Author: Ken Yarmosh
Publisher: O'Reilly, 2010
Aimed at: Anyone with an idea for an iOS app
Pros: Good use of interviews
Cons: Dismissive attitude to programming aspects
Reviewed by: Sue Gee
"There's an app for that" may well be an oft-repeated slogan - but even with the huge number of existing apps there is still room for more.
This book is aimed at those who are looking to achieve success in Apple's App Store with new apps for the iPad and iPhone. It assumes you are a registered iOS developer.
First let's be clear about the book doesn't do - it doesn't suggest ideas for apps or give any help with their design or development. Instead it is about how you convert the idea you have had into a success - as such it is aimed at those who already launched an app, those who are already in the process of getting an app into the App Store and those who are just starting out on this road to fame and fortune.
As pointed out in the preface, you are not expected to read this book sequentially. The chapter on marketing (Chapter 8: Building Your Marketing Crescendo) which comes near the end of the book is actually referenced from Chapter 3 onwards and to make the most of the book you need to refer forwards to it in order not to be caught in the trap this book aims to help you avoid - that of failing to engage with prospective customers.
Each chapter is organised in the same way - its theme is introduced and developed. Then come two interviews directly related to the topic. You may not always be familiar with the names of the interviewees but you will be aware of their products and websites. Here are the heroes of the Apple/mobile/web world and they are offering sound advice based on their own experience.
Ken Yarmosh's questions are carefully constructed so as to elicit relevant information in each case and they are invariably worth reading for inspiration and motivation, pointers to follow and pitfalls to avoid. At the end of the chapter there is a Recap section outlining what you are expected to have learned from it. This, and an extensive index, add to its usefulness.
The book has three sections starting with Strategy, which consists of three chapters aimed at those not yet embroiled in app construction. Chapter 1: You Have an App Idea .... Now What?, has a lot of useful information about the App Store and about alternative revenue models. Even if you are off the starting blocks with your app it is worth a read. Chapter 2: Finding Your Inner App starts with an examination of the various Apple touch devices, iPod, iPhone and iPad and their device-related features so that you can plan an app that takes full advantage of their capabilities. In Chapter 3: From Idea to Concept the main message is to start getting input and feedback from customers at an early stage.
The next three chapters are in the Development section. Chapter 4: For Hire: Identifying help is on the topic of getting together a team consisting of a product manager, designer and developer. It assumes, "Most likely you will take on the critical role of product manager ..." and it suggests that "Depending on your budget and time constraints you can work with independent contractors or an agency". Chapter 5: Getting a Working App covers both design and development of the app starting from its road-map. While thirteen pages are devoted to design, the shorter section on Development starts by saying:
"Getting into the details of programming may send chills through your body."
and after a couple of paragraphs on architecture and another couple on integration with external data sources it continues by suggesting using a hosted repository based on Subversion or Git and recommends using version control client software. Chapter 6:Making Your App Better Before It Reaches the App Store is about testing, quality assurance and feedback.
The final section, Launch, also has three chapters, the first being on App Store submission. As well as a checklist of the items you need and a discussion of the approval process it also covers analytics packages to help you understand what users do with your app. We've already mentioned Chapter 8 which focuses on marketing your app throughout its development process. It looks at how to create a buzz for the launch with a checklist and suggests ideas for additional promotion in the crucial 30 days of being in the App Store. Chapter 9: Measuring Success and Future Development looks at post-launch monitoring - both qualitative and quantitative - and emphasises the importance of listening to customers. It gives advice about the frequency of updates and points out that the decision to stop development on an app does not need to be considered a failure - all apps will experience ups and downs and will have different life spans.
Read in conjunction with the interviews, which are a highlight of this book, there is a great deal to be learned from this book about how to market an app to maximize its success. So read it early on in the app development process if you have a killer idea.