The Iconfactory has been around since before the App Store, but the launch of the App Store made a fundamental change at the company. Their iOS launch title, Twitterrific has seen more than one major overhaul in the five years it’s been available. It exists now as a great example of iOS application and user interface design. Iconfactory has also dipped a toe into game development early on releasing Frenzic in 2008 and Ramp Champ in 2009. Iconfactory games have seen, all together, over 3 million downloads in the App Store.
Let’s talk with Gedeon Maheux, Owner of the Iconfactory about the expanding a business into the App Store.
148Apps: How has the App Store changed The Iconfactory and your professional life?
Gedeon Maheux, Owner of The Iconfactory: The launch of the App Store fundamentally changed the Iconfactory in several important ways. It changed the focus of our internal software development, but it also expanded the services we offered to clients.
Before the App Store, our primary business was icon and interface design for the web, Mac and Windows. We had done some mobile design projects of course, but the launch of the App Store clearly had an effect on technology companies around the globe. Many of our existing clients started focusing on creating their own applications for the App Store and of course needed design services. Over the last 5 years the percentage of design work we do for 3rd party clients has shifted from the desktop and web to very heavily in the mobile category and almost 100% of that is for iOS. The App Store single-handedly launched a new revenue stream for the Iconfactory in this regard, to say nothing about the new breed of software we started to develop ourselves for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.
Before the App Store, we would consider a product successful if it reached something like 10,000 users on the Mac desktop. These days, typical downloads reach something like 100,000 to 500,000 users which is still incredible to me. These numbers are still low for blockbuster hits like Angry Birds and Doodle Jump which is even more astounding.
Professionally, the App Store has allowed me to stretch my design skills into new areas. It’s extremely satisfying to help a client bring realize their vision for a particular app and do it in a way that helps their creation stand out amongst the competition in the App Store. The basics of designing for iOS are the same – clarity, communication, strong concepts. It’s really just the size of the audience and the medium that’s changed and that’s give me and others here at the Iconfactory a renewed interest in our day-to-day jobs.
148Apps: In the five years since launch, the App Store has gone through considerable changes. The number of users has skyrocketed along with downloads, prices for paid apps has stabilized way lower than many expected, free to play has dominated the top grossing charts. If, knowing what you know about the App Store now, you could go back and influence your path five years ago, what would you say?
Gedeon Maheux: Hindsight as they say is 20/20 but looking back at it, I would definitely like to have created more apps quicker back in the early days. Back before there were so many apps that basically perform the same function in a given category and the fight for eyeballs in the App Store wasn’t so fierce. When Twitterrific launched with the App Store back in 2008, there was I think one other Twitter client in the store with it. Oh, how to have that focus on one’s creations today!
Additionally, I would have liked to try and foreseen the “race to the bottom” price-wise a little bit quicker than we did. When Twitterrific first launched it was priced at $10 which seemed perfectly reasonable back then. Today, users expect a whole lot more for less or even free which saddens me
personally both as a developer and a user. Software in general has been de-valued by the launch of the App Store which is something I’m not sure we’re ever going to be able to change. The genie is out of the bottle there to be sure, but if there was a way we, and other devs, could have communicated to customers the value of software back then better, maybe things would be different today, who knows.
148Apps: What have you seen on the App Store, outside of apps published by The Iconfactory, that has surprised you most?
Gedeon Maheux: Right off the bat the thing that has surprised me the most has been the sheer popularity of the App Store and apps in general. Just a few years ago users didn’t even know what an “app” was and today our iPhones are filled with them. Apple launched a whole new universe of productivity, entertainment and novelty with the App Store and every time I see folders full of apps on someone’s iDevice, I have to smile.
More specifically, I think the whole phase of one-off novelty apps that became popular there for a while, that surprised me a great deal. The rash of popular fart apps or magic trick apps like iBeer, etc. The popularity of those kinds of apps was astounding for a while, I think we’re past that now since its all been done, thank goodness.
It’s also been fascinating to see how monetization within apps, particularly games has evolved since the launch of the App Store, and not always in a good way. Micro-payments to satisfy a user’s need for instant gratification has made some developers rich instead of designing the best possible gaming experience.
148Apps: Any predictions on what the App Store will be like five years from now?
Gedeon Maheux: Hopefully bigger, better and 1000x easier to find what you’re looking for. It’s a real chore right now to get noticed or to even be found in the massive hallways that make up Apple’s App Store. I’m really hoping they devote some serious resources to improving search algorithms and move away from the “Top of the charts” mentality we’ve seen since its launch. There are so many great apps in the store that users simply don’t know about simply because they cannot find them. They’ll never be featured and they’ll never be in the Top 25 but that doesn’t mean they’re not wonderful apps.
I also suspect we’ll have a new section of the App Store for Apple TV and iWatch apps? A dev can dream, can’t he?
Thanks to Gedeon Maheux for his time.