Dennis Bowles of the iPhone App Experiment Podcast and Website

How to Make an App


In this Episode – Chris and the App Business Podcast welcome our 1st guest – and Chris and Dennis discuss:

What Dennis has learned by interviewing 30+ app publishers and service providers, top tips for growth and the direction of the mobile app industry.  Among the topics covered are:

  • Upcoming and recent changes in Mobile Apps
  • Dennis’ upcoming Udemy ASO Course
  • Chris’ Udemy Course, Book, Community
  • Guest Surprises
  • Dennis’ 1st App
  • Beer

Resources and Linked Mentioned in this Episode:

Contact Dennis at http://www.iphoneappexperiment.com/ and dennis@iphoneappexperiment.com


Transcription:

Chris: Hi, and welcome to the App Business Podcast. Today, we have a special episode, because it is our first guest. We have Dennis Bowles with us today.

Hey, Dennis.

Dennis:            Hey, Chris. How are you doing?

Chris: Good, man. So, Dennis, if you don’t know him, he is the host of a top-ranked, let’s say, app development and publisher podcast. It’s called the iPhone App Experiment Podcast.

Dennis, what’s the URL for that?

Dennis:            You can find that at www.iphoneappexperiment.com.

Chris:              Very logical.

 

Dennis:            Yeah, I tried to make it as simple as possible.

 

Chris: Yeah. So I thought Dennis would be a good guest, because he has interviewed, I think he’s had something like 35 episodes. I looked through – he’s available on iTunes and Stitcher – and a lot of the names that he’s interviewed are real familiar to the community.

 

I thought what would be fun would be not only to talk about current events with apps and kind of what he thinks or sees in the future of the business and stuff like that, but let’s see if we can’t get some gems or some interesting tidbits about his experience interviewing folks and all that kind of fun stuff, like why you got involved.

 

Sound good, Dennis?

 

Dennis:            Sounds great. And let me say that it’s an honor to be your first interview, and I hope not to let you guys down. I make no promises.

 

Chris:              If it’s terrible, we’ll just book a bad guest after you.

 

Dennis:            There you go.

 

Chris: Yeah, so we’ll lower the bar. But I doubt it’s going to be terrible.

 

So, one of the things I like to talk to my – the co-host is David Pfahler, and he’s a German developer, so we kind of have a unique position in the podcasting market where I’m non-technical, he’s technical, and we tend to talk about current events.

 

So what would be interesting is to hear kind of in your experience with interviewing people and in your experience in the industry, you have some apps as well, as a podcast, where do you see the industry going, maybe not the entire mobile place, but for us publishers, developers, designers, the indie guys of the world, what do you see kind of being interesting, and what interests you over the next three to six months?

 

Dennis:            Well, three to six months isn’t a whole lot of time for big changes, so I won’t go too far into that. But I think it’s interesting how the app store specifically compared to other marketplaces is always changing. The search algorithm in how natural searches are coming out is changing day to day. Re-skinning has been a big part in the app store, and people are concerned if that’s over saturating the market. I mean, there’s so many issues that are going on day by day, and it just changes. I don’t see any big and sudden monumental changes coming up in the next three to six months, but still, it’s a fluid and living marketplace that people have to really keep an eye on to stay current and stay ahead of it.

 

Chris: Yeah. I find that to be really intellectually fun because there’s always something to learn and there’s just no risk of being stagnant. In fact, if you’re stagnant, you’re probably going to – all these assets, which are your apps, are going to start to feel dated and look dated and not perform as well as they could, so it’s a lot of fun to just watch all these changes and figure out how they benefit your business.

 

Dennis:            Absolutely. And you just said things can feel and look outdated. You know, the simple change between iOS 6 and iOS7, just for the icon on your screen, I mean, they shaved off such a minimal amount of how much of your icon shows, and if you send in your app with an iOS 6 size, you have just a hair shaved off, and it changes the entire look of your app. And that small little tweak can really change – like if you have a border on your app. So these are little things you have to keep in mind.

 

Chris: I’m a big believer in the icon and how important it is to – as your kind of like primary conversion tool. That’s an important change, and that can have a huge impact. You could go from 1,000 downloads for your app to 50, and not know why if you’re not on top of all these changes.

