MWA Workshop Summary

Thank you Michelangelo of Kidoodle Apps for creating the logo for this event.

On December 2nd, the Moms With Apps developers gathered at their first Workshop in San Carlos, California. The afternoon was spent in small groups tackling issues from app launches to emerging mobile platforms. Special thanks to the team at Creativity Inc. for letting us use their offices. In addition, thanks to Ahmed, Ush, Michelangelo, Chris, and Sara for: facilitating / videoing & hosting dinner / logo creating / flying in & photography / and providing some refreshments – respectively!

Who attended?

There is an attendee list posted on the Eventbrite invitation if you are interested to see who signed-up, and there were at least 10 additional developers who stepped in on overflow. It was packed. Most attendees were app developers based in the Bay Area. Thank you everyone for coming, contributing, and following the agenda so productively. Feel free to add a link or a comment on this post to announce your attendance and impressions.

What did you cover?

We were able to cover our entire agenda, which included:

  • Launching an app
  • Pricing models for apps
  • Branding apps
  • Post-launch sustainability of apps
  • Development platforms for apps (Android / iOS / Amazon / Nook / etc.)
  • Light discussion on COPPA and parental consent

We did this by breaking into six teams of 8 to 10 people, had a 45 minute discussion, and had each team leader give a five minute presentation of their findings.

Unfortunately, I was so caught up in running the physical event that I turned out to be a horrible note-taker. I’m hoping others will summarize their notes in blog posts that can be posted on the link-exchange below.

Did you take any photos or video?

Yes, there were photos, and Ush grabbed my old Flip to capture some of the presentations on video. I need to think about privacy before posting all of this stuff, so I’ll work with the attendees on approvals and publication. In the meantime, here we are kicking off the second portion of the event.

What did you learn from the event?

The event made a significant impact on me, and I could feel the learning curve doing its work throughout the rest of the weekend. These are my personal impressions:

  • Don’t make an app, just for that. What I mean is that if a developer doesn’t feel their app is “five-star-worthy”, then wait, and launch it when it IS. Take beta testing seriously. The competition is huge, and everyone in the marketplace is flooded with mediocre apps. For the past two years I subscribed to the “it’s fine if it’s a good effort” philosophy. That works if you are up for experiments in a new market. Today, the market is no longer new, so we need to be remarkable.
  • Is Pro is a way to go? I like this idea of a “Pro” version of an app that has all in app purchases lumped into one premier priced app. This not only works well for educational institutions who need to purchase via the Apple Volume Purchase Program, but it also works for parents who have tested the regular version, deem it worthy, and want the option to purchase a “complete” version for their kids, sans interruption.
  • Branding: what’s your story? Too many times I click the “about” page of a developer website and it reads just the same as any other. What makes you special? Human interest stories are cool, I’d like to see more of those highlighted because it helps people relate. In addition, Chris and Alesha gave a solid presentation on branding guidelines, and I’m hoping they’ve got a write-up coming from their group discussion notes.
  • Get out there. There was a new developer there who had been retweeting me for months, and I recognized him from his proactive stance in social media. We made a great connection in person, and it was stronger because he had been “in my face” for so long. Relationship building doesn’t happen overnight, but social media can help lay a foundation for future interactions.
  • Emerging leadership is important. Just as good branding helps consumers make sense of the marketplace, leadership helps people choose a direction. The choices we make now are important to ensure long-run diversity with family-friendly apps. I appreciate the leadership shown by team captains at the Workshop, and in particular Andy of Launchpad Toys. He is out there forging new territory, making connections, and proposing solutions. In this landscape of chaos, there are plenty of leadership opportunities – and I think those who take the extra steps to lead will help shape their options moving forward.
  • Watch out for the Fire. At the Workshop I saw a Kindle Fire, and it looks slick and compact. The price point is attractive and I wonder how effective it will be in making “a tablet for every person in every home” a realistic trend. Try to get your hands on one to play around with it, and see how you think it might impact your development strategy.
  • If you are developing on iOS, you are developing for a company with a point of view, so understand that point of view and how your app supports that vision. I’ve only just started “the book”, but as we know, Apple’s core is constructed of traits like excellence, efficiency, intuition and focus. Does your app incorporate those traits?

