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Despite all plans

Early in July I graduated with a degree in communication design and finally ended my studies at the art academy in Stuttgart after seven very instructive years. (There is a video of my diploma thesis presentation—but it's in german.) A long period of my life ended and a new one just had begun. I was just continuing all the preparations to start working full-time as an "Indie-Developer".

Well, despite all plans things turned out differently: I was offered a job within the first two weeks after my diploma presentation. I was flattered, but I really didn’t like the idea that much. Nonetheless I decided to get to know the company and the people working there. The offered job surprisingly sounded like it was all about the stuff I love to do. So I went for another interview and I started feeling comfortable with the idea to give it a shot. I really liked the people in the first place and the work seemed very interesting and multifaceted.

What could I have wished for more?

Initially it somehow felt wrong to leave my laid out path of becoming an „Indie-Developer“. After a while this feeling changed and now I’m pretty curious and decided to take the chance. There is so much to learn right now after finishing my studies and this looks like a great opportunity to me. I’m looking forward to learn as much as I can, working in a lot of different and partially pretty large-scale projects, that I otherwise never would have had the chance to work on.

Being able to focus on the work I love the most, leaving all the book keeping stuff behind me, enjoying financial safety and knowing to be able to get back on the indie-road somewhere in the future if I want to, seems just wonderful to me right now.

I’m very happy to not have been stubborn this time (it happens every once in a while) and took the chance on a very exciting opportunity.

Can’t wait to see how it will turn out.

P.S. I just visited my first developer conference several weeks ago. It was the macoun developer conference in Frankfurt and I found it a very enjoyable occasion. I met interesting people there, enjoyed the talks and just had a great time.

Note to myself: It’s always good to leave the screen for a while and jump right into a group of very likable nerds.

Per user experience

Everybody perceives differently. This makes software not having one user experience, but one per every user. – This changed the way I was thinking about user experience.

It is pretty obvious to me that there cannot be one universal solution to that many different perceptions. In my eyes it is only possible to approach a solution for this problem and because our perception changes over time this approach can always be improved.

My conclusion: Trying to achieve a great user experience is a never ending story and a very interesting challenge. But it is always worth the work, because great user experience makes software intriguing and it is a direct connection between user and software. The stronger the better.

Lessons learned

Michael Simmons gave me his advice:

"And I hope you will remember my biggest advice: writing blog posts won't help you ship apps ;)"
Twitter, March 29th

Thank you again! – And I am happy to announce the beta test for the next version of filmlog. So if you are interested in helping me to find more bugs and give me some feedback just drop me your e-mail right here. (Testing requires iOS 8) – I will be very happy to send you an invite instantly.

The awkward gap

In my opinion there is an awkward gap between how software works and the way it is used.

I noticed that software to most non-programmers is a mysterious, magical or stupid thing. This often leads to exaggerated assumptions of how easy or difficult it is to build software.

Which leads me to a courageous thesis: Non-programming people cannot evaluate the complexity, power and quality of software beyond their user experience.

Drawing a conclusion: Great software is all about great user experience!

This thought radically changed the way I am thinking about code. Whatsoever great code is considered to be – in the end there is only one thing that counts: your software has to be useable and useful. Even better: if your software is actually fun to use, you definitely nailed it!

So what are the most important criteria for great user experience?

Being loud and memorable!

This is about my journey to become an "Indie-Developer".

Every time I hear myself saying: "I would love to become an 'Indie-Developer'!" this literally sounds to me like: "When I grow up, I would love to become an astronaut!" – Which even to me sounds a little bit stupid… So what are the reasons to follow this path anyhow?
I am very interested in making a living from a job that I love, enables me to develop myself and learn something new everyday. Having the possibility to create tools that enrich some people's lifes is deeply fascinating. To start from an idea, shaping that idea in design and code, iterating the idea until it comes to an interesting point, building a story around the app, is one of the most fun and challenging things I have been doing in my life so far. That’s why!

What happened so far?

I started to learn Objective-C about seven years ago (this were the good old times of manual reference counting). It took me two years until I shipped my first app in 2010, which was more an experiment than an useful thing. The app was only downloaded two times. – It actually felt great nonetheless, but I also learned that just publishing an app doesn't mean something after all and that success is obviously the result of a long and windy road.

In 2011 my brother and I were really annoyed by the possibilities available to communicate over the internet. We wanted to use a messenger, that actually cares about our privacy, doesn't make its money with personal data that is required at sign up, doesn't show advertising, let's easily send messages without the requirement of the other contact to be online (Skype back then was only sending messages to online contacts), continuing conversations no matter which device you're using at the moment (never got so far…) and being dead simple to use.
We couldn't find a suitable product back then, so we decided to start a small company and began developing a messenger service. – In summary: we succeeded on a crowdfunding campaign, worked in our spare time, shipped 1.0 just in time (October 2012), funded the project with donations and sponsoreships, learned a lot from maintaining a 24/7 service and keeping an iOS app up to date, added end-to-end encryption in early 2014 and finally decided to kill it in winter of 2014, because of our still very short range, running out of money and our in the meantime drastically reduced spare time. – This was a quite sad experience to stop working on a project after 3 years. Finally I learned a lot and in the end it freed up so much time and energy that it was a relieve for me as well.

In 2013 I developed and shipped another app called "filmlog" – I tried to take a simple task and make the app solve it: remembering movies I would like to see, adding notes to movies I have already seen. I tried to create some buzz about my app, but it wasn't very effective. – In 2014 I shipped another app called "auricular" – it is a tool to learn and train aural intervals, which is a necessity for all music students. This time I did way better then a year ago, but there was one big problem:

I was still feeling like a beginner and the fear that someone could actually find out that I was making it all up, which then would kill my long-held dream, made me stay mostly quiet about my apps.

I am going to change this now!

Not trying to chase my dreams is even worse than to founder on them. (It's easy to say that, but I learned most stuff by failing on things and this shouldn't stop me from being courageous from time to time…). – Slow and steady wins! This having said to myself, I am going to continue this journey, sharing my experiences on this blog, keep coding and designing as much as I can, trying to make it to at least one conference a year and learning as much from other developers and companies as possible.

Finishing my studies this summer really makes it a very interesting time of my life and I literally can't wait for what comes next. Well, actually I do have several ideas in the pipeline, some apps that are 2-3 months away from shipping. We'll see…

Feedback

Because I am really curious about all the thoughts from all the great people out there and what they are thinking about my journey and apps, please let me know. I am here to listen and learn.

You think different or want to tell me your story about your (struggling) start, please send me in your link to your blog post. I would love to share your story on this blog as well.