It must be an inherent human curiousity to learn more about what’s happening behind-the-scenes in our favorite band, movie, TV show, etc. Unfortunately, I can’t be of much help to get the scoop with any of the former, however, I’ll do what I can to provide you with an inside look at the people who are creating compelling applications, tools and services for iOS devices.
To get things rolling, in this inaugural interview, we are talking with Johann Fradj & Xavier Veyrat, the co-founders of Hot Apps Factory, the company which created App Cooker – Johann is the mad developer and Xavier is crazy about design.
Before we get started, for those unfamiliar with App Cooker, check this out:
John: How did the idea for App Cooker come about?
Johann/Xavier: We met 2 years ago at a developer conference in Marseille and we wanted to make a video game on the iPhone. As we started our development, we realized that there were no Apps enabling us to mockup screens easily and deal with the whole project. Nothing was even close to what we were looking for and this is when we decided to do App Cooker: an all in one solution to deal with iOS projects on the iPad. We wanted to support live orientations and various types of inputs directly on the device, both of which were not achievable with the Mac.
John: What makes App Cooker different from other iPad design tools?
Johann/Xavier: There are two main differences between App Cooker and the other players.
Firstly, App Cooker has a project approach of the mockup and the design in general. We strongly believe that design comes from not only a mockup but also the idea, the price, the icon and your communication. Why spend hours on design if you are not going to consider how to sell your app, or if you don’t communicate well on it?… That is why we decided to create a dedicated place for users to write down their idea and have a look at it every time they open their projects so they can stay focused on their original idea and avoid spending hours designing something that wasn’t what they intended to do. App Cooker is structuring the user’s work without he/she realize it. It even acts as a guide for writing down the App Store communication and finding the right business model. This comprehensive and global approach is truly unique, not only on the iPad but in the whole mockup industry…
Secondly, on the mockup aspect, App Cooker is the only one in its category allowing users to mix vector shapes, images, hand drawing, links and all the genuine UI elements of the iOS platform. This special recipe allows users to mockup any kind of application with an unprecedented level of usability. We are also going to support all kind of gestures and transitions to let you design almost the real thing (available in the last quarter). The table view implementation is a great example of the power of App Cooker. Without a single line of code you can create a table which behaves just like the real thing. We know that other softwares allow users to create more complex layouts but what is the point if in the end it just makes the developer’s life difficult, instead of creating something more easy to make… App Cooker always keeps an eye on this aspect and will not allow users to make “bad” things.
John: Any unique custom code that you’ve created that pushes iOS to its limits?
Johann/Xavier: The mockup engine is clearly something that not only pushed iOS to its limits but also Johann. This was the hardest part we had to go through and it is still at the heart of everyday’s work. Mixing vectors with the original UI element was the biggest challenge but also the best way to push App Cooker head and shoulders above the competition. It took more time to accomplish, but the end product was worth the trouble.
John: Are you using any open source in the development of App Cooker?
John: What platform (MacBook, iMac, etc) are you using to write code?
Johann/Xavier: We develop on a Macbook Pro 17″
John: What version of Xcode are you using?
Johann/Xavier: We still use Xcode 3 to write code because a lot of developers have difficulties crossing the bridge and currently we don’t have time to waste making the move… Maybe when all our announced updates are completed we will give it a try.
John: What do you like most about Objective-C? And the least?
Johann/Xavier: What Johann likes the most is the complete set of tools provided by Apple which are just awesome (Xcode, IB, Instruments, …) then the method call syntax and all the great features such as Blocks, properties, etc… The worst thing is that it deals so poorly with multiple methods which have the same name but different signatures. The languages itself still needs some improvements but the tools provided are so beautiful and powerful that it is a joy to work with it.
John: Can you tell us a little more about the feature roll-out idea shown on your website
Johann/Xavier: There are six product milestones and we are working hard to deliver high-end quality updates as we work towards these. Our strategy is not about quantity but the quality, so we do it step by step! Links and colors are going to be completely redesigned to allow users to create hi fidelity mockups that look and behave almost like the real thing. We will also be polishing the text tool and allowing users to create device independent projects, so you can mockup universal apps. All the updates are planned to be done by the end of the last quarter.
John: Why did you decide to offer a progressive deployment and pricing model?
Johann/Xavier: In one word: money. We would love to have launched it with the full intended functionality but we couldn’t keep up with the development costs forever. Therefore we decided to take the risk of selling a product that was not quite finished as much as we wanted. The key point here is WE thought it was not finished but a lot of our users are so happy with it already that we never regretted this approach. Some users have said that it is a paid Beta, which is neither completely true nor false. Looking at Minecraft, which made millions in its Beta, I would say that it is an interesting way of starting a new product.
John: Do you use App Cooker to mockup features for future additions of App Cooker?
Johann/Xavier: Yes we do and everyday we thank all our users for their valuable input which made this possible! You are all awesome!
John: How do you get feedback from your users?
Johann/Xavier: We decided to introduce a “bug” (icon) in App Cooker so users would be able to share their thoughts and report bugs. It is a great success because angry users are able to share their problem with us and not on the App Store, so we can actually help them! It also helped us to fix a lot of bugs with our passionate users. So we would advise other developers, put a bug button in your App if you know there are some issues.
John: Can you share information about upcoming features?
Johann/Xavier: We are going to serve a new application called App Taster. This will allow developers to send their mockup to their customers and get feedback in real time. This is going to be awesome. Regarding App Cooker, users who buy the product today not only serve the noble cause of helping to support the development costs of forthcoming features, but by getting in early they also make a huge saving on the future price! So get on board now if you want to be one of the tasty early adopters of App Cooker.
John: What are you favorite iPhone/iPad apps (besides App Cooker)?
Garage Band – Amazingly powerful music creator
Wunderlist – The best free to do list
Mindnode – Powerful mind map editor
Soulver – A calculator with a soul
Procreate – Draw with your finger
Aelios – Weather and Time with style
Plant Vs Zombies – The productivity killer
John: And when you are not working on App Cooker, any hobbies or other interesting past times?
Johann/Xavier: Right now, we are dedicated to the development of App Cooker and all our time goes into it. We will have some rest in August because our families are asking for us and get back in September to continue our mission of producing the best software ever to make, test and share iOS projects.
John: Thanks guys for taking the time to visit, best of luck!
Please take a few minutes to visit the App Cooker site to learn more.
If you have any questions or comments for Johann or Xavier, please leave a comment below.