Richard and Brooke Lee, a couple from Utah, recently launched Dela. Users can post messages, photos, and videos just like on traditional social media platforms, but content is only shared within a private group. (Richard Lee)
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FARMINGTON — Richard Lee remembers how messy a family group conversation used to be.
The youngest of six children, Lee said all of his siblings are married with their own children, plus he and his wife have five children. At one point, there were 17 people in a family group chat, Lee said, which resulted in sporadic notifications throughout the day and confusion about when specific conversations started.
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 had something like Instagram or Facebook, but with our family, (then) we could get out of the group chat and send pictures and share updates and news,” Lee said.
The more she and Brooke share the idea, the more they realize other families are in the same boat, she said. That’s how Dela started.
In the two years since their initial conversation, Richard and Brooke Lee hired a Utah software company to help design the app, tested it with prototypes, and officially launched it on September 1st.
Richard Lee explained that Dela is the Swedish word for “share”. The free app, available on both Apple and Google platforms, “offers a private group networking experience with a social media interface,” according to a news release. Users can post messages, photos, and videos just like on traditional social media platforms, but content is only shared within a private group. Each group also accesses a shared calendar to keep track of important dates and plan events.
Although the number of users is currently small — only 170 people have downloaded the app, Richard Lee said — the Lees hope Dela will grow.
“We just want to tell people about it so they can start using it and benefit from it,” said Richard Lee.
“Less intrusive” communication
Lee said neither he nor his wife have any technology experience. He said they grew up in Cache Valley and have lived in Davis County for the past seven years; Brooke works at a private equity investment firm while working as a medical technology worker before choosing to stay home with her children full-time.
So when they got serious about building an app, they knew they’d need some help. Lee said Guru Technologies, a Layton-based company, handled the coding while he and Brooke decided how the code would look, work and other key features.
“We decided to invest in it and implement the idea, but we didn’t do the coding or the development ourselves,” Lee said.
By the summer of 2021, they were using “a very, very rough prototype” with their families, Lee said, and continued to develop it until they were confident of putting it in app stores.
Lee said the program’s groups are invite-only and 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 not really social media in the sense that you go out and make new connections with new people you don’t know,” he said. “It’s really an app to connect with people you already know.”
He also emphasized that Dela is not designed to be freeing or time-consuming, as traditional social media can sometimes be.
“We’re not trying to create this addiction. We’re not trying to get people to come back to it five times a day. We’re not trying to force people to buy things from there,” Lee said. “We really want it to be a tool that helps people instead of a tool that pulls people in and burns them… We think that’s what makes it unique as opposed to other social media that’s just constant. new content all the time.”
Brooke Lee added that her favorite feature is the shared calendar. Notifications for events like birthdays and anniversaries can be repeated each year, he said, making it much easier to coordinate family events.
“(It’s) a really fun way to remember all those dates as your family grows,” she said.
Richard Lee said future plans for the Dela include continuing to refine its design and develop its features; however, the main function of the app will always be to create small, private groups to share content and messages.
“It’s maybe (a) less intrusive or less annoying way of communicating with people you know,” he said.