Why iPad? Where’s the Android or the printed book version?

First of all …and Little Ones too! was a lot of hard work. I mean a lot. A great deal of time has been spent creating it for the iPad. There is only so much spare time one person can have and I’ve spent all of mine on this project. (See previous post)

Why iPad first? That’s easy. You’ve got to start somewhere and you can’t do everything all at once. I’ve been working towards being able to release this app for 18 months learning more and more Objective-C (the native programming language used on Apple’s devices) and the iOS SDK frameworks. I’ve created 5 other iOS apps along the way and each has been a step up from the previous one in one way or another. I love making iOS apps.

Will you make an Android version? Yes. Definitely. I’d love to. But it will only happen if the iPad version is successful. If it is there will be an Android version. Successful means that the app must recoup the actual monetary cost spent to develop it and none of my own time counts as a cost (i.e. even if it does achieve that, I still won’t have made a penny).

I’ve not counted equipment costs (Desktop + Laptop Mac and 3 different iPad testing devices) or software license costs. Those are being supported by my web developer day-job.

I don’t have a tablet computer – will there be a printed version? Again, this depends. If the app makes any profit at all that profit will be put straight back into printing and publishing costs. I won’t count my time spent on producing a book version as a cost. The cost will come from actually printing it, getting an ISBN number and all the other expenses associated with getting something published in the real world.

How can I help you? Thanks for asking. All I ask is that you share a link to the iTunes app page, like the Facebook page or Tweet something about the app for iPad to your friends. If enough people get to know about the app and a small percentage of those people have an iPad and buy a copy we may just make the iOS app enough of a success to be able to continue working on alternative formats.

Best wishes and thanks for reading, Aled

3, 2, 1 – App Launch

I’m delighted to announce that “…and Little Ones too!” is now available on the Apple App Store for iPad.

Details about the app are available on the app website and there’s a page dedicated to the app on this blog site too.

The easiest way to find the app on the App Store on the iPad itself is to visit the app website and tap the “Available on App Store” image or search for “A5 Multimedia” in the app store. Just type A5 and the store lists some suggestions for you. Update: The search index has updated and searching for “little ones” or “little ones too” now correctly brings up the app.

If you enjoy the app please write a review on the App Store, it really does help so much and please Like our Facebook page or re-tweet one of our Tweets.

If you’d like to send us other feedback please use the app support page. Would you like to see new features or an Android version or a printed book version? Let us know!

Many thanks, Aled.

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

Happy Birthday Mac Pro 2012 – have a turbo boost on me

I wasn’t aware until yesterday that a bootable internal 6Gb/s SATA PCIe adapter existed for Mac Pro hardware (all PCIe models). It accepts 2 SSDs on board. There is a 4 SSD version too but too much of an investment for me.

Check it out here: Sonnet – Tempo SSD PCIe Card Adapter. It uses Apple’s built in drivers so there should be no compatibility problems down the road although the computer does see the drives as “external” even though they’re lodged in the PCIe slot.

I’ve been buying 6Gb/s SSD’s for some years now in the hope that one day I’d upgrade to a Mac Pro that _finally_ had SATA 6Gb/s built in. We now know that will never happen. The next Mac Pro will have it’s own PCIe SSD built in at 10GB/s+ and these SSD drives will need to be put into external Thunderbolt cases. The next Mac Pro will also likely be thousands of pounds to buy as well and my Mac internal tinkering will be over forever.

I’ve gone from 240MB/s read + 260MB/s write to 266MB/s read + a whopping 493MB/s write. Maxing out the Crucial M4 500GB SSD spec. Luckily for me I had an old Crucial C300 250GB in a USB3 external case that wasn’t really being used properly so I shoved that in too.

I’ll either put my Lightroom photo collection on it or boot a developer copy of the next OS X 10.9 for testing.

I’ll post back reliability after a few days. I like my Mac Pro to be able to sleep and wake reliably. I know from experience adding PCIe cards can change your luck on reliability.

Update: Shutdown / restart all fine. Much faster boot times. Sleep/wake also 100% reliable so far. Very pleased. No downsides so far.

This Mac Pro, a 2012 3.2GHz 4-core model was never meant to have be kept this long already. I’m wishing I’d bought the Hexacore version in hindsight. In fact it’s Happy Birthday today to the Mac Pro. It’s 12 month warranty expires at midnight.

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.