I went to Agile training last month at Asynchrony. Our department director wanted our team and a few others to go. I agree with almost everything about Agile. It’s easy to, at least for me.
Last week, as I prepped for our team’s next project, I decided that I want to push myself to do as much from my iPad Pro as possible. I have edited many sites from my iPad. But at work, I have been working on a C# website for the last few months. Despite trying, it was much easier to work in an IDE (Visual Studio for Mac Preview) on this site. But our next project is a complete redesign of a marketing site, setting it up on a LAMP box with a PHP-powered CMS.
There is a difference between making quick updates to a site and starting one from scratch. Quick updates typically only require Coda and Web Tools. But starting from scratch sometimes requires more tools. So I started looking at what I needed.
Image Tools is what I came up with. Two new tools coming soon to Web Tools. Easily open an image and use a ruler to measure and a loupe to grab colors.
My typical flow is to jot down a stream of consciousness in iA Writer. Lots of unfiltered thoughts. But this time, I downloaded Trello. I’ve never necessarily hated Trello, but I have a thing about todo list apps. I buy tons of them. Trello just didn’t fit my flow before. But this time it did. I created my Ready, Working On, and Done columns and started adding cards to my Ready column.
Saturday, as I finished my designs, I started working cards through my columns. And crap, I’m starting to like Trello.
In November I had an idea for an app. For some time I, like many people, have been looking at iOS, namely iPad, and asking if it’s time for me to use it professionally yet. What can it do? What can it not do? What are my real requirements for work? As I explored those questions, I found an area of functionality that no app had satisfied yet that front-end developers require daily: the web inspector.
Finding an area unexplored by other apps can be rare and usually means a lack of API support or a huge time investment would be required to build. Neither ended up true. With about two weeks of development (moonlighting-with-a-baby weeks), I had built the first version of Web Tools. Feeling like I had something special, I got a few betas out via TestFlight and launched it in mid-December.
Launch week was met with an article on MacStories and a boom in traffic. In December Web Tools earned me around $1400.
Pro Software for iOS
November marked the release of the iPad Pro, the new addition to the iPad family, differentiated by its much higher memory, storage, and processing power. But what makes it “Pro”? Software. With iOS 9’s new multitasking split-screen and slide-over functionality, it’s starting to feel like you can really get things done on these devices. With better and better API’s for developers to communicate and share data between apps, we can do more and more with the platform. So where’s the software?
As a million articles have covered, the old structure of selling software included two major features: offering a trial and having upgrade pricing. The first allowed one to charge a reasonable price while not scaring off possible customers that couldn’t try before buying, and the second allowed one to make money from current customers. The App Store offers neither of these. Because of this, it’s hard to charge more than $9.99 (or $2.99, really) for an app and actually make sales. Sure, advertising and word-of-mouth can help spread the word that your app is worth it, but that’s an uphill battle. On top of that, there is an expectation among App Store customers that you will continue to pump out updates, bug fixes, and more for years, all for free.
For smaller apps that require less investment of time or can sell large numbers, this can work. $0.99 multiplied by a million is good money. But pro software targets niche markets. There are not millions of potential customers. So high price goes with higher development investment and higher risk.
Making Money on the App Store
How does this work for the App Store, then? The first version of Web Tools had just two features: a scalable web browser and a web inspector. People are already using it every day because nothing like it exists on the platform. As I completed the first version, I realized that much more could be added to this if the market exists. While I could rise the price of the app with every new feature, I would end up with a high priced app that no one will take a risk on because of the lack of trials and I wouldn’t get additional money from my current customers that I’ve worked so hard to get.
So my strategy is in-app purchases. While many games have given them a really bad reputation, they can be used very well too. I have seen many apps use them for try-first methods, such as only giving read access until you upgrade with an IAP.
But unlike some games, I don’t intend to nickel and dime my customers. The core app will continue to get feature enhancements for free and the Console will continue to get feature enhancements for free to those that buy that panel. I won’t be charging $0.99 for the ability to edit inner HTML in the Inspector. Nope, that one’s on the house.
A Suitable Path Forward
For software to be maintained, the developer must make money. If your business plan misses that step, your app will slowly die as you lack reason for investing time into it. So this is part of my strategy to keep this app alive. If you wish for the app to continue getting updates, please consider supporting it by purchasing the upcoming Console.
"Sketch on the Mac costs $99, and we wouldn’t dare ask someone to pay $99 without having seen or tried it first," Omvlee said in a recent interview with The Verge. "So to be sold through the App Store, we would have to dramatically lower the price, and then, since we’re a niche app, we wouldn’t have the volume to make up for it."
Lot’s of great points that unfortunately have been repeated over and over in the last 5 years of iPad. If Apple’s intent is for this to replace desktop and laptop computers for many people, developers have to take the risk on the platform.
