Author: phil

An interview with the Founders & Developers of Bounce

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Often times, hiring someone to develop an app can be expensive. To solve this issue, the founders may choose to develop the app themselves. This can be extremely tough to do, but the founders of Bounce were able to accomplish this task successfully!

“Bounce is a new social app for neighbors. Join & grow neighborhood communities – called homepoints – and bounce home with them later in the night. Chat with your neighbors directly, plan hangouts, and get to know what’s good in your hood.”

Check out Bounce here!

Where did you come up with the idea for this app?

When I (Robin) was a freshman, I used to head out to parties early in the night with my roommate, and we’d run into other friends, and end up going separate ways by the end of the night. I found myself asking everyone around me if they were also headed to the same dorm (South Quad), and would collect the phone numbers and create a group chat of all of the people from South Quad. Then, I’d plan my night around leaving with the new dorm-mates I had found, because I didn’t want to walk home alone. I noticed that if there was a way to pre-group my dorm-mates, even strangers who live in my dorm, I wouldn’t have to leave with the intention of sticking with my one roommate all night, and technology could make it very easy to find out which of my dorm-mates were nearby, when I was ready to leave. In this moment, technology would have given me the independence I so badly wanted.

What problem is this app trying to solve?

When getting home, you consider three factors: price, safety (comfort-level), and efficiency. Many students can’t afford to use Uber every day, so we resort to walking home alone while often feeling scared, or planning our stay around how long our friends want to stay, so that we can walk home with them. No easy way exists to get home with neighbors, either for cheaper rideshares or safer travels. Bounce groups you with your neighbors who are nearby when you’re out late, so that you can walk/uber home with them, without actively searching for your roommates or sticking to their plans.

How big is your team? What are the positions/experience of each (ex. Computer Science senior at Michigan State)

We’re a team of two people, both Computer Science juniors at the University of Michigan. Robin interned as an iOS Developer at VSCO this past summer, and Steven interned as a Web Developer at Weebly.

Did you receive any outside support for this app between development to promotion?

Yes – we received a grant and mentorship from the Thiel Foundation, and a grant from competing and winning the University of Michigan’s OptiMize Social Innovation Challenge. We’ve had some great mentorship from wonderful people at both organizations along the way.

Did you develop this app in house or hire someone else?

We spent the summer working hard and developed it ourselves!

What were some of the biggest struggles you have had over the course of developing your app? Did you have to learn new APIs? How much experience did you have?

We didn’t have any iOS or UI/UX design experience before starting this app, and we had to learn it all. We started this at MHacks 5, a college hackathon at the University of Michigan. The pressure of having to finish it in two days was a great stimulus to get started bootstrapping things quickly. We had to learn Objective-C, Swift, and Parse since we use it extensively in our app.

How long did development take? What factors influenced the development time?

Development took every minute of our free time this summer, so about 3 months. We were also working full-time internships, so we would come home and work some more. It was hectic, but motivating knowing that we were trying to solve a real problem.

Did you have a beta tester process?

Nope! We wanted to get this in users’ hands as soon as possible, and have been refining it quickly. So far, everything works as expected!

Are you available on Android too, or just iOS? If just iOS, why iOS first?

We’re working on an Android version right now, and it’s coming in a few months. We chose to develop for iOS, because we’re all decked out in Apple products. Also, we had also been dabbling in iOS prior to getting started with Bounce.

How are you spreading the word about the app?

We wanted to try something different, where we spend money on good, rather than marketing – we created a Facebook post for our launch, and we donated $1 for each share to the Day of the Girl campaign by Save The Children, a cause that we both care deeply about. We ended up getting almost 15,000 views using this technique! We’re still experimenting with other techniques in social media other than word of mouth. Spreading the word is definitely a challenge.

What are your future goals and aspirations for this application?

Our ultimate goal is to make neighborhoods safer and more social. Homepoints do a really great job of doing that, and we have a lot of ideas to create new functionality for these neighborhood groups, once we see them growing.

Why should people download this app in one sentence?

Go out anywhere – come home with neighbors.

