Steffi and Jonas and the Problem of Picking Places for Lunch
In my pursuit of compelling stories about successful App Makers, I ran into Steffi and Jonas during my 3-week retreat in Portugal. They are both web developers from Berlin (Germany) and decided to create an app together. What makes them and their app successful?
Tell me something about yourself, who are you and what kind of work do you do?
Steffi: “My name is Steffi and I’ve been freelancing for 7 years now as a web developer, mostly front-end work.”
Jonas: “I’m Jonas, a web developer. I’m doing web apps for 8 years now and always wanted to do an app for the App Store.”
Did you work together before and how did you decide to work together?
Steffi: “Yeah. We know each other from university and we’ve worked together for a design agency and software companies, being colleagues freelancing at the same companies. Both our contracts with this particular client ended, so we decided to do something together. It is appealing to have your own app, your own thing. I wouldn’t mind working for freelance clients on the side and I like working with them. But it would be nice to sort of have your own thing.”
Jonas: “It was always my plan to start my own project and work on that. I see this app as trying what’s working and what’s not and maybe I’ll transition from freelancing to my own business.”
Jonas, would you say you’re changing from web development to developing apps?
Jonas: “I like the web stack [toolsets and technologies for making websites] and I didn’t like Objective-C, but I wouldn’t mind if I see the benefit of it. Everything I can do is web solutions, I’ve always done that. But if there’s need, for say performance reasons, I wouldn’t mind to dive into Objective-C.”
Tell me about the app concept you are working on!
Steffi: “It is a small app that helps you decide where to go to lunch, in a group. We both experienced the hassle of deciding in a group where to go, at our agencies and offices. People always get together and discuss where to go. We thought it would be a nice way to be fair and fun, making a game out of that. What the app will hopefully do in the future is getting a group together really fast and without too much interaction. It’s GPS-based, so that’s what makes the grouping. And then based on the profiles of each member there will be a decision made for a restaurant or place to go for lunch, sort of like roulette or a game of dice.”
Did you decide on a name for the app?
Jonas: “No, we’re still in that process. We’re trying to find a name that doesn’t suggest it is only about luck, but about each group members actual preference.”
Steffi: “We don’t want to use the word lunch, because it could be about dinner at night or drinks or going partying. I feel it needs to say something about the group decision process, so people understand it’s not about finding new places but about deciding on places you already know.”
What would you say, is the most important element in the success of your app?
Jonas: “For me the app is already a success because I learned so many things doing it. It is my first app I am putting in the App Store. Like I said it is a transition phase for me and it is kind of like a playing field for me, so I can learn new stuff and I find it less important that it is financially successful. I wouldn’t mind though!”
Steffi: “I would say the same. However, I haven’t been involved technically as much as Jonas. I’ve seen the process of building a web app and building that in a wrapper, so I understand that process much better now. Also, it was really easy to do. There wasn’t much extra programming or configurations needed, yet. Also for me it is nice to get into state of conceptualizing and thinking about my own project, instead of just finding a solution for a clients product. A client always says I want this and this and that, and you just deliver. And now it is more creative. The other day we were chatting with our designer friend back in Berlin for two hours and it was really nice because we had all these ideas and we were thinking and talking about them. That was fun! I think the app will be successful when we market it well. People know the problem it solves, once you tell them, they’re like oh aha yes!. I could see it being successful because we know a lot of people that understand the problem it solves, and they might know people, and then it could go viral.”
Could you tell a little bit about the technology you used for the app?
Jonas: “It is a web app wrapped into PhoneGap and the web app is basically HTML5 stuff on the client-side and NodeJS on the server-side. On the client we use Backbone.js, that is an MVC-framework. And we use WebSockets to communicate with the server, and of course Geolocation data for the grouping.”
Would you recommend this toolset to others?
Jonas: “I really like the WebSockets, because it is really fast. Before you had to rely on polling [asking a server for updates of data] and that is not a problem with WebSockets any more. It is a bi-directional protocol, the server can update the client on its own without the client asking for updates. It is event-driven communication.”
If you could give one piece of advice to future aspiring App Makers, what would it be?
Steffi: “Just go for it! Know that the second approach will always be better than the first. After your first attempt, just throw it away and start over. You learn a lot by doing that.”
Jonas: “I would advise to think first about getting the app functioning and make it better afterwards. If you go for duct tape driven development [clever one!] you see results very quickly and that is motivating to keep on going. You can motivate yourself when you see your idea is working.”
Reinder: “Cool, thanks very much!”
By the time of writing, Steffi’s and Jonas’ app is not yet in the App Store. However, they’re hustling hard to get it there, while I’m writing this. Once it’s in the App Store, make sure you get a copy to see where their app endeavors have taken them!
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