 

Dennis:            Absolutely. I’m glad you mentioned icons, because I’m actually in the process of putting together an ASO course for Udemy.com. It’s not finished by any means, but it’s going to be all about icon design, screenshots, keyword selection, just little things like that that beginners and even more advanced people can really get into and learn a little more from all the different interviews and information I’ve gathered over the last year and a half of my time in the industry.

 

Chris: That’s what’s rad about being a podcaster is you can take all this stuff that people tell you and kind of repackage it up. There’s no end to the content you can create.

 

Dennis:            Oh, absolutely, because you don’t have to sit and think it up. Other people are giving it to you.

 

Chris:              Right, right.

 

Have you done a Udemy course before?

 

Dennis:            I have taken them; I have never taught one.

 

Chris: Got it. I did one, my first one, before I was going to Bangkok. I went to Bangkok a month ago, so I pushed submit right before. I priced it at $500, and I got 12 people. I’m thinking if I priced it lower, I might have a bigger impact. At some point, it’s just like helping people. At $500, it’s a business, but at $100, I’m not going to get rich off that, but a lot of people will be able to improve their portfolio. I don’t know what you were thinking of pricing it at, but I don’t know if $500 is the right number.

 

Dennis:            No, it’s going to be a lot less. I was actually thinking about pricing it at $99. I’ll probably initially get it out there for half-price for the first couple of weeks, because it’s more of a learning tool for people that listen to my podcast than it is a business, you know? I really want to put something that’s comprehensive and it walks people through step-by-step and it’s within their budget. So that’s the main goal of the course.

 

Chris: Yeah, I was kind of trying to weed out people that wouldn’t benefit. If someone has 50 apps, then if they take some of the advice – I took my own advice, because I researched a ton for my course, and a lot of it was from experience. But then after I wrote the course and posted it, I looked at my apps and I said, gosh, I’m not even living up to my own advice. I think it’s worth $500, but it’s probably better at $100. You’ll get more people involved.

 

Dennis:            Have you talked about this course on your podcast?

 

Chris:              No.

 

Dennis:            What’s it about? I’m curious.

 

Chris: So, it’s an app audit, and I was thinking I would do three sections. I released the first section, which is all about user acquisition or downloads. The second one would be an audit on retention and engagement and all the analytics and how to increase engagement and get people using your app longer and more often. And then the third module was going to be on specific monetization techniques.

 

The whole thing is monetization, but specifically, how do you manage ads, how do you show ad networks? How do you show in-app purchases and when? What in-app purchases, what items? All that kind of stuff. But I’ve only done one module so far, and even that, I mean, that’s three hours’ worth of content. All the stuff you’re talking about, like ASO, icons, descriptions, screen shots, asking for ratings, because ratings matters. Social media, landing pages, all that kind of stuff. Even if I don’t sell anymore, it will still be hugely valuable just for myself to go through and create that content.

 

Dennis:            Well, I’m surprised you haven’t mentioned it on your podcast. I hear dollar signs coming your way right now because you mentioned it.

 

Chris: Yeah, you know, we try to keep the podcast – even with [Heim 07:47], where [Heim 07:48] was, you know, he’s advertising on various podcasts, we didn’t want him to give us any money. We said just pass along a discount, because we just want to keep it so the podcast is – I don’t know how to say it – like, there’s no confusion over what we’re trying to deliver. It’s authentic content, and there’s no other reason or motivation for us talking and sharing our experiences.

 

Although it’s going to start driving people to a community. I just talked to you on your podcast about the Mobile 10x community, and we need a place for all these listeners to talk and grow with us.

 

But yeah, I’ve got a book too, I’ve got all sorts of stuff, and I don’t want to use the podcast to sell that stuff. I’d rather get them to the community. Shoot, I’ll give them the book for free. So there you go. Listeners, if you want a book, email me. I’ll give you the book for free. The book is really good for beginners. It’s like 150 resources that I wish I had when I first started.

 

So, the Udemy course, when do you think that’s going to be out for you?

 

Dennis:            I’d like to have it out before Christmas, but that gives me about two weeks. So yeah, it probably won’t be. But anybody that’s interested, I’m going to put on my homepage at iphoneappexperiment.com.

 

Chris: Cool, and then we’ll update show notes as well when you have a link for that, and we’ll certainly have a link to your iphoneappexperiment.com site as well. I hope you have a lot of success with that, and I know it’s fun just building it.

