With the release of the new Swift language for Mac developers, I am now interested in trying out app development for iOS and OS X. With thousands of apps out there though, is there room for new apps?
The App Store is five years old this year. Since it started its life as a platform for the distribution of apps to iOS devices, we've seen a few big hits in terms of well executed apps over the years. I don't think there is one true killer app that has made the App Store what it is, but over time there has definitely been a number of niche apps that have been popular with a particular group of people.
People talk about the simple ideas that took the App Store by storm like Angry Birds, Flight Control and others. Yes, they seem simple ideas, but there is still a fair amount of work involved in building and shipping an app. I'm not expecting to publish a game changing app right away, but I do want to start building my experience in the world of app development.
At the start of the week Apple unveiled a new programming language for developers who want to build apps for iOS devices or Macs. It's called Swift. As someone who has made a number of false starts on iOS development over the last couple of years, I welcome the new language. In the past I have looked at Objective-C which was the only true language to use to build iOS apps. When I seen its syntax I was always turned off by it. With time I could learn about the language, but just as I was starting out I always ended up trashing the idea. With the new Swift programming language though I think I'm ready now to start building apps for iOS and the Mac.
Now the tricky part. An idea. Are there any good ideas for apps left? I've been pondering on this for a couple of days now and it's led me to a number of sources for ideas for new apps.
Make something easier
There are many apps out there that simply try to make something easier to do. I haven't came across many that I thought did this well, but there are thousands that started out this way. The problem with starting an app from this view is that it's only easier from your angle. Yes, there will be others that will share the same view, but will there be enough people who share your view to warrant building the easier app?
Make a better shop window
The Internet is a vast source of information and services. Everyday new services are added for people to use and many of them start with basic web sites to get going. When Twitter started, a developer in the UK seen an opportunity to make interacting with Twitter easier for people. The Twitter user interface was a single timeline that everyone followed, but seeing your messages or mentions meant changing screens. TweetDeck was born and it became an instant success with it's better interface to using Twitter.
Making a better shop window to a particular service is hard work and is probably out of my reach in terms of skills. It means designing something better, and while I might be able to put together well crafted web page, the thought of trying to create a better interface for a particular service sounds like a rather daunting task.
It would also need to be a service that I use on a frequent basis, but seeing as most of the services I use already have good to excellent apps that let me interact with them, then the challenge to make a better interface is that much harder.
Scratch an itch
Perhaps the easiest source of making an app comes from scratching your own itch. If making thousands of dollars isn't your end goal when making an app, then this is where to start. Building an app that serves a purpose for yourself and gives you the experience to build better apps in the future.
An iOS/OS X client for Journalong is something I've had in mind for a year now, but there's always been obstacles in the way. Now with a growing interest in Swift, I might just have the motivation to start building something.
I'm never going to produce the next killer app, but perhaps shipping something that serves my own purpose first is enough of a step on the road to building more apps in the future.