David: OK everyone, welcome to the Mixergy Master Class on mobile apps. This is David Saint from Mixergy. I’m thrilled to have Ken Yarmosh with me, and I’d like to introduce him to you. Ken Yarmosh is an O’Reilly author, you can see the book right there, and he is founder of the mobile firm, App Savvy. Ken has worked on apps for PBS and Network Solutions. I’m just totally thrilled to have you here, Ken. Welcome.
Ken: Cool, David, thanks. Thanks for having me. I’m happy to be here and looking forward to jumping into the content.
David: Fantastic. Before we get started, let me just mention a couple of different ways that you can connect with Ken. He can be found on Twitter, @KenYarmosh. That’s K-E-N-Y-A-R-M-O-S-H, and then his site KenYarmosh.com.
Ken, let me ask you. You’ve written a book on this that outlines a fairly successful framework, but how did you come up with it in the first place?
Ken: Well, I always like to say that I am a practitioner first and an author second. That’s not always true and it’s not to jab at my fellow authors but what’s inside the book really comes from experience. It comes from me starting with literally zero experience in developing applications to running a mobile firm, working with top media agencies, and developing, also, our own successful apps. What I’ve done is sort of taken all of that knowledge, all of that experience, the goods and the bads, and written about it. Given people a fairly practical guide for how to create apps.
Really the way that I wanted to do this today was not just to kind of talk about necessarily the specific content of the book. The principles of the book are going to come out. But really show this in a step-by-step example for the Mixergy audience so that they could take this and have some really practical take-aways from what we talk about. What I’ve done is taken one of our apps and showed how we sort of went step-by-step through that process which we apply even to our own apps in creating what eventually was called Rise Alarm.
Now, I’ve mentioned this, actually back when I did the interview with Andrew some time ago, that we were going to do this. I said to him why in the world are we doing an alarm clock app? Well, I wanted to do it because I saw an opportunity but also to show people that you can enter a crowded space and still be successful.
Thankfully, this particular app has done pretty well, especially considering it’s an alarm clock app. It entered into the top 25 for its category. You can actually go and download this app now. Since it’s out I gave a little link there for the Mixergy audience. For those that are listening it’s bitlee/mixergy-rise. You can see the final product. What we’re going to do today is basically step through the process in how we created that application Rise Alarm.
David: That’s great. These are actually screen shots from the app itself?
Ken: Those are screen shots from the iPad application. There’s three different clock faces. We’ll talk about why even those clock faces look the way they do. Yeah, that’s actual screen shots from the app.
David: OK, great.
Ken: The process of developing apps, if you look at this diagram that’s coming up, it’s not too different from developing any particular type of software. There are a couple of key points that I want to hit on for people as we go through this.
It starts with what I mentioned a little bit ago, which is I understand that there are people probably listening today who don’t have actual technical skills or design skills. Or maybe they’ve never done something with software development before. There’s a lot to do, and I lot to embody this principle in a simple phrase called think first, hone later. I don’t mean just actual program. I mean everything from coding to design. There’s a lot that we can do in this strategy phase that doesn’t require us to get in and start coding or starting to put the pixels in our design itself. We have a lot of thinking work, a lot of research that’s going to go in there.
The second thing relates to the focus on the customer. Literally when you’re ever doing a new product or business this is important. But because of the fact that this is a very new and competitive environment, getting our customers incorporated super early in the process, getting their feedback on the idea can help us mitigate our risks in ways that are extremely helpful. The final item here is what I call the marketing crescendo. For those of you who don’t know music or who are not musical, the crescendo is the idea of sort of reaching a climax at the end.
People sometimes give you a hard time when they’re reading the book, maybe in preview mode, and say oh, maybe you should use a different term. I think it encapsulates the idea which is by the time we go to launch the app in the app store. I’m going to use a lot of Apple terminology but the principles are applicable to Android and Windows 7. It just so happens that Apple has a lot of the market share still. We really have an opportunity, the way the app stores are set up, to get the biggest bang when the app actually goes out there.
There are these new release lists that show things chronologically so there’s a natural, built in ability to kind of get a lot of traction. We want to capitalize on that. We want to go through a number of steps. By the time the app actually hits the app store we’ve gotten some traction and we’ve already gotten some build up. Those are three things that we’ll hit on as we go forward here.
I think we can start in the strategy section. We’re going to really focus a lot on the strategy here. In particular on how we sort of begin this process itself.
David: This all starts with research.
Ken: Yeah, you’re right. We start with research, and this is actually a really fun thing. It’s probably one of the more fun types of research you could do. Research in the app store really entails downloading apps and using them. While you’re going to see in a second here all of the types of alarm clock apps that we downloaded, there’s a lot of other things that we can learn from aside from all of the alarm clock apps.
If you haven’t, for example, played Angry Birds, you should play Angry Birds because it’s a phenomenon in the app store. Not understanding that culture is going to put you at a disadvantage. If you haven’t played Tiny Wings. If you haven’t looked at the apps of the week that Apple highlights every week or looked at the new featured list then you’re doing yourself a disservice. People can tend to be a little bit cheap and say oh, well I don’t want to pay $5 to download these apps or whatever it is. You’ve got to remember when it goes through this process, and people may not realize this David, that apps can cost $10,000 or more. I’m not saying every single app costs that amount of money.
If you’re going to spend any kind of time and investment. Whether it’s just your personal time or whether it’s your professional money on an app then you can spend a couple of bucks in doing some research. It can save you a lot of money because you might decide that oh, I’ve looked at all of these apps and I don’t actually think I should build this app anymore because there’s enough good ones out there.
The nice thing is that the app store is driven by key word research. You’re typing things in like, in our case here we were looking at antique clock or nap timer. We downloaded all of these apps and we actually used all of these apps and saw what they did well and what they didn’t do well.
The other thing is once we’ve actually identified a specific app, you see here coming up here the app store listing. This actually comes from a figure in my book. What I want to highlight here is things like the application description which is sort of that middle section. You can learn not only what the features of the app are but what this particular developer considers the best features of the app by reading through this description and seeing what they want to highlight.
The other really key part of this, aside from just the fact that you can see the icon and the screen shots, is the customer rating and reviews. This is, again, something that you maybe don’t get in the web world where you don’t necessarily see people commenting on a particular web app. You can kind of do a Google search or some kind of search and find out what people might be saying about but it’s not directly related to the application. Meanwhile in the app stores you can scroll down into the section and see what people are thinking about this app. What are the opportunity areas? What things are they doing well, what things are they doing poorly? It’s really a wealth of information.
If, for some reason, it’s not just because you’re being cheap but you actually are strapped for cash and don’t have the money you also can see things like the application screen shots and get a decent sense for what is the design aesthetic that’s being used. What are, again, the key screens that the developer considers for that application?
