Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Moving Home :)

After a year at BlogSpot I decided to switch over to a new platform.

Here's the new address:

Deciding to blog has been one of the best decisions I've made in recent years; it's been fun paying extra attention to the little things that, at second glance, have a greater than impact than I'd normally expect.

Here's to more posts and insights at

Hope to see you there :)


p.s. Let me know what you think of the updated look!

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Create powerful iOS Application Prototypes for under $20

UPDATE: 8 Jan 2012 - Looks like Apple have rejected App Cooker's sister app: "App Taster". App Cooker is still available. Sounds like a misunderstanding, they've appealed and are expecting some news soon.

I'm currently in the middle of developing my first iPhone app and wanted to share a phenomenal resource I stumbled across. If you happen to be thinking about building your own app, I'd seriously consider investing in this tool, or one like it before you shell out any money on software development!

It called App Cooker for iPad ($19.99) by Hot Apps Factory. Here's a short list of what I thought was really useful:
(I'm not affiliated with these guys, I just think they did a great job and deserve some recognition)
  1. Create a functional prototype without having to write any code
  2. Wireframe almost any kind of iOS application screen I could think of!
  3. Allowed me to connect screens together to simulate navigation between screens (the only thing I couldn't do was simulate the user experience of swiping)
  4. Focus on validating my concept and identifying key missing features.
  5. Send your functioning prototype to someone else and have them test it out on their device using the FREE App Taster app
Everything I've mentioned above is simple to do without any background in programming!

mock screen

Above you can see the Mockup Module I've been using.

The Mockup module is just one of several included features. There's a lot of other stuff too, like an Icon Designer and Pricing Features. I personally found the Icon designer to be a little unwieldy to use on an iPad.

I decided to combine Penultimate (a note taking app) with iMockups to create wireframes that had a more hand drawn feel to them. More on this in another post.

Some Alternatives:
  • iMockups ($6.99)
    Reasonably good overall and goes beyond iOS prototyping. I personally found App Cooker to be more intuitive, quicker and easier to use for anyone who's focusing on iPad / iPhone devices.
  • Keynotopia ($99+) 
    Only runs on desktop versions of Keynote, PowerPoint and OpenOffice and will not run on iPhone or iPad. Is not limited to prototyping iOS apps. but does come at a higher price. Definitely worth a look if you're planning on using a lot of native iOS controls in your finished app.
  • Balsamiq ($79)
    Like Keynotopia, Balsamiq doesn't run on mobile devices but is not limited to iOS app prototyping. Think of it as a more powerful, PC/Mac based version of iMockups. Great thing about Balsamiq is it makes prototypes look like they've been hand drawn and are therefore less distracting when you hire a professional designer to come up with a finished / polished look for your app.
If you know of any alternatives to App Cooker or have any questions about the Mockup functionality feel free to tweet me @roktecha

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Switch It On! - Jonathan Ives

I came across this video of Jonathan Ives (Lead industrial designer at Apple) earlier today as I searched for people who were amazing user experience designers.

Designing things is an obsessive process, and I find that you can often isolate yourself for hours, or even weeks thinking about something in a trance. This can be productive, but the success of any idea is how well it works in "reality" and the only way to learn about the real world is to get out of your head, and be present in it. That way, when you go into your trance, you're working with better assumptions. I think Jonathan sends this message really well and I hope this video will inspire someone to "Switch it on" as much as it inspired me this morning:

Objectified - Jonathan Ives from Elthé on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Dangerous Comparisons, Ben Zander and giving back

Some years back I was lucky enough to listen to Ben Zander (conductor of the Boston Philharmonic) talk about his other passion: "The Art of Possibility". It was the last day of a 3 day conference and I remember walking into the auditorium feeling deflated.

I was attending my employers annual "elite" conference where top employees from all over the US come together to exchange experiences. My ticket to this prestigious event came from a sentiment other than greatness; I had come to work for my current employer through a series of corporate acquisitions, i.e. "they" didn't hire me and my management team wanted to help me feel part of the company. Unfortunately, by the morning of day 3 the conference was having a weird and opposite effect: I felt like I didn't belong in this crowd of geniuses … and I was feeling this right down to my bones as my brain replayed every professional screw up I'd ever made in crystal clear hi-def. As I got lost in thought Ben started talking to us with lots of energy and enthusiasm, I cheered up a bit … and then he said: "Think of a problem, any problem, and I promise by the end of this presentation it'll be solved". I was "optimistically skeptical".

Unbelievably Ben actually delivered. He delivered a number of important messages dressed as hilarious stories about his life. The solution to my particular problem lay in Ben's story of a broken relationship he'd had with a former wife. "We will always be in a relationship Ben - it's just the way we contribute to it that is transforming into something new" At that point Ben had an epiphany - he would make his life about making a contribution rather than seeking personal accolades. I smiled.

Comparisons are as insidious as they are destructive. Lately they've been catching up with me big time. It seems every time I put myself out there, there's a negative result - I want to recoil, focusing on what's gone wrong I lose sight of what's gone right and what's important. We can all give a little something back, maybe this contribution will help many, often it just helps a few and that's ok, in fact that's perfect.
Thanks Ben.

WARNING: This might just brighten up your day :)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Engage - Getting over presentation nerves!

I used to get nervous about giving presentations, but somewhere along the line that changed and I began to love it. One of the most important things you can do, is engage people. Presenting is a chance to put that into practice. I used to wonder how people manage to go into presentations and confidently free style. I figured they must really know the content inside out, and though i still think that's true, I don't think that's the most important thing. You can't conquer presentation nerves by knowing a lot of content related

Switch on Steve Jobs

It's easy to tune out, easy to see something, feel something, but not realize how and why you feel that way.
Why bother tuning in? To gain amazing insights ... to create engaging presentations that force people out of their normal zone … forcing them to tune in and take a hard look at what's being said. Forcing them to be unassuming.
Here's a little example of tuning in. Hope you enjoy it :)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Heli-Skiing and starting a business ...

I guess starting a business is like heli-skiing. You know the whole … helicopter takes you to the top of a mountain and then you jump out with your ski's on, and you hope that skiing your heart out is enough to get you home safe with a wild story to tell :) I was reading a blogpost about this earlier. What an amazing feeling it must be to start all the way up there, all alone, carving your way down. It comes at a price though: You have to jump, and then there's no turning back.

With a startup, jumping is about investing lots of time, money and soul. Once you're in, there's no turning back. If you stop, you lose, if you don't stop you invest more and the price of failure just keeps increasing. I want to know if I'm ready. Will this idea work? But you never really know if you're ready. I only know that If I don't jump I can keep this dream alive and dreams are risk free … at least for a little while, until I realize I've left it too late…

Monday, November 14, 2011

Time for a break?

You do need to relax ... but if you feel you need to take a break from taking a break then maybe you're losing time ... i.e. you'd be more energized if you found something to do

Crossing the line

Once you've crossed the line you feel great because the next line is out of sight. You're in new territory and anything's possible ... as you progress ... you see the next line and you may want to quit ... don't ... there's new territory waiting to be discovered.