Producing Our First Mobile App

Over the past two months, I’ve embarked on the new venture of building a mobile application. Not just any mobile application either; a fully developed game to compete with the likes of Scramble with Friends and other word-search challenges. While I’m not expecting to be even in the same ballpark as that aforementioned gaming juggernaut, I hope to have built something many people will play and find entertaining.

I have a strong knowledge of the Web, and not just the development phase, but the marketing as well. Mobile, however, was a whole new concept to tackle. It was like going back to 1998, the year I developed my first website. There was so much to learn and, really, this go-round I had so little time.

But developing for the i0s platform — I’m starting with the iPhone and iPod Touch — was something I picked up quickly. I read numerous books on design, marketing and development, each one chock-full of knowledge about the medium. Still, the best learning experience was actually going through the process itself from start to finish.

I could write my own book on the subject, but I’ll summarize some of the primary periods from this entire process:

April: I created a detail project plan for the application, including full requirements and mockups. This took a lot of time, refinement and patients. Just when I’d think my requirements were perfect, I’d read a book that explained a more efficient way of doing things. I also had to really think about the game play interaction. When you’re dealing with letters and numbers — my game will be revealed later — there are so many combinations that come into play.

During this month, I also began seeking a developer overseas to build the app. I wanted to get this app to the App Store as quickly as possible. It didn’t make sense for me to learn how to build the actual application, when I could use that same time to learn how to market the app the best I could. Outsourcing the production work was a cost-effective move to allow me to target my energy elsewhere.

May: I selected the developer I wanted to work with. He worked for a small firm in India, but what I liked best is that he asked questions. He didn’t just read my three pages of requirements and say, “I can do that.” There was thought behind each of his questions, which made me feel like he honestly cared to get it right. We signed a three-week contract.

June: The application was not finished during the three-week time frame that the contract stated. So much positive progress had been made though, I knew we were close — the app had a lot of complexities and I knew 21 days was a stretch anyway. I gave him a two-week extension to finalize the 20 or so items left on the task list.

While working with someone overseas is a great thing, it also has its negatives. For instance, he and I were only able to communicate about two-to-four hours a day because of the time difference. Also, a lot of times I felt like we would take two steps forward and two steps back — things corrected in one test version would revert in the second. This made it difficult to move on from certain requirement points. But my developer spoke strong English, so everything eventually got sorted out.

In June, I also created the website, Facebook and Twitter pages for the app. To draw some promotion to the website, I set up a a Google AdWords promotion targeting specific keyword searches. If you don’t promote your app, you’ll go stale sitting among thousands of other undiscovered apps. And while downloads aren’t the only revenue generator — ads, link sharing, referrals — it’s what creates the trickle down effect for the other income streams.

Closing: It wasn’t until June 27 that I financially signed off on the final version of the app. We’re sending it to Apple for approval and hope to be in the App Store in about two weeks.

The app is called LetterSlider, the first-ever word-finding slider puzzle game in the App Store. The objective is to form words by sliding lettered tiles into place, trying to score the most points, spell the most words, accomplish achievements and more in two minutes. I’m releasing a Free and Delay-Free, Ad-Free version — a little taste test before you buy.

I won’t bore you with more details, but here’s where you can find additional LetterSlider information on the Web. Any support is appreciated!

Website: http://www.LetterSlider.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/LetterSlider
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/LetterSlider
Download Free: http://www.LetterSlider.com/free
Download Pro: http://www.LetterSlider.com/pro

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