EraseUrX: The Story of My App

Not My Idea
Erin always asks me if I use one-third of the apps on my iPhone.  Truthfully I don't.  There are probably four apps that I use 80% of the time. The others I download or purchase because they inspire me. I might like the way that the app is designed or handles a particular usability feature or the combination.  Then there are the few that I downloaded because my daughter REALLY likes them.

The three or four ideas that I had for my first "App Store" app where good, but they would take quite a bit of time to develop and I was looking for a project that would be  straightforward that people could use and that I could turn around in about two or three months working on it part-time.  My wife came up with a fun concept of having an app that would allow a user to "erase" their ex from their phone.  Immediately, I thought this was a great idea and  the brainstorming began.

Early Stages
As a developer I knew what I wanted to put into the app, as far as, functionality goes, but I really wanted my wife's thoughts/opinions/feedback since she:

1. Came up with the idea
2. Is in sales/marketing and knows "people" better than myself

In the beginning she started the conversation with, "Can the phone do this?".  I stopped that immediately because I wanted to hear what she envisioned as the perfect break-up app.  After getting a list of all the "wants" we sat down together again to go through them and make our first round of cuts which basically amounted to me explaining that the phone didn't have that functionality.  Over the next few days we came together again and made a list of three or four major features that needed to be included with some "nice-to-haves" added at the end.  Let the coding fury begin.

Hard Decisions
As I started down the path of coding the app things went VERY smoothly and I was quite happy with my progress and my continued growth of knowledge of not only Objective-C/CocoaTouch, but mobile usability as well.  When I got about three-fourths of the way done with the project I hit a fork in the road.  I came up with a handful of features that I thought would be GREAT to add into the application, but would extend the project at least 4 weeks.  The features included various Facebook integrations, a "breakup/erase wall", video recordings (for those 3GS users), canned messages, top 10 breakup songs from iTunes, etc.  However, I had to make the tough decision to keep the current feature list and mark it as version 1.0 and save the others for future releases.   I am working currently working on version 2.0.

What Made the Cut?
The simplicity of the app is what, IMHO, makes the app pretty good.  I decided to keep, what I considered, core functionality.  The ability to send a photo and/or an audio recording and/or a written message via email.  I did add in the persistence level of the data and the ability to create multiple audio files, as well as, manage those files.

In Apple's Hands
Finally, after months of development, in the wee hours before work and after my daughter went to bed, I incorporated the custom UI elements, create a product site, and submitted EraseUrX to the App Store.  Fingers crossed.


Seventy-two hours later, I got an email from Apple saying that app had been approved and was for sale in the App Store.  Like a kid at Christmas I couldn't click on the link fast enough.  To my dismay I got the equivalent of a 404 error.  I wish they would have had a little note in the email saying that it might take up to X amount of hours for the app to propagate to all their servers.  None the less by the afternoon it was there.  I had successfully planned, created, designed, and deployed an app to the App Store.

Looking at the complete process I do not have too many regrets.  The things that I would do differently are as follows, and in no particular order:

1. Start the marketing for the app earlier than right after I submitted the app.
2. I should have kept a development "diary" online that showed the progress and little teasers.
3. Had a promo video that went along with the app.  Not a technical video of what the app does, but a marketing video.
4. Done more research on successful, and maybe, unconventional ways of marketing the app.

What's Next
While I don't think that EraseUrX is a revolutionary app, I do think that it is decent, but like any creation it can, should and WILL be improved. There will be the option to either send the "breakup" via email or to Facebook, more fine grained control over what is saved on your phone for later review, video support, and a cleaner design.  As stated in my previous entry, the completion of this project has just fueled my desire to work more exclusively on iPhone apps.  Some will be personal projects, but for right now I'll concentrate on contract projects.  I am currently working with a local photographer to create an app to showcase the work that he does.  It is more than just another photo gallery slide show application and I think will have some nice additions to what people normally expect.

Stay tuned...

The Drive to Build More

Based upon the myriad of tweets over the past three months or so, most who follow me know that I have been working on my first iPhone app.  Well, first to submitted to the app store.  I have finished an app for work and have started on another for  Though the app hasn't hit the stores YET, I already have the inspiration to build more.  EraseUrX has by far been the most rewarding project I have worked on in the past three years.  Even if I don't make a lot of money, it truly has been self satisfying to just complete this project.  I can't wait to get started on the next one not only for the challenges that await, but also I know that I be able to put it in the App Store faster.

There has been a lot of criticism of Apple's approval process in the App Store, but over the past three months they have made great strides to improve this process and it has benefited developers greatly.  In addition, there are rumors floating around of a possible upcoming announcement of the 4.0SDK and a new phone device, which if the 3.0 release is any indication of the amount new features added to the phone, then the 4.0 release will give developers even more tools to increase the usability and features in our apps.

Hopefully, the saying is true...

If you build it they will come.