We’ve all been so busy spreading the word about myPause and myShoebox, updating the apps, developing new relationships and, in our spare time, running marathons, organising benefits to end childhood hunger (Taste of the Nation), almost completing Bikram challenges and herding teenagers… that we have neglected our poor blog.
One of the updates we have been discussing is whether we would develop an iPad version of our two current apps. So far, the vote is a resounding no for myPause, but it is not such a clear issue for myShoebox. Wouldn’t it be great to show off your shoes with larger pics in an iPad sized Shoeflow? What are your thoughts? Any strong preferences? We would love your feedback, as always.
We also wanted to take a moment to remind you all in the US to shower your mother with a great gift on Mother’s Day (May 9th) – a great app screenlist (just like we suggested for the winter holidays). However, now Apple has made it just a bit easier. They must have read our Wishlist and decided to grant us at least one of our requests – it’s now possible to gift an app directly to someone else. Why not include myShoebox with a gift certificate to her favorite shoe store? Or tuck the myPause app in with a relaxing day at the spa. Go on… give your mum the apps she deserves!!
We in the UK have already had our Mothering Sunday (March 14th) and in Russia and Italy (most notably) they already enjoyed the great International Women’s Day (March 8th), so we will have to come up with another excuse to gift the women in our lives these two great apps!
With the holidays upon us, it’s time to get serious about your Christmas and holiday shopping. Although the economy seems to be recovering somewhat, or at least not sinking further, we are all still fairly frugal and more creative (read: less expensive) gifts are the priority.
People like to give personal gifts. When the idea of gifting playlists first appeared on iTunes, it was an instant hit. It was the next step in the evolution of the mixtape, a classic romantic gift (cf. film High Fidelity). With playlists, the creation process was so easy, you could gift to a broader audience. Also http://mixtape.me/
How about the idea of giving an app ‘screenlist’ to someone as a gift? Based upon the iPhone ads with 12 or 16 apps identified, you could create a screen full of apps that were chosen specifically for the recipient. You give them a copy of your mocked up iPhone ad and an iTunes gift card (unless Apple comes out with an App Store gift card before then!) for the total amount of all the apps on the screen.
What a fabulous holiday gift! It takes a lot of thought to put together a personalised set of apps and so many people with iPhones have yet to spend enough time finding just the right apps for them.
How about this screenlist for your mother, sister, friend or wife in her forties or fifties:
If anyone has any other mockups or ideas for Screenlists that fit certain profiles, please add in the comments below and we’ll compile all before the New Year.
Now that the Thanksgiving table has been cleared in the US, thoughts turn to holiday shopping and wishlists. We have a short wishlist of our own that we, as iPhone app developers with a global view, would like to present to Apple.
We strongly believe that consumers want well-designed, easy to use, feature-rich tools that entertain, organise, inform and improve their quality of life… and that they will pay for quality. In order to create quality apps, it takes time and, of course, financial resources.
We have understood the importance of marketing and promotion from day one. We knew that this responsibility was squarely on our shoulders and were happy with this fact. The App Store is merely a distribution channel and that’s okay.
HOWEVER, there are small things that Apple could do that would make our efforts just a little easier or more effective:
1. Allow a peek into the black box of App Store
It’s very difficult to take a leap of faith when there is only anecdotal information regarding the impact of marketing efforts on sales. Many developers have created offline systems to get around this, but none provide clear tracking data that shows the unbroken path between marketing effort, click-through and sale of a specific app.
App Cubby hits it on the head: Developers need at least a little peek into the black box that is the App Store. Pinch Media is a great source of summary data (thanks, Fred Wilson), but developers need app-specific data regarding activity in the App Store. Allowing click tracking all the way through to purchase is a minimum, but additional data would be helpful (such as where shoppers are coming from: direct links, search, top lists, featured pages, etc.).
We’ve seen the trend of Apple opening the doors ever so slightly. As of this month, developers can now see more detail in the approval process – whether the app is Waiting for Review or In Review or Ready for Sale.
Hopefully, this is the beginning of a trend.
2. Allow demo videos in the store
This will get rid of 90% of the crap because people won’t waste the time to download crap even if it’s free! Most serious developers make demo videos for their websites anyhow, so it wouldn’t be an additional burden for most developers.
3. Allow gift cards for specific apps or at least the App Store itself as opposed to iTunes in general.
People love gifting songs and creating playlists for their friends and family. It’s a time-honored tradition, harking back to mixtapes… It’s a thoughtful and personal gift. So many people don’t have the time to dig into the App Store as deeply as they would like. There are so many apps – it’s always nice to get recommendations from friends and it would be even better if they were able to send apps to you directly.
Dan Grigsby from Mobile Orchard points out that ‘providing a “Gift This App” mechanism would open up a universe of novel marketing, bundling and promotional opportunities — all of which would drive App Store revenues, none of which would threaten Apple’s commission. Taking a page from Amazon and providing a simple API would further support this.’ So true. We aren’t asking Apple to do the marketing for us. We’re just asking for them to give us a chance to do thoughtful marketing.
Apple needs to take this issue seriously for both consumers’ and developers’ sake.
