My first iPhone App and things i learned

On June 26, 2012

My first iPhone App and things i learned

I recently released my first app for iPhone- a simple and beautiful calculator app that shows result instantly. 

Making your first app is a great experience. Once you have successfully published your app on the app store, all the doubts that were in your mind regarding the app store submission process vanish.

Here are some of the important lessons i have learned after making my first iPhone app that i would like to share with you.

Doing is more important than any other thing.
It's very important to do something everyday. Only then you realize how much time it would take to implement all features in your app. Otherwise it's just a guess work which may prove to be wrong.

Keep thinking of new ideas and features, but at least do something every day. Once you have finalized the basic features of your app start working on them immediately. Rest of the ideas and features needed for your app will come automatically as you start using your app.

Initially, i thought 2-3 days should be enough to make a basic calculator. But as i started using my calculator app i realized there were so many minor details that i hadn't thought about earlier.

An app like calculator has to show perfect results and in proper format. If the result is 5.4 it should show 5.4 and not 5.400000. It should not allow you to enter invalid calculations like 5*/3.  These are very basic things still, there are so many small things like this that will pop up in your mind only when you start using the app actually on the device and start testing it from a users point of view.

That's why it is so important to begin developing your app as soon as possible, after you have the basic idea of what your app is going to do.

Check your UI designs on an actual device before making the final decision.
We spend most of the time thinking about various options and features for our app. I have the habit of thinking about different UI interfaces mentally before i make the final UI on my system.

However, this isn't always the best way to do it. There is a difference between the picture in your mind and the way it looks on your iPhone. Even the difference can be huge between what you see on simulator and what you see on an actual device.

If you have doubts regarding 2-3 different designs, the best way is to make a basic demo or sketch and check those designs on your iPhone itself. Try moving your fingers and tapping across different elements to see how everything works.

The simulator isn't perfect for this. When you actually tap the buttons, move from one screen to another and get familiar with the interface on iPhone, you get a perfect idea regarding the spacing between buttons, the layout of different UI elements, how things exactly look on a real device.

Make it a point to check your app on a real device every time you make even a minor change to the UI.

Don't take anything for granted.
When i submitted my app through iTunes Connect, i thought that 7 days should be enough to get my app approved. That's what most of the developers say is the average time to get your app approved on app store.

However, my app got rejected. After resolving the issue in the resolution center it was released immediately at the end of the day, as the release date had already passed. 

As a result, it hardly got a couple of hours on app store on the release date before new apps from the next day appeared on the new releases section.This was a very huge mistake on my part. 

Maybe, if the app had got visibility for full day there could have been more downloads which might have affected the total sales and also helped its search ranking position on app store. That's something i would never know now.

Don't ever assume that your app would get approved on a fixed date. Keep some buffer and set your release date accordingly.

Don't forget to check your competition thoroughly.
Unless you have high marketing budget, make something that's unique and doesn't have much competition. Or at least make sure that there are not too many apps already available on the app store that do the same thing as your app does.

My first app is a simple calculator. I knew there would be hundreds of calculators on app store and it would be tough for my app, but surely possible, at least to gain visibility on first page of iTunes when someone searches for the keyword "calculator".

When i first searched on app store i found out that even the top ranked apps had design flaws, difficult UI and were not very intuitive to use. I surely knew i can make a better calculator than them and that's what i did. 

I started making my app and focused only on developing a calculator that is extremely easy to use, where every button is self-explanatory.

When i checked later, i found that there are thousands of calculator apps already available on the app store. Making a superior product is no longer enough to rank high on search results. There are several other important factors like downloads, ratings, etc. that are more important. 

Initially i got  around 12 downloads in the first few days after release. Since then not even a single app has been downloaded(except for the apps downloaded using promo codes).

When you search for the keyword "calculator" on iTunes it doesn't even show for the first 10 pages! Who would ever bother to download the app. I highly doubt even if most users even go beyond the first page when they search for something on iTunes.

Conclusion
Maybe, the app would have fared better if i had avoided such simple mistakes.

Fortunately, my first app was more like a pet project for me which i made to test the waters before diving in deeply. Had these been some app that i had spent months developing, the outcome could have proved disastrous. 

Still whether a simple app or a highly feature rich app, these mistakes must be avoided.

There are a lot of things to be learned from your mistakes. This experience will help me in avoiding the same mistakes when i make my future apps.

Given the results, i still would have developed this app. It took me 15-20 days to make this app. I have learned so many things from it, that it was worth the time spent on developing it.

I got few things right and a few things wrong in making this app. The reason for creating this post was to share my experience with others.

It's always beneficial to check few important things again and again before you commit yourself to making an app. Sometimes, simple mistakes can cost you too much and may directly affect the outcome of your app on the app store. Hope you don't make any of them when you make your first iPhone app :)

Image Source: My Calci App for iPhone

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