Word of advice to people looking to have an app built?

In terms of development: It’s really, really helpful to know how to code. Often your users will need a feature or a bug fix after releasing your app, and you should be able to deploy it to them quickly. Also, use Parse if your app needs a backend – it can save a lot of development time and hence a lot of money if you’re not making it yourself.

In terms of everything else: Having a solid cofounder you can trust is awesome. You’ll need to depend on each other when times are rough, and it’ll help you gain perspective with all of the choices you are going to have to make.

Can you guess the Top 5 Most Used Smartphone Apps?

Recently we posted a survey asking people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds what their most used app is on their smartphones! Here’s what we found:

Most Used App On Users’ Smartphones                          Percentage

Facebook                                                                                    24%

Snapchat                                                                                    13%

Instagram                                                                                   8%

Twitter                                                                                         6%

Messages                                                                                    5%

Results based on 130 responses.
The survey on which the results are based on can be seen here

Updating Facebook Integration for iOS 9 & iOS 10

So with iOS 9 & 10 out, there are a few enhancements in security. With that being said, the way your app integrates Facebook may be acting strange, or not working at all.

More than likely this is because you are being affected by App Transport Security. ‘App Transport Security is a feature that improves the security of connections between an app and web services. The feature consists of default connection requirements that conform to best practices for secure connections. Apps can override this default behavior and turn off transport security. ‘ -Apple

With all this being said, this is definitely something that you want to keep inside of your app. But now…. how do you make it work!?!

There are two solutions

 

1.

First: Whitelist Facebook Servers for Network Requests.
To do this add the following to your info.plist file:

<key>NSAppTransportSecurity</key>
<dict>
    <key>NSExceptionDomains</key>
    <dict>
        <key>facebook.com</key>
        <dict>
            <key>NSIncludesSubdomains</key>
            <true/>                
            <key>NSExceptionRequiresForwardSecrecy</key>
            <false/>
        </dict>
        <key>fbcdn.net</key>
        <dict>
            <key>NSIncludesSubdomains</key>
            <true/>
            <key>NSExceptionRequiresForwardSecrecy</key>
            <false/>
        </dict>
        <key>akamaihd.net</key>
        <dict>
            <key>NSIncludesSubdomains</key>
            <true/>
            <key>NSExceptionRequiresForwardSecrecy</key>
            <false/>
        </dict>
    </dict>
</dict>

Then, Whitelist Facebook Apps by adding this to your info.plist as well:

<key>LSApplicationQueriesSchemes</key>
<array>
    <string>fbapi</string>
    <string>fbapi20130214</string>
    <string>fbapi20130410</string>
    <string>fbapi20130702</string>
    <string>fbapi20131010</string>
    <string>fbapi20131219</string>    
    <string>fbapi20140410</string>
    <string>fbapi20140116</string>
    <string>fbapi20150313</string>
    <string>fbapi20150629</string>
    <string>fbauth</string>
    <string>fbauth2</string>
    <string>fb-messenger-api20140430</string>
</array>

 

There you go, that should do the trick 🙂

 

2.

If this seems to be too much of a hassle for you, the second option is to turn off App Transport Security. You can do that by adding the following to your info.plist file:

<key>NSAppTransportSecurity</key>
<dict>
	<key>NSAllowsArbitraryLoads</key>
	<true/>
</dict>

An Interview with the CEO & Co-Founder of Presevent

Learning from others is a powerful tool. When looking to develop a mobile application, it is important to get different perspectives on the industry and hear others’ experiences with the development process, so you can hear what works and what doesn’t work for them. You can then apply someone else’s experiences and knowledge into your own project to make something that was once just an idea into a beautiful and amazing product. 

Recently, I had the privilege to speak with Lea Marolt Sonnenschein, CEO & Co-Founder of Presevent, and hear about her experience developing this beautiful app.

Check out the app here!

For those who may not know, Presevent alerts you to upcoming Election 2016 speeches, forums, and fundraisers, so you can sync your calendar with our next President’s! With the help of Presevent’s candidate locator and event tracker, you can promote transparency and engage in the Republican and Democratic primaries by seeing your favorite candidates face-to-face.

