041 iPhreaks Show - The App Store with Azam Sharp

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The panelists talk about the app store with Azam Sharp.

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PETE: I think there's some weird correlation between people we have on this show and a background in .NET. CHUCK: I know, that’s unfortunate. I mean, interesting, isn’t it? JAIM:  Hey, I represent that comment. CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to episode 41 of the iPhreaks Show. This week on our panel we have Pete Hodgson. PETE: Good morning from the Golden City. CHUCK: Andrew Madsen. ANDREW: Hi from Los Angeles. CHUCK: Jaim Zuber. JAIM:  You're not from Los Angeles. ANDREW: I'm in Los Angeles today. JAIM:  That's crazy. CHUCK: What for? ANDREW: Vacation. CHUCK: I'm Charles Max Wood from DevChat.tv and this week we have a special guest, and that's Azam Sharp. AZAM: Yeah, hello from Houston. CHUCK: Since you haven’t been on the show before, do you wanna introduce yourself? AZAM: Sure. My name is Mohammad Azam, I go by Azam, and I'm mainly a .NET developer by day and by early mornings, like 4am or 5am, and late night on the weekends I do iOS development. I'm a Microsoft MVP from 2007-2012 and the creator of the HighOnCoding website as well as a GoodView guy in the early days. I've been doing iOS since 2010; it’s been close to three years now, and I also maintain an Azam Sharp channel, a Youtube channel, in which I post iOS developing videos, in which I have over 6000 subscribers. I've spoken at 360iDev in Houston, Texas and the Houston iPhone Users Group, and that's where my real passion is. I've developed at least 8-10 different apps where one of them was featured by Apple on the App Store. CHUCK: Oh, wow. JAIM:  Cool! CHUCK: So we kinda brought you on today to talk about that. How did you get featured by Apple? How do you be awesome? AZAM: There are different ways of getting featured by Apple. I think the simple answer would be to just make an awesome app, and pretty much everyone knows that. I mean, if you make an awesome app, you'll get featured. The other, of course more difficult answer will be, that you have to do something that Apple will also benefit from, say, if Apple is coming out with a new SBK or game center when it came out or a multi-peer networking in iOS7. So if you utilize those frameworks, then you can also get featured by Apple. My app that was featured by Apple is called Vegetable Tree and it’s a vegetable gardening app. When I pushed it out in November, there were not many sales because not everyone is too eager in gardening at that point. But later in March and spring time frame it really picked up; lots of customer reviews, and eventually at the end of the March-April time frame it was featured for at least two months in the “Let Your Garden Grow” category. CHUCK: Oh, nice! AZAM: Yeah. PETE: Did you see like, I'm guessing you saw notes for increasing sales during that period. AZAM: Yeah, there was an increase, but since it was inside the category – I think it was inside Lifestyle. And then inside Lifestyle there's another category Let Your Garden Grow and also my app is a little bit on the, I would say, a little bit on the expensive side – it’s $3.99 – and also the niche is very narrowed down to vegetable gardening. So I did see an increase, but it was not like for a bigger magnitude, I guess. ANDREW: That's surprising. I would have thought that there would be this kind of huge spike, but I guess, like you're saying, if you're featured inside of a niche then it’s not different from being on the front-page of the New York Times. AZAM: Yeah. CHUCK: I'm assuming you have other apps that have been successful in one way or another? AZAM: Yes, I have six or eight or nine apps in the app store – six of them are actually games that I started developing, in 2010 I started with games. The first game was ABC Pop, and it was kind of a challenge for me. Just bought the Mac in 2010; no idea about the Mac; and using the Mac for the first time, using objective-C for the first time and Cocoa [inaudible] for the first time, I just gave myself a challenge to do an app in seven days and I came up with ABC Pop. All the images, all the drawings and artwork is done by my wife, and it was simply just a challenge to learn something in seven days. By the end of seven days, it was available – it was basically pushed out of the App Store for review. It was only okay; I think in the span of three or four months, it accumulated the price of a Mac Book Pro that I bought in 2010, so it was a decent app for seven days of work. After that, I did continue working on some games like Mathemachicken, which was a completely unique game. It was featured on different websites like [inaudible] as one of the unique games of addition and subtraction or educational games. That really didn’t do well in the app store, but it was okay. It was bought mainly by the educational discounts by some schools, which Apple doesn’t tell you which school has purchased your app. After that I worked on Math Speeder. This was kind of a disappointing experience for me, for the Math Speeder app. Took me like a month to develop that app and it really didn’t do well at all. The last game I built was Kinder Pop which is kind of like ABC Pop but for iPad and with much better graphics that I purchased. It also didn’t really do that well as I expected. I think the sales were maybe $500 to $1000, but that's pretty much it. And after that I realized that I need to get out of the game market, not because I'm not doing well in the game market, but because I have no passion for developing games. I don’t play games; I don’t appreciate any games, so it was kind of hard to stay in that category. JAIM:  Sounds like a take away from that is that you should only spend seven days writing an app. CHUCK: [Laughs] AZAM: Yeah, I think the takeaway would also be that if you want accomplish something, you have to set a deadline to it. If you don’t set a deadline, then you will never accomplish anything. You will simply have a Mac and you have expenses for Mac and all these things, but you will never accumulate that expense if you don’t set up a deadline, even if that deadline is doing smaller tasks and not completing the whole app in seven days. And the other thing I learned creating six games is that you should only try to do what you're passionate about, and my passion clearly is not really in games. Because in order to create games, you have to play games, you have to have Nintendo V or Xbox or PlayStation 3 and you should be playing games pretty much every day for 30 minutes or one hour to appreciate those games, but the last game that I played in my life was Half-Life 2 and Quake 3, and I didn’t play any games after that, so yeah. PETE: You're dating yourself. AZAM: Oh boy. PETE: I'm pretty much in the same boat. CHUCK: So I'm a little bit curious – how much of the work is building the app versus marketing the app? AZAM: I think building the app, the implementation – like the writing, the code itself – never really seems, for me, it never seems to be the problem or the first priority. I know if Ben were here he’d be yelling at me that code as important. Of course, code is important, but I always see code is secondary. The design, what you see on the screen, the interface or the feel of the app – that is number one. Same with the marketing; I mean, if you can create a great app, but if you are not marketing the app, then your app really doesn’t exist. So for marketing I did a couple of things: basically I marketed by Vegetable Tree app, and what I did is first of all, I gave