I lived in Taiwan from 2009-2011. A few years later, I decided to design and build this mobile app to help others learn languages through language exchange, just as I did.
I had lots of ideas for how I wanted this to work. It was challenging to prioritize features that could be valuable enough for a small community of learners, yet viable enough to build as a side project. I ran a small test by contacting English learners in Taiwan, and showing my prototypes to language meetup attendees in San Francisco.
I wanted to make Huà (話 words, language) friendly and approachable. I used the top of the Chinese character 花 (huā, flower) make an H for the logo. It reminds me of a helipad, hospital signage, or a tap dancer.
I wrote a hybrid app with Ionic Framework and Firebase to support browsing language learners and real-time chat. I wrote a Node.js server to interact with Google's official translation API and its undocumented text-to-speech API.
I launched a simple landing page for the app and invited about 500 people to test. To my surprise, it was featured a few days later on Product Hunt, leading hundreds more people to download it.
Within a few days, Hua was also featured on BRIT+CO and Skift.