4. Give promo codes outside of US
For goodness’ sake, let us give promotion codes OUTSIDE the US. We are a global company (hey – just like you) and expect to have customers in many of the stores, if not all. We’d like to build up our customer base in Italy, Russia and Japan for example. For this, we know we need to do our legwork and talk to local journalists, niche media and bloggers. We’ve got the language skills, but it’s slightly less effective when we can’t give them a promo code.
So a short wishlist – please Apple, we’ve been awfully good this year:
1. More info on tracking click-throughs
2. Demo videos in the App Store
3. Gift This App
4. Promo codes valid outside the US
Of course, the ultimate gift would be the Holy Grail of marketing info – a list of our customers! A girl can dream, can’t she?
What other items could we put on this wishlist?
Evernote, of course, has a devoted following and this app is used by such a wide variety of people for all sorts of productivity improvements. I personally love this video about a dairy farmer using Evernote in his business. This is no ordinary dairy farm!
I’ve been a fan of Evernote forever (not just because they come from the land of the White Nights or because they’ve got Esther Dyson on their Board, but because their product is so truly innovative), but I can’t claim such exciting use. I’m sure this video has given many people new ideas on how they can use Evernote in their own businesses.
We want our users to use our apps in ways we might not have expected or for purposes that aren’t as obvious. We’ve already had one user tell us that he (yes, he) is going to add his scarf collection to the myShoebox database by giving them all the Style of ‘Other’. Clever!
Come and get it! Dinner is served!! Tonight’s main course: myPause and for the pudding: myShoebox!!!! We submitted on Halloween and are now launching on Friday the 13th. Boy, are we pushing the fates.
As corny as it sounds, it’s quite thrilling to open up the App Store and see an app that your own team created right up there… with the other 90,000!
Thanks again to the entire team that made this all happen – appSolution: Jen, Jacqueline, Steve, Bert, George and our part-time Corporate Banker and Corporate Baker Gina; at Night & Day Studios: an enormous thanks to Nat, who persevered during difficult times, Nicki with her boundless energy and detailed skills, Erin with her wonderful input, Chris with a precise crunchtime juggling act and numerous others adding their skills and energy to this project including Justin Hawkwood, Scott Bates, Jason Blackheart, Abby Palmer and Carolyn Merriman.
Additional thanks to Dr. Elizabeth Poynor, a friend for decades and a colleague for months! Her insight, expertise and network were invaluable to us so that we could bring myPause to a strong level of credibility and neutrality in the maelstrom that is the discussion of menopause treatments today.
We are very proud of our two apps and are excited to start imbedding them into everyone’s lives. Both of them are addictive in different ways, hopefully because they are easy, fun and valuable!!
During the development of our marketing plan, we have come across many great iPhone ads and celebrations of AppStore milestones.
When the AppStore approved its 10,000th app for sale last November, this first major milestone was celebrated not only by Apple ads, but others also created their own tributes.
Tap, tap, tap created an amazing mosaic made up of all the 10,000 app icons:
A high resolution version can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tap-tap-tap/3074199062/sizes/o/
We’ve all seen the various iPhone ad parodies, but the best one in my opinion is the infamous iStalkHer ad. Note the excellent built-in password decoder.
What are your favorites (for any of the milestones or parodies)?
Slogging through our functional specs and making those crucial user experience decisions, often cutting out features or functions that seemed crucial but now seem to clutter the interface, is made just a bit easier by keeping one word in mind – Sprezzatura.
Although our family has Italian roots, I must admit that I learned about ‘Sprezzatura’ from an Indian friend! Sprezzatura is what grace and elegance are all about – it defines the Apple approach to everything.
According to Wikipedia, Sprezzatura is an Italian word originating from Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier, where it is defined by the author as “a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it.”
According to a class at Williams (complete coincidence that this happens to be where our father went to university!), the most important aspect of sprezzatura is its two-layered nature: it involves a conscious effort which is disguised by a concealing act. Things which require effort are to be performed casually. Obvious effort is the antithesis of grace.
It seems that this word was created to describe Steve Jobs in all his dimensions. From the very beginning, he understood (and has often quoted) Leonardo da Vinci’s phrase “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” In fact, he used this in one of his earliest brochures in 1977:
“Jobs: If you read the Apple’s first brochure, the headline was ‘Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication.’ What we meant by that was that when you first attack a problem it seems really simple because you don’t understand it. Then when you start to really understand it, you come up with these very complicated solutions because it’s really hairy. Most people stop there. But a few people keep burning the midnight oil and finally understand the underlying principles of the problem and come up with an elegantly simple solution for it. But very few people go the distance to get there.”
That quote can be found in many places, but a blog post at The Rat Race not only begins with this quote, but is also very interesting in and of itself. . If you’re interested in further history of Apple ads, see Web Designer Depot’s great review (thanks to TUAW for pointing me there).
It takes an enormous amount of work (or ‘thought’) to make something look easy. You will find this phrase in every book of quotes, in several different forms and coming out of the mouths of industrialists, designers, scientists and authors/poets alike.
The best compliment someone can give our apps is ‘It looks so simple, but does so much’!!
Anybody else have some favorite phrases you use to describe your goals or work style?
PS – Sprezzatura is also an Italian History Chick in DC!