away the promo code from Twitter. So if you re-tweet or something, I’ll give you a promo code so you don’t have to spend $3.99 to buy the app. Those promo codes are pretty much gone in less than 10 minutes. I contacted different websites that do write for vegetable stuff like vegetable gardening. I contacted different blogs and I advertised on those blogs, which were very high-traffic blogs. So there were two blogs that I was paying maybe $50 a month, and I paid fpr two or three months to advertise my logo and all the stuff, the link. And of course, whenever you tweet about updates or whenever you think about the new things that are coming in Vegetable tree, then you have to find the correct hashtag to tag those things. The hashtag that I found was the #vegetablechat hashtag and it was run by a Bren, a lady. I gave her the promo code for free – I mean, the promo code is free – but I gave her the promo code and she wrote a really long, really nice review of the app on our website, which gets very high traffic. So these are the techniques that I use or basically marketing the app. I didn’t really use adverts or Google adverts or anything like that, but basically relying on the blogs, relying on the promo codes, Twitter, social networking and all that stuff. CHUCK: Yeah, that makes sense. So is there anything you can do in the apps or itself in order to get the word out, or to get promotion or whatever? AZAM: Inside the apps, I don’t think you can do much. I mean, you can display – I mean, but those are like advertisement points of view –. One thing that I learned is that you have to provide updates. And an update is a free marketing tool that is built in the App Store or it’s dependent on you, how much of this you provide. Because one thing I learned is that once you provide an update, there are many different websites that are watching the App Store, like the different websites which list the apps that – Okay, these prices have dropped, or there's a good deal coming, or these are new updates for this particular app – and those websites are watching pretty much all the good or popular apps that are on the app store, and whenever you provide an update, it basically climbs up the rank on those websites. So that’s kind of like a free promotion that you can do. And of course, updates – if you don’t provide updates then your app really doesn’t exist anymore. So that’s what's kind of an App Store-related thing that I did. ANDREW: What do you think about the changes in iOS7 that make updates automatic? It seems like now there's a lot less – these updates are less visible in general. People don’t know when their app is updated; they don’t get to read release notes – do you think that changes the equation at all? AZAM: Well, that’s actually a very good deal that if iOS7 is doing that, that they are providing the updates. I'm not sure if the other websites get notified; they are tracking the App Store when any version is pushed in, so those websites will track you that those updates are coming. For the user itself, if you provide minor updates, most probably they are not gonna notice. My update schedule – one of the mistakes that I did is my update schedule was kind of a really fast update process. I was providing at least two updates a month. After a while, I stopped providing the updates and the big update that I provided for that thing in November or October, which was the complete iOS7 update that I did. So when you're making an update schedule, just make sure that if you're pushing small changes, maybe like a small feature set, maybe you can provide one update a month. If you're providing larger changes you can wait a month and a half or two months and then provide an update. But don’t be super aggressive to provide those updates. PETE: The other thing I've always wondered about is the balance between kind of getting a bump in interest because you’ve released an update to the app, versus losing the reviews. Because every time you get an update, then the reviews are for that version of the app, right? AZAM: Yes. PETE: If you have a lot of positive reviews for your version, and then you release a new version, and someone randomly decides that you stink and they wanna give you a negative review then that’s like the only review for that version of the app is negative. AZAM: Yes, and that is actually the flaw – I would say that’s a flaw in the App Store that by default the old version section or the old Reviews section should be clicked instead of this version’s section or the current version reviews. And I've seen some people who left a review, “Okay, I'm not gonna buy this kind of apps that has no reviews” and of course it has at least 27, 28 or 30 reviews, but they didn’t notice that because it’s on a separate tab. So that’s one of the things that Apple needs to take into action, that once you go on the App Store you can sort it. I mean, it should be automatically sorted by the latest review, but it also should be the control that all reviews or all versions should be selected instead of the current version so that the user can have a much better idea and they don’t have to click the old versions to see those reviews. PETE: I guess maybe their motivation is if someone releases a buggy version that crashes, then they want people to know, not to download it, but that’s a pretty negative, pessimistic attitude towards the App Store. I guess I have another question that relates to that. There's this trend that seems like for apps that nag you to review; they’ll pop up a little thing like, “Hey! If you like the app, maybe you could leave a review for us in the App Store.” CHUCK: I hate those. PETE: Yeah, I hate them too and I've always thought –. I had this kind of assumption that they wouldn’t have the effect that you'd want, but then I saw – and I'm trying to remember where I saw this so that I can link to it in the show notes, but I saw a blog recently from someone who did an experiment where they had the nagging stuff in and then they took it out for release, and the amount of positive comments they had before was very, very high, and then without the nagging, they just didn’t really get that many reviews at all and the reviews that they did get were skewed more towards the negative. So that kind of makes me think, although they're annoying from an end-user point of view, from a marketing point of view, they might be worthwhile even if you're irritating your users somewhat. AZAM: Yeah, that’s true. I mean, in my own app, the Vegetable Tree, I don’t have any of those features. Now the problem is that there's kind of like a grey area because they have to repeatedly ask you to give the review, and actually that works. That’s why most of them, even Flipboard which is quite a famous app, does that. [Inaudible] nothing wrong with really asking for the review, but the problem is with how you ask the person for the review. The only solution, or one of the solutions is, first of all, you can move those things, like I'm asking for a review in a settings screen or some sort of other screen instead of popping it up. Even if you do popup, there should be a little option saying, “Never, never ask me to review it again later,” but of course when they add that option, most people are gonna click that and then they will never review the app. So it’s kind of in the, I would say in the grey area. Some people would say if your app is great, then you don’t have to worry about it because people will review it. I don’t really agree with that because Flipboard is an app that I use every day, but I would never go over there on the App Store and review it – I just don’t have the time to just go and review it. So it’s still in a grey area. Well, I don’t have that in my app; I have a different thing in my app so I have a ‘Contact Us’ but another tab, and then you click on it, you can write me an email. Mainly I added that functionality so that customers, whoever would buy the Vegetable Tree app, they can communicate with me, they can talk to me, and they can talk to me about the new features that they want to see on the app. PETE: I saw someone who was – I think they were joking but someone mentioned the other day that they saw an app where there were two buttons like, ‘Do you like the app’ or ‘Is there a problem?’ and ‘Do you like the app’ would take them to the review so they could give a positive review and the ‘I don’t like the app’ kind of ‘I've got a problem’ would take them to email feedback – which, if you're generous, is because the app developer wants you to help you fix the problem; but if you're paranoid, it’s so they could just bump their reviews or skew their reviews. ANDREW: Well I think people do that for both reasons. It certainly does help keep the reviews positive, but it’s true that people will post a one-star review and they really need to contact support, and you can’t contact them just based on a review, so that’s really frustrating. PETE: Yeah, I agree. I find it really, really frustrating when someone leaves a negative review and it’s like, “I would love to help you, would you just get in touch with me? I would love to help you out because you're just doing one stupid thing wrong.” JAIM:  One star – only supports iOS7. CHUCK: [Laughs] PETE: Or one star – where’s the android version of this application? CHUCK: [Laughs] Oh there you go. AZAM: I think all of these reviews seem – the main problem with me, and I think other people, who are not really reviewing even the great apps is that just taking out of the app. When they click that, when they display that popup ‘Do you want to review?’ if you say yes, it will actually take you out from the app to the App Store page of the app and then you can write a review. I think this issue can be minimized by just providing some sort of review framework, which you can plug into your application, and then in that way you just don’t have to go out of the way, just take the user out of that application to review it – just review it inside your own app. PETE: Yeah, that would be neat. I think just like a really, really straightforward 1-5 stars, and obviously you can have the option to go and give details and a detailed review, but allowing just that signal of one-star to five-stars would be  - as a user, as a consumer of applications, I would love to have more information as to what people like and don’t like. AZAM: Yup. PETE: So I've got another question around –. You were kind of talking earlier about different applications you’d made, and some of them have done a really remarkably better than others and it doesn’t seem to be correlated with the amount of effort you put into them necessarily. Do you have some takeaway rule of thumb of what's gonna make something successful and what's not or is just a case of just trying something out and seeing what sticks? AZAM: I think the first thing that’s very important to me as a developer and as a person who likes to do vegetable gardening is to have passion towards what I'm doing. I think passion is extremely important and I know that it sounds kinda weird because people are making games, people are making other stuff, but if you're not passionate about what you're building and if you're not gonna use it yourself, then you cannot really assume that other people are gonna use it. So that’s the first thing. And I continuously said that I have absolutely no passion for games; actually I told you that I downloaded or I played Half Life 2 – that was the last game. After that, a couple of years ago, I think one year ago, I downloaded Call of Duty 4 from the Mac App Store and I played for like five minutes and then just got bored. It just didn’t do it for me. So you have to do something that you're really passionate about, trying to solve a problem, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot really step into the niche that is already heavily populated, just like to-do lists. You have to experiment, you have to take the shot, or you have to take the chance to make those happen. This is a common thing, a common kind of disease in the mobile community which I term as –. I marked it as the ABD syndrome, which is Already Been Done syndrome, that if you have a great idea – let’s say a to-do list – and you go on the App Store and you see, “Oh, my God. There's like 200 to-do lists out there, so I cannot be unique among them” and then they just completely discard that idea. I think you're pretty much killing your imagination, killing your ideas for nothing. And just to make a point, I created a simple app and I'm giving it for free: it’s Daily 5 – it’s on the App Store and it’s free. And just to show you that even in a market of to-do list apps, which is extremely highly populated with hundreds and thousands of apps, you can still make unique things – still today you can do that. And I made this app in two days and I can guarantee you – I don’t think you can find anything as unique as Daily 5. And it’s free, just to make a point. So that’s one of the things that I always encourage people to do that if you have an idea, even if that idea has been implemented before, do it in a different way, in a better way, and create apps that you imagined. JAIM:  Were there any existing vegetable apps when you started working on your own app? AZAM: Absolutely. I downloaded pretty much all of them so I spent $30-$40 just to download all of them, for iPhone of course, and I said, “You know what? I can do much better than these apps.” The look and feel were just weren’t right. If you actually see the first version of my app somehow, if you can pull it out – it was a black and gray and white kind of off-colors. And then after a while I started updating, I started updating, and it turned into a much nicer green and brown, dark brown, relating to the green vegetables and brown sand, or brown dirt – or wherever we plant our vegetables. So yes, there were like 50 apps over there, but I think if you now search vegetable gardening in the App Store, hopefully mine would come as the first link. CHUCK: Yeah, I think it’s interesting. I read a lot of business and marketing books; I'm assuming that some of the other guys probably do too as freelancers who are working for companies that kinda market their services. But yeah, I often see where the suggestion is to go into a market where there's a bit of competition, because you know that people are making money over there, and that makes a lot of sense – people tend to want to be in the markets where people are making money. And the thing is, how much money is spent on the iTunes store to do these apps? I can only imagine it’s quite a large number and so I mean, if you can even get 1% or 2% of that, you're gonna make a fair bit of money. So there's a lot of competition, but the reason there's a lot of competition is because there's a lot of demand and not everybody wants the same way of managing the stuff that they gotta get done. AZAM: Absolutely, and that’s the real power of the App Store. The success of the App Store is due to the fact that there are so many apps that target different niches. Even in the to-do list, there are hundreds of apps and one person can like one app and the other ten persons can like the other app because of small features that are available in the other app and not in the first