I love this post from swiftjectivec.com.
Not only does he detail the interesting stories of some old apps he made, but also the valuable lessons learned from each app that he shipped.
Aim first, then shoot. “Ask yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing and channel your excitement into less action and more thinking before you fire away.”
Pace yourself and don’t complicate. “Take time to learn about design and holy moses don’t toss in an open source project just because it’s shiny.”
There is no overnight success. “Always remember that character is carved out rather than instantly created. Each of these misses can eventually add up to a win.”
My own lessons
Applying the same thought process to my own old sucky apps, here is what I come up with…
Where in the World is Santa Claus?
Ignorance is bliss. I genuinely thought it would be easy to make an augmented reality Santa tracker as my very first iPhone app. Who cared that built-in AR support on the iPhone was years in the future?
I understood that I’d have to learn Objective-C and Xcode as I went. However, I did not appreciate how much there was to learn about location APIs, motion APIs, audio APIs, audio editing, 2D animations, CoreData, the State Pattern, linear algebra 🤯, the terrors (at the time) of shipping in the App Store, plus legal/privacy matters. Also why not translate the app into six languages, starting with Spanish?
And all just to see Santa blink on your screen when you pointed your iPhone north. 😆
My blissful ignorance allowed me to jump in fearlessly and forced me to conquer a mountain of challenges as I went (or quit).
This app only ever sold a few hundred copies but was a goldmine of experience and made me a mobile developer.
Simpler is better. App #2 was more useful and less technically challenging than the AR Santa app. Bedtime Balloons let me get into some fun art and more interesting animations. Plus this app actually made a difference in at least a few people’s lives.
Third-party frameworks can kill your app. At the time, there was no standard 2D animation engine for iOS. SpriteKit was not a thing yet. 🤷🏻♂️ So just like the Santa app, I built the animations around the very nice Cocos2d engine, which would eventually morph and evolve and… break my app. 🤦🏻♂️ Yeah, I could have rewritten my app, but again only selling a few hundred copies, I chose to avoid all the sweat and tears and just move on.
Continuous Math Cards
Be practical. I never expected to sell many copies of my barebones but highly configurable math flashcards app for kids.
Written quickly in the new (at the time) Swift language, the app was alright. 🤷🏻♂️ But it worked for me professionally. My next step would be a full-time day job as an app developer, which had long been my dream.