Monthly Archives: December 2013

Becoming “Internet-Famous”

12.28.2013

How to become internet-famous…or really how to have people talk about you, on the internet, IF you aren’t Miley Cyrus.

As you may already know, we built an app and wanted to share some of the details, as explained in previous blog posts:
The Ah-Ha Moment And What Comes After – The idea for the CaseCollage app, and Jennifer’s design experience

Building an App in 2 Weeks – App development process, Wiley’s analytical take

Roller Coaster App Store Review – App store submission hurdles (What is happening?!? Lets just have this baby already!)

Now comes article #4 in this series: Becoming “Internet-Famous” or “How to Make Friends and Influence People (Online)”

You cannot, cannot, cannot build an app and hope that people will randomly see it, download it, and shoot you to the top of the download charts. You have to let people know, and not just your friends and grandparents. If you’ve spent all your time building this beauteous, life-changing app you better be shouting it from the mountaintops. And the right mountaintops too. Here is how.

First thing to do. You should honestly have done this pretty early on. Decide who this app is for. Who is your target demographic? Is there more than one? Knowing your target audience should also be important when building your app – what will your future users want? What will make them happy? Jeremy Olson has a great (and very very detailed) explanation of how to do this, complete with making pretend users.

For CaseCollage we had two main audiences – the original idea source – tech/iphone fans who were horrified by the HON issue and the long-term users – people who love customizing their phones (tweens & designers).

Second thing. Find people who write to these audiences and find relevant press/similar items from these writers. Just like when mingling at awkward social mixers – find things you have in common. You love photos of your dog on your phone? I DO TOO. (In fact I just made this app that lets you put 35 photos of your cute puppy on your 5c case). See how I slid that app promotion in there? (It’s that easy).

Another tack? Find something the writer already wrote that can be compared with what you’re promoting – make sure your item is even better and more useful. Reciprocal linking IS THE BEST.  You hate the HON issue? Oh look, I do too and here is how we can fix it (by downloading my new app of course). And you can link back to all your old articles about cases and the 5c in this article too. Google Juice. You’re welcome.

We sat down one Saturday while the app was in review and made a Google doc with every story written about the 5c cases in the past month, and every twitter handle/email/email form/facebook page we could possibly post on that was related to these stories. We crafted a form email with quick and straight forward facts about the app and contact information. In addition to this, we pre-wrote custom intros for every single contact we had. Example:

TechCrunch – Author’s tweet –  https://twitter.com/panzer/status/37750512576783974
@panzer We hate the “hon’ too which is why we built this app – @CaseCollage. Make cool, custom inserts, cover up Apple’s mistakes. http://techcrunch.com/2013/09/10/do-i-like-the-iphone-5c-case-non/

Thing number three. After you’ve gathered all of these leads, you’re going to want to send them something they can use. If a writer comes upon any sort of hiccup at all, no contact name, bad screen shots, a confusing/unclear letter – they will hit the delete button. Tech writers receive hundreds of submissions a day – you need to feed it to them. More is more. Give them so many options, it will be a piece of cake. In our press kit – which was available as an attachment in all of the emails we sent, and at the top of our app website (also important) we included:

  • Another copy of the press release in .rtf format – no program required
  • The app icon in multiple sizes and formats – .jpg, .png, .eps
  • The app name/logo in multiple sizes and formats – .tif (transparent), .png
  • A bagillion screenshots – plain and in phone mock-ups – in high-res format

Some great resources I used on what to include in a press kit and how to write a concise & useful press release can be found here.

In total, I wrote 27 custom intros to pair with our form e-mail and press kit. It was quite a bit of work – about 4-6 hours worth. Then, once our app was approved. Wiley sat down and sent all of the items (again another 2-3 hours of work).

While this seems like a lot of work after you should be “done”. It is very much worth it – and gives you something to do while you’re going mad during the app review process. These items, press kit, research, and website/media kit make you seem like a professional developer and company with well thought out and worthwhile apps.  Within 3 days we had received the following press:

If you read a few of the articles you can see how direct snippets of the press release and screen shots were used, as well as the video we made (thanks to our awesome friend Chris Paz)

It worked!

This was great for a first week push. We’ll go into more detail about what to do after the initial shipping high in the next post.

 

Roller Coaster App Store Review

12.27.2013

In my last post I covered how CaseCollage evolved from an idea to a shipped app in just 2 weeks. It took everything we had and a little more (thanks friends) but we got the job done. We started the app the day after the 5c was announced. My fingers ached (maybe an exaggeration) and my eyelids were heavy, but I felt amazing knowing we executed on something so quickly. Cloud 9 here we come!

