The Birth of our Mobile App

All through 2008, I kept hearing “How about the book in an electronic format?” from customers. I looked into creating an “e-version” of our book, but I didn’t think (and still don’t think) anyone wants to read a book on their computer.

In January 2009, I got my first iPhone. I kept looking for new ways to use it in my daily life. Once you start using an iPhone, you get religion. You also get apps.

I started to think about how our content might work in an app. This post is a “behind the scenes” of how our app was born.

One of the early questions you have to answer when building an app is…

Who Should Build My App?

When we started building our iPhone app in March 2009, the app development world was like the wild west – a brand new field full of pioneers and pirates. It still is.

Today's industry of mobile app developers

I quickly learned that if you outsource your work overseas, you can save a lot of money.

First Contract

I awarded my first contract to India and fired the providers after about a month because they were incompetent. 

My lesson: Too many developers talk the talk, but few can actually walk the walk.

Second Contract

I awarded my second contract to a higher-priced provider in Vietnam. Here’s one of my favorite email responses from my developer:

You know the old expression, “When your iPhone developer accidentally responds to your question in Vietnamese, Google Translate is your friend.”? Well, just for kicks, I used it:

After over four months, we finally parted ways over communication breakdowns.  

My lesson: When your developers speak Vietnamese and “Objective C” (the programming language for the iPhone) but you speak English and “non-programmer”, the result is a crappy app.

Third Contract

I bit the bullet and paid up for developers in the States, though I did a lot of digging to find a firm that was good at both design and coding (a rarity in the industry).

Although I paid many, many, many multiples more in costs, I picked a fantastic provider and I’m still working with them today (Michael: I hope your little one enjoys her horseback riding lessons and private school tuition). I’m often on the phone with them daily, and they have grown into the role of maintaining the app.  

My lesson: Communication, design and competent coding are all integral to building a good app.  Don’t look at your developer relationship as a six month project, as you’ll likely be working with them for years.

The resulting crib sheet app is our new baby:

It packages our popular real world content with our customers’ brand and news.  It allows users to send address updates, answer polls, RSVP for events.

And it can leap over tall burning buildings to rescue babies stuck in trees.

Subscribe to the Cap & Compass Blog by Email