app. So, yeah. CHUCK: Yup. And the other thing is that a lot of these apps, they just put them out in the App Store and then they kinda count on that to work, or if they work with some kind of web back end, then they're counting on people signing up on their website and then going and buying the app. And so if you can reach out the way that you did where you're getting onto the blogs and you're getting people’s attention, and you're generating a bit of buzz on Twitter, you can really make in-roads on that because a lot of these other app developers are simply putting it out on the App Store and hoping that the version of search engine optimization that you get out of the App Store is gonna help them make it. AZAM: Yes, absolutely. CHUCK: So are there any gotches, though? Are there any ways of getting blacklisted or in trouble on the App Store? AZAM: I haven't been on that particular blacklist or anything. When my app actually came out, there were some – even the Vegetable Tree, but some other app which was Mathspeeder – I opensourced it basically, so it was available on GitHub. And some person, I don’t know who, but they copied it and they just put it – it was not even a completed app; it was just like a car going on the road and it doesn’t really do anything. And they just put it on the App Store for $1 and I think they named  it even the same as the GitHub project name –. CHUCK: Oh, wow. AZAM: And it’s doesn’t even work – that’s the worst part. So someone contacted me that, “Hey, you are the owner of the project?” and this desert race game is on the App Store under a different name. So I contacted Apple and it took about two weeks to get that out, I mean get that app out from the App Store. And the same thing happened for Vegetable Tree. Initially I was putting it on GitHub just for a source control and someone just took it and put it on the App Store to make money, and Apple pulled it out after two weeks or so. So just make sure that you're not – or even if you're putting it on GitHub, just make it private, which I don’t have a private [inaudible]. But if you're putting something that you plan to make money off, then it should be private. PETE: That’s a pretty quick turnaround, actually, from Apple’s side. I'm pretty impressed. It’s quicker than they might review the app. AZAM: Yeah. JAIM:  So what's the process of contacting Apple if someone’s kinda infringing on what you’ve done? AZAM: There is a – I don’t remember the email address, but there's an email that you have to send to the legal or store notices department, and you have to just explain that this is my app and this is the one that has been copied by the developer who is named this. They will contact the developer, and the developer will either contact you or he will pull the app out. So if he contacts you, you can tell him that, “Hey, you can use it, but not like this. I mean, you can’t really sell it because of licensing and all that stuff.” Apple will be basically involved in all of thIS, and eventually they will move it out from the App Store. JAIM:  So you have your code publicly available – is there a special license, or is it not licensed at all? AZAM: I don’t attach a license to it; I just write it at the end that this code, you should not publish it on the App Store as it is. Even if you do publish it on the App Store as it is then don’t charge because this should be free and you should not be charging for something that I put it out for free. You can learn from the code, and you can change the graphics and everything, but not the same graphics. I mean, I don’t own the graphics at all, and the music; I don’t own anything, so you're –. CHUCK: You own the code. If you write the code, then you own the copyright on the code. Even if you're saying, “Don’t use this” or “Only use this only under these terms,” that’s effectively a license and people can sort of take it that way. You can always tell them to stop at any time, because you own the code and you haven't actually granted them any kind of official license to use it. But basically what you're saying is, “I'm not gonna enforce my copyright against you if these are the terms under which you're using it.” But yeah, you own the code. If you put it out public and somebody else takes it, they technically can’t use it without your permission. AZAM: Yup. JAIM: Well that makes sense. I was thinking of some other projects I know in the past that have open-sourced the code, but they kept kinda copyright over the images, so you couldn’t do that. Someone could actually repackage the application and do something with it – they do a BST license or something like that – but the images, the artwork, that’s something that you couldn’t do and they kept the ownership of that. So I'm just wondering what you had done. PETE: Isn’t that what Firefox did and that’s why Ubuntu had to have Fire Weasel or whatever because technically the images weren’t compliant with, weren’t an open-source image or something? JAIM: Nah. CHUCK: I don’t know. PETE: I gotta say, Kudos for doing that, for putting your code out there because there's no –. A lot of people take the attitude like, “I'd rather not. I could do it or I couldn’t do it, and I'd rather not do it, because I don’t want people to steal my ideas, or I don’t want people to poke fun at the way I implemented certain things, so I think that’s really cool to put the stuff out there and help people learn. Why not? AZAM: Yeah, absolutely. JAIM:  If I had to publicly post my code, I would pour over every second and rethink everything five times and just not getting anything done. “Is this perfect? Is this perfect?” [Inaudible] CHUCK: Oh man, there's a lot of cowboy code out there in some of the other open-source communities, JavaScript and Ruby are the ones that I'm most involved in. You'd be surprised what gets published. PETE: Yeah the bar is pretty low. The bar is pretty low for – the code is on GitHub or StackOverflow or whatever. Unfortunately. ANDREW: “I'm not as bad as that guy’s code.” CHUCK: There you go. PETE: So by putting it out there, you're actually pushing the [inaudible] in the right direction. AZAM: Yeah, I think recently I made some videos just like a demo of [inaudible] animation video, which is like a simple UI Kit dynamic, stealth-like, crazy kind of animation going on. Like the menu items falling from the top, and then when you click on the item it enlarges itself and then moves on the top and becomes a navigation bar. So it’s kind of like a weird kind of navigation going on, I mean animation going on, which I initially I thought that I'm gonna use it in my next app which I'm working on, but it didn’t really fit with basically the story of the app or the feel of the app. So I just put it online, on GitHub, it’s called [inaudible], and people can download it; people can use it on their projects if they want to. CHUCK: So one other thing I want to ask about – it basically comes down to the money. You still work a full-time job and you're publishing these apps on the side –. AZAM: Yes. CHUCK: Do you think it’ll ever get to the point where you can go to your boss and say, “You know what? I'm making enough off the App Store to where I'm gonna quit.” AZAM: Oh boy. It will have to make a lot for me to quit. At this point, it’s just like nice – I mean, I don’t know how to put it, but it’s okay, like a side thing going on, but there's no way even that remotely close of doing that full time at this point. But I also think that I mean, if there are certain apps that I'm working on, if the ever –. But they have to be extremely gone viral, those kinds of stuff, for me to even start thinking about quitting