Developing Perspective

#72: Mistakes, Designing Icons and getting Acquired.


00:00:00   Hello, and welcome to Developing Perspective. Developing Perspective is a podcast discussing

00:00:04   news of note in iOS development, Apple, and the like. I'm your host, David Smith. I'm

00:00:09   an independent iOS developer based in Herndon, Virginia. This is show number 72, and today

00:00:13   is Thursday, August 16th. Developing Perspective is never longer than 15 minutes, so let's

00:00:18   get started.

00:00:19   The first topic for today is what do you do when you make a mistake? And this is my three-step

00:00:24   process for when you encounter a mistake and how you deal with it. First, you identify

00:00:29   the mistake. In this case, Sean P. Walsh let me know on Twitter that the developing perspective

00:00:36   feed was kind of broken. And the interview I did with Bill Dutney that was posted yesterday

00:00:41   was not showing up for him or showing up incorrectly. So the first thing you do is identify and

00:00:45   thank whoever found it. So thank you, Sean. Two, fix and fix for the future. This is the

00:00:51   key thing. The second part of that is perhaps the most important part. Often, and this applies

00:00:56   universally to any kind of problem that's your fault.

00:00:59   There is a fix that you can do to fix it right now.

00:01:01   And then there's the fix you can do that will prevent that particular mistake

00:01:05   from happening in the future.

00:01:06   In this case, there was a unique ID problem in my feed.

00:01:11   And so the easy fix would just be to change the unique ID for Bill's post,

00:01:15   and it would just start working.

00:01:17   However, the fix in Fix for the Future is improve my generation of unique IDs

00:01:21   to make sure they're really unique.

00:01:22   And that's what I've done.

00:01:24   And the last thing you do is you apologize.

00:01:26   I'm sorry, everybody.

00:01:28   Hope you have got Bill's interview now.

00:01:30   If not, I highly recommend it if you got this.

00:01:32   But somehow, your podcasting software

00:01:35   didn't quite catch Bill's.

00:01:36   Definitely look it up.

00:01:37   It should just be there if you refresh now.

00:01:39   It's a really nice interview with Bill Dudeney,

00:01:41   who is just an all-around great guy and really good at-- we

00:01:44   had a good conversation talking about solving hard problems,

00:01:47   debugging tools, and a topic that I've heard a lot of you

00:01:50   ask me about, which is how to learn Objective-C

00:01:52   and kind of that process.

00:01:54   So we talked a bit about that.

00:01:55   Anyway, so that's my three-step process

00:01:57   for what happens when you make a mistake.

00:02:00   Identify, thank whoever did, fix, and fix for the future,

00:02:03   and then apologize.

00:02:04   So my bad.

00:02:06   All right, the two main topics we're going to talk about today.

00:02:09   One is designing icons and the process around designing icons.

00:02:14   And the second one is going to be about app acquisitions

00:02:16   and a little bit of the logistics around that.

00:02:19   And so the reason I'm talking about designing icons

00:02:21   is yesterday, or was it Tuesday?

00:02:24   This week, I launched a new version of my recipe book

00:02:28   with a brand new icon.

00:02:29   And it was designed by the Icon Factory.

00:02:31   I don't know exactly who at the Icon Factory,

00:02:33   even much of that really matters.

00:02:35   But the Icon Factory was the graphic design company

00:02:38   that I ended up going with.

00:02:39   And they did a fantastic job.

00:02:41   Highly recommend them.

00:02:42   If you are in the market for an icon,

00:02:44   definitely contact the Icon Factory.

00:02:46   They do great work.

00:02:47   They've been doing great work forever.

00:02:49   And can't say enough about them.

00:02:50   The process went as expected, on time, on budget,

00:02:54   all that kind of stuff.

00:02:56   But more than necessarily I want to talk about the design

00:02:59   of this particular icon, I want to talk about the process that

00:03:04   is likely that you'll go through with any designer,

00:03:06   with any graphic designer, whenever

00:03:07   you're coming up with a concept for either a new app

00:03:11   or updating an existing app.

00:03:13   And so in this case, basically the process

00:03:16   seems to work through maybe about a five-step process.

00:03:19   And I'll kind of walk through them in step.

00:03:21   So first, there's kind of the concept phase.

00:03:24   And you can either do this with your designer,

00:03:25   with your team, just by yourself.

00:03:27   And really, the goal of this is to try and come up

00:03:31   with a concept of what you want the app to look like,

00:03:33   what you want it to vaguely be in terms of graphical elements,

00:03:37   in terms of colors.

00:03:38   Often what you're going to want to be doing here

00:03:41   is looking at competitors' apps, both for the pros and the cons.

