If you can’t beat ’em, interview ’em. So the AppStar winners were announced a few days ago. Though Grades wasn’t among them, the next best thing is to learn from the winners. So I got the privilege to talk to the Tapmates, Robin Razka and Petr Reichl. They just launched their first app, Cookmate, which took first place in the Entertainment category in the AppStar Awards.
I feel Tapmates is an ideal team: a designer + a programmer. Who are you guys, how did you get together, and what have been the benefits and challenges of working as a small team in contrast to, say, a one-man show?
Robin: At the beginning, I’d like to say we do no marketing at all. I believe that the best PR is product itself, so we are trying to answer any question and that’s what people like. I’ve met Petr at one of the Czech portals, we understand each other perfectly and working with him just leads to success. Personally I don’t believe that one man can do all things at the best.
Peter: I create iPhone apps for about two years – it’s fascinating platform. When I met Robin, I was literally amazed by his work. Thus when he mentioned, that he wants to go iPhone – I knew that our cooperation can deliver interesting apps. Hopefully it’s true Advantage, I see in our cooperation, is different look at the problem. Things – you would never realize in “one-man show”.
I think fun, usable design is a key ingredient in the iPhone app formula. You obviously spent a great deal of time designing not only the app but the promotion website, the icon, etc. What is the toughest part of designing iPhone apps and why do you think good design is important?
Robin: Totally agreed. By myself, I see the most important properly is very good idea, well designed features and functions. This must work perfectly. Then fit it into nice look and feel and you app is ready for world-wide success.
When designing UI for Cookmate, it was all about cooperation among Peter and me, together with essential feedback from our testers. I had to learn basics of ObjC to quickly fix details and save Petr’s time. I am detailist. Maybe I surprise you, but first mockups were done in just an afternoon. Web was done next day. Idea was clear, inspiration enough. I was suprised how smooth it went.
Petr: I am convinced that good looking and useful UI is the key ingredience to make people love it. It’s not just iPhone specifically, but it plays here main role. Robin is UI perfectionist and that was very important during Cookmate development. We’ve been constantly changing and playing with various details, however I can say I am happy that we’ve invested this amounts of time into it.
What was the toughest part of developing Cookmate?
Robin: The hardest was to figure out, what we really want. At the beginning it was only thought “Let’s make an app, which tells you what to cook regarding to what’s in your storage.”. Then we took it and continue working with the thought. At the end of the of development, we finally knew how it’s gonna work.
Petr: The hardest was to keep the simplicity of whole app. We had many ideas and more the app does, more complicated it is. I see this the most important thing in the future. Keep it simple and useful together.
What are the ways you have generated pre-launch buzz for Cookmate. What has worked, what hasn’t?
Robin: There are two options how to generate prelaunch buz – You are lucky enough or already famous and then you just tweet, you are launching new iPhone app and everybody starts writing about it. We were just lucky, we’ve won App Star Awards 2009 and that kicked off our promotion. We couldn’t have better start. Also I think – Cookmate is exactly that type of application, which can does best PR by itself. I would skip e-mails to journalists, spamming discussions etc.
Petr: I am idealistically convinced, when the app is good – it finds it’s own way. Still you must be lucky – which we had in App Star Awards 2009. Hopefully this win helps to spread the word about the app and people find out, it’s the app they were looking for.
Congratulations on winning the App Star Awards with your first app, Cookmate! What is it about Cookmate that you think makes it stand out among so many other great iPhone apps? Any tips on crafting a winning promo video?
Robin: Thank you! I liked your video as well! Cookmate has great programmer and we have good ideas, we can achieve and reflect them in app. You can expect nice tweaks in next version. The video was done in Final Cut. Recipe was: simple concept, ready story and great tools – SimFinger by Loren Brichter is magical thing.
Has being an App Star Winner generated significant buzz for Cookmate and in turn how much do you think that buzz has translated into actual sales on the app store?
Robin: We were lucky, that Apple accepted our app the same day the winners were announced.
Petr: I think it had big impact. It’s very hard to identify good app in App Store nowadays. I can’t predict what’s coming, but I was really happy, that we are TOP #1 in Czech App Store – although it’s small market, but it’s nice reward.
Tell us about the launch. Any lessons learned?
Robin: We’ve found out that Twitter is now better channel for communication with users than Facebook, where we have only few people, mostly our friends. The most interesting markets are US, Australia, UK, Canada and then Germany, France and Italy. The rest is not so important as few downloads make your app top.
Petr: We were betting on Facebook and Twitter at launch. Unfortunately I have to say that Facebook didn’t go so well, we can’t use it’s potencial. We have to figure out this – I still think that Facebook is ideal for iPhone apps promo.
What are your plans for Cookmate going forward? How are you planning to generate sustained sales and exposure?
Robin: We already are working on update for almost a week, which will introduce new features and new recipe packs.
Petr: The update will also include feedback and new ideas from users and we’d like to satisfy them. I believe that app like Cookmate has big potencial and it’s important to aim taste of majority as you can’t satisfy everyone.
Big thanks to Robin and Petr for taking the time to answer my questions. If you have any questions for them, feel free to respond in the comments.