iPhone App Development In A Flat World

Updated on Thursday, September 20, 2012 at 9:07AM by Registered CommenterRick Chin

Developing and launching an iPhone app on the Apple App Store is now something that most people like yourself can do.  

Though for many, this probably comes as a surprise.  They just assume that only techy software programmers and high-tech companies can do this.  Most people don't know where to start, how much it costs, and in the end, cannot envision themselves doing this.  In this post, I will be sharing my recent experience in the development of ThoughtsOnTheGo, my newly launched iPhone app.  My goal is to help you understand the general steps, make you aware of some very useful services, and make it easier for you to see yourself doing the same if that is an aspiration you have.

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Viral Product Adoption ... Build a Pipe, Not a Funnel

We all want wildly successful products like Facebook and Instagram.  Products whose viral nature allows them to experience astounding exponential growth.  How do you create a situation where an existing customer exposes your product to their friends, and who in turn adopt it to become customers themselves?  And do it in such a way that the process is sustainable and just continues to feed on itself.  This is Viral Product Adoption.  So how do we achieve this?

I believe the best way to explore this is to recognize that viral adoption is not a singular event.  A new prospect does not see your product and instantly become a customer.  Instead, it is a series of linked steps, each of which provides a risk of loosing potential customers if that individual step’s experience is not created well.

Therefore, our goal is to create a product adoption process whose steps are all "Compelling", "Obvious", and "Easy".  

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My 20 Favorite iPhone/iPad Apps

There is very rarely a time where I don't have my iPhone with me.  As a matter of fact, I am almost always with my iPad as well.  Whether at home, work, traveling afar, or in the car running an errand, these devices have become an extension of my brain.  They help me to explore new ideas, take notes, and look up just about any piece of information that I might need.  And when I am just looking for some down time, they also serve as great gaming devices.

I use these apps both professionally and personally throughout my day.  I hope you find them as useful (and fun) as I do.  Here is my list in alphabetical order.

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Jon Hirschtick ... Thanks For Making Me A Part Of The Team

As many people already know, Jon Hirschtick, SolidWorks' founder and original CEO, has departed from the company after 18 years.  The eternal entrepreneur has decided that it is time to explore new directions and opportunities.  I wanted to briefly thank Jon for starting SolidWorks and making me part of the team back in 1995.  It has (and continues to be) been an incredible experience for all of us who have been a part of the SolidWorks community.

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Steve Jobs

Like many other people, I’ve been a bit sad, if not depressed, since I learned of Steve’s passing.  It’s kind of weird, right?  I’ve never met him, exchanged an email with him, or even seen him from afar at some tech event.  Yet I can’t help but feel the void created when someone close to you is gone.  So how did Steve get this close to so many of us?

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Strategic Retreats ... Transforming Technology into Product

Let’s start by assuming that your goal is to come up with products that your customers are compelled to buy and use to extract some important value to them.

In general, the best way to pursue this is to:

  1. Identify your target customer
  2. Identify an important need or frustration that they have
  3. Find, invent, or tweak technology to craft an effective product for these customers

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Brainstorming ... Fast & Fun

How many times have you come out of a brainstorming session feeling unsatisfied with the results?  The team never felt like it got into a rhythm.  The idea flow felt like a drizzle versus a storm.  None of the ideas that the team spent much time on seemed especially good (BTW, you should never spend a lot of time on any one idea in a brainstorming session).  There was one or two people that insisted on dominating the conversation and ended up speaking way too much.  This to the frustration of the rest of the group.  The good news is that there are just a handful of things you need to do to run a productive and fun brainstorming session.  

The overall goal of any brainstorming is to generate a high quantity of ideas.  This is really important ... it's all about quantity, NOT quality.  You will have plenty of opportunity after brainstorming to evaluate the quality of the ideas generated and select a winner. 

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Developing an "Eye for Innovation"

Some people have a great eye for photography.  Through years of practice, they develop an instinct or reflex that recognizes when an awesome photographic moment presents itself.  It could be the lighting, composition, colors, people, their facial expressions, and a host of other qualities in a scene that will make a good photographer take notice.  And long before you can explain what it is that he sees, he already has his camera out and has taken a few snap shots.

Now the question is, can you develop a similar "eye for innovation"?  I believe the answer is yes.

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Uncork Your Brain with Mind Maps

That great idea you are looking for is already somewhere in your mind or in the collective mind of your team.  The real effort in coming up with a great idea, is all about getting out of your own way so that your great idea can reveal itself.  I want to refer to this as the “idea release” process, rather than the idea generation process.

A very useful tool in the idea release process is mind mapping.  In this post, I will discuss how we inadvertently trap our great ideas in our mind; strategies for getting out of our own way; and finally how mind maps can help.

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Frustration ... Not All Pain Is Created Equal

An Actionable Definition for “Frustration”

Frustration is when ...

Someone has a very important goal that needs to be achieved, or task that needs to be accomplished.  But there is one or more barrier(s) to them achieving their goal which they feel is out of their control.  This results in a combination of helplessness and anger, which we recognize as frustration.

So how do you act on this?  You should set out to understand your customers’ specific goals.  You also want to find out what they see as barriers to achieving those goals.  Eventually, you want to provide a solution that eliminates any feelings of helplessness and instead makes them feel empowered.  We will touch on learning about goals and barriers in this blog post, and save empowerment (and it’s actionable definition) for a later post.

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Why are there so few “glorious” products? 

A few years ago, I finally pursued a long time ambition to own and ride a motorcycle.  So I signed up for a motorcycle safety course.  On the first day of class, the instructor began by telling us stories of her favorite riding experiences.  This included her description of a “glorious” day of riding.  It was a cool and sunny day with a bright blue sky.  As they left the more congested areas of Massachusetts, it seemed that they had become the exclusive owners of the roads that they were on.  With no one in their way to slow down their brisk pace.  This allowed them to fully enjoy all the twists and turns that the roads had to offer.  After a wonderfully exhausting day of riding, they made their way to a favorite greasy spoon, for some of the best comfort food around.

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