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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.

Where’s FileMaker? September 4, 2008

Posted by fredillies in eBusiness, Gadgets n Gizmos, Simplifying your life.
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As a long-time fan of both FileMaker & Apple, I’m amazed at the absence of some form of FileMaker for the iPhone.  Some time ago FM discontinued their lame FM Mobile product, but have yet to come out with a replacement.  Considering the relationship with Apple and FileMaker, I would have thought it would be a natural fit…. an elegant database “of the people” on the ultimate “smartphone of the people”. But no such luck.  I’d love to hear from anyone in the know of FileMaker’s plans in this area (maybe a super-secret project underway)?

For years I’ve created my own database solutions to make my work or life easier, and now that I have an iPhone I really want to create a version of my solutions that would work on iPhone.  Tough luck for me.  There is some good news… I’ve been folowing the development of an iPhone application called FMTouch.  It lets you sync your FM DB onto the iPhone and interact with records.  Although this is being rapidly developed with superb support from the developer, it’s still a really early stage product, and (for me anyway) has some deal-breaker limitations.

I’m not a cocoa or Objective C developer, so no matter how user-friendly the iPhone SDK may be (read “developer-friendly”) it’s not for the average (or even advanced) FM developer or hobbyist.  So the choices I’m left with are make due with an FMTouch solution, or enlist the help of an iPhone developer. Stay tuned.

On again… August 29, 2008

Posted by fredillies in eBusiness, Simplifying your life.
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Now Pageflakes is back up again…guess I better record what I have there just in case!

PagesFlakes…Yikes! August 27, 2008

Posted by fredillies in eBusiness, Simplifying your life.
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For quite a while now I’ve used PageFlakes as my homepage.  This Ajax-based site is similar to NetVibes and Google Home Page.  I had it tweaked perfectly… with tabs that held instant access to work related, financial related, social related, blogs I follow, news feeds.. the works.  

Since yesterday I haven’t been able to access my page cause their site is down.  Are they out of business? who knows.  I had read that they were not doing very well compared to Netvibes.  I picked Pageflakes originally cause I liked their templates better.  The thing about these homepage sites is once you make the investment of time in one, there’s no way you’re gonna want to switch… it’s just too much work.  I only wish I had taken a snapshot of what my pages looked like so I could replicate them in Netvibes more quickly.  Hmmm…maybe I’ll check the wayback machine…

overView – my version of GTD October 2, 2007

Posted by fredillies in Simplifying your life, Work.
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Like many people, over the years I’ve tried many systems for “managing my life” including paper-binder systems, Outlook Tasks, various PDA’s, etc.  I was really enthralled when I was turned on to David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” methodology, and I was convinced that this was going to be the one system that STUCK.  For a time, I used the GTD Outlook Plug-in, but eventually I stopped using that tool. 

I compared notes with the colleague that introduced me to GTD, and we shared an interesting experience… that neither of us had successfully done a “Weekly Review”,  where you view all of your projects in the context of your roles, and goals.  That is arguably one the most important concepts of Allen’s philosophy, but for some reason it didn’t happen.  It occurred to me that the system itself (and the GTD Outlook Plug-in) didn’t really support me in doing that… ie the concept of Roles and Responsibilities and Goals was separate from the management of projects and tasks.  I decided to take a stab at creating a VERY SIMPLE tool that would allow me to manage my projects and tasks within the context of my roles/responsibilities.  In addition, I wanted a more elegant way to hand Allen’s concept of Agendas (his was a bit kludgy for me).

I’m happy to say I’ve completed the beta version, which I am sharing freely.  I will NOT be offering this for sale as a commercial product at this point.  I have a day job, and I gave up on the “sit on a beach and collect software royalties” dream long ago when I discovered how much work it was to support a product -)

To learn more about it, see the “overview software” tab above.