Up until recently we’ve had a todo list much longer than any human arms I’ve ever seen. Every week would see us complete one item only to add two more. Todo lists you see, often follow a very accelerated version of Moore’s Law. But we’ve got a secret weapon now: the time to do things (having gone out on our own almost a month ago) and the motivation to (in a very small way) set the world on fire.
So today we’d like to show off something that’s been on our todo list since we first released Pocket Weather AU HD for the iPad. Version 1.2 to be precise.
Yes indeedy, you can get your tides, state warnings, detailed forecasts, icons in landscape view and so much more in this new version.
At this point we’re providing an intermission for those who don’t care how this stuff is built. Don’t feel bad, the lights are on, we’ll clean up all the popcorn you’ve managed to spill everywhere. Last chance!
Now let’s talk about just why this release took so long. We promised that when we went into this full time we’d no longer accept compromise, and we meant it. This version was ‘ready to go to Apple’ 3 weeks ago. In the past it would have been myself, at 1am on my couch looking at things and going ‘close enough’ and pressing the submit to iTunes button. When you’re tired anything that’s working starts to look good. Since then we’ve rewritten the warnings feature twice, the tides three times and played with two different ways of showing you detailed forecasts.
After each re-write I’d hand the iPad over to Phil and ask him for feedback. Phil was brutal about everything he didn’t like, which initially made me very defensive, but I’d go and do it because I knew he was right. It was jarring, I wasn’t used to reworking features that worked, and were bug free, with the sole justification being ‘we can do better’. It was also hard to break out of the “we don’t have time for that” mould from our former lives as out of hours developers. After each iteration though we both knew we’d created a better product. Things you’ll never see like that the initial tides screen having left and right buttons (instead of swipe). Then there was the original detailed forecast design that had the day panels sliding left and right to show more or less content. Don’t even get us started the original warnings screen which had resizable panels of all things. In some cases we re-wrote it because we knew we’d taken shortcuts, other times (like with the slidey detailed forecast panels) we realised we’d gone too far the other way and made something a lot fancier and less intuitive than it could have been. In the end we finally had a version that Phil & I approved of, and one which was much better for the process we’d gone through.
There’s three obvious lessons from all of the above:
- Getting things right often means getting things wrong, but being willing to change them.
- When people look at a final product and estimate the effort required, they’ve left out the biggest component, all the rework and tweaking that led to that final version (common example from stack overflow).
- Pocket Weather AU HD is awesome…have you bought it yet?!
There are times in everyones lives, where you stand at a fork in the road, looking at two differing directions, and having to choose one. ShiftyJelly found itself at just such a point a month or so ago. We have been in the App Store now for two years, working on our apps in our ‘spare time’ while all working full time jobs. The problem is that we don’t really have spare time, that’s just a euphemism for time that we really want to be spending with our families, friends and having fun. Sure we’ve had fun doing this, but it was really starting to wear us down. The last few releases of our products have contained some fairly obvious bugs and it was getting harder and harder to maintain the motivation to open the laptop at 11pm at night and start coding. We are insanely passionate about quality, so this was really starting to get to us.
Introduction aside, we stood at a fork. In one direction was either selling or shutting down ShiftyJelly, in the other was resigning from our full time jobs and taking the leap into doing this full time. In truth there was only one option, but it was not an easy one. To those of you who think we sold out or were going to shut down, shame on you! We resigned our jobs, and it’s full steam ahead!
So what does this mean? Initially it means that we’ll be busy looking for office space, sorting out legal documents, registering various bits and pieces, so we’ll be distracted for a little while. Once the transition period is over though, it means that ShiftyJelly is about to bring it’s A game. No more late night rushed releases, no more cutting corners, just pure unadulterated awesomeness. If you’re one of our competitors, consider yourself on notice. If you’re one of the many companies we turned project work down for, we will now consider it. Best of all, if you’re one of the people that has purchased one of our applications, or supported us, we’re finally going to be able to devote 100% of our time and energy into making products that blow your mind. We’ll also be updating all of our existing products to finally make them what we’ve always wanted them to be, not just what we had time for them to be.
We’ll be keeping you up to date over the next few weeks as we make the transition, but for now we leave you with this teaser image. Who could that be in the shadows…
It’s been a few days now since the legendary Anthony Aagius returned from the promised land with our iPad in hand. The decision to buy an iPad was really made for us months ago. There was a new Apple platform coming, we felt it was going to be huge, and we had to get on board. So what do we think of it after 3 days of fondling it? We’re going to go one better than David Pogue and present it from three perspectives!
There is a lot to like here: it’s the same Cocoa Touch framework, the same Xcode development environment, the same testing and distribution model. Sure there are new controls and paradigms to learn, but a lot of it is familiar. What Apple did with the UIPopoverController is nothing short of amazing, they allowed us to reuse a lot of the iPhone paradigms in a new way, without having to rework a lot of code.It also has 5x as many pixels as an iPhone, meaning we can do so much more now with our apps. After playing with the iPad for a few days, everything we do on the iPhone now feels cramped and limited, having all that extra space is amazing!
It’s not all roses though, the big thing that stands out for us is universal applications. I wasn’t involved in OS X development when Apple went with universal binaries for PowerPC and Intel but that seemed to go very smoothly. Apple made it sound like you just checked a box, and out came universal apps. Apple is saying the same thing of having an app that services both the iPad and iPhone, but we’re just not buying it. For starters unless you just want to upscale your UI you would need two completely different user interface code bases. Next you’d need all sorts of if else statements to cater for which particular view to launch when. Sure you may be able to re-use an underlying data layer but cramming all that universal code into one application strikes us as a maintenance nightmare. A lot of other developers we’ve spoke to seem to agree.
Sales wise it’s hard to tell where this platform will go. Our first application Pocket Weather World HD has been selling reasonably well considering the amount of iPads that have been sold to date, but it has a long way to go if we are ever to recover the development effort we put in. Only time will tell, but we really think this will be as big (if not bigger) than the iPhone.
As Apple Fanboys
The device truly is magical. We find ourselves arguing with people on forums who keep spouting “no flash, no camera, no multitasking”. Until you touch this device you just won’t get it. None of those things matter in the slightest. Flash is dead, a camera while nice presents some challenges (ala shooting straight up your nose) the thing does multitask (even more so when OS 4.0 comes out). We’ve started to think it really was washed in unicorn tears. Really. Truly. It’s fast, it’s super intuitive it feels right to hold, and the screen is amazing. It’s basically just a piece of glass that you touch, and magic comes out. It’s not a laptop, it’s not a giant iPod Touch so stop thinking of it like that, it’s a paradigm shift in mobile computing. Just like any religious fanatic will tell you of their belief, you won’t understand it until you experience it. You may think there’s no room for it in your life, perhaps you already have an iPhone and a Macbook. But once you touch this magical device, your wallet, home and life will make room for it.
As My Grandparents:
They really want it. They find the mouse annoying. They find using a computer in a seperate room uncomfortable. They are sick of plugging in a digital camera and not knowing how to copy photos from it. They have trouble reading the text on a computer screen. They understand how to tap things, and they don’t want to feel that sense of dread that every time they click something they might break the entire computer. Most of all I’m sick of going over every week and fixing their computer. Sure they use Windows XP, and would have less problems on OS X, but let’s face it, they’d still have problems. No matter how much the fanboy in me denies it OS X is every bit as hard for an older person to pick up as Windows is. Sure it behaves better, but that doesn’t make it intuitive.
So our conclusion? One word. Magical.