1. Can you tell us a little about your background? How did you get into app development?
I worked for over 15 years in an IT Office Desk job, and in my own time had always enjoyed tinkering around with computers and character animation. I decided to follow my passion of creating characters and stories, and app development enabled me to bring them to life and then get them out to the world for people to enjoy.
2. What are your current thoughts on the mobile app industry, and what do you predict for the future?
Wow, what a boom it has been! It is pretty mind blowing at the sheer number of apps available and the vast diversity in offerings. I think it is fantastic that through a single, portable device, people have the ability to socialize, access information, be entertained, or shop; all via apps.
In the future, I think we will continue to see an increase in the recent trend of large Organizations entering the scene, as they have cottoned on to how popular the app industry is. In the Kids app space, we have seen an increase in large companies releasing brands into the market, and I think this will increase.
3. If you could change one thing about the app industry, what would it be?
It’s so easy for a brilliant app to get lost amongst the vast ‘app ocean’ that exists, and it’s only getting bigger!
I’d like to see smaller development companies getting higher exposure via avenues such as the App Store. Sections such as ‘Featured Apps’ in the App Store are not generally geared towards apps by smaller developers with limited resources behind them.
4. How do you decide on which app idea to build next? Do you test the market to make sure it’s ready for the idea before you begin programming?
At the moment we are working hard on the Cheg and Boomer series of Interactive Story Books, and we have quite a few books in the pipeline. For us, deciding on the next Story Book app to build is based on which Character we want to put the spotlight on. With each Story Book App, we will feature one of the six Characters in the Cheg and Boomer crew as the main star. This allows us to display the unique personalities of all of our characters to kids and allow them to see how these differing personalities can work and have fun together.
5. What features or characteristics does an idea for an app need to have for it to peak your interest?
Relating it to Story Book apps for kids, for me an idea needs to start with a really good story. Story is key and I believe an interactive app should be built around a good story, and not the other way around.
Interesting characters are very important, as you need to be able to relate to them and be excited and enthused about them and this also really helps drive creativity during the development process.
Having a four year old son myself (who LOVES playing with apps!), I often think to myself “would he and other kids like this idea/interactive scene/character/humour?”. Kids are our audience, so it is important for us that an app idea will peak their interest!
6. Can you tell us a little about your latest app, “Boomer’s Birthday Surprise”? Where did the idea come from?
“Boomer’s Birthday Surprise” in a 16 page Interactive Story Book for Kids, aimed at 5 year olds and under.
We’ve packed in over 100 interactive animations and sound effects, as well as a ‘Find the Items’ game on each page, so the Kids can not only enjoy the story but be involved as well. The book is fully narrated, and also has word highlighting to help build beginner reading skills. Original music, characters and artwork have also been used throughout.
The idea came from remembering how very important Birthdays were to me as a Kid. It was that special day of the year where you are the centre of attention for a whole day!! We thought it would be great to have a story relating to this, with a twist, and feature Boomer as the main character for the book.
7. Why did you choose to develop this app specifically for the iPad?
We’ve tended to use Apple products at work and at home, and our development tools at the moment tend to make it easier to develop for the iPad. Our HD graphics and coloring also look particularly good on Apple’s retina display. We’ll be looking at releases for other platforms down the track, as the other platforms are also exciting and powerful.
8. Once you’re happy with your completed app, do you have a process you follow for a successful launch?
Still being relatively new to the scene ourselves, we are definitely still learning and exploring the best approach for this, particularly in the marketing space. One area we are very strict on is the testing and robustness of apps before they are made available to the public. We feel that seeing people will be paying money for the apps, and that Kids will want to enjoy the interactive experience, we want the product to be as professional and bug free as possible, even if this means it takes us longer to develop and launch.
9. How much time and effort do you put into marketing your apps once the ‘launch phase’ is over?
A fair amount of effort, but still not enough! Marketing is a huge part of releasing an app, more than many people think and is something that should start early in the whole process.
It certainly opened our eyes as to how important marketing is and the effort it takes. As previously mentioned, a good app can drift off into the depths of the ‘app ocean’ and not get the attention\exposure it deserves if no one actually knows about it existing.
For the launch of our next Story Book, we’ll definitely start marketing at earlier stages.
10. If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring mobile app developers, what would it be?
Keep your eye on the prize. It can be a tough slog developing apps, especially if doing it in your own spare time, or with limited resources. You have to keep believing in your product, and just keep pushing through obstacles\challenges that pop up in your way. Also, don’t be intimidated by competition, just ensure your app has something unique that will appeal to others. Make sure you love your app, and then tell people why you love it!
11. What’s next for you?
We will keep developing and releasing the upcoming Story Books in the Cheg and Boomer series, and in between, look at also releasing a game app relating to the series. Beyond that, I’d like to explore further into a set of Characters I’ve developed for Kids aged 5 and above.
Other activities along the way include researching and playing around with newer development tools and methods that can improve our internal processes, and enable us to add more functionality to our apps and therefore fun for the Kids!
Twitter: @chegandboomer and @coxdamo