The Development of Agendas

Recently, I introduced my first app to the iTunes App Store. It’s called Agendas and it’s designed to make meetings and classrooms more productive. Feel free to check it out. The whole process has been thrilling.

When I tell people that I’ve just put in an app on the app store, I’m usually asked a question along these lines:

“Is it an app you developed?”

I never know how to answer that question.

Right now on the app store, it seems that the word “developer” is interchangeable with “coder”. In fact, to many that is the beauty of the App Store. Someone codes an app, uploads the binary, and Apple does the rest. Hosting, distribution, licensing and sometimes promotion are all taken care of by the service of the App Store. But I didn’t code the app.

When I started molding Agendas in my mind and in Xcode, I saw very quickly that I wasn’t going to have the skills to make it work the way I wanted it to work. I could turn out something ugly…but it would be ugly.  Learning what I wanted to do would take a long time. It would be so long that I felt like it’d put me past my opportunity window. It was obvious I needed to find help on the project. But if I hired someone, would they care about the app as much as I do? Would I feel like a fraud “developer?”

I made the decision that to get it where I wanted it to be, it needed to be more than just me. My plan was to look at the work of people I respect and approach them directly. (Even if they are bombarded with “good ideas” all the time.)

In an encouraging turn of fate, one month later my favorite marketer Seth Godin put up a post that detailed an iPad “killer app.” He proposed an app for fixing meetings. He had some great ideas that I knew I’d want to incorporate (and also a few that I wanted to avoid. More on that in a later post.) More importantly, he confirmed that there was a market for this sort of an app. I wrote to Seth and we exchanged some advice. The idea was forming well.

When it came to the icon, I knew there was just one place I could go for for that. I have always loved the work of Marc Edwards overat (That’s his Consume icon to the right.) Marc is a customer with my company Macminicolo and he and I have become friends over the years. I put together some sketches of how the app should look and then I asked him if he would help me create an icon for Agendas. He accepted, worked his magic, then delivered a product that was everything I hoped it would be. Already, I knew I made the right decision to decide the parts I needed help on and then go to the best in the field.

I knew that getting the right designer and coder was critical. Again, I had sketches of what I wanted the app to look like and what I wanted it to do, but needed someone that could see it the same way I did.

I went to my iPad and to the App Store and started pouring over the apps with great design. I narrowed it down to a couple apps, then went looking for the developers of the app. This is easier said than done. Many of these apps are released by one company, but created by another company.

I eventually decided on  Black Pixel, an expert company in Seattle, WA. I checked with some friends I have at Apple and some past contacts and everyone spoke very highly of the team at Black Pixel. (Both as individuals and as a team.) I also remembered reading an article by Chris Clark which I loved. He is the designer at Black Pixel and sweats the small details. That’s exactly the guy I want to work with on this project.

Finally, I saw that their recently released iPhone app called Bistromath had the same peer-to-peer technology that would be needed with Agendas. It seemed to be a field they were comfortable with working in.

I reached out to Black Pixel, worked out the details, and we decided to go forward with the idea. Over the next few months, there was a lot of back and forth on details, design and implementation. It was rewarding and great. I highly recommend them. 

And now, here we are a few months later with a finished application. Agendas is on the app store available for sale

So, back to the original question. Is this an app I developed?

My response has been, “Yes. It’s been a great team effort.”

I feel comfortable giving that answer and don’t feel it’s misleading at all. It took the expertise of a lot of people, including my work to get the best of the best together on the project. 

I think this situation will become more and more common as companies and people put great apps together. And if my opinion means anything, I say it’s fine to be a “developer” if your role helped the app get developed.