my work. So I just doing it on the side, for right now I think that’s my main goal. PETE: But you think a part of that is kind of like a self-reinforcing thing where if you spent more time in it and kind of so soaked more time into marketing then or into improving the app then the sales will increase and you'd kinda get this [inaudible] cycle, or do you think it’s just, fundamentally for it to be a full-time job you'd need to have a huge difference in the amount of revenue you're making. AZAM: Yeah I think my main concern is me to have full time job, and at this point, I mean in the App Store, I haven't really made that much to even consider moving. If, however, in the future, there is a chance of my apps – the one that I'm working on – that would go big on the App Store, even then, if I'm making a lot just by working early mornings or on the weekends or late nights, I will be very hesitant to quit my full-time job. I would be more interested in just selling it out, selling the app out for a lot of money and then just starting a new venture, because I do get bored really quickly for some of my apps. CHUCK: I just think that’s interesting because I hear people – this probably won’t surprise some people and it might surprise others, but I'm approached fairly frequently, at least once a month, sometimes more, by people who have an idea of an app that they want on the App Store or a web application that they want on the web that is going to take off and is gonna make millions of dollars, and we’re gonna pay you in equity and you're gonna be a millionaire – and they have this idea that they could just make this app and it’s just gonna take off. I think it’s interesting to kind of see, okay, well, if you build an app in a week or a month and you put it out there, you do some minimum marketing on it, yeah, you can make enough to buy a new Mac Book Pro but it’s not gonna be enough to actually go and quit your job. AZAM: Yes. I think the main, for me at least, is I never really think of how much I will make eventually. I mean of course, I won’t lie to you also that money is a really big motivation, but things that or people who have succeeded in the App Store or in life in general, they didn’t really care about the money. They just wanted to do something different and basically change the world. If you have that kind of mentality that if you want to change something, but not like I'm changing a few people doing vegetable gardening – I mean, that’s a very small change, like a drop in the ocean, but if you are changing the publishing company, if you are changing how people are storing their pictures or taking pictures and these kind of things that will eventually help all over the world, then you will be successful in life and in the App Store itself. And yes, I mean those people, whether you were mentioning the ideas of – a couple of weeks ago that person emailed me saying that he has an idea but I have to sign an NDA. I said that there's no way that I'm gonna sign an NDA first of all, and his answer was, “How will I protect myself? How will I protect my idea?” And I told him what Marco Arment mentioned in his podcast, is that if you think that someone can just listen to your idea and steal it and create the app around it in a week or two or a month, then that idea was not really good to begin with. CHUCK: Right, because the barrier of the competition is so low. AZAM: Yeah. CHUCK: So the other thing that I'm curious about is when you submit the application, you said that you're kind of within a niche within a niche, that you're in Lifestyle and whatever it is underneath that that kind of encompasses the gardening thing – how do you pick that? And is there a good way to do that and be at least somewhat certain that you're gonna wind up close to the top or anything? AZAM: Yeah. So initially when I launched the app in November 2012, I paid the reference category, which is like a main category – one of the main categories – because it’s a reference app. And in March and April time frame, I was just checking out the stats on appannie.com and I noticed that the app is featured, but it’s not featured inside the reference category, but it’s featured inside the Lifestyle category. So just by doing this kind of experimentation, I changed it to Lifestyle category. Even if you go right now in the Lifestyle category, you will find the subcategories like Birthday Cards, or Wedding Anniversaries or something like that, and those are the categories, the subcategories that Apple will develop. There's no way to pick those categories, but Apple will – depending on the mood, depending on the time frame and the season – Apple will create those categories themselves. Like if you're in Lifestyle and it’s near Christmas, you might see Christmas Card categories and you'll see all the application regarding Christmas Card under that category. So in the March – April time frame, Apple created a category called Let Your Garden Grow, and my app was among maybe eight or ten apps over there; I think five of them were like magazines, gardening magazines. [Inaudible] App Store it was featured in that particular section. But there's no way to select that because that’s on the [inaudible] that Apple decides. CHUCK: Okay. JAIM:  So how much work is involved in overtaking an existing application? You talked about Vegetable Tree and how there were existing apps out there. I talked to other developers that make games – or not games, but applications – and there's a lot of inertia. So if someone’s an existing kind of a leader in a space, it’s really hard to catch up. Did you have any trouble with that? AZAM: Not really. I downloaded pretty much, as I recall, as I said earlier, pretty much all the apps that were related to vegetable gardening. I looked at them, I checked out the reviews – I always go and check out the reviews of the other apps and what they are missing – and at the same time, the features set that I wanted to control inside the Vegetable Tree was very small. I didn’t want to create a Vegetable Tree app that can do a to-do list or that can do this and that can do that, and sometimes when you are choosing the features set you have to make really big decisions. So one of the big decisions that I have made is that I will provide you the catalog, and you cannot add anything inside that catalog. As a user, you cannot add a new vegetable; I will provide you the vegetable. All of you might be wondering, “What the hell? This doesn’t make any sense. It’s my app; I paid for it. If I have a tomato, I should be able to just add a new vegetable as a tomato.” CHUCK: Yeah, you jerk! JAIM:  [Inaudible] the same plant. AZAM: So the reason behind this – and I of course thought about it for a long time – the reason behind this is that if I allow the customers to add their own vegetable, it will jeopardize the look and feel of the app. Even if they are adding the vegetable in their own local database and the other users will never see, but their friends will see, their family members will see, so in order for you to add a vegetable, you have to use the Contact link and you have to email me the name of the vegetable that you want to add. And I have at least 50 emails from people who wanted to add vegetables. During the course of 2012-2013, the vegetable [inaudible] has grown from 30 vegetables to 70 vegetables. One of the other things is that all the images in the vegetables are paid images; these images are not taken by me. I paid for every single image, and every single image, or at least I would say 90% of the images have a certain angle to it. They're not like 2D kinds of images – I won’t say