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A Meditation on a Meditation App

Staying calm while shipping a mobile meditation app.


Could we make an app this calming and purple? The Inscape Meditation Dome Room. Image courtesy Inscape.

When INSCAPE reached out to us at Postlight with an offer to work together on a new way to practice meditation at home and in New York City, we were excited (but remained calm). INSCAPE creates immersive guided meditation and relaxation experiences — via its app and studio — for people to find balance and calm in a fast-paced, always-on world. Our response: “Yes, please!” Then we were like: “So how soon can we get to the being mindful part, it’s 2016 and nothing sounds better than a little inward escape right now.”

All the interface you want for meditation, and no more.

It turns out the answer is pretty fast, because INSCAPE is really good at getting you there. Postlight helped make that happen.

INSCAPE is a lot of things:

  • A collection of super high-quality rich media audio guided meditations with built-in options, like variable durations and customized instructions for whether you’re at home crosslegged or clinging to the handrail of a city bus;
  • A platform built to generate that ever-growing library; and
  • An iOS app backed by a Node API to deliver that audio to you.

Postlight worked closely with the content team at INSCAPE to make sure that the API and app worked with the meditation-based content—that it looked, sounded, felt, and worked beautifully. We were, um, mindful that experience really matters when it comes to meditation.

We’re proud of what we got done, and there’s nothing quite like it in the app store. Rather than detail how it all works, I’d encourage you to download the app and follow along as I point out the three key features that made this project special:

1. Integration with Apple’s Health app

Health app kicking off

In iOS 10 Apple added “mindfulness tracking” to their Health app. If it’s sitting unopened on the third screen of your iPhone in a folder labeled Misc., I’d encourage checking it out — Health acts as a sort of secure clearinghouse for the data you allow into and out of it, including not just time spent in meditation but many other data types, too.

We built Health tracking into INSCAPE via a simple system permission screen that’s shown once, on sign-up. Once you give INSCAPE permission it’ll pass a record of every minute spent in meditation into Apple’s secure health storage, allowing you to share that data with other apps and track it against other health trends over time. Integrating Health into Inscape took only a few lines of code but immediately made it a valuable part of a holistic approach to health—also, everyone likes making bar graphs increase over time.

2. Smart, Silent Caching

Caching the right audio was a super important part of allowing someone to open the app when they’re ready to meditate and immediately begin doing so. If you’re looking at the INSCAPE home screen (which you are, right?), you’ll see that a few meditations are presented as logical next steps in building your practice.

There’s a giant play button for whatever’s immediately next in your chosen technique, plus a selection of Today’s Inscapes curated by the content team and optimized by time of day. We built a download system into the app that aims to always have those selections ready for you. Assuming the app had the time and WiFi to download everything, you won’t have to rely on good bandwidth. Which makes sense—you don’t want to make Internet connectivity a prerequisite for meditation.

As an added bonus, this also means you can reach toward oneness whenever and wherever you need to — for example, on an intercontinental flight that is somehow just you and like 300 babies. (Like seriously when you boarded you peeked into the cockpit: babies in adorable uniforms. With the little plastic wings!)

People are taken on a journey, and the app helps them keep track of where they are.

3. A Nimble API

Powering these Inscapes is a Node API doing some heavy lifting: Taking in the massive library of meditation and relaxtion audio content plus metadata, and serving back out a RESTful series of endpoints that make the app feel snappy and unintrusive.

Here’s an example: Remember when you signed up (which you did), how you chose a technique to focus on? (See left.) The API used that choice to help plan the best series of meditations to hone that technique. But, if you’re three or four meditations into your practice and you decide that maybe it’s 2016 and before you can work on empathy you need to get yourself right, that’s okay: By going to your meditation settings under your profile you can ask the API to recalculate your plan with a new technique.

This is made possible by a Node app that’s clever enough to be able to reconcile your chosen technique with a massive content library — accomplished via a neat content packaging system Postlight and INSCAPE worked together to devise.

Those are just three of the ways Postlight helped make INSCAPE a reality. Treat yourself: give it a try today.

We loved working on this app—and we’re not done; there are great things ahead. If your app idea can make the world a brighter place, get in touch. And as the soothing voice of INSCAPE reminds us at the close of every meditation: travel gently.

Story published on Nov 23, 2016.