 

So, another question I had for you around your guests – and I kind of told you ahead of time I was going to ask you some questions about this, and you weren’t sure if there were any silver bullets or gems. But has there been any guest that said something or just in general surprised you? Like, you weren’t expecting he was going to be a certain way, or she was going to have – say something, or any resource, or anything like that that you’re talking to them and something came out of left field?

 

Dennis:            Well, I won’t say anything came out of left field, nothing that monumental or mind-blowing, but I can tell you that through the podcast, talking to different guests, one thing really started to show through. Everybody was mentioning, oh, well, I heard about this on this podcast, or, I heard about this person on that podcast. And the main thing was podcasts. It was mentioned almost out of every single person’s mouth.

 

Chris:              Wow.

 

Dennis:            Every one of them listens to podcasts, they’ve met people through podcasts, they’ve connected with groups through podcasts, and that actually drove me to do a two-part series on podcasting and the power of it.

 

I had two of the biggest names in podcasting; John Lee Dumas, from ‘Entrepreneur on Fire’, and Cliff Ravenscraft, who’s the ‘Podcast Answer Man’, who’s been doing it since the inception of podcasting. They came on the show and shared their insights just to really illustrate how powerful podcasting is for community building, brand building, you know, if you want to build a community around your apps, or if you want to use it as a marketing tool. Some people might think that’s a little too aggressive to say, hey, you know, I built this community of 10,000 people, I don’t really want to promote my stuff, kind of like what you’re saying, but other people, myself included, think hey, I’ve got these 10,000 people that listen to me, we’ve got a good rapport going, we email back and forth, we have all these different things, it’s alright for me to say, hey, I released this new app. That’s a huge burst of downloads when you release an app. So it’s a great marketing tool.

 

Chris: Yeah, I totally agree with you. I think my position is more of I need to pick and choose which things I’m going to be promoting, because I’ve got my hands in a lot of stuff all of a sudden and I think the things I want to promote are my future services and the Mobile 10x community. So, it’s just becoming too many things.

 

You know when you ask your friends, hey, rate my app, and all of a sudden, you have 50 apps and you’re always asking them to rate something, it’s kind of like that. It’s just like I need to pick and choose what I encourage the listeners to – it’s not even purchase, just participate in, you know?

 

But yeah, I agree with you. I think the podcasting is a huge marketing tool because listeners get to know you. I know when I see people, or I meet people where I’ve listened to 10 of their podcasts, I feel like I already know them. It’s a little bit like the celebrity thing where they don’t know you, but you know them if you’re the listener. So I knew who you were before I’d ever talked to you on the phone because I had listened to some of your podcasts. I think that goes a long way where people really get a feel for how you are who you are.

 

Dennis:            Absolutely. You can’t really show your personality too well through a blog or through a brand logo, so people don’t really know the person behind XYZ app. But if they really do get to know you and they like your message and they like you personally and they feel like they connect with you, and if you come out with the next Evernote or something like that, you’ve already got this group of people who enjoy listening to you, that feel like they know you, that are friends with you, even if you’ve never spoken or exchanged a single email. A lot of times a lot of those people will support you, and it’s just so powerful.

 

With Stitcher going into cars in the next year or so, that just opens up podcasting in a new and exciting way. That’s been the biggest thing that I have seen come out of my experience through interviews. It’s just – even the most minute person that doesn’t have a podcast mentions podcasting as some point during the interview.

 

Chris: That’s awesome. You’re the first official guest on the show, so we’re not pro podcasters by any means, we don’t even have intro music. We just start the microphones and start trying to – we do a lot of research before we talk, but it’s not like John Lee Dumas where we just ask the same question to a bunch of interesting people, which is an interesting format, but ours is just not a formula. It’s really just a once or twice a week conversation with people that are living mobile apps, and we think that provides value. But it’s just so much fun to do, and I think people love it. I like the format. It’s a lot of fun.

 

Dennis:            Yeah. This is actually not my first podcast. My first one I spent a year every – well, I won’t say every week consistently, but at a minimum every two weeks, but most often every week, sitting down in my basement where I’m sitting right now, which is what I call my studio, and I still actually have a thing on the wall that says ‘Anything Goes in Podcasts’ which was the name of our podcast, and we’d sit down here and just tell jokes. It was like a frat party. It was supposed to be a comedy podcast. It got buried somewhere in iTunes, not a lot of listeners, but we had a blast doing it.

 

Chris:              Have you ever watched the ‘Joe Rogan Experiment’? Is it Experiment or Experience?