 

Where did you come up with an idea like that for your app?

The idea came from a discussion with my co-founder Joe in mid May about the lack of

quality mobile tools for political engagement. We were both about to graduate from

Grinnell College in Iowa, the first caucus state, so we were very aware of the upcoming

influx of political events. I had a lot of experience in creating mobile applications, having

co-founded Grinnell AppDev, and Joe thought it might be a good idea to leverage that

experience in creating an application that would track all Election 2016 presidential

candidates’ events. I loved the idea, and we both jumped right in. We started to work on

it before we even graduated.

What problem are you trying to solve?

The problem with many modern political campaigns is that they target event invitations

to likely supporters, not curious voters. This narrow targeting blatantly disregards

America’s storied history of face-to-face democracy. Presevent is trying to combat this

targeting by harnessing publically available data about upcoming Election 2016 events

and presenting that data in a visually appealing and scannable format. Our users can

share information about upcoming events with their family, friends, and communities,

which translates into a more diverse and transparent political discourse.

Did you develop this app yourself or did you hire someone?

I’ve been developing iOS apps for a few years. I’d be too embarrassed to hire someone

else :D! So, yes, I developed and designed the app myself.

What were some of the biggest struggles you had over the course of developing your app? Did you have to learn new APIs? How much experience did you have?

From the get-go, we decided that our most important features were ease of use and

minimalism in design and interactions. Keeping in line with those constraints proved

very difficult from time to time and provided some interesting design challenges–both

visually and architecturally.

Since everything (except for the Parse backend and 2 CocoaControls) was developed

“in-house,” I didn’t have to learn any new APIs. I did, however, learn a lot of other iOS

related topics. For example: How to use size classes and autolayout–a topic I avoided

like the plague before Presevent. I also learned a lot about “best practices” in application

development. I knew I wanted to build an app that we could modify and extend easily,

so from the beginning, I built the app out by abstracting the classes into smaller

self-contained units.

I had about 2 years of actual application development under my belt, and about 1 year of

learning and failing before that :D! Prior to Presevent I lead 4 other iOS apps into

production. I’m also currently working as an iOS Developer for Rent the Runway, so I’m

continuously improving my craft.

How long did it take to develop this application?

It took about 3 months to design and develop the first iteration of the app that we put on the App Store.

If you could go back and change something what would it be?

To be honest I don’t think there’s much I would change. We’ve had a lot of fun creating

Presevent, we’re learning a lot, and we’re trying to make a positive impact on the world.

What more can you ask for?

How are you getting the word out about your app?

We’re using Facebook and Twitter to promote Presevent and its cause. Another great

resource is our growing list of early adopters, who tested the app in its BETA stage and

helped shape it into what it is today. They’re not only helping us improve the app but are

also generating enough buzz that’s brought in new users.

We also just applied for the Knight Foundation’s most recent News Challenge. We’re

hoping that’s going to be a big help in connecting to curious users.

What are your future plans for this application?

As far as the app itself goes, I’m working on improving the architecture quite a bit to

make the app faster and more responsive. Joe is also working on improving our event

coverage, so that no candidates’ events are left out of our database. We’re also constantly taking

in feedback from our users to make sure that the product we’ve developed is the best it could

possibly be in terms of usability.

As far as the bigger picture goes, we know that if we truly want to have a big impact on

democracy, we can’t limit ourselves to just the iOS platform. So the next steps for us are

definitely creating a web and Android platform for Presevent, to make it truly accessible

to everyone with an Internet connection. In order to build those, we’ve applied to

FbStart and the Knight Foundation. If anyone wants to help us out, though, feel free to

shoot me an email, and we can have a chat (: !

Why should someone download your app in one sentence?

People should download Presevent to have more in-person and unfiltered conversations

with Election 2016 presidential candidates and promote a more transparent and

positive political discourse.

Presevent’s Website: http://presevent.com/

 

Want to read more interviews with amazing Founders, CEOs, developers, & more? Subscribe Here!

