Richard and Brooke Lee, a couple from Utah, recently launched the Dela app. Users can post messages, photos, and videos just like they would on traditional social media platforms, but the content is only shared within a private group. (Richard Lee)
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FARMINGTON – Richard Lee recalls how messy the family group chat was.
The youngest of six children, all of Lee’s siblings are married and have children of their own, he said, and he and his wife have five children. At one point, the family group chat had 17 people, leading to sporadic notifications throughout the day and confusion about when particular conversations started, Lee said.
He and his wife, Brooke, began to wonder if there was a better way to keep in touch with family members. Not everyone in their family is on social media, Lee said, but they thought a user-friendly interface like those created by Instagram or Facebook might be helpful.
“If we could have something like Instagram or Facebook, but with just our family, (then) we could leave the group chat, and we could send photos and share updates and news,” said Lee.
The more he and Brooke shared the idea, the more they realized other families were in the same boat, he said. And that’s how Dela started.
Within two years of their initial conversations, Richard and Brooke Lee hired a Utah programming company to help design the app, experimented with prototypes, and officially launched on September 1.
Dela is the Swedish word for “sharing”, explained Richard Lee. The free app, available on Apple and Google platforms, “offers a private group networking experience with a social media interface,” according to a press release. Users can post messages, photos, and videos just like they would on traditional social media platforms, but content is only shared within the private group. Each group also has access to a shared calendar to track important dates and plan events.
While user numbers are currently low – only about 170 people have downloaded the app, said Richard Lee – the Lees hope Dela will grow.
“We just want to tell people about it so they can start using it and benefit from it as well,” said Richard Lee.
Communication “less intrusive”
Lee said neither he nor his wife had a background in technology. They grew up in Cache Valley, he said, and have lived in Davis County for seven years. he works for a private equity investment firm while Brooke worked as a medical technician before choosing to stay home with their children full time.
So when they decided to build an app, they knew they would need help. Lee said Layton-based Guru Technologies handled the coding while he and Brooke figured out what it should look like, how it should work, and other key features.
“We decided to invest in it and bring the idea to life, but we didn’t do any coding or development ourselves,” Lee said.
In the summer of 2021, they were using a “very, very rough prototype” with their family, Lee said, and continued to develop it until they felt confident putting it in app stores. .
Lee said the groups in the app are invite-only and the groups are not searchable. users must either be directly invited to a group by someone they know or create a group themselves.
“So it’s really not social media in the sense that you go out and make new relationships with new people that you didn’t know,” he said. “It’s really an app for communicating with people you already know.”
He also pointed out that Dela isn’t meant to be exhausting or time-consuming like traditional social media can sometimes be.
“We’re not trying to make it addictive. We’re not trying to get people to come back five times a day. We’re not trying to get people to buy things there,” Lee said. “We really want it to be something that’s a tool that helps people instead of a tool that sucks people in and burns them. … We think that makes it unique as opposed to other social media that (have) just constant new content all the time.”
Brooke Lee added that her favorite feature is the shared calendar. Notifications for events such as birthdays and anniversaries can be set to recur every year, she said, and this makes it much easier to coordinate family events.
“(It’s) a really fun way to remember all those dates as your family gets bigger and bigger,” she said.
Richard Lee said that future plans for Dela include further streamlining its design and expanding its features; but the main function of the app will still be to form small private groups to share content and messages with.
“It may be (a) less intrusive or less boring way to communicate with people you know,” he said.
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