Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Bigger and Better

It's been a little while since my last post because it has been a very busy past few weeks.  ScoreApp has limped along to very mediocre sales, but it was a great learning experience.  I've had some very high-level discussions with the board of directors (which consists of me and my wife) about the direction of CloudApp IT, LLC.  We laid out goals and a business plan that will help us achieve those goals.  Despite our dud on the first app, we're going to continue to focus on the App Store and it's potential.  Our ultimate goal is to make this business sustain itself and be able to adequately support my family.  We've got a long way to go before we get there, but here is one of the things we're going to do to start.

Our Next App

We're obviously not going to be able to buy a value meal let alone support ourselves with ScoreApp.  But we are going to identify some things that we did wrong as well as things we did right with ScoreApp and go to our next endeavor.  Here are some key areas that we want to improve:

  • Genre - When you program an app, you spend a lot of time with it.  When you market it, you have to spend even more time with it and really be excited about the content of it.  ScoreApp was a good, fun little utility.  However, it was not something that I wanted to spend all of my free time on and tell all my friends about.  It was simply a learning experience.  To make our next app succeed we're hoping to pick a genre and idea that will be a lot more exciting for us.  We've decided to take a stab at a slightly new, slightly re-invented social networking idea that I personally think will be pretty neat.
  • Artwork - Of all the pointers that people gave us about our last app, artwork was by far the most universal negative point.  Everyone who looked at our app had design pointers.  And to be honest, I designed everything from a programmers point of view instead of a users point of view.  I took cool little graphics which I ripped off and stuck them in my app with no thought of how they meshed with the rest of the app.  I updated the app graphics a little bit with version 1.1.  It gave the app a completely different look, but it still isn't going to be winning any awards.  Our next app will feature some more well-thought layouts and graphics.  They will probably be subtle graphics and nothing amazing, but I'll spend a little more time in UI quality assurance before releasing the next app.
  • Pre-Launch - The most important days of an app are probably the days right after launch.  When you're a lowly app developer trying to break on to the scene, these first days are when your app has the most visibility on the App Store.  You'll be featured in the new section of your chosen genres.  You'll likely get a few looks from customers that you wouldn't get on keywords alone.  So, if you generated a little bit of monmentum for you app prior to that launch day, you'll give yourself an even better chance to succeed and stay featured on the store.  Before launching, we're going to have the entire infrastructure in place.  Facebook page, support materials, website, contact info, etc.  We hope to have all of this up and try to get at least a little bit of traffic there prior to launch.  We've also made friends with a few reviewers out there and we'll try to get them on board with our app launch and see if we can leverage those relationships as well.
  • Updates - As mentioned a little above, a lot of time goes into making an app.  You have to love the app if you really hope to do it right.  I'm excited for this app and have a road map of where it will go in the future.  I'm excited enough about the app that I will probably update the app even if the user base never comes.  I want to do it just to prove that I can and so I can use it for my own entertainment.  Updates put subconcious thoughts into people's minds that the app is alive and evolving.  They respond to that.  They share those apps with their friends.  If nothing else, they see your icon to remind them about your app when the go to perform updates.
  • Pricing - pricing models are a mystery to many people.  The way you price your app could mean success or failure.  I'm going to have to look at this aspect a little more thoroughly before releasing the next big thing to make sure I get it right.
Well, those are a few points that I am going to consider and improve on for our next app adventure.  Stay tuned for more as we begin development on our next big thing.  Until then, reach for the clouds!