There’s one area that we do research but people tend to do research like that and stop. Those aren’t the only places that, in our place in particular, you can have an alarm clock. There are a lot of great alarm apps on the App Store, but guess what, there’s the traditional alarm clock that can sit next to the bed. The key thing here is that the alternatives aren’t always in the App Store. You can find a lot of competitors in the App Store, but whether you’re building an alarm clock or a notebook, or maybe even building a game itself, there can be alternatives that exist in the physical world.
We want to learn from those alternatives and what we did with Rise Alarm in particular, is pay attention to the design itself. If you look at traditional, antique clock faces, you can see a lot of design and work went into those, making them readable, making them visually pleasant. In some cases these clocks are not actual alarm clocks, but might just sit on a desk.
There are a lot of textures and things that we can learn from them, not only from a functionality stand point like how they wake people up, but from a visual standpoint. So, it’s important for us to look at the other options which might not actually be in the App Store themselves otherwise we’re building our app in a vacuum and not taking advantage of other learnings.
David: Right, so I have an idea for an app. I get an inkling one day. The first think I need to do is go to the App Store, and see what other App Store alternatives are out there. Take a look at them, play with them and start to catalog what they’re accomplishing. Then I need to go a step beyond that and look at real world alternatives again, and I can continue that catalog process. Is that right?
Ken: Yes, exactly right. Maybe I’m taking the easy way out, since obviously, this is a very direct application of this particular principle. Even if you’re talking about a game, maybe it’s not a real world alternative if you say it’s on Nintendo or PS3, but they’re still alternatives. They can exist in the physical world or not, but the bottom line is that there are vertical direct competitors and there are horizontal competitors.
Horizontal competitors often wind up being physical objects when comes to the App Store. I have to give credit to some of the framework that we’re talking about when it comes to competitive differentiation, because it comes from a great book that I read many years ago called ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’. You can learn more about it at blueoceanstrategy.com, I believe. It is a lot of work by some smart folks who dissected the move from the red waters of competition into the blue waters of opportunity. They show a process, and I actually distilled this in the book by dissecting a particular app that was made by Smule. Smule created a lot of hits in the App Store, over the App Store’s course of existence, like I am T-Pain, Net Magic Piano, and a bunch of other apps.
One of their earlier ones was a slider app, which I’ve mentioned before. They’ve really found a way to take something as basic as a lighter and get a number one hit at it by looking at the characteristics of the competitors and the alternatives and saying, ‘Where are the places we should innovate?’ In their case, taking a lighter and allowing the igniter app to ignite other flames on other lighters around the world, which they called social sharing on a globe view. They also decided they weren’t going to compete on other factors, like they weren’t going to have sound.
You can see in the strategy canvas, which is a way to map out the characteristics against the places you want to focus or not focus and differentiate yourself that way. This is in the book. You also want to pick up a copy of ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’. If you only read even the first quarter of that book, you’ll be smarter not just for the App Store, but in general for business. You’ll be a smarter person when it comes to thinking about competition. How do we apply this to Rise Alarm, this particular framework? What we actually did was analyze all of these kinds of apps and find out where are the places that would make a better alarm clock.
The first thing we did, was something that Apple likes, which is the heightened realism. The app, if you download it, you’ll see that it literally has no interface. It’s actually just a clock that sits, and I’ll talk about how you set alarms and things, but it’s a clock that makes the entire device feel like an alarm clock. I didn’t want there to be an app sitting on a screen. I wanted there to be an alarm clock sitting next to your bed. We really focused on the clock face, the design research that we did. We tried to make it look as realistic as possible.
The other thing, and it might sound silly, but we listened and woke up, or tried to wake up, to the horrible sounds of most of the alarm clocks in the app store. They just weren’t effective and they also weren’t pleasant. You have to be careful with how pleasant you make it or somebody might just feel like they get a lullaby while they’re sleeping in bed. You need to sort have a mix between those. We found the right kinds of sounds that did that.
The other thing we did is we took advantage of a new feature that was around at that time which are called local notifications. Without going into the technical details, this particular app, or most of the apps in the app store, had custom alarm timers written. The bottom line if you went and looked at those customer reviews I mentioned is that people just weren’t getting woken up. The alarms weren’t consistent. We took advantage of a new feature that Apple had created specifically for functions like this. We used that and we made sure that 100% of the time the alarm is going to work.
These are sort of the places that we decided to focus on. We didn’t, however, in talking about that strategy canvas, focus on things like lots of digital faces, of having ultimate customizations. We focused on a core set of features and we decided not to try to differentiate on other ones.
David: You basically did your research. You created a competition canvas, like you mentioned, with the blue ocean strategy. Then you identified areas where you could bring something unique. That’s essentially basic innovation applied.
Ken: It’s basic innovation. This is where I have to give the credit to the professors for their research. There have been decades and decades of research on competition, innovation. I’m standing on the shoulders of those guys and applying this specifically to the app store on this kind of (inaudible) process.
David: At this point you haven’t contacted any developers or anything like that? You’ve focused exclusively on the idea?
Ken: Yeah. At this point in the process you are not, you’re doing nothing more than research. You’re taking on the heavy lifting at this point. Ultimately, I’ll hit on this a couple of times, the reason why we do that is because, especially if you don’t have your own developers. I have my own developers now but in the past, when I first started this a long time ago I didn’t. You can help lower your costs, if you’re budget focused and you’re cash strapped, by getting as much detail as possible to the developers and the designers.
David: OK, great. Should we check out what’s next?
Ken: Yeah, the next part of this process is thinking about what’s the revenue model for this? You might think that’s kind of a strange part, to insert the revenue model. But we’re going to be spending time on this, we’re going to be spending money on this, and there’s some larger purpose or goal. I think for the most part you can kind of reveal the purpose or goal through the revenue model itself.
For example, there could be an app that is free. There’s not a lot of people who release purely free apps. Typically these are big brands or people who have other goals than trying to make money off of the apps themselves. If you are a brand and you are a company free might make sense as a revenue model as part of the goal of the app.
You can see some of the examples that I list here for free. Free can be as basic as something like Facebook which has a complimentary service on the web, obviously. Or something like the Salvation Army having its bell ringer app and trying to expand its brand and let people know, especially around the holiday seasons, that they should be giving.
I won’t cover every single one of these but I want to hit on briefly the second one which is advertising. I have some friends who work at some of the big advertising mobile media firms and they probably get mad at me when I say this. But I think, for the most part, when you’re starting out advertising’s not a great model for apps. It really just comes down to the fact that unless you release an app and it has millions of downloads, or thousands of downloads, it’s hard to monetize those apps from an advertising standpoint.
The place that most people, and probably most of the folks who are listening today, would want to focus on is really two different types of revenue models. Which is just the standard paid, and for those that don’t know the app store providers, like Apple and Google and Windows, take 30% of the revenue of an app. There’s just the standard paid app where it’s $.99 or $4.99 or whatever the price may be and Apple or Google or Windows get 30% of that revenue. Like I said, that’s the majority of folks out there who want to go paid go that route. But there’s another option which is becoming increasingly more popular and is something we really believe in which is the in-app purchase model whereby you can have customers upgrade.
