Friday, 21 January 2011

Appy we tried

'I Shot the Serif' was our first proper foray into the design and development of a new app for the iPhone - here's some of the things we learned in the process.

As part of a loose campaign which started with the design of our latest calendar (it's a bit of an institution with us – this year we're focusing on simple typography and the idea of bringing design terms to a wider audience) we had the idea of a purely type based game to explain the difference between serif and sans-serif typefaces.

An original idea by one of our designers, Mark Stevens (and with a nod to Tom Gabor) it was then turned into the full game by Ben Jackson our Head of Digital. As soon as we started playing it ourselves we knew it would translate brilliantly onto the iPhone. From initial idea to seeing the app appear on iTunes, it took a little over a month – but that's including the week and a half of nervous nail-biting while we waited to see if Apple thought it met their strict (and mysterious) guidelines. We got it out just in time for our monthly Christmas news update – the timing couldn't have been better.

With little UK coverage we were surprised when it was picked up by a widely read blog in the US and within a few days we had a huge increase in hits to our site (with visitors playing the web version of the game and then heading off to the App Store to download the iPhone version and plenty also browsing the rest of our site). This week, a couple of influential design based sites in Canada picked up on the game through Twitter and again traffic has increased significantly. Because of all this, hits to our site in January are up around 400-500% on our month average.

As a game it is quick and fun (and pretty addictive if all the tweets are to be believed!) but with the increase in traffic, we are now getting work enquiries. These are coming from overseas – for branding where people have investigated our site after playing or passing on a link to the game (we've had inquiries from Moscow and Brazil in the last few days).

This was our first major experiment with app development and has so far proved to be quite a success. Because the core game was really quite simple, we were able to create an online (Flash based) version and then turn this into a fully fledged iPhone app too (if only the iPhone supported Flash - but that's a whole different discussion!). The outlay in time taken to develop the game was fairly negligible and has taught us a lot about the app creation process – aswell as the terrors of the notorious Apple review system. To be fair, they never rejected it - it was really just the tense moments wondering if the man from Cupertino would say 'yes!'.

It's great being able to hop onto Twitter and see people mentioning it and passing on the link - especially within the design community where it has naturally found a bit of a niche. Whilst certain news sites have kept the game buzzing around the world, we're starting to see Facebook as the most common place for people to hear about it and link to our site. This is very interesting as we've always assumed that as a smaller B2B company, Facebook isn't really for us – but perhaps it's time to re-assess this? (Our fledgling Facebook page starts here!)

I hope this positive feedback prompts other agencies to look at more than just Twitter and Blogs to generate flow to their site and interest in their own 'brands'. As this year's campaign theme continues to develop we'll certainly be looking into additional ideas, maybe there's even room for a sequel? 'Episode 2 - Revenge of the Serif'? Yeah, I bet you kern hardly wait.

I Shot the Serif - latest version (1.4) has just been approved for release, get it here

I Shot the Serif - Flash version can be played here

written by Ben Jackson, Head of Digital and Simon Hutton, Managing Director

note for Android owners, the Flash version plays pretty well on higher-end phones (Android 2.2) – try it here

No comments:

Post a Comment