Monday, October 10, 2011

ScoreApp Update

A little more than a week after releasing my first app and I think I will now start to focus on other future apps.  Here is a recap of what I've been up to the past few days with ScoreApp:

New artwork:  I have added new artwork to my app.  There were some definite design issues in ScoreApp 1.0.  It had a really pretty wood background and some blue text that would often get washed out.  There wasn't enough contrast.  So I switched to a more standard background.  I really like the cross-hatch grey standard Apple designed background, so I just decided to use it in my app.  It cuts down the download size of my app, and looks really nice too.  I also changed the look of my buttons.  I stuffed some buttons in the tool bar before and some I left out of the tool bar and used a button image.  For consistency, I converted all of my buttons to images of a brushed metal texture that I whipped up on Gimp.  The contrast and colors were kept pretty neutral and I think they pop a lot better than before.  And, of course, the icon was updated.  I posted it in my last blog entry if you'd like to see what it looks like.  I like it a lot more.  Simple, not overly complicated.  You can tell what the app does quickly by looking at the icon.  It may not be absolute professional graphic design, but it is a big improvement over my last design in my opinion.

Review sites:  I've mentioned review sites in my past posts. has continued to be a very friendly site that reviewed my app.  They gave my app a 6/10 rating, which honestly is about what I was expecting.  I know that there are some short-comings with it, but it's a decent first attempt at the app store.  Here is their review: Review  I've since been in contact with them and they may be doing an updated review with the new version 1.1 of ScoreApp in the coming days.  I imagine that they review will appear in the same spot with the same url once it comes out.  I'll keep you posted on that.

Other than these few updates, I've not really been spending too much time on ScoreApp.  Sales have hovered right around a couple downloads a day, and some days those couple downloads are the promo codes that I've handed out.  But, it's been a great learning experience and I'm now going to be moving on to a couple other projects.  This past weekend, my wife and I sat down and wrote some 1 week, 1 month, 1 year, and 5 year goals for our business.  We really want to get to the point where we can be spending our working hours on these apps.  We really believe in this platform and happen to love working with it!  In my next post, I'll reveal a couple of our goals and let you know how we plan to achieve them.  Until then, reach for the clouds! 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Updating my App

Today's post will be pretty quick. The app has been on the App Store for a little less than a week and it is not getting the kind of success that I would have hoped. But I have learned a ton about the App Store, about my app, and about business in general. Here are some highlights of what I have learned: 

1. Appearance is everything!

 I've asked for feedback from many sources on my app. Without fail, the reviewers have noted that my UI and icon could use work. I am partial to the style of icon and UI that I chose to use, so I apparently had blinders on. No one else, besides my lovely wife, liked the graphic design of my app. I was humbled, but glad that people gave me this feedback. I'll look forward to more feedback that is brutally honest as I continue in the app store. I'm going to be redesigning my app and hopefully it will look somewhere in between professional (which I am not when it comes to graphics) and amateur. Here is a sample of a possible new icon:

2. Keywords are important

 It was obvious that keywords are important for apps on the App Store. My keywords were fairly obvious, or so I though. I'd but "score keeper" and "score" in the keywords. But I missed some nuances that could have helped my app launch more successfully. Things like "score keeper" return almost 100 results. "Score keeping" returns far less results and may be more effective. I'm going to revisit the keywords of my app and I'll let you know if that affects sales.
3. People are old and devices are small

As a developer, I always try to maximize my available real estate. I use the highest resolution settings my monitor will allow and use pretty tiny font generally. But iPhones don't have much real estate. And what real estate they do have CAN NOT be overcrowded or you will get complaints from users. People don't like clutter. They like iPhones because of the clean lines, no mess design. They expect the same from their apps. I assumed a certain amount of iPhone literacy with my design of my app, and it got lost a little bit. Rule of thumb is, if you can decide for the user, do it. If you can make something simpler, it's worth the time it takes to make it happen. Keep it simple.

 4. Don't get too discouraged

 I kept telling myself that I was not going to blow all my fortunes as soon as I earned my first paycheck from Apple. I had to prepare myself not to get too high off the awesome results. Well, the same is true on the other side of the spectrum. Low sales the first day was not the end of the world. My best days were actually yesterday and today. An even keel is always the attitude that you should have with the App Store. Keep at it.

 Well, those are just a couple of the things I learned the past week with my app. I'll keep you posted going forward as I prepare and update my app for the first time. Until then, reach for the clouds!