One of the coolest things about SXSW is bumping into random strangers and striking up interesting conversation. While grabbing a sandwich this morning I was joined by Jeremy Olson who shared my table. Jeremy introduced himself as an iPhone app developer and after a few minutes of back and forth about the relative merits of iPhone versus Android (I’m a Google man myself) Jeremy was showing me his newest version of his app, Grades.
The app itself was cool - enter your grades for your academic classes and tell it what your ideal final mark is and it’ll tell you the scores you need to get to reach that average. One of the counterpoints Jeremy made in response to my suggestion that Apple weren’t very developer friendly was that Apple emphasise a strong design consciousness in their third party apps, and Grades was no exception - it looked gorgeous. It’s aimed at students so it had a very visual look and feel, using a drawer metaphor with things flying around the screen to indicate where the user should look next - all very clever.
I was interested to know how Jeremy was monetising the app and he mentioned that although the app was paid ($1), he plans to introduce an ad-supported version where users can either pay $1 to buy the ad-free app, or ‘Like’ the app on Facebook for a month of ad-free usage. This latter idea was really cool and could be pretty huge with a college-age userbase. With the app featuring in some of Apple’s featured lists and magazine profiles, Jeremy has been pretty successful so far.
I mentioned my desire to build an app for the music webzine I run and asked Jeremy for tips. He gave me his formula for a quality app which was really interesting:
Great idea + exceptional design + make your own splash marketing
That last point was how Jeremy really built his audience. Apple’s interest in his app stemmed from some self-generated publicity solely originating from Twitter. This leveraging of social networks to build interest is really key and it looks like Jeremy’s incorporation of this in his freemium app is a really smart touch.
I almost felt a little sad that I’m not a student anymore and can’t try out the app myself, but it was cool to meet a random stranger who ended up teaching me some of the not-so-dark secrets of writing an awesome app. Viva la SXSW.
- Matt Andrews