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iPhone App Creation + Marketing … A Great Learning Experience August 6, 2009

Posted by fredillies in Communication, Design, Gadgets n Gizmos, Life Balance, Simplifying your life.
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I’ve sure learned alot throughout the process of designing and building an iPhone app, and now about marketing it. Thought I would post about what the process has been like so far. Ours is a very simple app, but there are still many steps to go through.

I’ve been envisioning a simple role-based to-do list for the iPhone since the day that William Bakker & I sat in a meeting and followed the real-time blog coverage of Steve Jobs now famous iPhone launch presentation at MacWorld.  I had previously created a desktop version of this kind of tool (called “Overview”) using FileMaker, and was subsequently very disappointed that FileMaker (an Apple company) didn’t create a simple version of their software for the iPhone.

When the iPhone SDK was released, I toyed with the idea of trying to teach myself iPhone programming (the hype around the SDK made it sound easy… and hey, this was Apple after all). I soon realized that the SDK made things easier for people who KNEW C+ Programming!  That definitely counted me out 😉  Eventually Mark Fraser suggested I talk to Andrew Little (one of the programmers from our halifax offices).  I provided Andrew with specifications for the functionality and user experience (including pixel-accurate digital artwork of each screen). Andrew said he was eager to learn iPhone programming, and he said he would have a look at the spec and let me know what kind of effort it would involve.  2 days later he had a working prototype, and from then on we worked back and forth together to perfect the app.  Because we both have day jobs it has taken about 5-6 months to get a finished and fully tested version submitted to the App Store (at the time of this writing we’re awaiting approval from Apple).

MyRoles is another entry into a VERY crowded niche in the iPhone app world.  At last count there were over 50 competing products, most of which essentially do all the same things. (Some more elegantly than others!). So why would we enter such a crowded market?  Well, for starters, our motivation was not financial. For me, it was a chance to bring my task management vision to life in a tool that *I* could use on my iPhone.  In addition, I could learn about all aspects of iPhone development and marketing, which would come in handy when working with our clients on mobile strategy. For Andrew, it was a chance to learn iPhone programming so he could create a new service offering for T4G. If it didn’t really take off maybe Andrew and I could earn enough for a vacation or two.

And how would MyRoles compete in such a crowded market?  Well, we have 3 things going for us: A legitimately unique differentiator (MyRoles lets you easily manage your tasks by the various roles you play in your life); Extremely focused functionality (does ONE thing and does that extremely well); and we have a simple and very intuitive user interface.  (Others claim to be simple to use, but they do so many things that they require a lot of instruction about how you use it.  Many of the competitors have modeled their systems after David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) system/methodology. MyRoles takes a different (more zen-like path), by stripping away everything that wasn’t CORE to simply managing tasks by role. We intentionally did not design it for the diehard GTD fans, cause they love to spend time on details and tweaking their systems.  MyRoles was designed for busy people who don’t want to waste time maintaining a complicated system.

So how do we get the word out?  Well, first we built a website that clearly communicates our unique selling proposition (what makes MyRoles different than all competitors) and what’s in it for people who chose to use it (simpler task management and the promise of more balance in their lives). Next we send out an announcement about MyRoles to *everyone* we know, followed by individual personalized emails to the scores of iPhone app review sites around the world.  We created a Facebook page for MyRoles, a Twitter feed you can follow, and I’m writing this blog post to tell our story. All of this to start to build a buzz around the app, so that it gets some momentum… and then we’ll see where it goes.  Oh yeah.. we have a couple of videos in production which we’ll post on our website and YouTube. It’s anyone’s guess how this will do in the AppStore, and if anyone will buy into the idea that “less is more” when it comes to finding a task management system that you can adopt and keep using over the long haul.

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Comments»

1. kenjiro - September 13, 2009

Hello Fred,

Brought your app today. I think its a great idea and very functional. I have tried all the other apps and nothing has seemed to help. At least you realized that people are not interested in all the details and the only thing that the expensive products such as Omni focus has done was make my wallet smaller and create a state of “paralysis by analysis”. As I use your product I may have a few customer suggestions for improvement. If interested let me know. Good Luck in your endeavors.


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