Tag Archives: App Store

Five tips to make your app idea a reality

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If you didn’t know, I’m the go-to guy when it comes to web, mobile web, social media and apps, in my network.

Cats who know me, know that I’m all tech’d out, so my advice is solicited fairly frequently.

Last night was no exception.

You see, I got a call from a friend who was interested in building an app.

They actually sent me a text and then followed it up with a call – as if the distinction makes a different.

What do you care?

Just recount the story already fool!

Anywho, my friend is a member of the PTA where our kids attend school, and had (what she thought) was a great idea for an app that could be used as a fundraiser.

I listened patiently, as she rattled off her pie-in-the-sky idea.

I say ‘pie-in-the-sky’ because most ideas are just that: ideas.

Very few folks take the necessary steps to turn an idea into reality.

And since I didn’t want my friend wasting her time (and mine) pursuing a pipe dream, I got to the nitties.

Do you have your idea written down?

What are the basic features and functions of your app?

Will it be a native app, pull in mobile web pages or is it a hybrid?

Do you have a mock-up, wireframes or drawing which models your app?

How is the data being managed?

What’s your back end?

iOS, Android or both?

Is this something you’re planning on putting into the App Store, or will it be distributed privately?

Is it going to be a free or premium app?

What’s your timeline?

And the coup de grace…

Do you have a budget?

Now a lesser man (or woman) would have been flummoxed by my barrage of questions.

But old girl hung in like a trooper.

Although she didn’t have a written plan, wireframes or a mock (it came to her as she was driving through Colonial Williamsburg with her kids) she did have many of the answers I needed to vet her idea.

And as I walked her through the various things she need to do to get her app off the ground, it dawned on me that most people don’t know what it really takes to create an app.

So rather than allow you folks to live in ignorance, I’ve decided to outline the top five things you need to do to build an app.

1. Write your idea down.

I don’t know why people think that writing their ideas down isn’t important.

There’s nothing worse than listening to someone blabber about their unformed idea for an app. If you’re serious about building an app, and you want serious advice about it’s feasibility, then take the time to outline exactly what it is you want to build.

While it’s good to be able to articulate your idea orally, this isn’t Shark Tank. Folks are going to want to be able to work from a document and not from your oral pitch.

More importantly, by writing it down, you can see whether you’ve covered all your bases. By listing out what the app does, how it works, etc., you can determine whether your idea is fully formed (or not) and what you’ve still got to work on to make it complete.

2. Sketch it out.

I can’t stress the importance of visualization when it comes to building your app. Sure, you’re no Picasso. But you’re also not going to be showing your sketches at the MOMA, so get over yourself.

Sketching out our app is a simple way for you to render your app in a way that lets you map out landing pages, button placement, navigation elements, even ad space.

When you sketch out your idea, you form an appreciation for the spacial considerations you’ve got to take into account when you’re developing anything for mobile. It will help you focus on the absolutely essential elements of your app, which need the real estate, versus the wants, which will invariably  make your app look messy or cluttered.

3. Understand your data.

When you’re developing an app, you’ve got to figure out what information you need from your users or what information you’re planning on sharing with your users.

Where is it going to be stored? How is it going to be accessed? Do I need an API? What about web services? What information exists natively (versus information sitting on the web)?

Regardless of the answer to these question, having a complete (or at least well-formed) understanding of what’s happening with your data is crucial to getting it built.

4. Define the user experience.

What your app is going to do, how it’s going to function and the set of features available, are all parts of defining the user experience.

Focusing on features, flow and function, will help you understand your app and move it from concept to reality.

5. Set a budget.

Regardless of how outlandish or reasonable your app idea is, it’s going to require some moolah to get it developed. If you’re a developer and know how to code for iOS and Android devices – well bully for you. Everyone else, you’re going to have to pay someone to develop your app for you. And it’s going to cost you something.

Now you can go the offshore route and build your app on the cheap. This invariably translates into many sleepless nights working with your foreign (=basic mastery of the English language) development team, potential delays and cost overruns. But when you’re paying in rubles or rupees can you really complain? No.

Or you can go the domestic route and pay market rates. This means lighter pockets, but the ability to work directly with your development team and give/get feedback in real time.  Whichever way you go, you’ve got to plan on setting money aside (or raising money) to get your app built. Starting the process off with money in the bank or a clear idea of what you’re prepared to spend, helps move things from idea to reality.

So the next time you think you’ve got an idea for the next killer app, don’t just talk about it, be about it!

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UPDATE: Funk Flex is so digital. And so mobile too.

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FunkMaster Flex is one of the most widely recognized DJs in the world.

He’s an on-air personality and radio icon whose name is synonymous with New York.

He has broken a slew of records and established innumerable artists.

His ‘bomb drops’ are the virtual equivalent of a platinum plaque.

