It has been two years since we released an Android app for helping people determine if products are gluten-free. Thousands of people have installed and used this app. And we hope that it has helped many people who need to avoid gluten in their diets. However, this app was actually made for one person in particular. On the second anniversary of the release of our app titled “Is This Gluten-Free?” we thought that the story behind this app should be told.
This is Kristi. For a long time, she often felt ill without knowing why. She eventually discovered that the reason she felt ill so often was because she had celiac disease. As those familiar with celiac disease know, to avoid being in any discomfort, she needs to avoid consuming anything that contains gluten. And as Kristi is a vegan, her dietary choices became quite limited after she discovered that she had celiac disease.
What made matters even worse for Kristi was that products do not always have indications on their packages that they are or are not gluten-free. Kristi’s boyfriend, Mike, thought that a smartphone app that would determine if a product is gluten-free after that product’s barcode is scanned would be good for her to have. As I had experience with writing software using the Java programming language that is often used in writing Android apps, Mike asked me if I could write an app like this. In fact, our first discussion about this was actually at a hotel bar while we were on vacation together. It was there where on a scrap piece of paper, he sketched this diagram of how the app would work.
Although this diagram may not be entirely clear, Mike’s explanation of how the app would work combined with that diagram helped me understand what he wanted. You may be able to see how the diagram indicates that users could try to enter a product’s name manually or by scanning the product’s UPC code. And it indicates that however the product’s name is entered, users would then be able to search websites to determine whether or not the product with that name contains gluten. After understanding that this is how this app would work, I decided to try to write an app that would do this.
I had experience with writing software, although I had no prior experience with writing Android apps. And writing Android apps certainly can be challenging. However, knowing that what I was writing would make it easier for at least one person with celiac disease to determine if products contain gluten is what motivated me to work through any challenges. I thought that Kristi had to find it difficult to be a vegan who also needs to avoid consuming gluten. And so I wanted to write this app to make Kristi’s situation less difficult.
After finishing work on this app, we made it available here on the Google Play store. We thought that if Kristi found it useful, other individuals who need to avoid consuming gluten might find it useful as well. If this app helps make it easier for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance to avoid consuming gluten, then it was well worth it for us to spend much time developing it.