Birth Of An App, Part 6

The Ipad Experience

My first experience with the app on an iPad was amazing! The vision I had months earlier was actually a living, breathing, application. The diagrams, sketches and words on paper had changed into animations and transitions I could touch. I could actually play with the app and see what the experience was going to be for the users.

Now it was crunch time. Five yet-unnamed categories were needed with around 20 images and stories each. I had completed one story to date… I had a bunch of ideas scattered across scraps of paper, emails, my iPad and my laptop but they were often incomplete thoughts and in need of illustration.

Choosing or editing images is always difficult. For the app I needed a variety of images that, together, would be part of the larger story. On the one hand, 100 images aren’t that many, yet I didn’t want more than a couple from any given portfolio. If the app was to feature only graffiti photos, it would be easy to come up with 100! But I wanted only a couple of graffiti images to illustrate stories or ideas so the selecting and editing took a lot longer than I anticipated.

I also found that I moved back and forth between images and stories. I had thoughts that I jotted down when they hit me and later found an image that worked with the story. Other times I had an image I liked and created a story that worked with it. I was really surprised how much time was involved in this process. Every waking moment my mind was pondering what images and what stories would I use. My whiteboard in my shower got lots of use and I frequently grabbed the nearest pen and paper to put thoughts down before they moved on.

Oh, and I had my paying job to do as well! From September through the end of December, I was traveling every week to somewhere. My downtime on airplanes, in terminals and in the wee hours of the morning (lots of insomnia – including now as I write this!) was spent sorting through images or writing and editing stories.

While I was wrestling with the content, the team of Andras, Istvan, Krisztian and Daniel at Factorywere working to bring the app to life – optimizing the software, smoothing transitions, fixing bugs, etc.

In a separate, but relevant chain of events, it’s amazing how life unfolds when you least expect it. I was in London for some meetings in November 2010. After dinner my buddy Duane and I popped into a cigar bar in Soho. Sitting next to us was a gentleman with some really nice music streaming from his laptop. A conversation ensued and I became acquainted with Leo DiLorenzo, a composer and musician who lives and works in London. Over the next year, we visited on Skype, shared ideas and thoughts and started to build a nice friendship.

Part of the app’s vision was to make it as “five-sensual” as possible, given it’s an electronic, essentially two-dimensional device. The app needed music, so I floated the idea past Leo. He liked the concept and wanted to give it a go. The challenge was that he was asking me all kinds of questions I didn’t have immediate answers for. What style of music? For what purpose on the app? How long? If the music was for the categories, what were the categories? He needed samples of stories for each category to better understand the whole.

He had me there. I didn’t have the stories written nor had all the photos been chosen – so what would the categories be? He needed clear direction and needed to feel what the app was trying to be in order to deliver something meaningful.

In order for the app to move forward, I had to get the stories and photos done. Period. I put a stake in the ground: by January 3, all stories and photos would be done, edited, sorted into categories and delivered to the programmers. While I had been looking forward to some downtime between Christmas and New Year’s, I spent long days and nights in front of my laptop – doing the work.