You get the benefit of free, because in terms of downloads we’re talking about a serious order of magnitude of difference going from free to paid. Even at $.99 you can go to having six or seven apps downloaded to hundreds or thousands of apps downloaded. This in-app purchase model you can use an app for free but then say hey, I want this feature. If you want this feature it’s going to cost you $.99.
This is why I talk about the customer being important even from the beginning of the process because you can learn, as an example, what are the features that people are willing to actually buy and upgrade. Getting those folks involved in a real conversation, a frank conversation, can help you reveal what are those places they might want to upgrade? If you want to advance, I believe that there’s an example here.
Actually, there’s one other revenue model that I’ll mention just in passing. Again, it’s not something that a lot of the Mixergy audience would probably want to take advantage of. But it is something that is new and something that is exciting if you’re a content producer. Which is the subscription model.
This was initially released as part of Apple’s push with the daily where customers can subscribe to new content on a regular basis. It doesn’t allow the lifetime value of an application to be $4.99. It could be $4.99 every week, as an example, or it could be $4.99 a month or a year. This is another option if you’re a content producer, this would be the type of model that you’d want to think about.
In terms of what we did for Rise Alarm, though, is we did two different things. We have two flavors of it and several different types that are related to the devices. In terms of the flavors we have just the straight paid version. There’s a universal version and there’s an iPhone only version. The universal will work on the iPhone and the iPad for one price. On the paid side there’s also an iPhone only. Then we have the light one and, again, this was something that we sort of innovated on after it was released. Our initial push was to do this paid universal iPhone.
I mention the light because we took advantage of an app purchase. What we did was our customers got one clock and one alarm sound as part of the free version. Then they could upgrade either to get two other clocks, which was one package, or they could get what we called the standard pack or the winter sound pack. We actually released a winter sound pack that had things like Herald the Bells and other winter sounds like sleigh bells as part of an update. This is a way to sort of take what we’re talking about and sort of bring it back into the practical sense.
David: That’s why you need to think about the revenue model in the very beginning? Because that’s going to tie into your development cycle, right?
Ken: Yeah, in this case there’s a direct application with something like the [in-app purchase because that's a technical underpinning in terms of setting that up. Right? You can't just say I want to go from no in-app purchases to in-app purchases.
In fact, I'm happy to sort of pull back the curtain on what happened here. We didn't initially build the app with in-app purchases in mind. We had to go through sort of a re-architecture of it in order to support in-app purchases. If we had thought about this from the beginning ourselves we would have not caused such problems even in our own development.
Initially we just decided paid which we related to our goal and sort of tried to estimate in terms of some of the sales and what were the right price points and experimenting with the price points. You've got to sort of know, like we talked about, if you're going to spend some time on this or spend some cash you've got to sort of understand what the revenue model looks like and what that return could be.
David: OK. (Inaudible) devices and touch here. This has to do with the user interface?
Ken: Right, we're going to talk about this in a little bit more detail in a few minutes. The key thing I want to hit on, actually there's two keys here for devices. First of all, the mobile development, in some ways, is much more like desktop development in the sense that the applications are much more dependent on the operating systems and devices themselves. Meaning both from a hardware standpoint, like the iPad 2 has two processors and the iPad 1 only has one, as well as the features that are available in the operating systems themselves.
I mentioned this earlier but we took advantage of what are called local notifications which had not been in earlier versions before IOS 4 which has now been out for roughly a year. That wasn't available in the earlier versions. We couldn't, or we decided not to support, devices that were on IOS 3 or below. We've got to sort of understand, and this is something that I spell out pretty clearly in the book itself, we've got to understand what are the features and sort of the hardware of these devices and the operating systems.
Then on the other side, which is related to the touch, you can see a cool experiment here that basically shows the number of touch points that are available. Actually there are 11 touch points in total on the iPad itself, which is kind of funny because we only have 10 fingers. There's actually 11 simultaneous touch points. When it comes to thinking about how to design these apps, and this is why I was saying download different apps, look at their gestures and sort of the different types of interactions that are available.
It's not like the web. When I start working with clients all the time they always like to say things like oh, then you've got to click this. No! You don't click this anymore. You might tap and hold or you might swipe or you might pinch and zoom. There are all these different gestures that we have to be familiar with and account for. This is actually make the app a lot more fun.
In terms of what we did for Rise Alarm on this front, I was mentioning this before, we actually decided not to have any settings or sort of what they call interface chrome on the screen itself. Instead we actually had just the clock. You saw that before, but it's just the clock. What we did is we have swipes to reveal all the different elements of the app. If you were to swipe up you can reveal the brightness slider. You don't have to dig into various different settings to get that. If you were to swipe right or left you can go either into the alarms or the map timer. Literally there's no interface buttons or anything like that on the actual interface. We allowed the gestures to reveal all the different elements of the application.
David: That's so cool. I've neglected to mention, I should mention it now that we will be including for everyone who's here and everyone who picks up Ken's framework will have a copy of his mock up deck. Where he lays out and you get to see how he builds Rise Alarm. Then you'll also get a web copy of his book so you'll get step-by-step instructions on how to do these things.
Ken: We should also mention, David, since I'm a fan of you guys and friends with you guys that this is exclusive to Mixergy right now. This isn't available for others at this point.
David: OK, great. Should we go on to the next?
Ken: Yeah, let's do that. Because actually this ties in a little bit in what David was talking about. When we kind of move into this next part of the process, and David, if you're seeing it before me feel free to chime in there. I think the mock ups here, let's go straight into the mock ups themselves.
I've actually taken a screen cap of one of the pages in the mock up document that David just mentioned. This document is basically the entire user experience and all the screens are mapped out for Rise Alarm. If you download Rise Alarm and you have this document you can see pretty much a one to one mapping between the ideas that were laid out and the actual execution.
This made it extremely, extremely easy for the team, both the design team as well as the development team, to actually create these assets. I worked very closely with them even in terms of estimating costs for the application. This was extremely helpful to give them a full set of assets that described every single part of the application.
As you can see here, what I like to almost call these are sort of visual requirements. If you're a software developer or you're in software development you know what requirements are. They spell out how to actually build the app. These, in some ways, are visual requirements because they have annotations for various elements that describe almost actual requirements. You can see the wire frames plus the annotations and really get a clear sense for what's supposed to happen.
There are lots of tools that can help us accomplish this task. What you're seeing here was actually done in Balsamic. I prefer Balsamic. My process, at least right now, is to start an app called iMockups, which is an iPad app, and initially nail down a high level idea of what that looks like. I typically go from iMockups on the iPad into Balsamiq, which is an AIR app too.
If you're on the PC or on a Mac, you can use that tool across platforms. I use that tool to create the assets for my team. There are a lot of other great resources too. Before I mention them, I want to say that personally I recommend using a digital tool instead of a pencil and paper to do things like mocking up. That's just my personal preference.
