At GS we’re lucky to have employees with wide and varied personal interests. For example, did you know that we have a beekeeper on staff? Or a major golf aficionado? We do! And sometimes those personal interests intersect beautifully with the work we do at GS, serving to amplify our client offerings in new and exciting ways. Kirill Edelman is a perfect example of the kind of employee with interests that improve our work. He has a passion for apps and has developed several of his own: Super Durak, Overdub, and Artifact, now selling through the Apple App Store. We thought it would be interesting to pick Kirill’s brain and get his input on some of the trials, tribulations, opportunites, and pitfalls associated with app development. Here are the results. If you have any additional questions for Kirill, please leave them in the comments.
What made you get into iPhone app development?
I think the point where I decided to start learning about making apps was Apple’s announcement that they weren’t going to support Flash on their mobile devices. As a seasoned Flash developer I was outraged and headed to AT&T to get an iPhone right away to see what they were all about. I was hooked from there.
For me, the most appealing aspect of app development is the quick production pipeline – you can submit an app and have it in the store within a week, making money. There are some hoops to jump through, but Apple keeps making it more and more accessible and easier to work with.
How did you come up with the idea(s) for your apps?
I find inspiration in frustration: when I want to do something with my phone but can’t find an app for it. For instance, like any other aspiring bathroom singer I also sing in the car. Sometimes original beats or ideas for a melody come to me, and I have no way to capture them apart from recording the sound of my voice with my phone. I couldn’t find an app that would also let me overlay voice “drums” and voice “base” on top of my recording. That’s how the idea for Overdub was born.
How long did it take for you to get your first app from idea to the App Store?
My first app took a few months to build and had a pretty steep learning curve for me. I brainstormed my user interface on paper and made a lot of mistakes, but apparently the app itself fills a particular niche of amateur musicians, as it became pretty popular with practically no marketing effort on my part. I even made it to the “DJ and Producer Apps” featured list in the App Store.
What was it like when you sold your first app?
I couldn’t believe that someone would actually pay for something I made, but apparently there are a bunch of people out there who find my app useful enough to give me money! Mind blown.
What advice would you give to a new app developer?
Save money on books; there are plenty of free tutorials online.
If an app you’re making isn’t an original idea, you’d better have one hell of a marketing department to promote it.
Users have no interest in reading your instructions. Ideally, your app shouldn’t require much in the way of explanation; people should just “get it” right away.
It’s really hard for a small developer to get an app critiqued on app review sites. If you have some connections, or marketing muscle, use them. If not, use Twitter, make YouTube videos, make Facebook pages, lean on friends and relatives to spread the word, make a Website to go along with your product. The App Store alone doesn’t drive sales very well at all. The basic advice is: Plug your apps every way you can because it doesn’t matter how awesomely fantastic your app is if nobody knows about it.
To get featured in the App Store, implement a new feature from the next release of the iOS. For example: We’ll see a lot of PassKit apps featured when iOS 6 rolls out.
No more fart apps. Please. Make cool, smart, innovative stuff.
Design matters big time.
What are are the challenges of developing for the iPhone?
The nature of the device. An iPhone or iPad tends to introduce some interesting challenges into development. One of the recurring problems I’ve run into is the device’s lack of RAM. Unlike programming for the desktop, or for the Web, you have to be very conservative and careful with how much memory you’re using. iOS will unceremoniously crash your app after a single warning if you use up too much.
Another challenge is collecting crash reports. Typically when your app crashes on someone’s device (and it will crash all the time, trust me on this), you won’t get any error logs or anything to help you debug. Luckily now there are some third party services that help you collect this information.
What advice would you give to companies looking for the right app development agency?
Look for a company with diverse digital talent. Making an app is a bit like making a Website – you'll need designers, application developers, managers, and copywriters. A good-looking Web portfolio will probably translate well into a good-looking app.