#AndroidDev Interview Series – Jack Underwood

Interview-No-2It’s been a while since the first interview with Ryan Harter, and today let’s continue the series with Jack Underwood.

Jack is a young indie developer that never say no to challenges – how do I know it? I previously worked with Jack for a couple of projects like Now Playing, Reverse Dictionary, and Today Calendar and Widget (pre-Material Design era), and we are really liking that push-and-pull interaction between us during the development.

Without further ado, let’s start with the interview!


Jack Underwood

Tell us a little bit about yourself (when do you start Android development, why Android? etc.)

I first started Android Development when i got my first Android phone in Summer 2010. I knew how to program before then but i’d never really done anything properly. I messed around with different tutorials and made a few tiny (and really subpar) apps that I never released. It wasn’t until summer 2012 that I actually started learning properly and making things people were using, so I’ve really been developing for Android properly for about 2 and a half years.

Which app are you currently working on (and in the past)? Can you share some statistics on these apps?

Currently all of my time goes into Today Calendar, I work on it whenever I get a spare hour or so throughout the day. Today recently just passed 200,000 total installs (Paid and Free) and is growing faster than it ever has before, it’s still pretty surreal to me really.

How do you handle design in your app? Understand that many indie developers have no access to designer due to numerous reason, what’s the direction you took to ensure the app is of high quality in terms of design?

Initially I worked on the designs of my apps myself, and the designs were not the greatest. I’d just try to emulate the look and feel of other types of app (Now Playing -> Google Now) but since then I’ve worked with lots of different designers (Including Taylor!) on my apps. I’m not the best designer by a long shot, and if you’re in the same boat, I really recommend looking for someone to help you out. There’s plenty of aspiring designers on G+ that’d happily let a developer turn their ideas into a real app for no cost (or a small amount), they’re just looking for an opportunity into the app world just like you!

How do you engage with your users? How do you handle their requests?

I like to keep people informed of how my apps are coming along. Every time I finish something I think is pretty neat I’ll post a screenshot to G+, it’s great for getting valuable feedback on ideas before you release them into the wild, and allows you to adjust to what your customers actually want. You’ll often get valuable suggestions that you would never have come up with on your own.

What’s your view on app distribution and monetization in Android? Having a great product doesn’t always mean it will have commercial success, so what else do you do to ensure it reaches to the right people and leading to a commercial success?

The Play Store can be hit and miss, especially as an indie developer, it can be really hard. Having a following on Twitter and G+ can help loads, it’s acts as your initial slingshot into the store. From here if your app is truly awesome, there’s a good chance it’ll slowly build an audience and creep it’s way up the rankings. You’ve just got to make something awesome, and be patient.

I also offer both a paid and free version of most of my apps. I usually don’t restrict features in the free version as a I like users to be able to try out exactly what the paid version would be like. Instead I usually offer a trial version, or something unique like the “Purchase Pro” event you’ll see in the Agenda Widget in the version of my Calendar Widgets.

Have you work with any designer before? If yes, what do you expect from a designer in a developer point of view? If not, why?

I’ve worked with a bunch of different designers before, some which I’ve paid and some which are just happy to contribute to improve something they use themselves. It’s a lot easier for me if designers have a very basic knowledge of how Android apps work, how they handle scaling, what 16dp means and things like that, but it’s not a deal-breaker for sure. As for the interaction between me and the designer, it’s different for everyone – some I’ve spoken to more professionally just over email and some I speak to more regularly just over hangouts.

So what’s your plan for 2015?

I plan to spend the next year almost exclusively on Today. It’s going to bring more many more features and be more stable. I’m also going to bring it to more platforms: Android Wear, Android TV and Chrome.

End of Interview

Points to Take Away

  • If you can’t design, it’s fine, just look for some designer to help you out!
  • Keep your users informed about what’s coming up next and get feedback from them to optimise it
  • Make something awesome, and at the same time, try hard to build the audience through proper marketing techniques
  • Allow the user to try out the premium features via free trial version so they can experience it before commit to purchase
  • It’s a lot easier for developer if the designer have basic knowledge of Android Design

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