Marketing update

Marketing …and Little Ones too! is progressing steadily. I’m getting positive feedback from lots of people who are looking forward to the release. Update: It’s out – App Store link.

Only 7 days to go!

Here’s a sneak peek at a leaflet design for the app. I like to leave leaflets or app URL cards with people I talk to. People don’t generally immediately go to a website when you’re talking to them but if they can take away an attractive leaflet or a card they might remember to have a look later or pass it onto a friend.

ALOT-Leaflet

Unreleased iPad app URLs opened on iPhone

I didn’t know this happened if you scanned a QR code for an iPad only app on an iPhone (let alone one that isn’t available yet). I thought it was beautifully stunning and elegant. Tapping “Learn more about this app” takes you to the app website. A delightful user experience. This is my first iPad only app so I guess I had no reason to know. Update: App Store link.

iPad only apps on iPhone App Store

iPad only apps on iPhone App Store

What happens on an iPad you ask? It errors out and that saddens me. Apple should do a landing screen like this for unavailable apps on the device the app works on. A stupid error message is a bad user experience.

What happens on an Android tablet and phone? I leave no stone unturned. It takes you to the App preview web page or because the app isn’t out yet asks you to download iTunes on your computer. It doesn’t ask you to buy an iPad or iPhone or mock your choice of device.

What, Aled has Androids? Of course I do. I wouldn’t know which was the best platform to work on if I didn’t try the others and I wouldn’t be testing websites properly if I didn’t see them working on Android devices.

Thank you for making it possible…

Now that Apple has approved the app “…and Little Ones too!” we have to completely “reset” and change modes from development to marketing. Up until now we’ve been privately coming up with ideas, designing and producing delightful bits and pieces for an app and testing them for many months in our spare time. Hitting brick walls, coming back with new ideas and then scaling the brick walls. That’s part one of the challenge. It’s undoubtedly huge and without it there would be no app at all.

Update: App Store link – the app is now available on iPad.

I’d like to thank my wife, Ruth, for supporting me throughout the process. I know I must have been pretty terrible to live with constantly working.

I would like to thank my parents, especially my Dad for writing the original story all those years ago. It’s a wonderful rhyming tale that adults and children enjoy and I hope you all like it as much as we do once it’s available on the App Store.

My favourite way to listen to the story is to turn on the “Auto Page Turn” feature, sit the iPad up on an angle, press the “Start from the Beginning” button and sit back and listen and watch it all happen (you can even stream it to your AppleTV via AirPlay if the whole family want to hear it!). Although a lot of care has gone into making an “interactive” experience too I still think there’s a lot to be said for just listening to a wonderful story read by the author.

Version 1.0 of the app includes a lovely looping theme tune. This was composed by my brother (Owain Llwyd) and I’d like to thank him for doing it. I know that he is very hard at work on the full score for the app. Once finished we’ll update the app. I’ve had a sneaky listen to a couple of the new tracks and wow… it’s going to be awesome. That will be a free update.

I’d like to thank all of the Beta testers of the app. Especially #fourlittletesters from Australia and Giles (6) from Cheshire (thanks for your video, I wish I could charge a Million Million Pounds for it, I really do!). We received amazing feedback from you all and that feedback inspired us to create an even better version 1.0 app. I particularly enjoy doing usability testing with people who don’t normally use iPads. It’s great to see what they find difficult or watch as they discover something new.

Finally, I’d like to thank Stephen Heaton who’s illustrations fill the app with colour, wonder and above all beauty. His interpretation of the verses is outstanding. I looked forward to receiving every new scene. I’d also like to thank him for his enthusiasm and support throughout the process of developing the app. It all started with an idea I had which sounded fine on paper but making it happen… that took a small team of dedicated people who supported each other with constructive criticism where required and positive vibes to keep going when times were tough.

What a team. I can’t thank you all enough.

Making an iPad app for children

Who’d have thought it was so complicated?!

Prerequisites for a children’s app: An amazing bedtime story and narrator (Mike Brown); an amazing Illustrator (Stephen Heaton); an amazing composer (Owain Llwyd); incredibly supportive family (wife, parents, in-laws and friends) to help an app developer to bring it all together.

What have I learned?

  • It’s a lot of fun.
  • It’s a lot of hard work.
  • Children are not scared to say exactly what they think about something and that can be scary but it’s also very refreshing.
  • Some children like to be less active and watch the story auto-play itself.
  • Some children like to do everything themselves such as press buttons and turn pages.
  • All children (as young as 3) can definitely operate iPads and understand tap-to-view overlay user interfaces much better than our parents can.
  • Some children want games to play.
  • Children need to be protected from credit / feedback screens (I had a lot of fun doing that!)
  • Children really take to an ‘elder’ figure narrating the story. In this case, my father’s voice. Almost universally, every child who’s tested the app loves his voice.
  • Children really want to touch everything.