that they're 3D, but there's a 9° angle or 10° angle going on that makes them more appealing. And of course, if I allow you as a user to add those things, you might just take a bad picture and add it into your catalog. So it eventually turned out to be pretty good because people would keep emailing me that “Hey, where is arugula? Where is basil? Can you add sweet basil?” and this was kind of like a communication and customer service. I mean, I provided excellent customer service and if you read all the reviews, it’s mostly because I responded to them in a day or two and I added those vegetables and I got good reviews by doing that. JAIM:  How do you get the images? AZAM: I buy the images from different websites, four or five websites, and then I buy them – it’s like $2 or $3 apiece, some of them are like a dollar apiece. I buy them and then of course I store everything on my web server and whenever there are some new vegetables and the app launches it, downloads only the new vegetables to your local database. CHUCK: Very nice. Do you have any other recommendations? Let’s say, somebody is getting ready to launch their first app. What are some of the things that they're gonna run into getting into the App Store that they should be aware of? AZAM: I think even, and most of the people I know are C# developers – the first thing that they need to do is to create the app as it’s supposed to be. So if you're creating an iOS app, make sure that you create a native code. Don’t go with MonoTouch or Xamarin. I mean, those tools are really great and created by some really great people, but sometimes it makes more sense to go with the native, and also you will find more resources regarding native. And the dependency that you will be creating if you're using something like RubyMotion, or Xamarin, or [inaudible] if you want to do that, it will not really feel that well. And what if Apple decides tomorrow that “Hey, you know what? Everything has to be native; no more of this stuff.” So what are you gonna do? So definitely the first thing that I would recommend everyone that if you're making an android app, do it in Java; if you're making an iOS app, do it in objective-C XCode native, so that’s the first thing that I would recommend everyone doing that. Second thing is of course, people are, for some reason they are having some hard time coming up with the ideas. And ideas usually come to you when you're not really thinking about them and unfortunately it’s not that technical argument or something, but most of the idea would come to you when you are actually not thinking about the ideas, when you're just wandering around, just in the gym or swimming or something and you will get your ideas, so make sure that when you're starting out, make sure that if you have an idea, it resembles something that you have done in your memory or in your culture that you can code it and that will be much more fun. Like the Mathemachicken app was basically inspired by my visit to a poultry farm back in my country and that idea came to me that way. And of course, make a deadline. If you don’t have a deadline there's no way that you're gonna finish the app. Even if you do a 30-minute or one hour work on your app, make a deadline. Try to accomplish smaller tasks and achieve those things. So these are kind of basic guidelines I pretty much tell everyone to take if they want to get started with iOS development. PETE: So what do you advocate for people kinda saying, “You know what, whatever I've got after this at the end of this month I'm gonna release it, and then I’ll improve it once I’ve released it” or do you think it’s important to –. I guess I imagine there's a class of people who would just keep on polishing and polishing and polishing the app because they want it to be perfect before they release it to the App Store and I kinda feel like for those people, they need [inaudible] to get something out there and get feedback on whether it’s working or not. AZAM: Yeah, I mean if your app is about – let’s say, taking pictures. If you're making something, doing something with a camera, so the only feature that you have to be concerned about is that you can take a picture and maybe you can crop it or something, but the main idea, the main essence of your app should be that you can take a picture. All the other things you can add later on, but it has to be – you have to build in, the first release has to provide the basic essence of the app itself. If you're releasing like a picture app to take a picture, but you're saying, “Okay, pick a picture from the library instead of taking a picture,” that won’t really make sense. So just make sure that you provide small feature set, but feature set has to be extremely polished out. So if you have 20 features that you want to incorporate in your first release, make sure that maybe you do the basic features or the most important that the user will feel, like five or maybe four features, you can do that. If you keep polishing your app forever that you're gonna add all those 20, 30 features and then you're gonna release the app, then you're talking about basically releasing Duke Nukem, which was released 15 years after the first version was released in 1996 and then the second version that took them forever was released 15 years later and it didn’t really go that well. So make sure that you're not creating Duke Nukem forever. That’s my advice here. CHUCK: [Chuckles] Duke Nukem, I love it. PETE: That’s a really awesome tip, to focus on one thing and nail it and get it done rather than trying to get everything done and you'll end up kind of the jack-of-all trades and the master of none. Focus on one thing and get it done and put it out there and then you can add your next [inaudible] into that, rather than try to solve the whole world at once. CHUCK: I've been reading the Lean startup and some of this is kinda close to the idea of a minimum viable product. So you put something out there that works, or kinda works, and then you start getting the feedbacks, and then you start figuring out what you really need to build, what the people want. I think there's definitely a lot to be said for just letting something out there and letting people see it. But obviously, you don’t want to put something out there that’s totally [inaudible]. AZAM: Yup. ANDREW: I think the Apple ecosystem kind of makes it hard to do that, because if you don’t have a polished app, you're gonna get trashed, so you try and you validate something like in the Lean startup method –. If you're missing things –. PETE: I don’t know if I agree with that. I've put out some pretty bad stuff. [Laughter] ANDREW: People love it. PETE: I mean, seriously, the one thing that I've put out onto an App Store that had any kind of success was this frankly half-finished Facebook thing that was – but the functionality was there: it was for downloading photos from your Facebook album. And I didn’t really have the patience to actually make it look good or feel at all polished, but I put it out there because the idea was useful to people downloading it. CHUCK: Well it was useful and it worked, right? You could use it. PETE: Yeah, you could use it in a very raw sense. I mean, it was like really – it was pretty embarrassingly bad. When you tried to open up an image in like the full screen view, half of the last image was there for half a second and then it refreshed – it was buggy. But the raw functionality was there: you could view things full screen, you could download them and it still gets loads of downloads. So I think, [inaudible] logically how to do that as it is kind of a property of the ecosystem. JAIM: If you