If Flex drops a bomb on your record, you’ve made it.

Flex is not just a master of the airwaves.

He’s also recognized as a serious car enthusiast.

Flex is a staple at car shows.

His passion for cars rivals that of Jay Leno.

But what I find intriguing about him, is his digital game.

When it comes to online and social media, Flex is not to be trifled with.

In fact, he frequently states “I’m so digital NY,” on his daily slot on Hot 97 FM.

With over 687,000 Twitter followers, almost 67,000 likes on Facebook, and over 166,000 followers on Instagram, his digital footprint is impressive.

And now, it appears that he’s crossed yet another threshold.

Mobile.

On Wednesday, Funk Flex dropped the FunkMaster Flex iPhone app.

Having previously announced the release of DJ Rich Medina’s app a few months ago, I was curious to see what Flex was coming with.

So I went to the App Store and downloaded it.

At first blush, it seems like a fairly simple app.

The home screen alternates between images of Flex, black t-shirt clad, hat to back, pointing menacingly at the camera.

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Atop his image sits his familiar red FMF logo.

At the very bottom of the screen is a music player, featuring a play/pause and fast forward buttons, and short description/title of what’s playing.

Between the image of Flex and the music player, sits a clever little carousel.

With icons that allow you to navigate to the various other features of the app.

There are sixteen such little icons.

Which makes this simple seeming app, not so simple after all.

Indeed, the app is, as Flex likes to say, “a beast.”

First of all, it’s chock full of music.

In addition to the music player on the home page, tapping the Music icon takes you to even more pages of music.

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Flex gives you instrumentals, remixes, mix tapes and songs for days.

And it’s not just Flex’s stuff either.

Cats like Swizz Beats, Timbaland, the Neptunes, Just Blaze, Pete Rock and others have blessed Flex’s app with some well known (and obscure) instrumentals.

Selecting the grid in the top left corner navigates you back to the home page.

From there, features like Pictures or Videos, transport you deeper into Flex’s world.

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There’s also a Store feature, which is kinda wack because its the full HTML site on the phone.

But aside from that, there are other fan specific features that make it a cool app.

Now, you must know, I’m no fan of Flex.

If you peep his show, he’s a bully.

He regularly clowns other DJs and basically talks smack.

Considering how long he’s been in the game, you’d imagine he would have matured and achieved a more elevated mindset.

Not so much.

Ego is a bitch.

The day I downloaded the app, I was incredulous.

FunkMaster Flex has an app?

I couldn’t accept it.

So I did a lil’ digging and the app is really just a template.

Almost indistinguishable from at least twelve other apps developed by Salcedo Mobile.

Salcedo has created DJ apps for a host of lesser-known Spanish (or is the correct term Hispanic?) DJs.

They took the meat of the app – all those wonderful features – and reskinned it for Flex.

So while the app is still quite dope, it’s not original.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Says Stephen sarcastically.

I’ve got to give Flex credit though, because the app is dope.

And selecting Salcedo Mobile as his developer sets the bar high for other DJs interested in getting into the app game.

Props aside, one thing noticeably absent from the release of Flex’s app: promo.

Outside of hearing the announcement, there’s no mention of the app anywhere.

If you Google it, nada.

Check InFlexWeTrust.com, nada.

Even if you visit the developer’s site, it’s not listed among their portfolio of apps.

But I’m sure that Flex’s loyal fans will get the word out, so that may be all the promotion it needs.

UPDATE: As of Wednesday, April 17, exactly one week after the release of the DJ Funk Flex app, the app is number 11 (free iPhone music apps) in the App Store.

Funk Flex has some loyal fans.

Funk Flex has some loyal fans.

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Clap for your app. Applause gives app developers a helping hand.

Applause

Do you want to know how your app stacks up against other apps?

Or even previous versions of your own app?

Then pay attention.

There’s a new app rating service called Applause, which lets you do just that.

Applause is the brainchild of a Boston-based uTest (known for getting their tech on).

To hear them describe it:

Applause is an app analytics product that crawls every rating and review from the top app stores. Applause synthesizes this mountain of user feedback into an easy-to-consume Applause Score to measure user satisfaction, app quality and how much applause an app is earning from users.

Its been compared to Klout, the social media influence ranking service.

But, in my opinion (outside of the 0-100 scale – more on that later) it’s actually more like Alexa, in that it ranks mobile applications far more objectively.

Apps are given a score (like Klout) between 0 and 100.

The greater the score, the better the app.

Scores are tabulated from the more than 50 million ratings, reviews and comments left by users in the App and Google Play stores.

The Applause score is actually comprised of ten different attributes, which include things like price, content, usability and ‘elegance’.

What are these "attributes" you speak of?

What are these “attributes” you speak of?

If you want to get an in-depth understanding of how Applause Scores are generated, check out their Behind the Scenes page, which discusses how attributes are weighted and applied.

