Posts tagged family
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.
While waiting, we are discussing as a family what the definition of ‘success’ for this venture is – financial reward, workstyle, time spent together, our name in lights, whatever…
David from App Cubby does a fine job of discussing the softer definition of success in his blog post. He opens with a favorite Thomas Edison quote of mine – “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
So true. It’s never the ideas that are in short supply – it’s the perseverance and skills to execute on those ideas that make an entrepreneur. David’s post is a great story of hard work, realistic reward and thoughtful decisions.
For our family, this venture is a mixture of acting on a dream (developing an Apple product), working together, helping each other through difficult times and maybe making some extra money. Financial success is important – we want to recover our costs and fund updates, new versions and, of course, new apps. However, none of us are in this to become iPhone millionaires.
We recently came across Newsweek’s article , which shoots down the dream of ‘becoming an App Store millionaire’. We’ve been fairly realistic all along, but this article is definitely a bucket of cold water! In a strange way, though, it made us more determined.
It’s important, though, that any developer keep their rose-colored glasses on the side table for the duration of their time in the App Store. You must have other goals than simple income generation to participate in this casino! Like all good casinos, the odds are with the house. Guess who makes a buck no matter if you recoup your costs or not….? That’s okay. That’s how it should be. We all know that the steady income comes from selling the shovel, not prospecting for the gold.
We have been Apple fanatics for decades and if nothing else, this has been our chance to participate in the creation of Apple products that are helping people to be a bit more efficient, have a bit more fun and generally take control of their lives. Not bad, not bad at all.
We are now ready for beta testing and have difficult choices ahead. I’m sure we won’t get to include or finish every feature we want and it will be interesting to see how the beta users interpret the choices we have made so far. I wish that I could explain to each one why we chose one feature over another when they mention that they’d prefer the one we gave up, but of course, that’s not how it works. Each app has to stand on its own and we have to be sure that we feel good about the trade-offs we have made.
This reminds me of our first set of difficult choices we made – the initial filtering down to the two apps for the first development project. Indulge me in a flashback:
About six months ago, when we decided to get serious about developing some iPhone apps, our family had already looked at a list of 25 potential ideas. We knew we couldn’t do more than a few at a time, especially in the beginning (little did we know that even ‘a few’ was incredibly ambitious! Thank goodness we chose an experienced partner, Night & Day Studios, the creators of beautiful apps, including Peekaboo Barn and Cocktail Compass, so we set out to filter the list down to three.
Our initial list had, in fact, been the product of a tongue-in-cheek gift, so we felt that we should step back and make sure that the long list was, in fact, long enough. We brainstormed a bit more, thinking of every problem we faced in our daily lives and what type of app could address these problems. We have such a wide variety of ages, professions, geographic locations and general attitudes towards life within the family that we felt pretty confident that we were tapping into many veins of gold.
We weren’t looking to develop a technical breakthrough like AirSharing or WorkSnug. We just wanted to use the iPhone platform to make life simpler and to reduce the time people spend on those little problems in order to create more time for them to spend with family and friends. It didn’t hurt that the iPhone platform allowed you to do this so elegantly!
Our focus is on niche markets to resolve a specific challenge. The final choices, myPause and myShoebox , were premised on the writer’s missive – ‘write what you know’. Our target audience includes members of our own family and this gives us a great insight. This first in a series of difficult choices still feels right and we know that our apps will be in a unique space offering a unique service.
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!
For any of you mothers out there, you’ll get the ‘bean in the belly’ reference. Our apps have passed conception and are slowly developing limbs and organs. This is an exciting process for our group, especially since this is a family venture. I’ll touch upon the ‘working with family members’ in another post, but suffice it to say that the positives so far, far outweigh the negatives.
Here is the first ultrasound of one of our conceptual babies:
We are determined to provide our users (our community) with apps that are elegant and stylish, but are also fundamentally very useful.
Like any proud new parent, we assume that all it takes is our intelligence and love to create a fabulous product. Thank goodness we have three generations of the family offering their two cents on these apps so that our reality checks are often and deep! Most likely, our resulting apps will rebel from our preconceptions. In fact, we want and will encourage other dynamics, namely our customers, to shape the ultimate destiny of our apps.
I’m sure in 5 years they will look nothing like our initial plans, but as long as they are most useful to our users, that it doesn’t really matter. I completely agree with the makers of Photokast, who wrote in their report ‘that sometimes they use your applications in ways you never intended.’ We encourage this and are intrigued by the possibilities (mostly for myShoebox, of course, but who knows – maybe someone will use myPause in a unique way…).