing favorite foods to things to do in specific locations.

Well initially prompts its users to create a profile. Basic information may be populated using a Facebook or Twitter account, or users may simply create an account without attaching it to a social network if they please. Facebook connectivity does not go via the iOS Facebook app if installed, instead requiring the user to log in via the Facebook mobile site using Safari.

Once logged in, users have access to a number of possibilities. Like most other mobile social apps out there, it defaults to an “Explore” view, where it is possible to browse recently-posted or popular lists. It’s also possible to “follow” individual users, and a dedicated tab on the Explore page allows for browsing of just these users’ updates.

By tapping on a list, users can see the individual items within, and are then able to like, relist or comment on them. It’s also possible to share an individual item on Facebook or Twitter, which carries a link to a page on Well’s website featuring the item’s information.

Users can also create their own public or private lists and attach a “cover photo” either from their own camera roll or by searching Instagram from within the app. The latter carries no content filtering, meaning the distinct possibility of accidentally discovering inappropriate photos when searching for seemingly innocuous keywords — when tested, searching for the word “writing” brought up several unsolicited, explicit pictures. This is probably more Instagram’s fault than Well’s, but it does make the image search functionality less useful than it could be.

When looking at a user’s list, it’s also possible to suggest additions and leave a comment on them. Suggested additions are highlighted in a different color and appear at the top of the list until approved or denied by the list’s owner. There does not appear to be any automatic filtering in place, nor any means for users to report a post as inappropriate, meaning that this facility runs the serious risk of attracting trolls, particularly on popular public lists. List owners do, of course, have complete control over which suggestions they accept into their lists and trolling does not appear to be an issue at the present time, but should the service gain any degree of traction, it is an oversight that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

Herein lies the issue with Well, however: who is it for, and why would anyone want to use it? Arin Sarkissian, cofounder of Well, claims that the app is a means of soliciting “advice, suggestions, encouragement and feedback” from friends, and in this regard it is relatively sound, offering the most basic of expected social functionality — the ability to like, comment and share — but as a to-do list app it is left significantly wanting. The fact that it is impossible to set due dates or attach other notifications to list items make it almost useless as a productivity tool, meaning that many users seem to end up using it as little more than a means of creating “bucket lists” or bragging about all the places they have been. Other list- and note-making apps with social functionality handle the “productivity” side of things significantly better — Springpad is an excellent example — leaving Well feeling somewhat like a well-presented but half-baked idea that is, in practice, little more than a social curio rather than a useful tool.

Well is currently ranked at No. 86 in the free social networking apps genre. Follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.