How would you change the event, if you did it again? 

I would plan for a break after the first set of presentations. I would try harder to get sponsors so we could have resources for flying people in on “scholarship”. I would designate a person in advance to do communication with the remote audience so they could follow along. However, I did find the break from tech, and the focus on pen/paper/whiteboard, to be effective and refreshing.

Invitation to post content

Participants, feel free to post your observations in comments, or in blog posts on this link exchange. Readers, feel free to post questions. It was fantastic experience topped off by a lively dinner. Group cheers to that!

12 thoughts on “MWA Workshop Summary”

  1. I had a really wonderful time at MWA workshop, primarily because of the smart and friendly group of developers that I got meet. As I am new to this community, it was a great opportunity to meet and connect with people that I have been interacting with for months online. I also had the pleasure of learning from seasoned developers and pioneers and in this field, and took home some some useful information and food for thought:

    Reflections and Lessons From the MWA Workshop

    -Building branded worlds that exist outside of our apps is going to become increasingly important for us and the future of children’s apps. I thought the demo app from Creativity Inc. (Rocksters) has the right idea about
    creating a stable cast of characters that can be made into physical toys or put into other games.

    -The use of Analytics in children’s apps, and compliance with Child Online Protection Privacy Protetion Act guidelines, are important and hot-buttons issue for many developers. This is a good topic for future meet ups and discussions.

    – When marketing your app and getting ready for launch, try to seek out a few important and relevant bloggers or review sites and make personal connections with them. It is better to focus on a few individuals instead of a reach everyone.

    – When telling people about your app, include your personal story and the vision behind the app. People are more likely to get behind and app or idea if they understand its context and a background story they can connect with. This will be especially important for me as a teacher that made Math Evolve after being inspired by teaching math to 4th graders.

    – People had differing opinions about asking for reviews from people we know. It seems to me the consensus was that when you ask friends or family to write a review, you ask them to write it objectively and honestly. This adds to the integrity of your reviews and might reveal areas where your app can improve.
    -It is good to set goals for your apps success that you can work towards (i.e. break the top 50 in your category in the first month, stay in the top 100 for the first year). This allows you to evaluate your efforts and whether or not they are helping you achieve your goals.

    -As Lorraine mentioned, it helps to be active in social media and contribute to online communities well in advance of your app’s release. It was such a pleasure meeting so many people in person that had been sharing my stories and communicating with me online for over 8 months. It provided a great basis for meeting people and it helped me feel instantly connected to the other attendees.

    Thanks again to Lorraine, Ush, Creativity Inc, and the rest of the MWA community for hosting this awesome event. I also want to thank everyone who played and and gave me feedback about my app, Math Evolve. Its coming out Friday! If you didn’t get a chance, you can see the preview video and our brand new site at http://www.mathevolve.com

  2. @Adam, what thorough feedback! Thank you, and we’ll do our best to get the word out about Math Evolve this Friday! –Lorraine

  3. I didn’t attend the workshop, but this is a really great post and reminder what’s key for a successful launch or at least a launch that isn’t buried in a release to Apple’s App Store.

    We just started beta testing our game on-line last week. We’re a small team but we aren’t leaving anything to chance. Things are completely different this year from a year or 2 ago. When it comes to launching an app, you can’t just put it out there and expect it to sell on it’s own, as thought it’s still 2009. Last year I would have shrugged at the need to Beta Test, this year we’re all over it with BigTopBallet and it really pushes our development and strategy.

    I would also add that using Appbackr.com pushed us to raise our standards higher than where we had them on our own . Having real people back a concept game made me feel a higher responsibility and obligation to succeed. I recommend it for developers at the very least it generates publicity for your app or game.

  4. I was really interested in attending this workshop, but living in Argentina makes difficult to attend. It will be great if we can access in the future to a Skype vidcast so we can follow all the presentations online.

    Being the director of Portegno Apps I’m more than interested in being part of this community and I’m really interested in all your opinions and comments about the market. That’s why I enjoy so much each time I receive a moms with apps email each morning.

    I have myself some tips and ideas to share about this market that we have embraced since 2008 and in which we have published more than 130 games for kids since then.

    Thanks Lorraine for bringing this wonderful community together 🙂

    Saludos from Buenos Aires!

