Bytesize Adventures
Crafting bite-sized digital worlds

Coffee Cellar Postmortem

Coffee Cellar has officially been in the App Store for 1 month now, you can check it out here. Now is the perfect time to examine what went right and what went wrong. This is the final post in my App development series. If you want to read about the process of creating Coffee Cellar you can do so here.

What Went Right

1. The production process

I had a clear production process in place right from the start. I carefully created a step-by-step plan, determined not to fall into the same traps as before. As you may have read by now, this process proved extremely successful allowing me to remain in control throughout the project.

Not everything can be rammed into a neat and tidy process however, and I still had to make design decisions during development that significantly changed the workflow in Coffee Cellar. Even so, the process I used gave me degree of control that had been lacking in previous projects.

In addition to this, writing the posts detailing the process has served to keep me motivated throughout the project. It essentially creates an artificial deadline and, because its public, you feel a pressure that I personally found helpful.

2. Beta testing

This is the first App where I’ve used public beta testing (I’ve alway used friends and family in the past). The feedback provided by my beta testers proved invaluable and really enabled me to focus on areas of the App that people were most excited about.

Its always looked like a fairly daunting process to me but now that I’ve done it, I wish I had jumped into it sooner. I would certainly look to capitalise on it more in future (see what went wrong) but Coffee Cellar is a much more solid App as a result of the testers.

3. Artwork

I did the artwork for coffee cellar myself and I’m extremely pleased with it. I spent lots of time iterating the appearance as I developed the App, especially the cupboard which is the first screen you are greeted with. I found that switching between art and code worked great and gave me the creative breaks (from code) that I needed.

I know that in general people are advised to steer clear of attempting to do everything themselves – you can nearly always get the job done to a higher standard and in a fraction of the time by hiring a specialist. However, I get so much out of knowing that I produced the artwork myself and that alone makes it worthwhile – not on every project, but definitely on this one.

Producing a moodboard beforehand was also a great driver in creating cohesive artwork. Especially useful was the colour palette which I decided upon before coding and design began. Having a visual reference point makes a big difference.

4. The photographs

Coffee Cellar lets you take a photo (or select one from your library) and assign it to a coffee. It appears as a little polaroid image that you can tap to enlarge – this action removes the smaller polaroid and places a larger one in the center of the screen (you then tap again to dismiss). Feedback on this feature has been really positive. Its easily one of the most liked features. It’s not something that I focussed heavily on as a core feature, I just took care to implement it well.

Its an area of the App that I should expand upon in future (adding photos to the coffee sharing is fairly high on my list).

5. Reaching out to mainstream press

Coffee Cellar is fairly niche and I was unsure how many iPhone review sites would be willing to pick it up (and rightly so it seems, so far zero). I opted to target both food/coffee related publications along with the mainstream press. This was a good idea. The Guardian (a notable UK newspaper) responded and briefly mentioned Coffee Cellar in an online App round-up feature.

I think the key message is to understand that mainstream press are as much a viable PR route as the more niche, App specific sites.

What Went Wrong

1. The Marketing

One day this won’t be on my “What went wrong” list but for now it remains. My PR and Marketing was lousy. It was heaps more organised than my previous attempts but it just wasn’t focussed. A very small number of the contacts I reached out to responded and an even smaller number gave me any coverage. My website and twitter remain my biggest drivers of sales (for obvious reasons).

I need to spend some time learning and practising the basics of PR and Marketing. It certainly gives you a new found level of respect for what these teams do. It simply isn’t easy to create buzz from nothing.

2. Underestimating time required

This also features heavily in my “What went wrong” sections. This time it was down to migrating to Xcode 4 and learning to use Interface builder and UIKit. They weren’t terribly taxing but I did find myself having to learn and reference a lot of things – very time consuming. In future I’ll allow more time for getting to grips with new technology and tools.

3. Social Networking

Coffee Cellar lets you share coffees via email and twitter. I had originally planned to include Facebook too but removed this due to time constraints (It will appear in an update). I also ended up implementing twitter by passing details off to the twitter website, leaving it to deal with authentication and posting. This has created a fairly inferior social experience and as I think back, this is something that I should have thought harder about and allowed more time for.

I plan on addressing this in an update, along with solving the issues around sharing coffee photo’s.

4. Beta Testing

Beta testing provided me with some really great feedback but it was also an area of weakness for the project. I didn’t get enough people on board early enough and I didn’t have a good plan for the beta.

I think what’s required is a carefully considered, phased approach to beta tests. You need clear guidance as the what you are trying to test in each release and you need to be organised about responding and acting upon the feedback. This is a chance to grow the first seeds of your Apps community and thus communication is crucial.

5. The tasting notes

Coffee Cellar is all about recording your entire coffee tasting experiences. Whilst the tasting notes functionality is perfectly serviceable, I think its a little too hidden away. It also leaves new coffee drinkers in the dark a little as what to write.

My original intention was to provide some integrated help to assist those new to coffee tasting. Unfortunately, I was a little impatient and ended up stripping this back. As a result I’m sure that not everyone is using the tasting notes effectively.

Again this is something that I need to address in an update.

(Image courtesy of easop)

Part 1 – Doing it properly
Part 2 – The Design Document
Part 3 – The Wireframes
Part 4 – The Artwork
Part 5a -The Code (Xcode, GIT, and Core Data)
Part 5b – The Code (Coffee sharing and Camera functionality)
Part 5c – The Code (A change in workflow)
Part 6 – The testing
Part 7 – The Final Artwork
Part 8 – The Marketing
Part 9 – The Launch
Part 10 – The Numbers
Part 11 – The Postmortem (You are here)
(Bonus) Part 12 – A review of the process