Success of Apple’s App Store is not only about the UX(User Experience)
– there were great DX(Developer Experience)
Dong Yoon Park | http://www.cre8ive.kr | Feb. 2010 | 한글로 보기
When Steve Jobs announced iPhone SDK and App Store in March 2008, could people expect about this huge success and its effect? Apple’s App Store with 3 billion download by January 2010 and 13,000 registered Apps, had dramatically changed the mobile industry. Companies such as Microsoft and Samsung are jumping into establishing their own mobile application stores to get on this current.
However, I think the good UX(User Experience) from iPhone to iTunes is not the only element in success of the App Store. There is the additional important element which is the DX(Developer Experience). Even though the Apple has excellent iTunes and App Store system, if the developers are not interested in and if they don’t develop and submit their Apps, it could not have succeeded. On the backside of the 13,000 registered Apps in 18 months, there were great DX.
Since I had worked as a mobile UI S/W developer before I started work as a designer, when I first experienced Apple’s developer tools and SDK I was very impressed by it. You may understand if you have experience in mobile development with various complicated debugging tools such as Trace32, time consuming compile and binary download environment. Strong documentation and reference tools, almost instant syntax auto-completion and the debugging tool ‘Instruments’ which provides visually easy interface to recognize, they makes the whole development process enjoyable. I could remember the moment when I was working with the black DOS command line with debug message when I see the Apple’s memory debugging tool ‘Leaks’ which has delicate designed and color coded call stack view and memory/process graphs.
Above all, the highlight of the DX for iPhone development is the Interface Builder. Since I used Mac from the G4, I had chances to use Xcode and Interface builder, I could not help surprised by the fact that how easy and flexible mobile UI development can be with the Interface Builder. Of course there are many developers who prefer to implement UI programmatically however, without considering that aspect, when you recall the fact that how it is hard and inefficient to implement UI in mobile development this was revolutionary thing.
Even though the development environment was so attractive, there was a barrier. The requirement of Mac for development environment and Objective-C which is relatively unfamiliar language for the normal developers. However, people from expert developers to students started interested in the iPhone development after seeing the success stories on the news media and they started with economical Mac mini and Mac Book or even with Hackintosh(OS X on normal PC system). For the Objective-C language, personally I got uneasy first impression with rigid brackets [ ] and confusing look of the method grammar, however soon it became my favorite language and I’m now enjoy coding with it.
Another important components of DX are the iPhone Dev Center and iPhone Program Portal. Exceptionally well organized reference documents and startup guidelines were available not only on the web but also I could download PDF version so that I can easily search and find whenever I want. Above all, the startup videos made me think about why Apples is different. Apple’s software evangelists themselves explained core parts of the iPhone development and it was a great guide for the developers who were confused by the unfamiliar environment and the Objective-C language. They were great videos that help developers to understand the big picture before jumping into the development. All those certificates and provisioning profiles in the iPhone Program Portal were somewhat complicated things, however Apple well used images and text to explain step-by-step process which helped a lot.
In 2008, after overcoming all the hurdles(in the beginning of the App Store, the process related with tax and contract was more complicated) when I first saw the iTunes Connect system to register my App, I thought – ‘Apple really prepared a lot.’ From the sales reporting, App submission, update, banking to financial management, by experiencing the elements of iTunes Connect, I became to think that this would not be possible for just few months, especially for the following competitors. I think all of these iPhone Dev Center, iPhone Program Portal, iTunes Connect and iTunes are just like cogwheels engaging each other which provides good UX and good DX. Of course there were a lot of debates about Apple’s long and opaque review process, however I can see their effort to show the review status on the iTunes Connect and the length of the review time is decreasing.
I tried to organize my thoughts about the success of the Apple’s App Store not from the normal view point about the user experience and revolutionary design of iPhone and business model, but from the view point of the developer and as DX(Developer Experience). I think these DX was core part of the success of the App Store and App development boom and when we think from this aspect, we can think about how other following companies are investing into the design and environment for the developers.