00:03:46   And so to some degree, it's like if you're

00:03:49   trying to do something that fits in to an existing thing

00:03:52   and has good recognizability, that's

00:03:54   good in terms of making it consistent

00:03:57   with your competitors.

00:03:58   There's also sometimes cases where

00:03:59   you're going to want to do the opposite of what

00:04:01   your competitors are doing, either in color or content

00:04:03   to differentiate yourself.

00:04:05   So as an example of that, say maybe you're

00:04:07   making a Twitter application.

00:04:08   There's a good chance you may want to have that have a bird

00:04:11   as some part of the icon.

00:04:13   While that's a little bit cliche at this point,

00:04:15   it really helps people sort of recognize what it is,

00:04:18   And they've kind of grown to expect that.

00:04:21   And it helps users down the road, especially,

00:04:23   when they're looking for their Twitter application

00:04:25   on their phone, on their Mac, they see a bird,

00:04:28   they think of Twitter.

00:04:29   That's just the nature of that branding.

00:04:30   And so being consistent with that is probably helpful.

00:04:33   Now, at the same time, you don't want

00:04:35   to get too carried away with that

00:04:36   and be sort of looking just like someone else.

00:04:39   Now, you're sort of-- you're starting to get into plagiarism.

00:04:42   You're starting to not have differentiation.

00:04:44   So but you're trying to find that good fit for what concept--

00:04:47   does this icon represent your application?

00:04:50   And I think also, I just think to keep in mind,

00:04:52   is when coming up with a concept of an application,

00:04:54   you often want to make sure that it matches logically

00:04:57   the overall feel of your application.

00:05:01   So for example, in my recipe book,

00:05:03   this is an application whose UI paradigm

00:05:06   is based around a cutting board with elements sliding along

00:05:09   on top of it.

00:05:11   And so for my icon, the icon is based on a cutting board.

00:05:16   It's a wooden background designed with a 3D effect

00:05:19   to make it look like a cutting board with elements laid on top.

00:05:22   And for me, I found that to be pretty good in terms

00:05:25   of being consistent, that you see that,

00:05:28   and it makes sense in the application.

00:05:30   If I'd gone with something that's a bit more abstract,

00:05:34   for example, that may not really fit.

00:05:36   Whereas when you look at something like audiobooks,

00:05:38   there's another one of my applications

00:05:40   where the It's UI is almost entirely native.

00:05:42   And by native, I mean it's just using standard Apple

00:05:44   controls for the most part with a few tweaks and adjustments.

00:05:47   So for that, I have a bit more latitude

00:05:49   in terms of how I actually design it,

00:05:52   because the one is very-- if your application has

00:05:55   a very strong design baggage to it,

00:05:59   you'll have to match that throughout the application,

00:06:02   or throughout your icon as well, to make them consistent.

00:06:05   If you have a fairly generic UI for your application,

00:06:08   you probably have a bit more latitude, I'd say,

00:06:11   in terms of the actual concept.

00:06:13   And then as you're working with a designer,

00:06:15   the process from here gets fairly straightforward.

00:06:17   Once you have a concept, you'll communicate that to them

00:06:20   in various ways-- in words, in pictures, in just sketches.

00:06:23   And then you typically give it to a designer,

00:06:25   and they'll do wire frames.

00:06:26   And wire frames are sketches, depending

00:06:28   on how you're talking to.

00:06:30   But these are just simple line drawings

00:06:31   showing the overall structure of the icon,

00:06:34   how it will vaguely look.

00:06:36   And often this is where they'll throw out

00:06:37   a lot of different concepts and ideas.

00:06:39   So they'll say, here's--

00:06:41   I understand you want a cutting board with some kitchen utensils on it.

00:06:45   Well, here's a couple of examples of what that would look like.

00:06:47   A lot of what this is trying to do is take it from a concept into an actual thing that you can talk about

00:06:53   and be able to say, "I like this, but not that. I like that, but not this."

00:06:58   And that's often really difficult to do in words, so by putting it into sort of these rough wire frames,

00:07:03   that sort of really helps put that together.

00:07:05   Once you kind of narrow in on a topic from there, then you'll move on to kind of, okay, rough mock-ups.

00:07:10   And these are sort of, at least from my experience,

00:07:13   this is where the designer kind of shifts from pen and paper

00:07:16   into something like Photoshop or Illustrator

00:07:18   or whatever they're actually going to make it in.

00:07:20   And these are kind of-- it's almost

00:07:24   like if you've seen a lot of 3D or 3D rendering and things,

00:07:27   this is where you take the structure

00:07:30   and you build it in the system and it

00:07:31   looks like whatever it's supposed to look like.

00:07:33   It's like, say you imagine it's Toy Story.

00:07:36   It's Woody.

00:07:36   You'll have a person with a hat and all that.

00:07:39   But there's no real color or richness or texture to it.

