Developer Spotlight: Rootd

When Ania Wysocka started having panic attacks as a university student, she turned to the first resource she thought of. “My instinct was to look for an app that could explain what was happening to me,” she says.

But when the hypnosis and therapy apps she downloaded didn’t have what she was seeking, she decided to create Rootd, whose lo-fi vibe matches its simple mission: to demystify panic attacks and bring on-the-spot relief.

Rootd offers a primer in the biology of anxiety, as well as breathing tools, journal prompts, and guided visualizations narrated by Wysocka herself. “The whole concept of Rootd is to befriend your fear and face it head-on,” says the British Columbia–based creator.

We caught up with her to discuss her own history, the power of perseverance, and how she learned to build an app from scratch.

With robust resources and a cute blue monster, Rootd offers ways to help navigate anxiety.

What’s your personal experience with panic attacks?

I was in my fourth year of university and hanging out at a friend’s house when I experienced my first one. My heart started racing and I felt overcome with feelings of doom. As a young, relatively healthy person, it was terrifying and confusing. My doctor said everything was OK with me. I said, “Then how do you explain what happened?” They were quick to move on to the next patient.

What did you do to track down the explanation?

I looked in academic journals, but they were all written in medical jargon and not very helpful. I ended up seeing a counselor and reading the work of Claire Weekes. She was one of the first doctors to say that panic disorder does exist, that in a panic attack you enter a cycle of fear in which you’re constantly expecting it to happen again. That resonated.

How did you figure out how to turn that insight into an app?

It was years after my first panic attack, when I’d collected enough information and started feeling much better, that I went for it. I’d thought through the wireframes, design, and marketing, but I definitely didn’t know the techie stuff. I worked with a developer I’d known from a former job; he knew the nuts and bolts of building an app. It took a lot of trial and error. It required a lot of perseverance. Things kept falling apart, and we needed to just rebuild.

After you launched Rootd, how did you get the word out?

You don’t actually need to spend millions of dollars putting ads on buses. My main marketing strategy early on was App Store optimization via keyword optimization, which I learned about by reading articles online. The keywords that go into the body of the product description are like gold. You want to make sure you’re using all the space you can as strategically as possible.

What was your intention behind the app’s relatively simple design?

When you’re in a state of distress, you don’t need flair. You need focused and simple. The big red button is called the Rooter. You know how a huge oak tree in a storm will barely move, while a plant in the ground can topple over? Our goal is to get you to be the oak tree, so you feel confident you can withstand everything coming at you.

Download Rootd from the App Store

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Originally published on the App Store