Tag Archives: iOS

Missing More than the Plot

“Anyone that watched the DJ scrubbing the Touch Bar and didn’t think it would be 100 times more natural to scratch with the on screen turn tables on a the flat Surface Studio screen wasn’t thinking too hard.”

(via John Kheit for the Mac Observer)

I basically disagree with this entire article. But that last bit really struck me as monumentally stupid.

If John knew any actual DJs, he’d know a few things:

  • Algoriddim already has an excellent iPad version of djayPro, which works great on the iPad’s touch surface. In fact, it won an Apple Design Award back in 2011.
  • Many pro DJs opt for a Mac over the iPad, despite the touch screen. The MacBook Pro is the industry standard for modern computer-based DJs.
  • No DJ wants to cart around a desktop machine the size of the Surface Studio into a night club for a gig. It would be ridiculously cumbersome.
  • From what everyone says about Surface Studio, the latency would probably outweigh the benefits of a larger touch surface

I’ve heard a number of people comment on how “stupid” the djay demo was. The point of the djay demo was to show the creative possibilities of what could be done with the Touch Bar. Try to see the potential, not the specifics. I thought it was a great demonstration of the versatility of the Touch Bar, if you are willing to put in a little effort and some creative thinking as a developer. This is way more than a row of keyboard shortcuts.

Who wants to wager with me that MacBook Pro sales outpace Microsoft Surface Studio sales by a million or more units in the next quarter? I think that’s a pretty safe bet, don’t you?

More on Sticker Pack Screenshots

As I continually iterate on the Mixologist Sticker Pack, I’m also paying close attention to the iMessage App Store and its trends. Screenshots for sticker packs are still largely disappointing. But some of the craftier developers are coming up with presentations for their stickers that are quite nice.

My favorites have done away with the entire notion of presenting actual screenshots, and are instead just presenting the stickers in rows on a colored background. This makes perfect sense, as anyone buying stickers gets the idea, generally, of what stickers can do. What a buyer wants to know is what the stickers look like, more or less. And that’s it.

I ended up taking this approach for the latest version of Mixologist and the Leo Collection, and I think the results are quite good.

Mixologist screen shot oneMixologist screen shot two

There’s just no way to make a shot of an iMessage conversation look particularly eye-catching. By simply showing the stickers in rows, I’m both presenting my stickers in the best light, and giving my potential customers a better sense of what they are buying.

You can see the full set of five screenshots on the App Store.

Adding an App Store Link Inside a Sticker Pack

For version 1.2 of the Mixologist Sticker Pack, I wanted to do more than just add a few more new drinks.[1] Taking a lesson from my friend Curtis Herbert, I wanted to add something to the app that improved it as a business. In this case, I wanted a link to my other sticker pack, the Leo Collection, inside the Mixologist.

Seems like a no-brainer to let the customers of one of my sticker packs know about my other packs, right? After all, these are people who have demonstrated that they know about, like, and will pay for stickers. They are a perfect target demographic.

Adding a link to the App Store inside an iMessage extension is trickier than it sounds, though. This is because extensions in iOS don’t get direct access to openURL. So you can’t simply add a link button that will launch the App Store app.[2]

So how do I link to the Leo Collection from within the Mixologist? That took a bit of asking around to my developer friends. I knew it was possible, thanks to the many great sticker packs offered by Iconfactory. At the bottom of each of their packs, there’s a button that launches a new view with all their packs listed. Tap on one, and you get an App Store page, complete with a Buy button, right within the extension. Nice.

Iconfactory More Page

So how are they doing this? I asked a few friends (Sam Gross and Jeff Grossman) while attending CocoaLove last week in Philly, and as people in our community tend to do, they immediately started brainstorming. Within thirty seconds, one of them suggested SKStoreProductViewController.

If you’re wondering, “What the heck is a SKStoreProductViewController,” don’t worry. I hadn’t heard of it before, either.

Turns out, as of iOS 6, StoreKit includes a controller that will only show you a specific App Store product page, right within your app. No need to link out to the App Store app. No need to bring up a Safari View Controller. It’s a nice tool that I had completely overlooked previously.

And best of all, it works within an iMessage extension.

Initialize the view controller with your product id (and even your affiliate token, if you like) and you can bring up the page for any product you want.[3]

I went home after CocoaLove and tried it. Sure enough, that was how Iconfactory was pulling off this trick.

Leo Collection inside an SKStoreProductViewController

One small downside to the SKStoreProductViewController: It’s no good for prompting the user for reviews. I wanted to have a “Leave a Review” button on the same page that launched a SKStoreProductViewController with Mixologist as the product. But it turns out that not only can you not initialize the view on the Reviews tab automatically; even if the user goes to that tab and taps the “Write a Review” button, nothing will happen.[4]

Still, I managed to get a link to the Leo Collection into the Mixologist pack. It’s unobtrusive, sitting way down at the bottom of the collection, so as to not get in anyone’s way.[5] But it’s there, if one of my customers is curious.

Now I just have to put a link to Mixologist Sticker Pack inside the Leo Collection.

If you have more than one sticker pack, I suggest giving this a try. It doesn’t take long to get the controller up and running, and the potential benefit is well worth it.

Update: Daniel Farrelly (@jellybeansoup) informs me that you can use openURL in an extension, as long as it’s on the extensionContext. I still prefer using the SKStoreProductViewController to keep my user inside my extension and not bounce them out to the App Store. But I may look into this as a way to make a Leave a Review button work.