00:07:42   It's just a structure.

00:07:43   And at this point, you're proofing sizes, layout,

00:07:48   those kinds of things.

00:07:49   And once you settle on that, they'll

00:07:51   often then move to what I used to call a colored mockup.

00:07:55   And this is where you're getting close to what the actual final

00:07:57   thing will look like.

00:07:59   And so it's that same concept or implementation

00:08:02   that was in the rough mockup phase,

00:08:04   but it now has richness and texture and color

00:08:07   and is getting very close to what the final product will

00:08:09   look like.

00:08:10   And at each step in this process,

00:08:12   the designer is typically saying, what do you like?

00:08:14   What don't you like?

00:08:15   What should I change?

00:08:16   And the goal really, as a developer in this process,

00:08:19   is to try and make changes as early as you can.

00:08:22   Identify problems, identify things that you're not

00:08:24   going to want to do, things that won't work,

00:08:27   as early as you can.

00:08:28   Because the more you are invested

00:08:31   into the process down the road, the harder

00:08:33   it is for your designer to make changes,

00:08:35   or at least the more expensive it's going to be for your designer

00:08:37   make changes because they essentially

00:08:39   have to start all over again.

00:08:41   And so be very careful of that.

00:08:44   And also it's something you want to be thinking of in terms

00:08:47   of with your designer about the timeline, costing, et cetera,

00:08:51   for your application.

00:08:52   This icon is you want to make sure

00:08:54   that you have some understanding of how many iterations you

00:08:57   can do at each step, how long you can take.

00:08:59   If you get all the way to the end, you're like, actually,

00:09:02   I don't like it.

00:09:03   What do you do?

00:09:03   Because obviously they've spent a lot of time and work,

00:09:05   and so you don't necessarily-- it's not really fair

00:09:07   to be like, OK, well, let's start again,

00:09:09   and that doesn't count.

00:09:12   And then once you get to this phase,

00:09:14   hopefully you like what you see, you know what

00:09:16   it's going to look like.

00:09:17   And then they'll typically start doing finals.

00:09:20   And there's a variety of different formats,

00:09:22   and especially for something like an app icon,

00:09:24   because the app icon is going to be rendered

00:09:26   into a variety of different sizes.

00:09:28   I think right now in iOS, it goes from 1024 is the biggest

00:09:33   down to-- I think it's 40 pixels.

00:09:36   I'm not sure though, it's in that ballpark.

00:09:38   It's a pretty small version of the icon.

00:09:41   So what your designer is going to do is render the icon at

00:09:44   those images, making adjustments as needed.

00:09:46   Because obviously if you have a very rich and detailed

00:09:48   version at 1024 by 1024 pixels, if you squeeze that

00:09:52   down to 40 by 40, you're going to be losing a lot.

00:09:54   And so often your designer will just simplify elements or

00:09:57   throw things out or those kinds of things to make it

00:09:59   work at the small stage.

00:10:02   And if everything looks good, you say ship it,

00:10:03   and off you go.

00:10:05   And so that's kind of the process that I went through with my recipe book,

00:10:09   with the Icon Factory.

00:10:10   It went basically in that process.

00:10:11   We had a few mistakes along the way.

00:10:13   I ended up changing my mind about my recipe book.

00:10:15   Luckily, we caught that early enough in the process

00:10:19   that I sort of-- in the early wire framing rough mock-ups phase.

00:10:22   So we went back, and it wasn't a huge deal for the designers,

00:10:25   because they hadn't really done the coloring, or the richness,

00:10:27   or the multi-size stuff yet.

00:10:28   So we caught it pretty early.

00:10:30   But overall, the process went great.

00:10:31   Hopefully, I've had a lot of good responses so far from my users

00:10:35   that like the icon, and what it was replacing

00:10:37   was something that I think I did with ClipArt or something

00:10:40   back when the app first launched, which is kind of awful.

00:10:43   So I'm glad it actually has something designed and proper

00:10:45   in there now.

00:10:47   And OK, so that's how you design an icon.

00:10:49   Again, I highly recommend the Icon Factory.

00:10:51   Other people I've heard are really good are Pacific Helm.

00:10:54   I've heard they're really nice.

00:10:55   And there's a lot of freelance developers.

00:10:56   If you go in Dribbble, you can see tons and tons

00:10:58   of freelance designers who will make great icons for your apps.

00:11:03   It's for the last and the third and final topic for today.

00:11:06   I'm going to talk about app acquisitions.

00:11:09   This is also actually relevant to me.

00:11:10   One of my apps was recently acquired.

00:11:12   I'm not going to talk about the details of that yet.

00:11:15   It's not yet public.

00:11:16   Nothing major, nothing dramatic.

00:11:18   It's one of my more minor apps, at least in terms

00:11:20   of from a business perspective for me.

