Ever wonder what it's really like to develop your first app? Meet John Clancy from Crop Duster Media. In this interview, John answers our questions and offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into what it was like to create Wake Smarter – The Voice Controlled Alarm Clock and get it released into the App Store.
AppCraver: Tell us a little about your or your company. What is your background?
John Clancy: Crop Duster Media is a small start up company with the goal of producing premium apps for the iPhone and iPad as well as interactive websites and business software. I started this company because I have a passion for building applications and websites that provide a profound and thrilling user experience. I have worked extensively in the tech field and I just thought it was about time that I produced something that I wanted and the only way to do that was to create my own company to do it.
AC: Wake Smarter – The Voice Controlled Alarm Clock is your first app. Why did you want to start developing for the iPhone and iPad?
JC: Yes its is. I consider myself to be an uncompromising perfectionist when it comes to code and design and I get pure joy from the multi-touch experience which Apple has perfected, so naturally I gravitated towards developing for their products. I’m a big fan of everything Apple.
AC: Tell us about your app. How did you get the idea?
JC: Wake Smarter is the first voice-controlled alarm clock for the iPhone, iPod Touch & iPad. You can use your voice to set alarms, ask for the news or weather, play music, listen to your Twitter & Facebook feeds and more. It lets you customize your alarm with the information that you want to hear, when you want to hear it.
I came up with the idea for Wake Smarter simply because of my inability to get up in the morning. Like many people, I am not a morning person. So, I thought ”how can I make waking up more enjoyable”. I was basically looking for a “bedside butler” who could take care of me in the morning and ensure that I actually get up. I don’t have the money to hire a real butler and I couldn’t find anything in the app store that came close to what I wanted, so I decided to start my own company and create my own app.
AC: How is this app different from similar apps?
JC: The app features “Siri-like” functionality but focuses specifically on how speech interaction can enhance the alarm clock experience. And although the app is voice activated, which is cool, the key benefit is that it is highly customizable to suit anyone’s morning ritual so you can choose exactly what you hear when your alarm activates. For instance, I set my alarm to ease me awake with soft ambient music for a few minutes, followed by the latest football scores, the traffic report, the weather, and then a list of birthday reminders and my Facebook feeds. And just before I get in the shower, I tell it to play my favorite classic rock radio station so I have some music in the background. Basically, you can set your alarm in any order you want and with as much content as you choose! I mean, who can beat that?
AC: How did you choose your pricing model -- ad-supported vs. freemium vs. paid? What influenced your decision?
JC: This app uses the most state-of-the-art speech technology available (and I think the coolest!). However, this was the biggest influence on pricing because I had to pay for the speech recognition software. This is really sophisticated technology that I simply could not replicate so I had to licence it. Therefore I had to take into consideration these fees when setting the price for the app. That being said, I also wanted to sell the app at a reasonable and accessible price. Considering the amount of cool features and functionality that you get with Wake Smarter, I truly believe that $2.99 is a very small price to pay.
AC: Do you have experience developing for other platforms? How does it compare to the iOS development process?
JC: No I don’t but considering that Android is so popular I am going to most definitely explore my options there.
AC: How long did it take to get your app from idea to App Store?
JC: It took about 6 months.
AC: What was the biggest challenge you faced while creating this app?
John Clancy: The biggest challenge was to hold back on all of the features that I originally wanted to jam into the app. I had to really focus on core functionality and let some of my ideas go because the app would have been just too heavy and difficult to manage from a UI perspective. I think that I came up with a great compromise though and all the key features that I first envisaged got into the app. Feedback from users is key and that will help us to decide what needs to be added in future releases.
AC: What was the best advice you received while developing your app? Where did it come from?
JC: The best advice that I received came from, ahem, my mom. Yes, my mom! I used her to test the beta version of the app. I thought ”She’s a mom. Who better to test this app than someone with no experience with apps”. And, wow, did she surprise me. She was the one who provided me with the best feedback and was the one to convince me to hold back on some of the functionality that I wanted to include. Her reasoning was spot on. Who woulda thought!
AC: Looking back on this experience, if you knew then what you know now would you do anything differently?
JC: Yes. I think I would have created a more concrete project plan with milestones and timelines to keep me on track. I was fairly organized (at least I thought) and it wasn’t that bad of an experience really but you can always do things better, right.
AC: Do you have any future plans for this app? Where do you see it a year from now?
JC: Future plans for Wake Smarter are simply to just keep making it better. I will use feedback from users to continue to perfect the user experience and to add new features. As a matter of fact we have a new release coming out at the end of March that was directly attributable to user feedback. In a year from now, I see our app at the top of the charts in our category in the app store.
AC: Besides your own of course, what is your favorite app right now?
AC: What apps do you consider essential to your day-to-day life? Why?
JC: Dropbox because it allows me to access my files from any device. Facebook and Twitter because I like keeping in touch.
AC: Do you have any new apps in development? What can we expect to see from your company in the near future?
JC: Yes, I am about to launch Mosaic Me, a new app that lets you create mosaic pictures in a unique way. I am also just about to launch a new website called Woopdido.com, which allows visitors to showcase their talent and challenge others at the same time. I’ll have an app to go along with this site too. Stay tuned.
AC: Any last words? What else would you like our readers to know about your company?
JC: I love surrounding myself with creative people. I love fresh, new ideas. I love collaboration.
Wake Smarter, Mosaic Me and Woopdido were all born from ideas that were produced because of my experiences but it was the people around me that helped drive the development and form the final products. If anyone wants to contact me with ideas, feedback or offers of collaboration I am always open to it. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
John Clancy from Crop Duster Media offered some interesting insight into their development process. If you enjoyed this interview, Please take a moment to thank them by sending a message on Twitter or share this article with a friend to spread the word about their apps. If you have additional questions, ask them in the comments and we'll get you the answers!
Find John Clancy at Crop Duster Media
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