 

Pioneer Mobile Applications

Should you develop your app on multiple platforms?

This week’s App of the Week is a simple utility that helps people with “reading later”.

“Pocket was founded in 2007 by Nate Weiner to help people save interesting articles, videos and more from the web for later enjoyment. Once saved to Pocket, the list of content is visible on any device — phone, tablet or computer. It can be viewed while waiting in line, on the couch, during commutes or travel — even offline.” via www.getPocket.com

One of Pocket’s greatest elements is the ability to save an article, video, or other webpage from just about any platform. Whether it be on your phone, on your computer, or on your tablet, as long as you’re signed into you’re account, you’re all set. Ready to read? Just open up the app, and all of your content is right there waiting for you!

When looking at many successful apps, you will notice they are available on multiple platforms. With that being said, this does not mean that you must launch on all of these platforms. Depending on your target audience, find out which platforms are used most, and focus on launching on that platform first. Of course, this could vary depending on what type of application you are making. If it’s a social network application, it is more important to launch on at least two platforms (iOS & Android for example). But if it is a utility app, it is less important. Take advantage of this to find out how users use the application. Which features should you add? Which features should you take out? Once you get a pretty good idea of this, then you can go ahead and build the application for another platform.

Check Pocket out if you haven’t already at www.getPocket.com

Prototype your app… With an app

Tons of people out there who have an app idea in their head struggle with demonstrating how it works to others. Whether it be because they don’t know how to use programs like Sketch or Photoshop, or they’re working remotely and drawing something out on paper isn’t efficient enough to provide to the other party. With this week’s “App of the Week”, people can demonstrate how their app idea works in an easy and efficient way!

 

Prott – Rapid prototyping tool

 

One of the easiest ways to show other people what is in your head, is by using the good ol’ fashion pen and paper. Prott takes this to a whole new level. All you have to do is sketch out on some paper each of the pages of your application, snap a picture, and then inside of the Prott application you can bring your sketch to life!

 

With the app, you can select different parts of your sketch and have them segue over to another one of your sketched pages. Want to send it over to your developers to show them what you want done? Just copy the prototype url or enter in their email address and you’re all set. Whoever you are sending it to can even comment on the sketches and give back useful feedback!

This is definitely one of the top prototyping apps out there!

 

Check Prott out: https://prottapp.com/

 

Read a 3-page essay in seconds with this app!

This week’s “App of the Week” is a utility that I have found myself using more and more often.

To be completely honest, I am not a big reader. I like when articles get right to the point and tell me what I need to know. For years and years, going through grade school and even college, I have had to suffer reading through long articles trying to pick out the main points. Luckily in 2014, a high school sophomore created an application that helps this issue.

Points

Points is an application that makes it unbelievably simple to summarize web pages into a few key bullet points. All you have to do copy the page’s URL and paste it into the text box on the application. Tap the “Go” button and before you know it, you have a few key bullet points summarizing what ever is on that webpage.

Last year Hugh Jones, a high school sophomore developed this application using a proprietary language processing algorithm which will determine which sentences on the webpage are most meaningful.

This is one of MANY applications that became “big” by taking a normal every day task, and making it more efficient in a simple and easy way! Great job Hugh!

Feel free to check Points out at www.pointsapp.co !

You can use this app without even having the app

This week’s app of the week is an app that makes it easy to invite groups of people to different events.

 

Looking to throw a small party and don’t want to make up invitations and mail them out?

Let me introduce to you, Hobnob.

Hobnob is an app that is currently available on the App Store that lets you create custom invitations with just a few taps on your screen. All you have to do is select a design, put in the event details (date, time, location, etc), select who you’re inviting, and tap “send”. Invitees will then get a text message with the invitation like below:

All the recipients have to do is reply “Yes” or “No”, and the user’s app will get updated with who’s going or not!

One of the greatest advantages and smartest moves by Hobnob is the ability for practically anyone with the capability to text message, to use the features of the app. With that being said, if someone’s 90 year old grandma who has no clue what an app even is, receives one of these invitations, even she will know how to interact and respond to the invitation.