00:11:22   It was acquired by someone else.

00:11:24   And I thought it would be interesting to talk

00:11:26   about the process of how that works

00:11:28   and the rules that Apple establishes for the App Store.

00:11:31   So really, if someone wants to acquire your app, which

00:11:34   is for the concept what we're going to talk about is someone's

00:11:36   going to take financial ownership and responsibility

00:11:38   for the application, there's really

00:11:40   three ways they can do that.

00:11:42   They can do what you call, as you could call, a full buy,

00:11:44   which is where they're not really buying your application.

00:11:47   They're buying you and your company.

00:11:49   And not necessarily, I guess, you

00:11:51   is probably a negotiable part.

00:11:52   But they're buying the company that owns the application.

00:11:55   And so a great example of this was

00:11:56   Tweedy, where Twitter bought 8bits, as best I understand,

00:12:00   which was Lauren Brikter's company.

00:12:02   And they took over his developer account.

00:12:04   And nothing really changed in terms

00:12:07   of from a user's perspective for a lot of that.

00:12:09   The application just sort of kept running

00:12:12   and was rebranded.

00:12:13   And they took over the whole account.

00:12:15   That works only really well if the person

00:12:18   doing the acquisition wants to buy your entire portfolio.

00:12:21   Or if you have one app that's easy,

00:12:23   they just want to buy that app.

00:12:24   But the problem is they're also taking control

00:12:28   of all the other apps, all the other parts.

00:12:30   So for me, that would be tricky if someone, for example,

00:12:32   wanted to buy my recipe book.

00:12:33   I also have audio books.

00:12:35   And so what would you do in terms of-- if they bought

00:12:37   the whole thing, they're buying both parts,

00:12:39   which may not necessarily make sense for the person doing

00:12:42   the acquisition.

00:12:43   So that's one way to do it.

00:12:45   The second way-- and this is the way that, unfortunately, it

00:12:47   tends to happen most often in the App Store--

00:12:50   is that you essentially have to end of life your old app

00:12:53   and resubmit it under their developer account.

00:12:56   So it's the same app just moved over.

00:12:58   And the reason you have to do that is Apple currently does not allow apps to be transferred

00:13:02   from one developer account to the other.

00:13:05   Specifically, if you look in the iTunes Connect FAQ, they say, "No, you can't transfer an

00:13:09   app to another developer account on iTunes Connect.

00:13:12   You can add that app to another account, remove the app from your current account, and upload

00:13:15   it as a new app to iTunes Connect."

00:13:18   And that's direct out of Apple's documentation for "Is it possible?

00:13:23   No."

00:13:24   Which is a little awkward.

00:13:25   I'm sure there's good reasons for them to do it.

00:13:27   I really wish they made this possible.

00:13:28   It doesn't happen enough that I feel

00:13:30   like it would be overly burdensome for Apple

00:13:32   to allow them to just change an app from one developer account

00:13:36   to the other.

00:13:37   Ultimately, my guess is really it's just

00:13:38   there's one number in a database somewhere that

00:13:42   changes from this developer to that developer.

00:13:45   But for whatever reason, Apple doesn't do that.

00:13:47   So if you want to do a typical transfer,

00:13:49   you have to essentially end of life one of your apps

00:13:52   and submit it to the other one.

00:13:53   This is really awkward for a user

00:13:54   Because if it's a paid app, they would have to then repurchase it in order

00:13:59   to get future updates and things.

00:14:01   So often you'd need to do it with a major update or something that

00:14:05   would be a logical break anyway.

00:14:07   So if you were going from a version 2 to version 3,

00:14:09   that would be an opportunity to do it.

00:14:12   But otherwise, it's always a little tricky.

00:14:14   But that's kind of what you're stuck with.

00:14:16   And then the last way to do it is basically

00:14:17   that you would continue to manage the app,

00:14:20   but someone else owns it within your store, which is kind of awkward

00:14:23   but can work, where it's still being sold under your name,

00:14:26   but someone else is responsible for the money that they get,

00:14:30   as well as the updates being done to it.

00:14:32   It sort of works.

00:14:33   But basically what you end up doing,

00:14:34   if someone wants to acquire your app,

00:14:36   is you're going to pull your app from the store,

00:14:38   and they're going to resubmit it under their account.

00:14:40   If that doesn't work for what they're doing,

00:14:42   then ultimately right now, they're

00:14:44   going to have to purchase your entire developer

00:14:46   account and your entire developer portfolio.

00:14:49   All right, that's it for today's show.

00:14:51   As always, if you have questions, comments, concerns,

00:14:52   I'm on Twitter @_DavidSmith.

00:14:55   And otherwise, I hope you have a good weekend.

00:14:57   Happy coding, and I will talk to you next week.