There are some that advocate buying a stencil kit or paper and sketch it out that way. I personally am not gifted in that sense, so for me it's actually a challenge to do it that way. I think there are also some pros and cons to staying digital. It's really easy to share that. It's really easy to edit that. I'm often sharing this with my team. I don't have to scan in a sketch and send it to them, and if there's an edit, I don't have to go back and erase something. It's drag and drop. It's really simple to edit that way. I do want to at least say that some people recommend using a paper and pencil to do something like this.
The other tools that we can talk about that are pretty neat, especially if you're someone who loves PowerPoint or Keynote. They're the ones listed here. Keynotopia, Keynote Kungfu, and then I'll talk about Omnigraph and Visio in a second. The reason why I like these other tools is that if you're already familiar with something like PowerPoint or Keynote, these are almost drop ins to that they allow you to start working a tool that you're already familiar with.
I don't know if you want to go to it now, David, but there are tons of great tutorials in that link there. Keynotopia.com/tutorials. There are actual interviews that you can go and watch how to prototype using Keynotopia. That's a great option for people to take a peek at.
David: What's great about these is that you don't have to draw up the standard U/I pieces. They come bundled in it. You can literally mock up an app in 15 minutes.
Ken: I think I might have said this. There is a 10 minutes video of how to prototype an app in 10 minutes. Actually, a fellow O'Reilly author, Josh Clark has an interview. He focuses more on design than user experience. He has a great book called 'Tapworthy'. I'm pretty sure that he did one of the interviews with the Keynotopia folks. Go check out that interview and check out Josh's book as well. It's a great book.
David: We will include all these links for everyone in the course so they can access that interview. Also the Balsamiq Mockup. Should we go to the next piece?
Ken: Yes, please do. We'll jump into the development section. What we're trying to do today is give you a survey from start to finish. It doesn't mean to undermine that there's more information and obviously a lot of thought that goes into each of these different buckets. We're just trying to give you a quick overview. As David mentioned, you're going to get access to my book which gives you all the details on every single one of these fronts.
David: Before we jump into development, can we just quickly list out what we've accomplished so far before we get here?
Ken: What we've done up to this point in the strategy section is we've done our AppStar. We've done our broader research and what I call the alternatives right now. We've developed a set of characteristics. It's almost a set of features of competitive apps that are out there. We've thought about our revenue model and thought about what our goals are for this app. The revenue map doesn't come out of nowhere, it really forces us to think about our goals. We've also sat down and started to map out some of the screens.
Again, the nice thing about these tools is that it if you're not a designer or a creative person, it makes it simple for you. You should have a very good sense for what this app is about. It doesn't mean that you've mapped out the entire app. I've been doing this for a while now, and you don't necessarily have to get down to the level of detail that I showed. That's what we've accomplished through the strategy section.
David: Can I ask you a really quick question?
David: I love that there are so many sets before we get to development, because usually people go, 'I have an idea for an app, I need to contact this guy and get it going.' You mention customer feedback in that phase. How do you do that? Do you take screen shots and show it somebody?
Ken: I sort of jumped over that a little bit, so thanks for bringing me back to it. One of the ways that I do that early in the process, and this ties into the marketing crescendo, is to actually begin to build a customer group as well as a peer group in the strategy phase. It's fairly in depth, but some of the basic strategies that we can use, and they do sound basic, but they work, are things like setting up saved keyword searches on Twitter to find people that either mentioned particular apps or ideas.
I've actually found customers of the Rise Alarm iPad app, because there's no clock app on the iPad. People saying, 'What's an alarm clock app on the iPad?' and saving that keyword search. Then, contacting those people, and saying, 'Hey, can I talk to you about this idea?' or 'Can I show you a basic mock up for the idea.' and get their feedback on it. Building a customer group that you can be much more successful in the app store if you have a group of developers that you either follow and know or are at least are reading.
There is lots of great information shared in the IOS community. I don't tell people what all those places are because I want them to go out and find them themselves. Some of the researches are listed inside the book, but I really advocate doing Google searches or Twitter searches and look across your network and finding people who are doing this, because you can learn a lot from them.
You can also go to different Meetups and things of that nature. During the early phase, I typically do something like that. Sometimes I might do a Craigslist ad. Again, I tend to focus on Twitter. They're a distinct group of people. I think they represent the Steve Blank characteristics of some of the early evangelists who possess a certain type of characteristic. They are going to help you beta test in the early phase of development. Did I answer your question David, in terms of some of customer feedback in the first part?
David: Absolutely. We're going to include this in the materials so people can see how you do a Twitter keyword search and how you might contact these people as well. I'll write up a quick script for that. Do you ever do face to face, where you say, 'Let's meet up for coffee.' and 'What do you think of this app.'
Ken: I definitely do fact to face, but typically not that early. Once we might have some visuals. There is something to be said about doing that early and talking to people without even having the visuals. It's probably the most disciplined way to go through the process, because you've literally done everything yourself, whereas some visuals will require designers. Face to face, there are things like Skype video and FaceTime. There are lots of different ways to have the visual feedback in this way. A lot of people also recommend, if you're talking to those in the customer development world, to see reactions on people's faces versus trying to read between the lines in their texts.
David: Great. Let's move on to development.
Ken: What I start with on this part of the process is talking about what the team would look like to bring the app to market. We do apps for some pretty large clients, and even for some of the largest apps, an ideal team can still look like this: a designer, a developer, and a project manager. Typically, but not always, a project manager is going to be people like those in your audience. I act as the strategist, the project manager and the UX lead on our projects. That's helpful to do the things that we've talked about like mapping out the mock ups, thinking about the research, thinking about the feature set, managing the road map for the app.
Overall what this really helps with is lowering the cost and giving you the ultimate ownership into the app itself by saying, 'I'm the person who's leading this.' There aren't a lot of project managers that would be hired in situations like this. Typically you're going to get, 'Oh, I don't want to do the project management." You know, if David, I said to you, 'Follow this process.' [??] And you said, ‘Can I really? It’s not a skill set of mine.’
Ken: You’re typically not going to be able to go find a project manager and hire a project manager freelancer like you could a developer or designer. In that case you’d want to hire an actual agency or some kind of firm, but I recommend that you ultimately do act as this person because you’re the person spending the time and the money, and it’s not that hard. You just have to have great communication with your team and give them clear expectations as to what you’re looking to accomplish and when you’re looking to accomplish it.
David: OK, great, so Pete, just to be clear, “P.M.” means project manager?
Ken: Project manager, yup.
David: I’m the project manager and it’s time for me to find a designer.
David: That can be challenging because it just feels like there are so many choices. I know about Elance and I know about oDesk but I really want just very quality work. What do I do about that?
Ken: Yes, I tend to stay away from the Elances and the oDesks for the exact reasons that you just mentioned. I’m not going to say that I’ve never hired people off of there in the past. Thankfully now we have our own designers, but back in the day when my first company started I hired someone off of Elance to do the logo for me.
