So Who’s Oisín?
I’ve known Oisín for a number of years now, having spotted his earlier CSS work like Twequency. I always liked his simple but bold approach to the web, strong colours, lots of Parallax and not to mention unicorns. In 2010 Oisin launched My Artists App a clever app that linked your music library to wikipedia so you could learn about the artist or band. He’s now partnered up with Padraig Kennedy and has launched UseTokens.com token application to help fellow App Developers.
When did you and Padraig set up Use Tokens and what was the trigger to start the business?
We started discussing Tokens in April 2012. We were both ready to start something new and, having worked on a few client projects together, decided to try and conceive an app we were both excited to work on. We went through a lot of ideas but Tokens was the one that stuck. The initial concept was for a much broader app that would be a front for the entire iTunes Connect web interface. We realised we could create a much more compelling product if we focussed on one particular task and created an optimum interface for that.
What can App Developers do with the product?
App Developers use Tokens to manage promo codes for their apps. Apple allow developers 50 promo codes for each version of their app, to use when for giving free copies to bloggers, journalists, industry influencers, or in competitions. The process is fraught with inconvenience though, which is where Tokens comes in.
To start, generating a promo code is no mean feat. We outlined the steps involved at UseTokens.com/ wrangle. Tokens takes care of this awkward process and make generating promo codes simple and painless.
When contacting reviewers, developers need to make it as easy as possible for them to try out their app. With Tokens, they send tokn.co links (like http://tokn.co/sample) so their press contacts can skip the manual redemption process and focus on the app. It’s a great way to make that critical good first impression.
Traditionally, developers have been left in the dark wondering whether their promo codes have ever actually been redeemed. With Tokens, as soon as the recipient clicks Redeem the developer receives a notification. Developers can clearly see which tokens have been redeemed and when the remaining ones expire. This helps make their limited supply of promo codes go further by allowing developers identify and reuse unredeemed tokens.
What has the reaction been like so far?
We’ve been delighted by the amount of positive press and feedback we’ve received since launching in November. We’ve also had a flood of feature requests so we’re hard at work on new features. We just released 1.1 with some big design changes. We put a huge effort into the UI during development, but once the app was being used by developers we began to see things that could be improved upon. (http://blog.usetokens.com/post/41201132893/design-decisions)
Many of the biggest names in iOS and Mac development are using Tokens now. It’s been fantastic to see our product embraced by so many in the community whose work we respect and admire.
What key things did you learn from launching your privous app MyArtist?
On a technical level, My Artists was the first app I developed for Apple’s platforms so I had to learn Cocoa and Objective-C. My Artists was an iOS app so I had to pick up some new skills to develop for the Mac, but much of what I learned from developing for iOS was applicable.
My Artists also showed me first hand that developing quality software is remarkably time consuming. In my experience once you reach a point where an application is 90% feature complete, getting everything polished and ready for release will take just as long again.
On a personal level, the most important thing I learned was that this is the kind of work I am passionate about and love doing. That certainly makes it easier to get through the tough days (and nights) of debugging. Scratching my own itch, so to speak, and successfully developing the music app that I wanted to use gave me the confidence to seek out and develop solutions to other problems I encountered.
What have been the noticeable differences between this success of this app and previous. In that you did different?
My Artists is a music app with very broad appeal. Tokens on the other hand has a very narrow target audience. That effected how we went about marketing it, the price point we chose, etc. In many ways having a smaller target audience helps you focus your software and your message.
Also, My Artists was a solo project, whereas now I’m working with Padraig Kennedy. Having someone else to bounce ideas off and share development responsibilities with has been a great catalyst for getting quality work done.
What is your own background?
My background is web development client services, mostly front-end, some back-end, and a little bit of design thrown in for the more unfortunate clients.
While traveling in Latin America a few years ago I started looking for an alternative to client services, where I could work even more independently that I was at the time. That lead me to iOS development, and I haven’t looked back since!
Did you bootstrap the business, if so how did you find that process?
Our main investment in Tokens has been our time. We self-funded some costs like server fees and hired a designer, Darran Morris (http://app-bits.com), to help with the app icon and the UI. We never considered looking for external funding, we were happier to keep full control of the business and we had the resources off the back of our other products to commit time to Tokens.
The main difficulty was that the development process did take longer than we had expected, I personally managed to eat my way through more of my savings than I would have preferred, but I’ve no regrets now that the app is launched, I’m glad we didn’t rush to release an inferior product.
What are your targets for 2013?
The uptake has been good since launch but we still have some work to do to make the business profitable and sustainable this year. We’re developers, and we have some idea about design, but we have a lot to learn about marketing and sales. We’ve lots of exciting features planned for Tokens but we’ll also be pushing ourselves to focus on the business side of things, so we can keep making software we love.