  1. Don’t worry. I also added three new drinks. Port wine, the Kir Royale (as requested by Jean MacDonald) and the French 75.  ↩

  2. My guess is Apple doesn’t want people getting bounced out of Messages unexpectedly from an extension. There are probably also security concerns.  ↩

  3. I recommend doing what Iconfactory does, and forcing your extension to the expanded size when you load one of these views.  ↩

  4. The button is there. It looks active. But when you tap it, nothing happens. No error message. No indication that something is wrong. Just nothing. Poking around, it seems that Apple wants it this way, for some reason. The button used to work, but stopped a few major versions of iOS ago. Radars have been open on it for years. But all indications are that it was disabled intentionally by Apple. It’s a shame, really. It would be nice to make it just a bit more convenient for users to leave a review.  ↩

  5. Maybe it’s too well hidden, in fact. I figured it best to err on the side of subtlety, rather than hitting people over the head with it. Time will tell if I should do something to make the button stand out a bit better.  ↩

On Making Quality Sticker Screenshots

The bar for iMessage sticker pack screenshots is really low right now. Take a look at some of the sticker packs on the App Store, and you’ll soon see what I mean. Many sticker packs have one or two screenshots max; many are obviously hastily snapped from within iMessage without much thought to presentation. It’s a huge missed opportunity. I can’t tell you how many sticker packs I’ve passed over because of poor quality screenshots.

I know making screenshots of iMessage is a huge pain. The amount of Photoshop work I had to do to make my screenshots for the Leo Collection would surprise most people. And I don’t even think they turned out as nice as I’d like. But it was worth it to at least present my stickers somewhat effectively.

For my new Mixologist Sticker Pack, I’ve rethought my approach to screenshots, treating them more like I do my regular app screenshots. I hope they convey the quality of the pack even better.

You have one chance to sell your stickers to a prospective buyer. Those five images are pretty much all you get. No one is reading your description text for stickers. Believe me.

I thought developers had learned this lesson years ago, but perhaps the influx of designers being able to create their own packs without code has resulted in many newcomers who don’t yet understand how important screenshots are. Or perhaps more likely, people are only experimenting with stickers and are not really sure if they are worth the effort.

I can assure you, crafting a nice set of stickers, then presenting it in such a slapdash manner won’t get you good data on whether the pack was worth it.

Here are some tips for creating effective sticker screenshots. If you want me to buy your stickers, anyway. [1]

  • Have five of them. Seriously. You get five. Don’t use two.
  • Show me as many of the individual stickers as you can, so I can see the variety and quantity available. If you have so few stickers that you can’t present them in an interesting way over five shots, you probably don’t have enough stickers in your pack. And that’s something I should know before purchasing.
  • Show the full-screen view of stickers. Rows and rows of stickers. If it takes up two or three shots to get a good sampling of your stickers, do it. The shots of stickers being used in conversations are important, but not as important as being able to see what I’m buying.
  • Feel free to add text, color, etc. to convince me why I would want your pack. This is a sales pitch. The same rules apply here that apply to app screenshots. The goal is not to present reality; it’s to sell an aspiration. Think about how McDonald’s presents its products in photos. You are trying to convey visually how good your customers will feel when they send and receive these stickers.
  • Put some time and effort into your screenshots. Design them. You needed a designer to get the artwork for the stickers. Make that same designer spend a day or two designing the best way to package them.

Hopefully as the iMessage App Store grows, we’ll see the quality bar for sticker screenshots move up to the high standard we see in well crafted apps on the main App Store. In the meantime, you have an opportunity to impress with your sticker screenshots while the rest of the store is presenting mostly crap.

If you have any questions regarding sticker packs or screenshots, or you need someone to help you design a set for you, get in touch.

  1. And you probably want to target me for your stickers. I buy a lot of stickers.  ↩

The Mixologist Sticker Pack

Mixology has been an interest of mine for many years. Not in the “let’s party all night until we fall over” way, but rather in an "appreciation for the finely crafted beverage after dinner” sort of way. I enjoy reading up on techniques, finding new recipes, and researching the histories of various cocktails throughout the ages.

The Last Word

The Last Word

Crafting fine cocktails and software design actually go hand in hand. They both involve a bit of art and science, and they both require an appreciation for getting things just right. Attention to detail is paramount. It’s no surprise so many in our profession enjoy amateur bartending at home.

For my next sticker pack, I wanted to celebrate my appreciation for mixology with a set of finely made cocktail drawings. From the various glassware shapes, to the joy of drawing lemon twists, this set of stickers was pure fun from start to finish for me.

Vesper Martini

Vesper Martini

I’ve represented several classic cocktails, like the Old Fashioned, the Manhattan, and of course the Gin Martini. (I’ve even done a Vesper Martini variant, as a nod to the Daniel Craig fans.) I’ve also added some of my other favorites, like the Sidecar, the Tipperary, and The Last Word. I hope to add more in the future.

There’s beer of course, if cocktails aren’t your thing. Pilsner, IPA, Stout, Belgian Ale, Hefeweizen, and a nice Irish Red. And if wine is more your thing, we have that as well.



Finally, I round out the set with some accessories familiar to anyone who has started a home cocktail operation.

If you like crafting cocktails, or you just want to send a quick invitation to go out with friends for a few drinks, this set will suit you well.

I hope you enjoy the stickers, and I welcome your feedback. Have a favorite cocktail you’d like to see included? Drop me a line.

You can learn more about all the sticker projects I’ve worked on here.

The Mixologist Sticker Pack is available now on the App Store.