    Gabriel Pasqualini
    Project Manager – Portegno Apps

  5. Thank you Lorraine and team for putting this together and I’m sorry I missed the workshop. I saw this a little too late and our weekend was booked here in Sacramento.

    Some thoughts after reading through the thread:

    – Beta Testing – One of our partners is suggesting we use TestFlight which looks very promising. https://testflightapp.com/

    – Tell a story – Why did we develop this app? What problem does it solve? Someone will have a similar problem and want to resolve it with your app.

    – Build your brand, grow your community, consistent social networking – Blog, Facebook is great for existing users. Twitter for new users and partners. Linkedin is also a good resource for building partners.

    Andy
    co-founder iHomeEducator, Inc.

  6. Thanks for the always-interesting post. We’ve been reading MWA for many months as we develop our own app and it’s been such a fantastic resource. I’m keeping an eye on the comments to see if anyone posts any more info on the sessions – I sure hope so!
    Anita
    Pet Project
    Austin, TX

  7. Great event, and very glad that I got to take part!

    I definitely want to run a meetup or event covering COPPA, analytics, SDK’s, and how the three relate to successfully building a long-life brand. I’ll be working with Lorraine and Josh to set something up for January.

    I’m also very much looking forward to seeing the videos Ush took with the Flip (I thought that device he was using looked familiar – wow haven’t seen one of those in a long time). Lorraine what’s the scoop with that? What can I do to contribute to getting those videos up (besides saying yes please post anything I was in)?

  8. MWA Workshop 12/2/11
    Branding Group Discussion Summary

    The group of approximately 12 app developers introduced themselves and delved into why branding is important for apps in the first place. The most important reason identified had to do with establishing a clear, unique and relevant identity in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

    Some in the group have extensive traditional marketing background. Our host, Josh Garrett from Creativity said, “I have world class experience in marketing children’s toys and am challenged like everyone else to market apps effectively. One of the most important things we do in traditional marketing is to establish a clear brand, and then stay true to the brand in all aspects of marketing the product.” Josh talked about using a “brand bible” to document all design aspects of the product from the logo, typefaces, color palettes and packaging down to the character and personality of the product.

    Here is a link to a discussion about brand bibles and why they’re useful: http://goo.gl/acpgv
    You can Google “Brand Bible” to find lots more discussion on the subject.

    Another tool mentioned in this discussion is called a creative brief.
    See: http://goo.gl/9JD3S
    It’s typically used in advertising agencies to describe the project goals for all the agency members working on an ad or campaign. It includes the important details such as message points, target audience, ad objectives and any other constraints, so that the end product stays on message and contributes to a unified voice for the product. The point was to encourage our table to be thoughtful and intentional about their choices with regard to branding.

    Several people around the table had experience in the branding process and offered assistance to help those who wanted it. (Sorry, I didn’t get a list of names, but maybe we can get that together as a follow-on document.)

    Another point made in our discussions was that app developers manage more than one brand. Each app may have its own distinct brand, while also existing under a larger umbrella brand for the company. Good examples mentioned were brands like Mickey Mouse within Disney, Sponge Bob Square Pants within Nickelodeon and the Toy Story movies within Pixar. The group praised the Speech with Milo apps as well as the apps by Duck Duck Moose as good examples of apps with consistent, effective branding.

    One of the early points made about branding came down to the benefit of branding to your customers. It builds trust between you. The brand becomes a promise. If done well, it can be a promise of quality or value or fun or any combination you choose. If done poorly, it can be like a bad reputation. And whether you work at intentionally or not, your brand will emerge. Just don’t leave it on the “default” setting.

    Discussion leaders:
    Chris Straka, SLP TechTools and Alesha Bishop

  9. I am very interested in attending via a web collaboration tool the next time you have a meeting. I am a mom that working with a developer just released an app called Mandarin Monsters. As I watched my toddler learn in school, I saw opportunities to supplement his curriculum with apps. The app creation now seems to be the easy part, but the pricing, branding and marketing is a bit of a mystery. Before we venture to create the next app, we still need to think about this for the app we just released. I would love to virtually attend or even watch videos of your meetings. Thanks for the site, I look forward to reviewing it.

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