For consumers, Applause can help you determine whether an app is worth the download.

Too often, developers send ‘ringers’ in to artificially inflate an app’s star rating.

Worse still, are the fake reviews of users lauding an app.

Applause claims that it provides a more even-handed, objective review of an app.

Kind of like the way Rotten Tomatoes provides objective, even-handed reviews of movies.

I set up a free account and took Applause for a test spin, and was fairly impressed with what I saw.

Setting up was as simple as entering an email address and choosing a password.

From there, I searched for an app, double-clicked the result which opened up a dashboard.

The Applause dashboard provide a snapshot as well as in-depth views of an app in six categories or areas:

  • Applause Score
  • Applause Attributes
  • Applause Signals
  • Review Stream
  • Tag Cloud
  • App Basics

For developers, Applause provides a bright line test of their app’s true appeal.

If your app wasn’t properly vetted or Beta tested, you might not know how crappy (or awesome) your app really is.

Applause lets you see your app’s overall rating, but also a tag cloud of the keywords most often associated with the app.

More importantly, Applause provides meaningful insight and direction about how to improve user satisfaction and overall app quality.

If you’re curious, I’d definitely recommend that you check out your app and see if it generates any Applause.

Get it?

I crack myself up.

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The Lorax App. A Kiddie Brostache!

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I’m at the movies with my four kids watching The Secret World of Arrietty, about little people who live under the floor and the boy who befriends them.

But I’m at the movies with a ‘little person’ myself, my two year old, Fuji, whose attention span was spent as soon as the last of the curly fries disappeared down his gullet.

So I’m wandering the halls on the AMC as Fuji flits from one video game to the next, pulling and pushing, banging and kicking and generally causing controlled mayhem outside of the theater.

And as I pass this Lorax display, I wonder “did they have the foresight to make an app for this movie?”

The Lorax is a movie based on a Dr. Seuss book about a little boy trying to save the world, with the assistance of a small grumpy little creature.

IMO, the world of Dr. Seuss was made for apps. I imagine a world of talking rhyming books, interactive games, entire virtual worlds built off of the colorful characters of Dr. Seuss.

So (since I’m bored) and playing man-servant, hallway chaperone to my toddler, I pull out my handy iPhone, which I had switched to vibrate in the theater, and typed “The Lorax” into the App Store search window.

And wouldn’t you know there are like four different apps for The Lorax (and eight total Dr. Seuss themed apps)!

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So I downloaded the free promotional app from the movie and tried to keep Fuji from climbing the Lorax reclining on the display.

The app has a Lorax ‘Brostache’ that moves in response to your voice. There’s also a feature that lets you place the Lorax mustache on your photo.

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He was genuinely amused by the app, for like five seconds, and then it was back to banging and kicking, pushing, pulling and punching (Mr. Lorax didn’t put up much of a fight).

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Even though the app was very light on pure entertainment value, it’s still a great tie in to the movie, and a great way to leverage an app from a promotional perspective.

Although I haven’t seen the app advertised alongside the movie yet, it’s niceI’m pleased to see that they created one nonetheless.

It was a nice (albeit brief) distraction for my little hellion, and it gave me something to talk about in this quick post (which I created solely on my iPhone-nicely done WordPress!).

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Filed under apps, branding, iPhone, mobile, Parenting

SoLoMo Profile: Wyst

The second company I’m going to profile for the Starters+Startups: The Future of SoLoMo & You panel I’m moderating is Wyst.

The Wyst app allows you to share geo-tagged photographs, with family, friends and members of your Facebook and Twitter social networks.

Wyst's homepage is spare.

In the header of the page, there are three icons next to a phone which offer:

Share experiences. As they happen, where they happen.

Discover new stories around you.

It’s a new kind of message in a bottle.

Since there was a video, I watched.

It’s a 3:13 minute commercial, that I think does a really good job of telling you what Wyst’s all about, without a single line of dialogue.

You simply follow this bloke around NY as he use the app and a companion screen of his iPhone shows you his Wyst thread.

Nicely done Wyst.

From what I gleaned from watching the video alone, you can take a picture, tag it with different emoticons and post it to your Wyst profile.

I’ll know more when I take the app for a test-drive.

The bottom of the page offers links to the App store, their social media profiles (Facebook and Twitter), the Latest News, Blog and About Us pages.

You can also sign up for the Wyst newsletter on the page.

The Latest News includes the fact that Wyst is now out of Beta and available in the iTunes App store.

The Blog takes you to a page which offers various Wysts of the Day.

It’s essentially a blog roll of different pictures taken by Wyst users all over the globe.

Wyst of the Day

Wyst’s About Us page is fairly irreverent.