Having a feature that combines app with text messaging opens up the market dramatically, because come on … who doesn’t have text messaging?

Looking forward to seeing where this app ends up in a few months!

Check out Hobnob here!

Put your iPad to use with this awesome app

This week’s featured app is one that helps all of you “dual monitor” lovers out there.

 

As someone who is always doing multiple things at once on the computer, I am constantly using a second monitor to increase my speed and productivity. The only problem is that you can’t bring your second monitor with you to an airport, a restaurant, or pretty much anywhere easily. Luckily a few months ago, an app was released that has solved this issue.

I present to you Duet Display!!!

With Duet Display, all you have to do is download the app on your computer as well as any iOS 7.0+ iPad or iPhone, plug it into the computer, and open up the app, and you have gotten yourself a second monitor for wherever you go!

Not a mac user, but still have an iPad or iPhone? Duet Display is available for Windows 7+ as well.

Being an app that was developed by Apple ex-engineers, the performance is amazing with little to no lag!

I am not one to typically pay for apps, but this app is definitely worth the buck. Check it out at http://www.duetdisplay.com/

 

Pre-app Marketing. Get users before you even have a released app!

For this week’s “App of the week”, we have chosen an app that has been getting a lot of buzz the last couple of weeks. This app allows users to get their feet wet in the stock trading world at no cost!

Let me introduce to you (if you haven’t already heard of it), Robinhood!

 

via Robinhood.com

Robinhood is a stock trading app with NO commission fees! Released a few months ago, lets talk about what has made this app get so much traction.

Pre-app Marketing
Before we even talk about the app itself, lets talk about pre-launch. One of the best strategies in my eyes that has helped get Robinhood so much traction is their Pre-app Marketing. Before there was any app available, www.Robinhood.com was all set up with an amazing promo video (https://vimeo.com/87163777) and a subscription page. By setting up something as simple as a webpage and a promo video with some pictures of what the app will look like, you can attract users and get a gauge on how interested the market is in your idea!

Along with this, another great Pre-app Marketing strategy is the waitlist. Often times with applications such as Robinhood, you don’t want to release the app to the entire world right off the bat and you will want to release little by little. This is where the waitlist comes in handy. On the webpage, there can be a subscription box to put yourself on the waitlist and get an email with an access code. One problem is that there could be tens of thousands of people on the waitlist which could discourage the potential user. To fix this, when ever a potential user shares a link to the site or gets someone else to sign up, they can get bumped up in the waitlist, and gain access to the app sooner!

Strategies like this can make an idea without even having an app go viral, very quickly!

Simplicity is key

Now let’s talk a little bit about the app itself. What exactly makes this app awesome? As with many great apps, the answer is simplicity. Especially when 25% of Robinhood’s users have never played around in the stock trading world, it is vital to make users feel comfortable and not confused.

Robinhood takes the minimum amount of features/information that is needed to buy and sell stock and implements it in a wonderful way. Once you are all signed up, on the home screen you are greeted with a graph of your earnings with a dollar amount of how much money you have between your account and your stock. Scroll down and then you can see the different stocks that you have bought or are on your watchlist. Without even tapping on any of these stocks you can see a mini graph of its earnings trend as well as a dollar/percent value of its change.

Last, but not least, once you tap on a stock, you are greeted by a page that is similar to the home page. At the top you see the dollar value, and at the bottom you see basic stats and a quick bio of the company. If you are looking to Buy or Sell, all you have to do is enter how many shares, review, and then submit and before you know it you have just completed your order.

One of the biggest controversies right now with Robinhood is that it does not provide enough features that people like to use to gain information on a certain company. But to be honest, this is a smart move on Robinhoods part. It is because of sticking with the core feature, keeping it as simple as possible, and learning how users use it, that makes this app so attractive.

Many times, apps will start off with one core feature, but then they end up cluttering the app with so many features. Though this is great in terms of being unique and providing features to the user, it is not attractive at first and can often times make the app confusing. — No good!

Take it from great apps like Robinhood and stick with a core feature, keep it simple, learn how your users adapt to it, and then over time you can roll out feature by feature!