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Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Freemium for non-games

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

I’m really happy with how much great discussion has happened already on the new App Making Branch community. I’ll highlight my favorite discussions here on the blog but I think I’ll refrain from posting the whole discussion since that can get a little lengthy.

In our second discussion, we’ve been talking about the viability of freemium for non-game apps:

Can the freemium (free + in-app-purchases) model work for non-game apps? I think, for certain apps, it definitely can. I’ve heard good things from David Barnard with his timer app. On a larger scale, I’ve heard iTranslate is doing very well with a subscription model for premium features. I also think apps with very enticing add-ons like Paper or photo editing apps can work well. The question is, what kind of apps does this work best for and what are the trade-offs?

Read the ongoing discussion on Branch →

Jack of all trades, master of some

Monday, January 14th, 2013

Image by Matthew Stumphy,

Nathan Barry, author of The App Design Handbook, recently wrote a great post about his professional journey to master not just design but development and marketing too.

A common critique of that approach is the age-old aphorism:

“Jack of all trades, master of none.”

What sounds like a truism is actually an excuse for not taking the initiative to learn things outside your comfort zone. In fact, some of biggest names in our industry are the tinkerers, the curious ones.

loren_brichterJust look at Loren Brichter, maker of Tweetie and Letterpress. This guy is an amazing designer but he also is a fantastic developer with a knack for marketing. In a recent interview he described his prototyping process as thinking, then coding. He doesn’t wireframe things out on paper. While I personally prefer to prototype with paper and Photoshop, Loren’s obviously got a good thing going, a process that would be impossible had he not learned to code.

Check out more examples on Mike Rundle’s blog.

Why are these people so successful? I think the various disciplines inform one another. They force you to think in different dimensions. They also make you a great product person because you understand the nuances of what it takes to build successful software from beginning to end, even if you don’t always execute each step of the process yourself.

The main danger is spreading yourself too thin, too fast. It’s always good to master something and make sure you are always on top of your game. Thats why I am a designer who also happens to code and market. I spend most of my time designing and staying current in the design world, but I also spend some time every week on marketing and sometimes coding. It’s really fun to switch between different sides of your brain and takes a lot of the tedium out of work. I think it’s also great to have hobbies beyond technology because I’m a strong believer in Steve Job’s emphasis on the intersection of technology and liberal arts.

I’m not saying this is for everyone. I think some of the best designers and programmers in the world are extremely focused on one discipline. But I think exploring unfamiliar disciplines can be a ton of fun and help you think differently. I also don’t think it’s as hard as people think. I’ve learned enough about design, development, and business to release a couple pretty successful apps and I’m only 22 — it doesn’t take decades to master this stuff.

These skills can be learned and mastered so why not be curious and take a few hours a week to learn them? I think it’s time for a new aphorism: Jack of all trades, master of some.

My Smashing Magazine Article

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

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I love to build and I love to share. Over the past few months I’ve spent many, many hours building something that I am very excited to finally share with you today.

Over the past few years I’ve had the privilege of learning from some of the most successful indie developers out there and today I want to give something back to the community by publishing a comprehensive summary of the basic principles I’ve learned about building successful apps.

There is a lot in there and I’ve had it reviewed by some of my favorite designers, developers, and writers to make sure everything makes sense. I hope it will become a valuable reference for anyone looking to craft successful apps.

Link: Smashing Magazine — How To Succeed With Your Mobile App

I plan to contribute to Smashing Magazine more in the future and am also working on developing an interactive iBook that expands the ideas in the article. Please email me or comment on the article if you have any questions or things you would like to hear more about.

David Barnard interviewed in AppVille

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

I love it when indie developers come out and share the lessons they’ve learned over the years. David Barnard, a good friend and one of the most seasoned indies out there, has done just that in an interview for a new iPad magazine called AppVillle. Speaking of which, AppVille looks like a great free resource for anyone in the app business.

Lessons from a frustrated Apple Maps designer

Monday, October 1st, 2012

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Last year, a few weeks before receiving my Apple Design Award, Apple started talking to me about joining the Maps team. Though working for Apple had been a dream of mine for a while, I decided I preferred the thrill of making my own products.

Let’s imagine I accepted the gig. How would I feel right about now? I would have worked my heart out for the past year and a half, designing the most elegant turn-by-turn mapping solution available, and now this. The CEO of Apple has just written a humiliating apology for my work. I would be ashamed to tell people what I do at Apple.

The most frustrating thing? It wasn’t really my fault. The design was awesome. The turn-by-turn directions UI was a home-run. The vector-based maps were super fast and efficient. It was the best.

Except for one thing. The content.

The sub-par content, perhaps blown somewhat out of proportion by the press (many people I know have yet to find any issues), has caused the general public to all but ignore any innovations or positive qualities the Maps team delivered. It’s really a shame.

Great arguments have been made about the inevitability of Apple’s Maps woes but my point is this: content rules for content-based apps. If you get the content wrong, folks won’t even notice your awesome user interface. To them, the app is broken. Lame, lame, lame.

This is a lesson we all need to learn because I think we tend to ignore content. We spend most of our time on the shell around the content and not enough time testing the content itself in the wild. It has caused me to want to do a lot more content testing for Languages because the quality of content, even if there is little you can do about it at the time, can affect the design decisions you ultimately make and the expectations you set for users in marketing.

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