How did I learn this? I have the amazing #fourlittletesters (four children aged 3 to 9 from Perth, Australia) to thank and a boy called Max who’s 6 years old (there have been other testers too. The #fourlittletesters, led by their father, Andy, tested a beta version of my app and sent back amazingly detailed feedback including suggestions about how it could be improved and a review of the app as it stood. The feedback was extremely constructive and not at all negative. These were, after all, comments from potential customers. It’s good to listen to customer feedback.

I listened and added several exciting new features to the app. These updates were very well received by everyone.

I will note that as a spare-time indi developer it is impossible to please everyone and add every single feature. However at least the “top 5” most important features have been added. Overall, it made the app feel that much better and more polished.

That’s not the end of this story, yet. I have more work to do. There are two more ingredients required… pixy dust and magic. Lots of it.

After all that pixy dust is applied the app must then pass it’s greatest test of all, the Apple Review. Is it “app” enough? Who knows? There are no guarantees the past few months haven’t been a complete waste of time.

Please check back for updates.

What the blog

As is the case with all blogs I haven’t posted in a little while.

Web development work matters have taken a lot of my time recently. I’ve been catching up on the latest Responsive Web Design techniques. I have to admit that even as a web veteran of 13+ years in the business I’m struggling with how to visualise responsive designs. Hell, I can’t find any designers who understand it. Getting clients to grasp it is nigh on impossible. This is not the first RWD site I’ve done though. I’ve made two or three others… it’s just the techniques are changing so rapidly and the frameworks are jumping up significant version numbers (one I’d used went from v2 to v4 in 12 months and was unrecognisable and largely incomaptible) and they’re quite often dropping browser support (yes, IE7 and 8, I’m looking at you) all the time.

Ironically many of the latest techniques are using the box sizing CSS setting (IE8+) which sets the box model back to how very old versions of IE used to do things. Every other browser used the W3C recommended add padding and margin to the box size model and IE used it’s own model where the box width included margin + padding values. How ironic, then, that we’re switching the model back to how IE did it originally? The Browser Wars have a lot to answer for.

Audio Recording for Apps

For anyone who’s purchased my latest app, OOOG, you’ll hear some sound effects while playing the game and tapping buttons on the screen. I’m particularly proud of the option menu button sound effect.

I recorded and edited all of the sounds myself. It was a highly enjoyable process. More surprising still is the fact that all the sounds were recorded by an iPad mini using GarageBand. I used an iRig mic pre amp and hooked up a semi-pro microphone.

I didn’t edit the audio on iOS. For that I turned to Adobe’s Audition app on the Mac. I enjoyed editing and recording the audio so much that I’ll probably not buy or download anybody else’s sound effects again. Subject to being able to capture the original sound, of course. If I need the mating call of an exotic Panda I’m going to be a bit stumped!

I’ve already recorded all the audio for my next app project with the same set-up and I’m super impressed by the lack of background noise on the source audio. I’m definitely going to record some new sound effects for a Words Inside update in the future.

App UI sound effects will no longer be a last minute addition. They’ll be something I work on much earlier in the development process from now on.

With UI sound effects it’s very important to get short sounds that begin instantly. If you purchase or download sounds from the internet they often make your app feel less responsive because they don’t start playing instantly.

Obviously if an app needs longer audio or original background music I’ll still be turning to my brother, Owain, who’s a truly gifted composer. We worked together on the Sum Maths and GBFF apps.

 

App Store Pricing

This piece and the links within it are worth reading if you’re interested in App Store pricing and why it’s all gone so pear shaped.

http://www.subfurther.com/blog/2013/04/14/cant-buy-a-thrill/

It seems that very few apps made for the general public are going to recoup their development costs. It’s not to say you can’t make any money from ‘hobby’ apps.

As the post points out most developers need to focus on working on apps for clients who already have a business model where an app can add value to their business but the app isn’t the money generating factor. I could be information, a store front, a map of their retail outlet locations or something they do to promote their brand via an app.

The gold rush is over.

Update: Or is it?

And excellent rebuttal to the above posts http://www.marco.org/2013/04/19/paid-app-market

PS World 2.0

At the iOS Dev UK 2012 conference in Aberystwyth last year I got to know Shawn Welch, an author, speaker and independent iOS app developer from the United States.

Today he released the Photoshop World Conference app (App Store link) version 2.0.

Boy oh boy, what an app it is. Congratulations to Shawn. He’s done an amazing job. I’m especially impressed with how the app transitions to iPad size from the excellent iPhone version. I often feel TableView apps look gawky on the iPad but this one is a splendid example of how to reuse iPhone view controllers on the iPad.

Shawn’s also created a unique UI element worthy of an usability award. He’s called it the SWHorizontalSplitViewController (twitter post link). You can flick the control horizontally to change the date but you can also slide the whole control up and down on the screen to swap between a list schedule view and a graphical schedule view.

It’s a beautifully designed app and well worth a download even if, like me, you can’t make it to the Photoshop World conference itself.