But I really look to have mobile-specific experience. I think the very best way, and it sounds basic, but it’s to start with an actual referral, and sometimes you can find referrals from the folks out there that are talking about the apps that they’re doing. So maybe it’s not actually a direct referral, maybe it’s an indirect referral. But my favorite place right now, and I think, David, you and I were talking about this a little bit, to find designers is dribbble.com.
First of all, for people who don’t know, Dribbble is a creative site that allows designers to share their work with one another and get critiqued. I don’t mean to go on there to stalk designers, be nasty to them, or make them feel uncomfortable. You can go on there and have an account, I believe it’s just a viewer’s account, and favorite people’s work and follow people on there that you think are doing great work. But the nice thing about that is there’s a lot of designers on Dribbble who are doing mobile-specific stuff and the quality is pretty incredible.
People typically don’t release stuff onto Dribbble that’s of poor quality because they’re basically showing it their peers, so you can see some really interesting work and you can get a better sense for what their skill set is. Another thing that’s great about Dribbble is that every single designer has their contact information on there so it could be something like their twitter account, or it could be their actual URL. It’s just a great resource.
In fact, if you see on there [??] we’ve actually done some work with them and they helped with some of the design work on Rise Alarm itself, so they’re super-talented guys. Just go across the board here and most of the people there you see are doing really great stuff.
David: Can you search for “mobile” within Dribble and . . .
Ken: Yeah, I think you can do searches like that and pull stuff up. Over time, just like I talked about kind of doing your peer development, this is almost like part of your peer development where hopefully you’re spending time on here and your investing into the community, not just trying to find people to bring them on. But yeah, as you see you’ve pretty much got all the mobile stuff that’s showing up there. I always like to look at the debuts because there are new designers that are coming on there all the time and a lot of the people who are debuting are looking for work. The thing about some of the top designers is that they’re booked a lot, so you can find some pretty good designers that are just getting started, which might give you a better opportunity to actually hire that person on.
David: Right. You mentioned that you can click right there and their information is right there.
David: And you can find out where they are and reach out to them.
David: And what’s great about this is that they’re already doing what you want, so you don’t have to go through tons, and it saves you so much time.
Ken: It really is. I’m not saying it’s the only place, anther place that’s like this is Forest. There are obviously other design portfolio sites, but I think the culture of a Dribble or a Forest is right in terms of getting connected with folks who are going to do great work.
David: Right. You’re going to do great work. There is Craigslist, and I don’t mean to just throw that out there, but you have to be creative to find the right people on Craigslist. The benefit there is that you’re possibly going to be able to find someone who’s local. Frankly, I haven’t gotten a lot of designers that way. My main design contacts, at least currently, like I said we already have established designers, but if we’re looking for new designers, the referral and Dribble are the good options for us right now to get connected with new ones.
On the developer side, in some ways there are a lot more options, but you have to be a lot more careful. The reason why, on a superficial level, is that you can see the designer’s work. You can see their pixels. You can see their colors. You can see their font choices and typography. When it comes to developers, it’s code and most of us can’t read code. Thankfully, I can read code, but I’m not going to read it well enough to say, ‘This is the best developer ever.’ You have to start with a vetting process.
What David’s showing there is that initial part of that vetting process. I actually will go and have developers fill out a survey and gauge the kind of experience they have, the apps they’ve done. My hard line rule for developers, unless you’re at a firm trying to hire on your own developers, unless someone has shipped an app before, it’s a non starter. Unless I’m trying to invest in someone straight out of college and bring them onto our team and get them ready to go in iOS development, you want to work with someone who’s actually done something. Go download their apps. Ask them about their apps.
The places that you can go are places like local Meetups. There are Meetups in almost every single city. In fact, I’ve gone to a lot of the Meetups in different cities and talked to those groups. They have really smart folks in them. There are also some very Mac specific places to go to and hang out. Again, I’m giving a disclaimer, don’t go there and almost feel like a shark trying to attack prey. You want to go there and form a relationship with folks. This is ultimately going to create a better relationship.
Cocoaheads, mStorernights[SP], these are really specific places. I think for developers, it’s almost more important to have them be local to you. I’m not saying you have to, that it’s 100% needed, but you’re going to be doing a lot more work with the developer than with the designer, especially long term. So, finding them in local joints is a great way to go about that.
David: I want to touch on this very quickly, because this is very important in terms of actionable steps. We’re going to provide this survey for everybody who’s watching and everyone who participates. You told me something that I thought was excellent in terms of Craigslist postings. You’re not looking to convey every aspect of the project. You want to find out if they can do it first. You have a very short posting. We’ll give you a sample posting, and then you link to the survey.
Ken: The whole point is, you don’t want to pull back the curtain on the idea in public. Secondly, this gives you a disciplined way to view the information. They’re completing a survey. You can find the people who fit the right kind of criteria. This puts it into a spreadsheet, so you’re keeping a short posting, directing them over here. I guarantee you’ll get 10 or 15 entries. They may not all be from people who are local. They may be from people all over the world, but you can quickly filter those out.
This is the way that I, back before we had our own team, going and getting connected with folks. Once you’ve found, let’s say three developers that you want to talk with, either from a firm or independent contracts or a mobile agency like ours, even bigger than ours, going and taking the next step and asking, ‘How much is this app idea that I’ve sketched out actually going to cost?’ It’s really hard for people to estimate, even with your mock ups, even with designs. Maybe you don’t have designs. You go to apps that are completed and say, ‘Here’s an app that’s kind of like mine.’
For example, when I was doing Rise Alarm, I pointed to the two or three other alarm clock apps and said, “What do you think it would take to do this app? How long would it take? What are the biggest challenges of this app? What’s the process that you go through, and ultimately what does that cost look like?’ And then, for someone who has apps available already, then I can actually take an app that I’ve done before, and sometimes I trick them because I have apps under different developer accounts, and I say, ‘How long do you think this actually would take to do.’ and they can give me an estimate on the timeline.
I actually know that the app took three or four weeks to build. They might say, ‘Oh, it’s going to take 12 weeks to build.’ Then I say, ‘You’re probably not the developer that I want to work with.’ There are lots of different ways to go through that process and make sure they understand. I also think it’s important to look at the apps that they’ve done themselves. Download all those apps. Ask them similar questions, ‘How long did this app take you to build? What was the biggest challenge about this? How would you improve this app?’ Ask these types of questions and you can get a much better sense of what they’re up to and how they think and work.
David: Once we find a developer and we work that process, then we start to think about the launch. We’re thinking about the launch the whole time.
Ken: We are thinking about the launch the whole time. It’s hard to show this. Even in the book, it was hard to show the marketing crescendo build. What I did in the book was in between sections in the book, I’d point them to a later chapter, I think it’s chapter 8 or 9, that says Phase 1, Phase 2, Phase 3, Phase 4, Phase 5 of your marketing crescendo, and you’re doing specific marketing activities in parallel to doing your development. I always say that marketing helps development, and development helps marketing.
