This is the last instalment of my journey product-managing myself to build and commercialize an iOS app.
In my previous post I revealed the name and details of my app and how important it is to test as many scenarios and on as many platforms as possible. I signed off the post with the fate of myFabWines resting in the hands of Apple’s review committee. Shortly after the post, I received word that myFabWines was accepted into the iTunes App Store. I had expected, based on all my previous research, that my app would be rejected the first time I submitted it. I honestly think my level of testing and setting up a beta program helped in being accepted on the first attempt. So, again, I can’t stress enough the importance of testing. On August 1, myFabWines was available for sale … mission accomplished. My target date was July 1, so I missed by a month, but I’m OK with that.
So now what? Version 2, of course!
I want to close off this series of posts with some thank yous. First, a big thank you to Francis Moran and Associates for providing this forum so I could document my journey. Thanks to everyone who read my posts — I truly hope that somebody, somewhere, learned something. Thanks to my son, who was an enormous help as I bounced ideas off him and for all his design contributions; he’s largely responsible for the look of myFabWines. Thanks to all my testers (a.k.a. guinea pigs) who had to deal with me as I learned how to run a beta program for an iOS app. And thanks to my wife for putting up with me squirrelled away in the office during the evenings and on weekends on my MacBook.
But before I go, I want to provide some points that may help others:
Is V1 enough? As the app was taking shape, I frequently questioned whether my vision for v1 was enough to attract buyers. Users of iPhones have very high expectations for the apps they buy. Design has to be sensational; it has to be feature-rich, easy to use and functional. When you look at all the top apps, you will question whether your v1 measures up. I opted to provide the basics with a great design and ease of use so that I could make my date. I knew some features would be asked for, hence my continuation with future releases.
Use test flight.com! I highly recommend using testflight.com to run your beta program. You still have to do all the app provisioning that Apple requires, but to be able to organize your test teams and to deploy test builds to them, it is well worth signing up for this service.
Native or HTML? I have to admit that I still question whether my decision to write a native app was the right one. Nonetheless, I made the decision and soldiered on. Maybe when it comes time build an Android version I will write it in HTML. If and when I do that, I might be able to finally answer this question.
Experiment. Spend a lot of time experimenting with the various UI components that are native to iOS. Do your research to figure out how other apps use these constructs and build mini-prototypes to make sure you have it right. I must have built six or seven little prototypes until I finally settled on something that would work. If it doesn’t meet your design criteria and functional requirements, kill it and try something else.
Use the web. Thanks to all the previous iOS developers for posting questions in forums and providing snippets of code. (OK, some snippets were actual pieces of significant code licensed for anyone to use.) Be prepared to spend hours on the web looking for answers and snippets to get you out of a jam. Be patient … it’s out there. I found an awesome piece of code that a developer in Japan posted and a solution to a bug that only occurred on the device and not on the simulator.
Understand your user. It’s a cliche, but so true. Document who your target user is. Make sure you understand everything about them that is relevant to your app. Document where you expect your user to use your app. One of my beta testers used myFabWines in a setting that I hadn’t planned for; as expected, the app did not fare well. As you document your target user, always have them in your mind as you develop. They need to factor into every decision that you make along the way.
Product managing myself. The reason for this series of blogs was about product managing myself. I must say that the deeper I dug into the capabilities of iOS the more ideas I came up with that would be valuable to the user and really enhance the app. I constantly had to weigh implementing the idea against meeting my target date. Sure, I could have not set a date and developed forever, but that’s not reality. Small items like retrieving and storing GPS coordinates were simple to do and so I added this feature. Larger features like posting to Pinterest had to wait. Adding the ability to post to Facebook and Twitter were also big, but essential to the social aspect of the app so they made it into v1.
Peter Hanschke is an Ottawa-based product management specialist.