When the likes of Microsoft, Adobe, and even Apple are releasing software for free on iPad, the bar is set too low for prices. When developers cannot offer a free trial or paid upgrades, the only option is to price super low and make up for the cost in volume. But “pro” apps are typically a niche market. Developers cannot make a living from selling apps for $5.
When you live with a device, you learn what works and what doesn’t work. What is needed and what isn’t. For most developers, the iPhone is on them all the time. For many, the iPad isn’t. Because of this, I believe many iPad apps are lacking.
Most iPad apps are just scaled up iPhone apps. Between Auto-Layout, Size Classes, and more, Apple has made it nearly effortless for app developers to make an iPhone app that “just works” on iPad. But this isn’t always pretty. Just look at Twitter on iPad. One column, centered in the middle of the screen. Then look at Tweetbot. A custom two-column layout, tab bar on the left and even some basic keyboard shortcuts.
Developers need to spend time with their medium. Web developers that spend a lot of time on the web get more experience by seeing what others are doing and how. iPhone developers see the latest tricks, trends, and standards by simply using their phones. This same care needs to be applied to iPad. Live with your app and see what works.
On Saturday I took a trip to Best Buy to play with the iPad Pro. And that sent me on a research trip over the weekend to see if it could replace my current setup. Right now I have a MacBook Air and a iPad mini. The MacBook is used for development and design work and the iPad is used for everything else. Unfortunately, the iPad Pro is way too large and awkward for use in bed, so I feel I would need to keep the iPad mini for that. And, so far, the “pro” software for iPad isn’t good enough to fully replace my Mac needs.
Here is how I see my uses:
- MacBook Air: iOS Dev/Photoshop
- iPad Pro: web dev/general
- iPad mini: reading
Where design apps lack on iOS is slicing and outputting graphics, something required for development. If Pixelmator or Graphic allowed you to quickly slice and output images on iOS, I wouldn’t need a Mac for that.
Beyond that, I need Xcode for iOS. There is Dringend, but it requires a remote Mac to compile and it cannot open Storyboards/XIBs. Some of my projects are Storyboard/XIB free, but not all.
I would love to be able to replace my Mac with an iPad Pro, but unfortunately I cannot yet. I can use an iPad Pro for a lot of what I do, though. So I am considering one.
Today, I’m really excited to announce that my long-time friends at tap tap tap, publisher of Camera+, MagiCam and countless other hit apps have agreed that Filters has a bright future ahead of it and they want to take it to the next level.
I posted about this beautiful and useful app a couple months ago. Still use it to apply quick filters to my photos. Glad to see it bought by people who care about iPhone photography.
Of course, the web development model also has its own set of challenges. In particular, there is a huge over-indulgence in trackers today, and this can wildly impact responsiveness. If you run a plugin like Ghostery for a while, you’ll quickly learn just HOW prevalent add-ins like this are. In a quick tour around common news sites, for example, I found the AVERAGE number of external tracking libraries being loaded to be more than twenty.
Yup. When I worked at Abt Electronics, I was abhorred by the requests to add a new “tracking pixel” every few weeks. We had dozens of them on our site. A simple look under the hood showed quite clearly that the performance was hurt severely by these tracking scripts. Bringing this to the attention of an apathetic employer made me realize how bad the problem is. Marketing wants to track visitors and will not listen to developers that these things hurt the visitors they want to track. This is even more an issue with mobile networks that, even with 4G LTE, are significantly slower and more lossy than broadband.
If we simplified our webpages, stopped trying to emulate native, and stopped bloating them up with unneeded network requests, we’d have a much faster web experience than native (when considering finding and downloading of a native app).
Create customized screenshots for your app in just 3 steps! All you have to do is to pick one of the predesigned templates, add your text, customize the color scheme and finally export amazing screenshots to the App Store!
Cool service for something that is increasingly becoming difficult for dev shops. If you want 5 screenshots for your app and support iPad and iPhone, you’re looking at 25 screenshots. iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and iPad. Hopefully, if iOS 9 drops iPhone 4s support, we’ll have only 20 shots after this summer. What’s worse if when you support multiple languages, you need shots for each language as well. 25 per language is a lot of work.
As I mentioned when the new Calcbot was released last week, Tapbots is easily one of my favorite app shops and has been for some time. The consistency of quality in their products has always impressed me. The downside is how opaque they tend to be about timelines and development. It looks like that’s about to change.
Welcome to the new tapbots.com! We hope this long overdue refresh is a better place to stay up to date with our apps. Our goal this year is to not only ship updates on a more regular basis, but also provide more insight into what we are currently working on. So lets get on to the important bits of information.
Find a friend and pass your iPhone or iPad as you play this highly addicting game of dots and lines!
Download today on the App Store
Launching today is the game I built during the Super Bowl. It is a pass-and-play game. Super simple. Draw lines, pass device, make boxes. Once no more lines can be drawn, the one with the most boxes wins. Go download it now for $1.99!