Some of these things that I’ll talk about briefly here will show that. We talked before about the customer and peer development. Something that we can do, and we’ll probably bounce out of this and come back to it, is early in that process put together either a splash or a landing page and combine that with email marketing. In parentheses there, I mention that you can start that as soon as you’ve scoped out some of your features.
If you can jump ahead to the next one which talks about landing pages, I want to talk about a particular effort that we’ve done recently in partnering with Unbounce. A quick back story because I think it’s amazing the way it all connects together. During the first interview that I had done with Andrew, I mentioned Unbounce as one of the options for having landing pages. He actually mentioned that he wanted to have the Unbounce folks on the show with him.
As a result, he helped me get connected, and I worked over there with Rick, the CEO and Ali, one of the co-founders and director of marketing, as well as, with Jen Gordon, who’s a smart designer and also is a great resource. You’ve got to link this up too, David, for tactics. A lot of educational resources when it comes to mobile. We all worked together to create a series of mobile app templates that people can use that have the key features you might want to have in a landing page.
You may not even have your entire app built yet, but you can start testing it out by using one of these Unbounce landing pages that are specifically mobile focused. We have ones available right now for both smart phones like iPhone and Android. We’re going to be expanding this out over time.
In fact, we’d love to see the Mixergy audience get in, use those, and give us feedback on how we can improve these, because we’re planning to improve them over time. In any case, a really great resource, super simple, and it gives you all the key parts of what you would want to have in a complete landing page, and you can customize them throughout the process. I always talk about a pre-marketing website or a pre-launch website and a post-launch website.
In the pre-launch, you can edit out some of the items you saw there in order to have that earlier pre-launch site. Really great resource. Check out the Unbounce stuff. Check out the tactics stuff from Jen, and you’ll get smarter with both of those resources. If you want to bounce back, David, back into the marketing crescendo stuff.
David: I’ll shoot backwards. It will take a second to load up.
Ken: No problem. I want to quickly touch on these other items. I apologize that we’re going to rush through them, but trust me that they’re explained in full detail in the book itself, which again, you guys are going to get for free, free web access to that. Sometimes when we have design assets ready we have things like the sneak peek so we can take literally just screen shots or even just the colors and the logos and the splash screen of the app and put that into that device that we had highlighted on the landing page, the Unbounce landing page.
You’d be surprised how many people will actually sign up for Beta testing by seeing just a promise of an app. There are a lot of people out there that are always looking for the next thing. We can show that website in a second. I talked about the pre-launch website. We want to have sort of a pre-launch website and a post-launch website that has the final marketing copy, but all this is helping us with our media outreach.
So we’re getting ready to actually have the app going to the app store and we’re sort of having 2-3 weeks of outreach before we do that because we’re going to get the most bang for our buck and have all those people ready. They’re busy guys and gals writing these reviews, writing about apps and we have to make sure we give them enough lead time.
I always find people launching their app and then 2-3 days after it’s launched they start emailing press. That’s a good way to actually not get a lot of attention for your app because it starts slowly going down on the recent launch list and then sort of loses its traction.
And then finally, just the promotion stuff. We can give our promo codes, get the actual website out there and we do things like cross-marketing. We can do all sorts of interesting ideas. Again, we don’t have enough time to go into all of those right now.
Ken: But if you wanted to show a couple of the other website stuff there, I think you can push forward one more after the landing pages and this is actually before we worked with Unbounce. We had used some other templates out there to create a landing page. Actually, you can see now the iPhone version of the screen. What we did at this point was literally have a screen shot, an email signup and we said, want to Beta test, and we got 30-40 folks signed up for Beta testing.
We also did a share on Dribble. Again, we worked with I said SoftFacade and they helped us with our app icon and our initial interface and they did a share on Dribble and that drove people to this page, so we used social media to drive people to the landing page in the early stages to get that kind of feedback. I don’t know if it’s worthwhile to show them the Beta program page. I don’t know if you have that open another tab or not.
Maybe you just have it linked up, but I know it’s a pain to jump in and out of the presentation, but we have a Beta program link there. Actually we collected all their key information, especially the device information, what’s called unique device identifier that is required on the Apple side since you can’t just test without that information. You need to collect some information from your testers.
In any case, what we did here and I just wanted to highlight it because it’s real simple.
We set up another Google doc form and dropped it into this webpage and we’re able to collect all of our Beta tester information and have easy access to that in the spreadsheet. The key thing here as I said, for the Apple side of thing, you need to get the UD ID, which a lot of people don’t realize and don’t collect and you have a lot of back and forth with getting that information from people and over time they just lose interest, so get it all upfront and you’re able to move forward more quickly.
David: OK, great. We’re going to give this form as well, so that will be nice. Just copy and paste it. All right.
Ken: Cool. So if you know some basic stuff here, some of this isn’t brain science or brain surgery, but you forget often to take advantage of your existing channels. Your friends and family, you can send them the link to that signup page, You can use contacts from your email. You can use your blog or Twitter or Facebook. Anything and everything that you have available in conjunction or kind of put together that gives you quite a bit of leverage.
It doesn’t matter if you only have 5 people on Twitter and 5 people on Facebook and 2 readers in your blog. Guess what? Ten testers to start with could be pretty significant, so get out there and try to take advantage of your existing stuff, aside from your PR outreach and kind of reaching out to the influencers. Don’t forget about the customer itself which is not always necessarily the media influence or the top lobbyer off tech.
David: Great, so few people actually do that. Actually go out and speak to the prospect, target market and actually get feedback.
OK, great. Once you go through that now I’m looking at submit to the app store.
Ken: Yeah, this is a very complex process. Which, to be quite frank, is not always needed to be done by the project manager. A lot of times your developer can submit to the app store for you. I actually, because I’m a person who likes to get down to that kind of detail, I actually do spell out that process in the book itself. You’ll have a complete checklist of how to submit to the app store.
For now let’s just say that the next step after we’ve done all those things, we’ve done beta testing, we did [generations] on the app, did actual QA on the app. We submitted it now and the app is actually live. This process continues to happen. The process really repeats from step one all the way to what we just did for each update for an app. I did want to talk about ways to analyze, if you don’t want to click on that I can show you (inaudible) figures on the next one.
I want to talk about two different ways to think about your analysis. Actually, maybe three. We have the qualitative side and the quantitative side. The qualitative is actually something I had already mentioned before, which are your customer reviews and your ratings and getting email and support requests for your app. Those are sort of all the qualitative types of data points that we have.
But we also have the quantitative side. That’s the actual download numbers. That’s the sales numbers. Also analytics, which we’ll talk about in a second. I’m a huge fan of App Figures. I’ve been a customer of theirs for well over a year now. I know the guys over there. Great guys, they’re really trying to [iterate] and make this an awesome product.
