Jonas Ribe

Shipping delays

When the App Store launched in 2008, I decided I wanted to learn Objective-C. I had been a Mac user for 5 years, but never really been into programming. However, the iPhone had a new kind of magic: the app was the device.

Since 2008, I have downloaded every major revision of Xcode, paid the membership at the Apple Developer gym, watched WWDC-videos, studied at Stanford iTunes U, read my Cocoa bible, listened to all the right podcasts, made fancy coffee and still haven’t shipped a single app. Why?

My excuse has always been that I have had too little time on my hands, studying to become an engineer and working on the side. This is only an excuse. In reality, the thing I have needed is less time. I needed deadlines.

The problem is creating deadlines. I have been working on a Mac app1 for over a year now, on and off. Going from bursts where I write code for days to periods where I do not open Xcode for months. The only reason I stop is because I get bored. The reason I start again, is that I want to ship it. The problem was that the project had no real deadline. Exams and midterms were real deadlines. Wanting to ship an app was not.

I do not care for New Year’s resolutions, but it is a great time to think about change. At the start of 2014 I thought long and hard and decided it was more important to ship something than to get it right the first time. I added my app in iTunes Connect and set a date for when it was suppose to be made available in the store. The first real deadline.

Shipping an app is not just clicking submit and uploading it to the Mac App Store. Even though I use my app regularily, it required a lot of work to prepare for submission. The app had to become more intuitive, handle exeptions gracefully and of course follow the App Store guidelines. It had to have an icon. I had to make websites, help documents, setup support email and accounts for various social services, find beta-testers, make screenshots and an App Store description. This might be done in a relativley short amount of time for someone who does this for a living, but for someone who is doing this for the first time, this is a lot of work. And for someone like me who can tweak color-schemes for hours, this requires a LOT of time.

Not knowing what I was getting myself into, I have had to move my deadlines a couple of time. Moving a deadline is risky as it can devalue it, but by only pushing them slightly into the future I have been able to keep up the pace. I am now in the process of shipping my app. The only reason I got this far, is that I added the app to iTunes Connect and set a date for when it was suppose to be available.

I am not going to delight my users with every detail of my app, but I am going to ship it!

  1. It would probably have started out as an iPad app if PDFKit was available on iOS, but it is currently not.