Beware the Siren Song of Software Monoliths
In today's world, countless Apps claim to be the ultimate solution for all your needs. From financial management to ordering lunch to tracking fitness goals, these all-in-one software monoliths promise to do it all.
But for parents of children with disabilities, are these "do-everything" Apps truly the best choice for managing and organizing their child's care?
The answer is likely not.
In this post, we will explore the drawbacks of software monoliths and advocate for microservice Apps that offer specialized functionalities to enhance the quality of life for both the child and the parent.
What Parents Of Children With Disabilities Need To Know About “Microservice” vs. “Monolithic” Apps
Software companies build two types of products: microservices and monolithic. Microservices are programs and apps that focus on a single solution. Monolithic apps are a single, large piece of software that is designed to handle multiple tasks.
For example, Uber Eats and Postmates are microservices that do one thing. When you want a meal delivered to your door, you'll use a microservice app. Microsoft Office is a monolithic app that wants to do everything for you. If you want a single app that handles word processing, calendaring, appointments, spreadsheets, presentations, and more, you'll want to use a monolith.
The type of app that is right for you depends on your needs. If you need an app that can be customized or updated easily, then a microservice is a good choice. If you need an app that has a lot of features in one single interface, then a monolithic app can be a good choice.
When comparing Apps to help you navigate life with a child who has special needs, here are the key differences to consider.
Microservice Apps are highly specialized and focused on excelling in a specific area or functionality. They prioritize delivering the best user experience and features within their niche. On the other hand, monolithic Apps typically aim to provide a wide range of features and functions within a single App, covering multiple areas or functionalities.
Microservice Apps often offer greater customization options and flexibility. Users can choose and combine different Apps that best suit their specific needs and preferences. Monolithic Apps, being all-in-one solutions, may have limitations in terms of customization as they try to cater to a broader audience.
Monolithic Apps often come with built-in features and functionalities that work together seamlessly within the App. This integration can be convenient for users who prefer a unified experience. In contrast, Microservice Apps may require additional effort to integrate with other Apps or services to achieve a comprehensive workflow. These integration features are important for business users. Not so much for regular people.
Innovation and Updates
Microservice Apps tend to focus on continuous improvement and innovation within their specific domain. They are more likely to introduce new features and updates quickly, keeping up with the latest trends and user demands. Monolithic Apps may have a slower pace of updates and innovation across all their included functionalities.
Why “Do Everything” Monolith Apps Don’t Work Well for Parents of Children with Disabilities
Do-everything Apps (monoliths) are built by software developers who likely have very little real-world experience. While these developers are experts at building massive software programs, they probably don't have the life experience necessary to understand the unique challenges and specific needs facing parents of children with disabilities. To build an effective special needs app, you'll need development teams that understand this unique world.
When considering the challenges and complexities of navigating life with a child who has disabilities, it seems reasonable for parents to wish for a single App that will handle everything from health care, education, therapy, medications, inter-active appointments and scheduling, public resources, and specialized care for their child .
Which poses the question:
Why not have a "one click" app that can do everything for life with special needs?
In fact, at Vest, we hear parents asking us to add all many of these do-everything features to our App. But we’ve decided against taking that approach. Here’s why.
Do-Everything Apps Can Be Difficult To Use
They have a lot of features, which can make them overwhelming and difficult to navigate. This can be especially challenging for parents who are already stressed and busy managing care for their child with disabilities.
Do-Everything Apps Will Have More Than You’ll Actually Need
Do-everything apps are designed to be all-encompassing, but this can often lead to them having more features than you'll actually need. This can make them difficult to use and can also lead to information overload.
For example, a do-everything app might have features for to-do lists, appointments, progress tracking, note-taking, and more. If you only need to use one or two of these features, then you're essentially paying for features that you're not going to use.
In addition, do-everything apps can be difficult to learn and use. There are so many features that it can be hard to keep track of what's where. This can lead to frustration and can make it difficult to be productive.