By the way, all these different products in this, I don’t have to mention this but I just want to, I don’t get anything back from these things. I worked with the Unbounce team to do the templates. I did it because I love the product. I’m promoting App Figures because I’m a customer and I love the product. Don’t think that I’m just trying to push these things. I only promote products that I like.
The sales data in App Figures is great. They also allow you to do rankings so you can go and track not only your app’s rankings but any ranking for any app. You can see all this information in one place. The reason why I like this versus (inaudible), which is a desktop app, is that this will auto-sync your iTunes information. What happens is your iTunes information expires over time.
I never have to worry about losing my sales reports because this auto-syncs all the sales information every single day. I wake up in the morning I get two email reports in my inbox about how the apps are doing. I can also log in here and see all this information. You can see this is just the review screen but there’s sales information, you can actually even see stuff on your iAds. It’s just a great tool.
This is kind of the sales information, generally speaking. There’s also the analytics information. Flurry is a great tool to use for the analytics side. It’s almost like what Google Analytics is for websites, Flurry is for apps. It’s really become the best option for people to use. You can see not only basic stuff, like this shows the number of sessions, this was for an app, obviously the date here is some time ago. But this is the number of sessions for one of the apps. You can also track specific events.
What we track for Rise Alarm is the alarm type, or the clock face as well as the alarm sound. We can see what are the top combinations that people are choosing and kind of make decisions. If people really like the standard sounds we can create more standard sounds going forward. Or if people like the classic clock face then maybe we want to do another classic face. Another way to kind of learn what people are liking or not liking without them explicitly saying it. You’ve got to combine both the qualitative and the quantitative to make your decisions. Both of them are also useful in their own right.
David: I love it. You can actually see user data and then iterate based on that as well.
Ken: Yep. That’s about it. We mentioned that there’s going to be lots of things available for you to go and look at. Number one, you can check out sort of a real high level overview. The table of contents and everything. You can get everything at appssavvy.com/book. That has a video promo and some of the people who endorse it. O’Reilly’s has been nice enough to release a free web version of the book. You might think I’m absolutely crazy for releasing all my blood, sweat and tears for free on the web, but I really believe the ideas are more important than the money in my pocket.
Hopefully, if you find it useful, you’ll go and buy a copy either on O’Reilly or on Amazon. We really want you to use this resource and get into it. I also mentioned that if you want to see the finished product, we talked a lot about Rise Alarm today, go to bitwii[SP]/mixergy-rise and go download that. David, I guess that’s about it. I’m assuming that we want to take some questions from the audience?
David: Yes. Let’s go take some questions right now. There’s the iTunes. I want to stop sharing my desktop, and then we’ll get into some questions. Let me just go through these real quick. Rob C. is asking a really interesting question, a great question. Is there a way to see analytics download numbers for your competitor apps?
Ken: No. I’d love for there to be that, but what you can do is use tools like AppFigures, and another great tool is called App Annie, where you can see the rankings for the other apps and do some things from that a little bit. It won’t necessarily say, though, that you competitor had 5,000 downloads. That’s Apple’s secret sauce. Unfortunately you can’t get down quite to that level, but you can make some assumptions.
Also, there are some anecdotal shares of information from top developers. If you know, for example, that a number one app in utilities categories is getting 10,000 downloads a day, and your competitor is ranked three, you might be able to make some deductions there. Unfortunately, we don’t have that kind of information readily available for us.
David: Great. I’m just going to see if there aren’t any more questions we can wrap up the session. Here’s a good question. What’s a realistic return on investment on apps?
Ken: That’s a hard one. It’s pretty much all over the place. We didn’t really talk about costs too much. The number that I typically like to talk about in developing a fairly solid app is somewhere between $10,000 and $15,000. For individuals, that’s a decent sum of money. For organizations the numbers are significantly higher, and some even push into the six figure range.
The return on investment for a big media brand for their app is almost unmeasurable if it’s free, because ultimately, they’re trying to get brand awareness. If someone spends $100,000 on an individual app like an alarm clock app, then I can tell you that the return is going to be basically zero. You’re not going to make $150,000. There are some alarm clock apps that do that. Ours isn’t quite to that point. It’s hard to really quantify what the return will be. Some of the old numbers, just to give you some data points, and I’m not trying to skirt the question, but it’s not an easy question to answer, I believe the average app now is making something like a $1,000 or $1,200. I think that’s the new median. Half the apps are making less than that and half the apps are making more than that.
That’s about the best I can do. It really comes down to what you put into the app, what category you’re in. Games, obviously, are the most successful ones. The top games are doing millions of downloads, but the average, I would say, is doing well less than that. Sorry if that’s not a good enough answer, buy you have to think about your costs, what the averages are, and it’s dependent on the category a little bi.
David: That’s a great answer. I want to go through a few more of these questions. This is an interesting question. He says, I’m looking to develop an app that will be sold as a white label to clients, hence having many copies of the same app in the app store. Any good examples of app companies that have done this especially well?
Ken: First of all, you have to be careful with that from a policy standpoint, because of the fact that Apple kind of clamps down on cookie cutter apps. I understand it’s white labeled. It’s still an option. I think the best examples are typically still in the media space. People are building book platforms. The one that comes to mind, although it’s an amazing platform and maybe unfair to point to, is Push Pop Press. They have a new platform that they’ve put out to make interactive books. They had the app of the week last week for Al Gore’s new book. Regardless of political persuasions you might want to check out what they did there because it was a pretty amazing sort of interactivity.
There are examples of successful white labels. I think there’s also a number of magazine ones that are out there that are sort of white labeled and magazine platform. Like I said, just be careful from a policy standpoint that it’s not just an exact cookie cutter. That there’s just a small change of content that gets swapped out of it. I don’t know what the specifics are in this case. Go and check out Push Pop Press, for starters, as a book platform the way that they’re kind of white labeling that. In some ways they’re almost licensing it more than white labeling. But the technology is being applied across different publishers.
David: Right, this is a good question because there’s some people out there who probably want to go to a company to build their app for them. What do you think of like Mobile Roadie or AppMaker.com, for example?
Ken: I think it depends on what you’re trying to do. I know the guys who are behind App Maker. I think that they’ve done a good job with the product that focuses on getting your (inaudible) content out there.
For example, your RSS feed or your audio podcasts, sort of the news feed for what’s happening with your company. If you’re looking to do apps like that they’re really great tools that you should go out and use. If you’re looking to do something extremely custom and exotic then not a good option for you. If you’re looking to save money, maybe a good option for you.
Ultimately, you have to remember that people are going to see your app in the app store and if it looks like every other app, and the same thing in some ways with some of the white label stuff, if the app just looks the same and there’s some branding differences and there’s not really a lot of feature differences it’s not going to stand out.
It can save you some costs and it can save you some time but it might not ultimately give you what you’re trying to accomplish. It really just depends though. If you’re looking just to have a presence in the app store and, like I said, you want to have some of your already existing content put into an app, then those are great options.