The high quickly faded as we waited for the first version of CaseCollage to be approved by Apple. For those who haven’t experienced the awesomeness that is the App Store review process, let me tell you what I’ve learned after publishing more than a handful of apps: just about nothing. I’m not alone here. The App Store approval process is basically a black box. Apps go in, some apps get published and some apps get rejected. There are rules but they seem intentionally vague and they are inconsistently enforced. There are some moments of human interaction but they are few and far between. Most of the time you’re just looking at the beautifully designed iTunes Connect portal showing a “waiting for review” status and hoping something is moving your app closer to publication.

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Hello? Is anyone home?

Most of the time App Store approval doesn’t worry me. It may take a while, but eventually you get through as long as you aren’t skirting the line. This time we worried that Apple wouldn’t allow an app that sort of poked fun at them. We could be rejected for a million vague reasons and be stuck in App Store purgatory forever, our hard work nothing but a battle scar. We had seen that the average review time when we submitted was around 7 days thanks to crowd-sourced data. On day 7 our app went into review as expected. I got a push notification and alerted the troops: the time had come!

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A half hour later I got another push notification. The app had been rejected:

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It seems the tester could not complete an IAP with our app. I had tested that feature over and over before submitting but for some reason it seemed broken (the IAP system being another Apple black box). The App Store seemed to have had some server issues during our review, so I submitted an appeal, hoping the issue was on their end. We were rejected again, this time for using “5c” in our branding. We talked about being careful with the branding from the beginning of the project but somehow in the chaos we had changed the name to “CaseCollage5c”. We had waited a week for these verdicts (half of our development time) and were now being sent to the back of the line.

We knew we had to submit an update ASAP so we rushed to put out the fire. We changed our handles on social media accounts, updated our website, and removed most of the references to 5c in our app and App Store listing. Rebranded in just 3 hours, we resubmitted the binary and went straight back to waiting. Estimates indicated we had another week to wait in review. What a roller coaster. And even if all went well this time, we’d ship 4 weeks after the launch of the 5c and may have missed our marketing window. Needless to say, I was a little disappointed.

A week later the app went into review for the 3rd time. This time we were approved! Two weeks after we finished coding the app it was finally available to the public. I can’t explain how relieved I was. It would seem the hard work was over, but we were just getting started. Now we had to figure out how to tell the world about CaseCollage.

Building an App in 2 Weeks

12.26.2013

Me: So you have an app idea you need built? Excellent. What’s your timeline?
Client: ASAP. 1 week if you can, 2 weeks max.
Me: Okay, that’s a tight deadline. Do you have a complete design?
Client: No. We’re still working on the wireframes and may need to make adjustments as we go along. That won’t be an issue will it?
Me: *facepalm*

Normally this would be a line of conversation that shoots up red flags all over the place. App development requires a fine balance of time, quality, and scope. When you restrict the timeline and expect high quality without knowing the full scope, things can quickly get out of control. If this had been a client, I would have politely told them how stark raving mad they were and figured out a way to either extend the timeline or define and pare down the scope (knowing that most, including me, are not willing to sacrifice quality). But this wasn’t a client who asked me to do this; I had come up with an app idea with my designer, partner, and trusted advisor Jennifer, and we wanted to make this happen. So, challenge accepted! Okay, so how do we build a quality app that does what we want in 2 weeks?

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Luckily we had a clear vision for what the app should do. The app was to become CaseCollage, and it would allow a user to arrange their photos into a printable collage that fit between an iPhone 5c and the new iPhone 5c case, personalizing the phone and covering up the misaligned regulation text in one fell swoop. I cannot stress enough how important it was to have a clear idea of what we wanted before we started. From firming up the wireframes and design to deciding which features to include and which to cut, we always came back and asked if it helped us reach our original goal for the app.

We were working on an extremely tight deadline, so the less development I had to do the better. I started by finding open source libraries to help us form a foundation for the app (remember, “don’t reinvent the wheel”). Grabkit fulfilled our goal of having photos in the app while giving us the added benefit of social integration with Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, and Picasa. OBDragDrop was instrumental in coding our collage editor. We even used libraries to customize progress indicators and sharing options. With the foundation in place, I set out coding the app. I worked long hours, spending every waking moment strapped to my MacBook typing like a madman. Jennifer worked just as hard rounding out the design, preparing assets, and offering constructive criticisms (some of which I was not in the mood to hear). With a prototype in hand we sent out the app to beta testers and took notes over their shoulders as they tried to use the app for the first time, biting our tongues as they fumbled their way through our hastily designed UI. With feedback in hand we quickly tweaked the app, washed, rinsed, repeated. After several iterations, a solid 2 weeks of nonstop coding and designing, and an all-nighter, we submitted our app for review. I demoed the app at Nashville CocoaHeads the next evening, got a great response, and left with an amazing elated feeling in my bones. The seemingly impossible had been accomplished! Now all we could do was wait and hope that Apple approved of our creation.