Finally, do-everything apps can lead to information overload. If you have too many features and too much information, it can be difficult to focus on what's important. This can lead to stress and can make it difficult to get things done.
Do-Everything Apps May Not Have Features Parents Will Need
Not all do-everything Apps are created equal. Some may not have the features that are important to you, such as the ability to track progress, create notes and reports, or safely share key information with your child's caregivers. And these Apps also will likely be loaded with features you will use sometimes but eventually never need in the long term - such as EIP tracking when your child is an adult and no longer in school.
Do-Everything Apps May Not Be Flexible To Meet Your Unique Needs
As your child ages and their needs change, you may find that a do-everything App is no longer a good fit. A feature that you loved to use when your child was 14 may not be relevant when they are 24. What works at 24 is way different that what was needed in the teen years. It will be frustrating and time-consuming to switch to a new App as your child’s ever-changing life unfolds.
For these reasons, we believe that it's better for parents of children with disabilities to choose “Microservice” Apps.
Monolithic software is like a cruise ship. It is a large, complex system that is designed to do a lot of things. It can carry a lot of people and cargo, and it can travel long distances. However, it is also slow and difficult to change course.
A microservice app is like a yacht. It is a smaller, more specialized system that is designed to do a single thing with comfort. It is easier to use and maintain than a cruise ship, and it can change course quickly.
For example, if you need an App to track your child's medication, there are a number of options available. These Apps are specifically designed for this purpose and are much more user-friendly than a Monolith. A quick Google search for “pill tracking Apps” comes up with Medisafe, Mango Health, Round Health, and MyTherapy.
If you're searching for an app that will help you with your daily calendar, appointments, it's going to be most efficient to use the "best of class" apps from Google, Apple and Outlook.
Here are two simple tips to help you boost your efficiency in searching for special needs apps:
Separate your search into two categories:
Recognize that there are two distinct types of Apps that are unique to life with a child who has disabilities:
Apps that directly help your child, and Apps that are designed to help you:
Direct Impact Apps ( for your child)
These are the Apps that help your child directly. These Apps can provide support for education, therapy, treatment, communication and many other specific needs for your child. For example, there are Apps that can help children with autism learn social skills, Apps that can help children with ADHD focus, and Apps that can help children with cerebral palsy communicate.
Personal Efficiency Apps (for you)
These are the Apps that help parents organize and manage their child’s care, stay connected with other parents, and find resources and support. For example, there are Apps that can help you track your child's medications, Apps that can help you manage the IEP process, and Apps that can help you organize and manage key information for your child’s care and well-being.
Use App Listing Sites
When you're searching for apps to, it will quickly become overwhelming. There are thousands of special needs apps out there. That's why we recommend that instead of searching for individual apps, you should use websites that compile lists of special needs apps. These "list" websites provide information about apps for learning, communication, social skills, and more.
One of the best app list sites we've found is BridgingApps of Easter Seals Greater Houston.
Here are some search terms you can use to limit your search specifically to websites that have lists of apps for children with special needs:
List of apps for children with special needs
Directory of apps for children with special needs
App reviews for children with special needs
App recommendations for children with special needs
App resources for children with special needs
You might also find the following sites to be helpful (just google the site name to ensure you get the current link):
The Understood App Finder
The Exceptional Parent App Guide
The National Autism Association App Directory
The ADHD Foundation App Guide
The Dyslexia Association of America App Directory
As you focus your search and find some potential candidates, it's helpful to narrow down your app choices to the ones that align with your identified areas of Direct Impact or Personal Efficiency, saving you time and effort.
By establishing a focused approach and aligning your search with your specific goals, you can find the most effective Apps that meet the unique needs of your child and yourself. Don't let the overwhelming number of options discourage you; instead, empower yourself with a clear vision of what you truly require.
With a clear focus on your search goals, you can efficiently navigate through the Special Needs App Maze. And remember, it's a long journey, and you'll want a sleek set of yachts to help reach your destinations :)
We hope this helps - Happy Vesting!
Michael Pearce, Founder, Vest