Devs Behind The Apps – iColorama’s Teresa Alonso
by Aaron Davis
This week I caught up with Teresa Alonso, developer of the new app, iColorama. Originally from Spain, Teresa resides in a small Swedish town called Falköping that has more cows than people. By day Teresa works as a High School Spanish teacher, by night an app developer extraordinaire. Without further ado, I present Teresa’s interview.
So Teresa, tell me a bit about yourself, what are your interests and how did you get into developing photography Apps?
I love to travel and I love photography, I consider myself a pro-user of Adobe Photoshop with a very good knowledge about plugins. I got an iPad about one year ago and loved it, but I felt that I was missing Photoshop too much! I tried different apps and I could not find exactly what I wanted so I began to develop iColorama.
So iColorama is relatively new to the market, can you tell me a little about brainchild?
The principles of iColorama are very simple: fast simple image effects, as many as possible and users can apply and combine these effects as much as they want. I wanted to write a very playful app, almost as a game where users quickly reach new levels, an app where creativity is not disrupted because you have to use 20 different apps to achieve what you would like to do.
In my app there are effects for changing colors, forms, materials, styles, different adjustments many of them "very elementary". This makes it possible to add new effects of any type in each update (and these updates come very often).
The different combinations of these effects enable users to avoid the pre-fabricated look that many apps offer. If users can achieve something different with their artworks, they will be more noticeable: originality and creativity is always praised.
When developing my app, I’m responsible for everything. I develop on evenings. I prioritize on what I need most for myself as a user, but I listen to users as well. I continuously test everything.
So have you had much success with the release of iColorama?
Today iColorama was number 7 in US Photo apps, which was easy to achieve because I’m giving it away for free for a limited time but I'm still very proud of what a simple developer can achieve without marketing or developing resources as big companies e.g. Adobe & Nik Software.
Besides that, I really love to see what people create with my app and the users reviews. The last review in the US market was hilarious. The user wrote that he promises to eat his camera if people don't like my app; so even if the app hasn’t brought big earnings, which I believe is very difficult, such things make everything worth it!
As a developer what are some of your favorite photography apps? And why?
I have all the Jixipix apps. I love the painterly look they give to the images, and I also love Autopainter(s) for the same reason. I have played a lot with Snapseed, but definitely no more than with Color Efex on the desktop. I can't say that I have checked out too many apps that deeply, because I have been busy with coding and testing my own app.
What do you think are the big mistakes made in app development?
In my opinion the most common mistake is to think that it’s enough to make a good original app, to get it downloaded by millions. This doesn't happen, unless Apple promotes your app, which has about the same chance as winning the lottery.
This is a known fact and a reality that hits not only single developers and companies a like. If your app is a success it is not only because is well written and original, but also integral and competitive in the market. Not to mention the social media, marketing, support/contact with users, frequency of updates, tutorials and the list goes on.
This is quite hard to accomplish, so as a developer always think twice! It is not enough to write code, because even monkeys can write code. Be ready for the huge challenge (I promise having fun in the process is guaranteed).
And then maybe this is not 100% fair to us (coders), but this is the way that this market is. Apple offers the app store, devices that are amazing, great developer tools; so I guess the rest should really be our task.
When it comes to Photo apps: these apps are not so general as e.g. Games (and they are not downloaded in the same proportion or frequency). You have to be prepared to target a special group of users. These users are visual people, most of them perfectionists in visual details. They expect that your app looks great. They are very sensitive on how the UI works, the colors in your apps, the widgets, fonts; basically everything that you present on the screen.
Many of your potential users could be designers, amateur/professional photographers or graphics artists. Expect "visual sensitivity" from them. Make your app as beautiful and simple as possible. If you are lucky enough for them to use it, they will thank you!
You say Monkey's could write code, but really, how hard is it to develop an App?
Hehe, I should have said children, so nobody gets offended. Today making apps requires a minimum of knowledge, you don't even need to be a graduated in Computer Sciences or to be a hardcore programmer to write winning apps for iOS. For example there are platforms like Phonegap that opens iOS to web programmers, Flash programmers can export apps with Adobe tools and HTML5 is already in our devices.
Code as code has lost its worth. The content of your application (starting with your main idea) and the mechanism for its social marketing are today much more valued. I don’t say that programmers are not necessary but in the big equation their work becomes more and more a small part of the solution. That is my opinion and maybe that is why programmers are the firsts to be outsourced.
I’m delighted with Apple’s development tools having been a programmer in many platforms including, Windows, Linux, Symbian, Android and Flash, I can say that the experience with iOS is the best. No discussion about that.
Another aspect to consider is the huge code base that can be re-used and that speeds development a lot e.g. http://cocoacontrols.com and http://github.com offer many free licensed components ready to be integrated in your app.
The first version of iColorama took me about two weeks on coding before I could deliver it. These days I spend 2-3 evenings a week coding for only a few hours, it is just my hobby and not my daily work. But before I started coding it took nearly 2-3 months of intense investigation, deciding on paper what to create, what should be there, how it should work, which image effects to add and what should be finally implemented. That was definitively harder. And then the hardest of all, which I still struggle with today, is the best way to promote my app. The app store rank system remains a mystery. Marketing your app is for sure the most complex part of the process, so I just keep experimenting and learning how to do it.
The way you describe App development, it's as though it has become an art form in its own right for you. Do you agree?
Absolutely, it pushes your creativity to the limits, in all directions. It is also a learning process that requires a lot of different skills. But it is great to know that the result of your work is transmitted to the users that utilize it in their own creative process. The feeling is fantastic when you see how they use your app, probably something that all photo app developers share.
Thanks for your time Teresa, your passion really shines through. Is there anything else you'd like to add?
If you are a developer, keep trying and don't give up easy! If you are a user, be different, be original, be yourself! Hard work is always rewarded in one way or another.