Notes on interaction design & development. Get the Feed.
By Christoph Ono, builder at GBKS, and tweetable at @GBKS.

The Sparrow Problem

8/21/17App Store

The age of selling software to users at a fixed, one-time price is coming to an end. It’s just not sustainable at the absurdly low prices users have come to expect. Sure, independent developers may scrap it out one app at a time, and some may even do quite well and be the exception to the rule, but I don’t think Sparrow would have sold-out if the team — and their investors — believed they could build a substantially profitable company on their own. The gold rush is well and truly over.

Ok, so the market matures. Just because the gold rush if over, that doesn't mean selling software at fixed price is over. It just depends on the product. A photo app doesn't require any upkeep, while an RSS reader requires a server that needs to be maintained. Cross-platform apps require even more upkeep, and B2B apps need proper support and service to back up the technical side. And many crappy apps simply aren't worth anything. Especially looking at Google Play, there are lots of solo developers with 100+ apps. Those are likely not very good apps worth paying for, in the same way that nobody will pay for a website I throw together in a few hours. It's a complex market that's slowly maturing, and I don't think it's economy can be summarized in a simple statement like "the gold rush is over". Thinking about Warren Buffet's "be greedy when others are fearful", maybe this is just the right time to build something?

Worth Less than a Cup of Coffee

8/21/17App Store

Lots of discussion around app pricing right now. What most don't cover are the economies of scale that developers can tap into. Yes, the price for one app download may be $0.99. But there are no manufacturing or distribution costs, very little support needed, and the product is instantly available to hundreds of millions of people. A cup of coffee, in comparison, can be sold exactly once, and only to a customer that walks through the door in a particular location at a specific time. Additional costs are store rent, barista salary, coffee beans, plastic cups, sugar, etc. None of these apply to apps. Most of the really complicated stuff is taken care of by Apple and Google's incredibly sophisticated machinery so developers and customers can purely focus on cat photos.

Users don't hate change. They hate you.

8/21/17User Experience

Change is expensive, even when it’s free. Change is expensive in relearning. Change is expensive when you feel like you no longer have a choice in how you live your life. For change to be accepted, it needs to first have real value to the user. Then it must be explained clearly in the language of that person’s values. Not the designers’, not the company’s. Rather than take on admission of failure to communicate the need and benefit of a change, too many teams decide to blame the very people who write the checks: the end users.

Roundup: Posts about preparing apps for iOS 7

8/21/17iosDesign

Quite a few companies took the launch of iOS7 as an opportunity to refresh and rethink their apps, and shared some interesting details on their thought processes. Here's a list of articles I found. Each one includes some background and rationale on the respective updates.

Did I miss something? Let me know @GBKS.

iOS 7 includes 283 fonts

8/21/17iostypography

Let's get past Helvetica for some more diverse typography. Capcam uses Bodoni, which was already part of iOS 6. Since many of the new interfaces are light on visual elements and use a lot of text, we can now use typography more than ever to create distinct personalities for apps. Note that some of the fonts are not preloaded on the devices, but need to be downloaded, which this article describes how to.

Internationalization

One tricky area will be internationalization. Many of the fonts we know and love in the western world (including Bodoni) do not support the roughly 30,000 characters required for Chinese. To illustrate the difference, Arial Unicode is one of the very few fonts that support all languages. It comes with 38,911 characters and weights in at 25 MB, and only includes regular weight. Bodoni comes with 261 characters. The best approach might be to progressively enhance typography, by relying on system fonts by default and using language specific fonts for certain countries and languages. I will spend more time with this as I start localizing Capcam.

App animations & transitions

8/21/17ios

iOS 7 places much more emphasis on animation to communicate actions and UI changes. This affects the process of how we design and develop apps, and prototyping animations becomes more important. We will see a lot of discussion on this topic over the next months. Here are some resources I came across so far, and I'll add anything else I find:

Articles

Tutorials

Prototyping tools

Other useful tools

20% of Yelp reviews are fake

8/21/17

20% LOL! If only it were that low. I used to be a reputation management company, at one time we were responsible for 10% of the reviews in Silicon Valley. There were metro's where we were about 80% of the reviews.

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