scratch the right itch, then I guess you're okay. I've heard the opposite is true, but that’s awesome. CHUCK: That’s right – you scratch the right itch, you charge it a thousand dollars for your app, right? PETE: I think also a part of it is that this was on the Mac App Store, so the bar is low. Maybe if I was doing this on iOS – because you just have so much more competition, right? So maybe that’s part of it too. CHUCK: Could be. So speaking of thousand-dollar apps, what should you price your app at? AZAM: So pricing is a difficult piece to handle. I priced it – it was an experiment. I think pricing will always be an experiment for many different apps, or basically all the apps. So initially when I launched the app, I priced it at $1.99 as most of the vegetable gardening apps were priced at that point. And I was making some decent sales in the summer months and spring timeframe, and after maybe three weeks or four weeks, a month’s time, I changed it to $2.99. Sales didn’t really drop, same sales going on, and I had raised it to $3.99 – still, same sales going on, didn’t really drop at all, and I changed it to $4.99, which is $5, and then I could see the sales a little bit staggering, a little bit dropping at that point. So I reverted back to $3.99 and that is the price. Pricing will always be an experiment, a going-on experiment for most of the apps. I choose a very simple formula for my pricing. If the app is for a niche market then I price it higher; if the market is big, then you price lower. Just like the market for, let’s say, Angry Birds, is a two-year old and also a 70, 80-year old grandmother and everyone in between, they're playing Angry Birds. But a pricing for a vegetable gardening app, or an app to keep track of your motor vehicle, that is for a particular niche – people who like gardening, people who are interested in maintaining their vehicle and get notifications and all that, so you an price that at a much higher rate because the niche or the audience is so low. The same way if you are building an app for doctors and it’s gonna save lives, or it’s gonna help saving lives, you can price it at $9.99 and still I'm sure that doctors in those medical institutions, they will be interested in buying those. CHUCK: Yeah, that makes sense. ANDREW: I think there are still a few small niches where you can charge really high. I think there are some apps for law that are 500 bucks and they’ve apparently managed to sell enough of them to make money. CHUCK: Yup. JAIM:  Piano tuner apps are hundreds to maybe a thousand. CHUCK: I was gonna make the joke about, “Well, lawyers are rich; they’ll just pay it, right?” ANDREW: Yeah. CHUCK: But it has to have that value behind it, right? AZAM: Absolutely, yup. CHUCK: So the other thing that’s really interesting about marketing your app is we get into things like the screenshots and the icon, the app icon, and things like that that kind of –. When you're in the App Store, a lot of people don’t really read the description; they just look at the pictures and go, “Oh, okay, that’s what this does” or “You know, I don’t really like the way it looks” or whatever. So how do you go about putting those things together – the icon and the screenshots? AZAM: Screenshots, of course I take the screenshot myself. For the App Store itself, for the website or for display, there's a placeit website where you can just drag your image and it will put it on different screens including windows and android and iOS screens. Now I think they're charging but most of them are actually free. It makes them more appealing. But on the App Store, I just take the screenshot from the simulator or from my device and just upload it over there. It’s also a good idea to crop out the top navigation – not the navigation bar but the status bar on the screenshots that you put on the App Store. I haven't done that, but there are some tools that you can use to do that. But the icon is the most important thing. It’s basically the pathway to your app that you must keep clean and beautiful, or else no one would even click on the app and buy it. I'm not an icon designer or a designer of any sort, so this is one of the things that I have to outsource. So there are different websites I found: dribble.com, a very nice website where you can also search by keyword like vegetable, or tomato, or something, and you can get all the authors that have done that kind of work. I contacted those authors and for vegetable gardening icon, I paid $200 for that. The good thing about a great icon is that if the icon is great, well people are going to download because of the icon but also the icon itself will get featured on different websites. The Vegetable Tree icon was featured on many different websites as one of the most beautiful icons, basically. I wouldn’t say on the App Store, but one of the beautiful apps available on the App Store. So icons, if you have a budget of $200 for the whole app, I would spend all of it on the icon. And I did. CHUCK: That’s interesting. Well then I guess the icon, if you're doing a search on iTunes, it shows you the icon and list and then just the name and one line of the description, if you're lucky. So that really is kind of an attention-grabber more than anything else – just [crosstalk] overall. AZAM: Absolutely. Yes. CHUCK: Anything else that’s important to consider when going into the App Store? AZAM: I would say this: make sure that you take care of all the legal stuff – all the images, all the things –. If you're making games, and of course games will have artwork, it will have soundtrack, sound effects, and other character animations and all that. Make sure that you – you never know that when your app is gonna be a hit, so it becomes like a top app or something, so make sure that you purchase all of those things. Protect your assets, form an LLC if you can in Texas or even – I mean, in the United States we can easily form an LLC by different websites. For your app itself, getting ratings is very, very important. Someone actually mentioned that the ranking of the App Store is dependent on the ratings that you get, so do provide excellent customer service and just treat a customer with respect. With iOS 7 already – well, it’s been a while since iOS 7 has been released, but if you're planning to target an app for a small niche market where you see that they're still running iOS 6 and 5 and all those previous versions, then that’s a very good indication that  you can go and conquer that market much more quickly if you build an iOS 7 version, because now 80% of the people are running iOS 7, and they prefer iOS 7 apps to be seen. If you present them with iOS 6 apps or anything less then it will look obsolete and old, so make sure you – if you're targeting that niche – make sure you'd make iOS 7 apps. CHUCK: Cool. One more thing I wanna ask and that is, you’ve mentioned android a couple of times – have you built any apps or rewritten your apps for android? AZAM: Currently, I have not, but I do have plans. I'm just too busy working on my other ideas for my iOS app. The one that I'm working on is quite a huge app and finding time just to do that app is also pretty much getting impossible with the family and a regular job. But after I'm done with that, which might take the whole year or something, but after I'm done with that I sure do want to convert my apps to the android market. The android market, as I see it is people are not really buying the app itself. I think they're making more money using the advertisements that are being displayed. I don’t really want to display advertisements because it kinda kills the quality of the