Archive for August, 2009

Advertising with Google AdWords

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Check it out, I made an ad! Don’t worry, I’m not putting ads on this website. My readership is too small (hi, Tracy!) to make that worthwhile but this is a picture of what my Google AdWords ad looks like on other people’s sites.

I haven’t done much advertising of my apps in the past because I wasn’t sure if it’d be worth it. After Apple’s fees, various banking fees, taxes, etc. … I get about 50 cents for each of my 99 cent apps. That’s great because I don’t really have any costs, it’s all profit.

So just how expensive would advertising be? Well, rates vary but it’s roughly a penny per time someone clicks on an ad. But just getting someone to click on an ad doesn’t make me any money. They actually have to buy my app in order to generate some revenue. Then the question becomes, how many people that click on the ad actually end up buying the app? If it’s like 10% of the people (spend 10 cents to make 50 cents), then that’s pretty good. If it’s 1% (spend $1 to make 50 cents), that’s not so good.

My guess is that it’s a lot closer to 1% than 10% so I haven’t bothered to advertise before. But just recently, Google did a promotion offering $100 worth of free advertising if I signed up. So I figured, hey, I’ll give it a shot and find out if it’s worth it.

Oh, and if you’re one of those people that came to my site from clicking on the ad, welcome! I’d love to hear your thoughts on the ad. Did you buy Mach Dice? Also, take a look at Holograms, an app that lets you turn pictures into virtual holograms!

5 Minutes Per App

Friday, August 28th, 2009

Apple recently answered a number of questions from the FCC about their iPhone app approval process and one of the things they revealed was that they get roughly 8500 submissions every week and they have about 40 full time employees working in pairs to review each of those submissions. So, if they spend about 7 hours a day reviewing apps (giving them some time for lunch, meetings, etc.) that means they spend an average of 5 minutes to decide if your app is acceptable or not. Wow. I guess it’s a good argument for trying to keep your apps simple.

Mass Market vs. Geek Market

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Last week, David Winograd from The Unofficial Apple Weblog wrote an article about my app, Holograms. He wasn’t altogether happy with the app but it did generate a fair amount of publicity, putting Holograms briefly in the top 100 among Entertainment apps. His chief complaint was that he couldn’t figure out how to use it. I think that’s fair. I wrote the app because I thought the idea was cool, it’s not the sort of thing that everyone’s going to get.

On a related note, some guy recently went on a rant about Apple fanboys and fangirls basically chiding them for supporting a non-”open source” platform. I suspect that he exaggerated his real opinion in order to make a point, but he makes an interesting argument which is that open source is good and everything should be more like that.

So what do these two things have in common? I think there’s a fundamental difference between what appeals to those of us that are geeks and what is successful in the mass market. Google Android is essentially an open source version of iPhone, which one’s more popular? And Holograms is definitely a geek app, which will probably only ever appeal to a niche market.

I recently saw Wordplay, a fantastic documentary about crossword puzzles. (Yeah, you heard me: crossword puzzles; you should check it out!) In it, Will Shortz, the editor of the NY Times crosswords, was talking about his experience of innovating the puzzles early in his career and of the many angry letters he received because of it. He had a great quote, “You can’t do something interesting without turning off some people.”

Boom Dice Pause Button, Take 2

Monday, August 24th, 2009

I blogged about my pause button for Boom Dice earlier and the general necessity of having one. But after looking at it for a while and asking friends about it, I decided to re-design it. The original intent was to make the tabs at the top look like they were coming in on levers and that the pause button was resting on top of that. Unfortunately, it wasn’t very clear that it was a button instead of just some random decoration. So I switched it to a simpler, cleaner design which I actually like better. It just goes to show the importance of testing everything, especially user interfaces.

Making Thousands from an $800 iPhone App

Friday, August 21st, 2009

My friend Jessica Abroms was recently written up in an article about her and her success with her iPhone app based on a game little girls play called M.A.S.H. (Okay, I admit, I played this too but most of my cousins were girls and so were a lot of my friends.) It’s a great read for anyone interested in making apps. Two of the big points in the article were that she contracted out part of the work and that she hit upon a simple idea that other people were looking for.