It pays homage to the Brooklyn roots of the app, as well as the following:

“Wyst is a like a new kind of message in a bottle: it’s a fun app that enables you to share cool moments, random musings, unique tidbits and interesting experiences by capturing them on a photo or text note and tagging them to a location for others to find. The idea came to us from a simple question:

Wouldn’t it be awesome to freeze this moment in time, in this place, so that when someone else passes by this same spot they can find it and experience it themselves?

As the Wyst site is light on pages, I checked out their Facebook and Twitter pages too (let’s get those numbers up fellas – okay?) while downloading the app from the App Store.

Wysts are a tad scarce, huh? Gimme a chance why dontcha!

I’m going to play around with their app this week too, so stay tuned for any updates.

Again, if you’ve used Wyst, like it or have an opinion, please share!

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Taxi Magic App Works Like Magic!

Taxi Magic

Since I recently lampooned an app, I felt the need to be balanced.

So today, I give props to an app I recently downloaded and used, that I found to work exceptionally well.

That app was Taxi Magic from RideCharge Inc.

I was in Washington, D.C. a few weeks ago, and needed to get to a meeting with a client. I had originally intended to take the bus across town, but the scheduled bus was delayed, and I didn’t want to risk being late from my appointment.

Not too long ago, I had attended a NYTech Meetup, where a Taxi Magic demo was featured, but at the time, I hadn’t downloaded the app.

I immediately recalled the simple and effortless way the app was purported to work during the demo, so I pulled out my iPhone and downloaded it.

Taxi Magic uses your location to locate taxis in proximity to you.

Upon launching Texi Magic, I was asked if the app could use my location, and was then presented with a list of cabs near the intersection near where I was standing, which I could either book directly or call.

Taxi Magic tells you when your taxi has been dispatched.

I booked a Red Top taxi, and received a notification telling me the taxi had been dispatched and was less than half a mile away.

Taxi Magic's map let's me see where the driver is while I wait on him.

There was an interactive map, which showed where the taxi was relative to where I was, and let me monitor the driver’s progress.

When I saw the taxi pull up a few minutes later, and jumped in, the driver asked if I was Stephen, and if I was going to Capital City Brewing (to which I replied in the affirmative).

Taxi Magic let me pay for my ride using the app itself.

When we arrived at my destination, I had the option of paying with my Taxi Magic account (I had set up a Taxi Magic account and input my credit card) with my credit card or with cash.

I opted for my Taxi Magic account, added a small tip and Viola! all done.

I really like the Taxi Magic app because it does what it promises to do – make getting a taxi like magic.

The interface is clean and spare, and even on AT&T’s 3G network, pages loaded quickly.

I didn’t have to work to figure out how to use it. It didn’t crash on me and I didn’t have to jump through elaborate hoops to get a taxi.

There are a few other taxi apps out there, I’m sure, but Taxi Magic is the one for me!

Note: The screen shots provided above were not of my experience, but images I grabbed from iTunes. 

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To Twitter Or Not To Twitter

A little over 9 months ago I started using Twitter.  Although it had been around for a minute, I was into other things, and didn’t really see the relevance of posting every minute detail of my life with yet another online social networking tool.  Call me short-sighted.

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When I joined  Twitter, however, I noted that there were already a few people that I knew, who were active ‘tweeters,’ which gave me more of an incentive to stay tuned-in.  Interestingly, James Andrews, the one person who I feel understands branding more than any person I’ve met to date, was an active tweeter/twitter-er(?) (pardon my ignorance of the actual term to describe people who tweet).

Over the course of the next few months, my use of Twitter has increased (albeit incrementally), and I’ve come to appreciate the cult of Twitter.  My complete and unadulterated adoption of Twitter occurred recently, when I downloaded the Twitterific application onto my iPhone a few days ago, and began Twittering(?) on the go.  (I also downloaded the Twitterific widget onto my laptop.)

I’ve got to admit, being free of my laptop, but still being able to Twitter from anywhere is quite cool.  The iPhone app puts all my posts, as well as the posts of all the folks I’m following (29 to date) in a simple to use interface, accessible with a click.  Twitter’s features, like twitpic, allow me to customize my posts, and I’ve been going hog wild ever since copping the app.

Today, for example, I Twittered (?) my morning commute, compete with pictures of my stops along the way.  It was really a personal case study of the utility the Twitterific app in action, and I was pretty stoked with the results.  The only thing I didn’t like is the fact that I don’t get automatic confirmations that my posts have posted (I don’t like having to check my feed in order to see the post).  A simple ‘message sent’ would be great.

Another great thing is the Twitter Facebook app that allows me to update my Facebook status via Twitter.  I always found it annoying that these apps both had some status update feature, since the activity of Twittering(?) is like a constant status update, and it seemed redundant to post another (or different) stauts in Facebook.

Anyway, if you’re interested in my daily musings, feel free to follow me on Twitter.

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