Although I have chosen to only develop photography related apps, there is still an almost infinite number of apps I could develop. This post is about how I decide which app to develop next or which feature I’ll add to an existing app.
When I started developing for the App Store in August 2008, there wasn’t a lot of decision making involved. I made GeoLogTag for myself, because at the time no geotagging apps were available in the App Store.
My second app, Scotty (named PhotoToMac at the time), was a GeoLogTag spin-off. The main new feature of GeoLogTag 2.0 release was over-the-air geotagging to a Mac shared folder. I knew that it would just take me a couple of weeks to build Scotty by reusing that functionality. I also expected that over-the-air photo transfer would soon become a standard feature of iOS, but I took the chance. Now, two years later, Scotty still stands strong although recent rumors point to cloud syncing of photos in iOS 5. We’ll see.
I then started adding features to both apps, based on my own experience or based on user feedback. As iOS evolved, it also became possible to add features that were just not possible with earlier iOS versions.
When I had time to start developing a third app, I spent quite some time choosing from my ever growing list of app ideas. I finally went for WiiPhoto, an app that displays iPhone, Mac, Flickr, Facebook and SmugMug photos on a TV screen via the Wii console attached to it. With the exception of setting up the initial connection, everything is remotely controlled by WiiPhoto on the iPhone.
How did I make that choice? Well, it bothered me that it was pretty hard to display photos on the biggest screen in my house. At the time, the first generation Apple TV was available but it wasn’t cheap ($300) and required a syncing step. Since I had a Wii console attached to my television set, I started thinking in that direction. The WiiPhoto target audience is the average family with a couple of kids (hence the Wii) and a bunch of digital family and/or vacation photos.
So where did it go wrong with WiiPhoto (< 500 downloads in 9 months)? Is it too hard to configure? Is it too expensive ($2.99)? Does the app require more promotion? Is the app not intuitive to use? To be honest, I don’t know. Probably a combination of the reasons above.
I worked pretty hard to get WiiPhoto in the App Store and to make the first version as complete as possible. Several months of work without a lot of results. That’s also life @ the App Store. But I’m not complaining. I learned a lot while developing the app and it was also fun to fetch photos from different websites (Flickr, Facebook, SmugMug).
Next on the list was a new GeoLogTag release. I added native SmugMug geotagging support based on what I learned while developing WiiPhoto. I thought I would address a whole new group of (professional) photographers by adding SmugMug support. Again months of work went into this release, but the result on overall sales was negligible.
It was January 2011 and I thought time had come to develop my first iPad app. I immediately went into the direction of photo metadata because I had been looking for such an app (for personal use), but without a lot of success. Although a dozen of metadata iPad apps were already available (some of them free), I started working on PhotoMeta. I managed to add a couple of unique features and made the app free, but with an in-app purchase. PhotoMeta has been available in the App Store for about 7 weeks now and I’m happy with the results: 5000+ downloads and 250 in-app purchases.
But the most interesting part of PhotoMeta is the built-in, easy-accessible “Request Feature” button. A lot of people are using it and the result is that I now have a good idea what I should add in the next PhotoMeta release(s).
I obviously don’t have a recipe for “blockbuster apps”. But that’s also not what I’m after.
I want to make serious, useful, high-quality photography apps. Of course I want to reach as many people as possible, but that’s not the main target.
As long as I’m having fun developing iOS apps, I’ll keep enhancing my existing apps and maybe I’ll add a couple of new ones too.