David: OK, awesome. How long did it take you to build Rise Alarm? If you don’t mind sharing that.
Ken: Yeah. I did my part in two or three days, in terms of the user experience. In terms of from start to finish, and this was a side project, was roughly a month. But not a month of development. There was a lot of weekend time of development. If I actually estimated the total hours of development and design it might be 100 hours or something like that. If I had to estimate.
David: 100 hours.
Ken: Yeah, I would say roughly.
David: OK. Do you feel good answering a more questions? Maybe three more questions?
Ken: Yeah. Happy to.
David: Let’s see here. The next question is, oh this is interesting. This might tie into the marketing crescendo idea but can you be successful at all on the app store without high rankings or an Apple feature?
Ken: For the Apple feature, few people get those so yes, you can be successful without an Apple feature. I know I have friends who are extremely successful and I don’t think they’ve, maybe even one time, been featured by Apple. It obviously helps a lot.
From a ranking perspective, high rankings, like I said, are typically going to (inaudible) with downloads. If you have one app and you’re not ranked at all for that app you’re going to get one or two downloads a day for it yeah, you can’t be successful. If, however, you had a portfolio of apps and you had 300 apps in the app store, which, again, I know people that do, and you’re sort of getting almost the long tail version of that. Where every single one of your apps got a download a day then that’s $300 a day. Do the math and see if you think you can live on that. I think you probably could.
It depends. If you just have two or three apps no, you can’t survive without being highly ranked. If you have a higher number of apps, that makes it successful. Even outside of being highly ranked, you can still be ranked in the top 400 for your category and still be getting a decent number of downloads. The short answer is yes, but it also depends on what your portfolio of apps looks like.
David: Cool. I don’t know what the experience of the person asking the question is, but he might be focusing on a really great idea, a really great mock ups and that sort of thing. Here’s another one. Do you think this whole market, the mobile apps, is a bubble? Where do you think this might be going?
Ken: I get this question in a couple of different way sometimes. People will ask if mobile apps are a fad. There is clearly a fever pitch for apps right now. Whenever I tell people what I do for a living, then for the next half hour, I get people saying. ‘Oh, there’s an app for that. There’s an app for that. There’s an app for that.’ They tell me all the ideas that they want to have built. It feels kind of like the web did about ten years ago, when everyone had the next idea that they wanted to put on the web.
The broader transition and evolution that’s going to happen because of mobile is not a bubble. We’re moving from this world of typing, clicking, tapping gestures to having our computers in our pocket, being always synced and always online. The broader trends that mobile is ushering in are not bubbles or fads. In terms of certain types making a lot of money, gimmicks, or things that came out and then die, sure those are bubbles or fads.
What mobile is showing us is the future of computing, when it comes down to it. Imagine the future, the 27 inch screen I have in front of me is all touch screen. It’s not saying you will only use that, you might still have a keyboard, but the two are going to further meld together as we go forward.
David: That’s great. This kind of ties into that. The market is crowded, there are hundreds you can look at. Is it too late to get into the game? Probably not, but let’s say you want to get into it. How did you put yourself over all the noise and separate yourself?
Ken: I think even with Rise Alarm, that app only came out in December. There’s obviously hundreds and hundreds of alarm apps out there. Our brand is strong, but it’s not the biggest brand in the whole world. Part of that that answers that question is this process. To find out how to differentiate. I have some various clients that I work with, and sometimes we just do strategy work for them and give them an assessment of what they need to do, and there are some people who still haven’t gone mobile.
Our recommendation is go mobile as soon as possible, but sometimes the funds aren’t there. Generally speaking, if you haven’t done it yet, don’t be afraid that you missed the bandwagon. Try to run to catch up to the bandwagon and get in there and get active. It’s better to do it now than to wait another year or two. It doesn’t always mean just apps, it could be mobile web or just thinking about what mobile means. It doesn’t have to be, just go build an app.
David: How about we do two more questions and then close it for the day? Does that sound good?
Ken: Sure, that sounds great.
David: You focus a lot on iPhones and iOS. What if someone has the choice between Android and iPhone, should they have a preference? Is one cheaper than the other? What are the pros and cons of those?
Ken: The principles are applicable across, and we develop apps across. Generally speaking, people are always asking about iOS. There are some real benefits and just plain old, you have to focus on another platform. My Android, as an example, when it comes to doing customizations at a lower level of the operating system. If you wanted to do an app that monitors your heartbeat and you need to tap into a specific feature, you can’t change the OS. You can’t swap things out at the OS level with iOS. You can do that on Android, and Android has a lot more apps.
For example, you can actually change out your keyboard or the messaging app that you use on Android, and you can’t do that on iPhone. When it comes to return on investment, I can’t recommend to any of my clients unless there’s a specific hardware or software limitation to say ‘you have to do Android first’, like I said, unless there is something right there that says that. For the most part, the way that we recommend, is IOS Android Windows Phone 7, and sometimes we recommend IOS Android web app Windows Phone 7. Typically, we’re only going over to Android right now if there’s a specific sort of technical limitation, or a technical benefit of using Android over IOS.
David: I see. OK. One final question-are there questions we should ask, but haven’t asked so far?
David: [??] asked that. Knowing what you now know, let’s say our audience is getting into it, are there questions that they need to be asking?
Ken: I don’t know if this is a question, but maybe its an answer or a statement. One thing that people don’t realize is that the first time around, things aren’t going to go smoothly. The book was written to help mitigate the risk of all the challenges and difficulties of doing software development, and it is software development at its core. If you’ve never done that before, it’s difficult, and it’s especially difficult in an environment where things are changing every day.
It seems like every other week there’s a new version of the IOS, or a new Android that’s getting pushed out. There are always new devices that are coming out. The iPad 2, the iPhone 5 will come out, the new versions of the iPod Touches…There’s a dozen Honeycomb tablets that will probably come out. Hopefully some new Windows Phone 7′s that will come out, and when Nokia eventually has Windows [??].
Things are always changing, and in an environment like that, it’s difficult to stay abreast of what’s happening, and stay ahead of what’s happening. Because in some ways, you don’t just want to know what’s happening, you want to be the best, and be the expert on what is happening.
Don’t be afraid if things don’t go right. Even if you read the book, or buy a copy of the book; Even if you watch a dozen interviews online and you’ve read every single blog, it’s very unlikely that you’re going to have a perfect launch the first time you go out. It’s OK. Learn from that. Learn from the mistakes, and the second time you do an app, you’re going to be that much smarter.
David: I love it. That sounds perfect. Thank you so much for spending your time with us, and walking us through [??] that you used to create a highly successful mobile app. It’s outstanding.
Ken: Cool. Thanks guys. Hope it was useful.
David: Thanks everyone. As we mentioned, everyone will get [??] web access to Ken’s book which has tech lists in it. [??] Also be providing templates, and copy and paste forms meant to help you as you work toward developing your own app. I hope that will be useful to everyone. Talk to you soon. [??]
Ken: Thanks, man