The article mentions that Jessica found a programmer through elance.com. I’ve never used them but she seemed to have a good experience with them. Paying someone you don’t know $500 for an app whose future is uncertain is definitely a gamble. (For example, Boom Dice has made less than a third of that, although I’m hoping that’ll change once I’m done with the next update.) But if you don’t have the time or the technical know-how, it’s another option.

Another important point is that the success of an app is completely dependent on how likely it is for people to find it. One way to make that easier is marketing and publicity, two things that I don’t really focus on. But neither did Jessica. So how did she find success? She based an app on something that people were likely to search for on their own. In a way, that’s like a perpetual form of marketing that’s free. Of course, if you think of an app that people are already searching for, then someone else has probably already done so. You just have to make yours better…

Mach Dice 1 Year Anniversary!

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

So among all this recent Holograms excitement, I almost forgot: today is the one year anniversary of Mach Dice being on the iTunes Store! It’s been a great experience creating the app and getting it out there. But the most rewarding part of it is hearing from people that enjoy using it. I just got an email from Joe Carlson who authored and runs a game called Serial Pulp Adventures and it just made my day:

I just got back from Gen Con, (still trying to catch up on sleep), and wanted to let you know that at the RPG tables I ran and played at, I saw 3 separate people, not including myself, using MachDice. Every time it started a, “what’s that?” discussion, which then lead to a, “wow, that’s freakin’ awesome” comment.

People used my app at Gen Con! Woohoo! Not bad, little Mach Dice, not bad. Happy Birthday.

Hologram Videos

Monday, August 17th, 2009

Over the last few days, a few people have made videos using my Holograms iPhone app. The first one is from iPod Touch Lab in Japan:

The second one is from iAplicacion and they take a slightly different approach to demoing Holograms:

Following the Website Trail

Friday, August 14th, 2009

On Wednesday, Jorge Cala, another iPhone app developer and fan of Holograms submitted my post about how the Woz liked Holograms to a bunch of websites. I’m not sure why he did that but it was very cool of him. (Thanks, Jorge!) It was neat seeing the various websites pinging back to that article over the course of the next couple days. Most of them seemed to be copies of one article but there was also a neat Japanese one that included an original demo video showing Holograms with a Rubik’s cube! I’m not that good at reading Japanese but based on Google Translate, it looks like they liked it. =)

「iPod touch ラボ」の皆様、MachWerxへようこそ!どうぞ宜しく! ^_^

Following the Twitter Trail

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

Of my three apps (Mach Dice, Boom Dice, and Holograms), Mach Dice is the biggest seller. People really like rolling the dice… =) Holograms consistently sells about seven units a day. But Monday saw 16 sales of Holograms. It was a bit curious, so I checked my website logs. Normally, I get about 60 visitors a day. But on Monday, I had 180 visitors. (Greetings, new visitors!)

So I checked through the logs and noticed quite a few referrals from twitter. The links weren’t specific, they were things like http://twitter.com because people just use the main page to read their own feeds. But with a little searching, I found the trail of twitterings that lead people to the site. First there was BestSecrets (28 followers) at 7:04 am on August 5:

Virtual Holograms in the iPhone: Ok… it’s not actually real holograms, but if you want an App to show off you .. http://bit.ly/6FMyt

Then there was Apple Tweets (13,709 followers) at 3:00 am a few days later, August 10:

Covert your photos on your iPhone into Holograms with – Holograms 1.0 for the iPhone … http://bit.ly/2vSF6n

That kicked off a couple of retweets: tec_y_man (72 followers) at 4:11 am, lansulaiman (31 followers) at 5:57 am, IanYorston (283 followers) at 11:10 am. Nothing earth-shattering, but it was neat seeing the trail of twitters. Speaking of which, you should follow me on twitter here.

(Okay, honestly, my twitter isn’t really all that fascinating. I just included that last bit as an experiment.)

Boom Dice Pause Button

Monday, August 10th, 2009

Over the weekend, I did a little more work on Boom Dice including creating graphics for a pause button. Can you spot it in the screenshot? It’s funny, I’ve noticed that just about every game on the iPhone has a pause button somewhere. Why? Because there’s no keyboard or standard escape button on the device.