app, but I think that’s one of the only ways to make money in that particular market. CHUCK: Alright. Well, take all of these advice; go get rich on the App Store, and we’ll get into the picks. Andrew, do you wanna start us off with picks? ANDREW: My picks are both non-technical today, which is a change from usual. I'm in LA, so I thought I'd pick a couple of places in LA that I really like. The first one is called Galco’s Soda Pop Stop. It’s actually a little grocery store, I think, that opened in the late 1800’s, but at some point they converted it over to just selling just soda pop and it’s a lot of local, small batch sodas in there. There's been a lot of interesting and good stuff and some stuff that you just look at and think, “Why would anyone drink that buffalo wings soda, and pickle soda, and that kind of gross things.” And then the other one is Amoeba Records, which is kind of a Hollywood landmark. It actually started up in Berkley and there's a location in San Francisco, but the Hollywood location is the biggest. It’s a huge independent records store that is also – it used to be a supermarket, so that give you an idea of how big it is. Everything you can imagine: a whole section of jazz, all kinds of electronic music, and rock, and anyway, I can spend hours there, so. Those are my picks. CHUCK: Cool. Jaim, what are your picks? JAIM:  Okay, so I upgraded my Mac Book Pro about a month ago. Can you hear the SSD sound from my voice? Does it sound a lot better? CHUCK: Beautiful. JAIM:  Okay. But my bootcamp, my old bootcamp kind of partition just died, so I had to reinstall Windows for when I have to do Windows-y type things. And I remembered one of the tools that I used that is awesome, because I did a lot of Emacs development early on in my career, so I've got those key bindings kind of [inaudible] into my fingers, but you use windows, you don’t really get your control-A, your control-E, all that stuff that you're kinda used to if you're doing Mac stuff. But there is one tool I remember that I used way back when Visual Studios stopped really supporting Emacs bindings, is called XKeymacs, which has been around for a long time, and it works with Windows 7. Hopefully still, Windows 8 – I haven't installed Windows 8. I don’t think anyone does on purpose, so I wouldn’t worry about that too much. But XKeymacs. So if you want your Emacs bindings when you're doing your Gmail in Chrome or whatever, you can use it. It’s a nice, nice tool. CHUCK: Awesome. Pete, what are you picks? PETE: My first pick is Amoeba Records in San Francisco, because it’s way better than the one in LA. I've never been to the one in LA but –. ANDREW: It’s smaller. The one in San Francisco is very, very nice. PETE: The one in San Francisco is funny because it’s like in Haight-Ashbury, which is kind of like the old, ‘60s, hippie region, so you can go and look at a huge collection of CDs and then walk outside and see tourists and street kids trying to sell you stuff that is probably really bad quality. So Amoeba records in San Francisco is awesome; I'm sure the one in LA is also awesome. My second pick is kind of a meta pick. It is a pick of picks. The ThoughtWorks Technology Radar came out today, so this is our opinionated opinion on what's good and bad in software right now – in software development, I guess. And as well as kind of looking for it, there's a bunch of stuff in here around iOS, so using Travis for iOS: Continuous Integration, Xamarin, Calabash, [inaudible], which I think we talked about – I've quite a few apps good to go – continuous delivery for mobile phone gap, mobile back end [inaudible] service, the list goes on. So yeah, if you're interested in what we think about software, then you should take a look at that. And then my last pick, I think I might be picking it preempting Chuck from picking the same thing, but the Lean Startup book is actually pretty good for all of this kind of building a product-type stuff. I kind of hate the fact that it means that everyone says MVP when actually they don’t mean MVP. CHUCK: [Laughs] That’s so true. PETE: That phrase has officially fully jumped the shark and does not actually mean anything anymore, but there's loads of really good stuff, really good advice in there in terms of just how to learn about what your market is and blah, blah, blah. So those are my three picks. CHUCK: So I'm a nice person and I will let you guys pick first. Of course I always make the guest pick last, so maybe I'm not so nice. Anyway, I got a couple of picks here. I was gonna pick the Lean Startup Book. I'm gonna pick Audible; I've picked it before, but that’s how I consumed it the first time. I actually have a hard copy here and I'm planning on reading through it because I think I just need that visual burned into my brain kind of version of it, but I totally just love the ideas in that book and I can’t enough say nice things about it. I've also started advising my clients to do some of the Lean Startup stuff. That works out for me on various levels; doing web development, a lot of times you can cobble something together from existing services, and so I've actually talked people out of hiring me because of it, because it’s like, “Your MVP use these three things, and then we’ll cobble together a website and you won’t spend a ton of money but you can figure out what people want.” So anyway, I just love it; I love the Lean Startup Book. The other pick that I have – I've been trying to get my website together for my consultancy, and I've been hiring subcontractors and finding a ton of work, and I just really want to be able to house something out there that represents well. I don’t really have time to build it out in Rails, and for the most part Rails is overkill because most of us is just informational anyway, and I do wanna blog about it but that’s about it as far as anything complicated. And so I ran across a system called Jekyll; I've known about Jekyll for years but I just had never really played with it, but I'm using Jekyll to build my website out for my consultancy and I'm really loving it. The nice thing is I can us build out the layout, and then I just throw together some HTML and I'm done. So kind of a nice payoff there; I don’t have to go in and actually code out too much stuff and then I just use third-party services for anything that I need, like people singing up for my courses or workshops. Anyway, I should have that up pretty soon, and I’ll let you know where to go once I have it together, but I am gonna pick Jekyll. And that’s all I've got. Azam, what are your picks? AZAM: I have one pick – it’s the Pebble Watch, which was generously donated by pebble so I can make some screencast on it and put it on my channel, like Pebble Development Screencast. I really like the watch; I've never had a watch before. This might be the first watch that I have been wearing to my work and doing half-hours. You can easily transfer all the watch faces and apps from your pebble, the iPhone app to the Pebble device. The seven-minute workout is also available on the Pebble Watch. It is waterproof, although I have not really used it while swimming, but I might give it a try someday. So that’s my pick for this. CHUCK: Awesome. And I'm jealous too because I want a Pebble Watch. Anyway, thanks for coming. I really appreciate it and I think we learned a lot about how to get our apps out there and get people to use them. AZAM: Thanks for having me on the show, it was really fun. PETE: That was really interesting. CHUCK: Alright. Well we’ll wrap this up. We’ll catch you all next week and thanks for listening.

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