 

Dennis:            I think it’s Experience. Ever since he started getting all muscular, he creeps me out and I quit watching it.

 

Chris: Oh, okay. I’ve only watched it recently, but the format is just like, hey, here’s my loose notes, here’s what I want to talk about, and let’s set aside two-and-a-half hours to talk about it. It ends up being really cool. I think he set the bar – I don’t know if he’s the first guy that started doing it like this, but it just makes it like talking to interesting people for a couple hours, or in our case, 20 minutes. I really like that. I think we’re all so busy, it’s nice to have a 20 minute conversation without interruption and just kind of dig into some topics, you know?

 

Dennis:            Yeah, and the connections you make with people you wouldn’t have an excuse to reach out and talk to.

 

Chris:              Yeah.

 

Dennis:            I interviewed Carter Thomas, who is just a master of re-skins, and I had no reason to reach out to him or for him to really respond if I just said, hey, Carter, how you doing? But instead, I said, hey, I have this great podcast, I have this many episodes under my belt, here’s some of the past guests, I’d really like to pick your brain. And now we have that connection, and if something comes up, if Carter wants to reach out to me, we have this connection already that’s made.

 

Chris: Yeah. I met John Lee Dumas – I had lunch with him before his – or breakfast or something before his podcast really took off, but I think since we met – because he had just moved to San Diego, and I’m a San Diego guy, so I said, dude, I didn’t know you were down here, let’s go meet. So it’s been a lot of fun to watch him blow up because I felt like, man, I know that guy is working hard, it’s great that he did that. He’s interviewing people from Shark Tank and he’s really getting some, in my mind, high up there. He didn’t get Cuban, but he got Barbara Corcoran, and I think he’s got three of the five sharks. He’s doing really well. That is really cool. The number of doors that can be opened through this medium is just amazing.

 

Dennis:            Oh, absolutely.

 

Chris:              It adds instant credibility.

 

Dennis:            I’d love to see how many emails he sent out before people really started saying yes. Because once you have one of the sharks, the second shark might be a little more inclined to say yes.

 

Chris:              Oh, absolutely.

 

Dennis:            Then other people will be like, oh, he interviewed that person? Well, he’s asking me? I’m honored.

 

Chris:              Yeah, absolutely.

 

Dennis:            Once those doors start opening, you know?

 

Chris: You mentioned leveraging your audience if you have a new app out or something like that. We’re already kind of seeing some traction with audience listeners – downloads I guess is how we measure it. I’m putting you on the spot; we didn’t talk about this before. Do you have an app that you want to talk about?

 

Dennis:            Well, here’s my deal. I started out with my blog and my podcast because I wanted to get into the mobile space. I Googled ‘how to make an iOS app’, and there was like three websites, and they were garbage. It was just, hey, you hire a coder, you hire a designer, and you submit it to the store. And that was it.

 

I was like, there’s got to be more. I kept searching, and there was just a huge void. So I said, I’m going to fill that void. I started my blog saying this is me, nice to meet you, here’s my goal: I’m going to create an app and I’m going to show you everything that I’ve done. And that kind of spawned the podcast where I sat down and started talking about it, and I went through every step of trying to figure out what I need to do, step-by-step, anything from keeping a positive attitude to wireframing to brainstorming to outsourcing, hiring contractors, all the way up to getting my first app into the app store.

 

In hindsight, I didn’t create an app that met a need or that solved a problem. Nothing like that. It was just, I wanted an idea. I thought of a cute character, and I thought, oh, there’s Sugar Glider. So that was how my idea was born.

 

So, my first original app really did not do well because it wasn’t marketed in any way except through my podcast, and my listenership was still pretty low at the time. So the result was an app that was pretty much getting a few downloads here and there every day, but nothing great to report. It’s called Sugar Glider X. It’s a side scrolling, collect the coins, eat the bugs kind of game where you just try to reunite with the other sugar gliders in the family, but there really is no ending.

 

Chris: So if you want to do one thing to learn more about Dennis, don’t download Sugar Glider, go check out his podcast. It sounds like that’s the thing, right?

 

Dennis:            The app itself, it’s a solid app for my very first app. But it was all about the experiment, which was iPhone App Experiment, you know? I wanted to experience it and go through the process and document it. Currently, I’ve still got some apps, I’ve got some re-skins, and I’m doing a re-skin challenge against another developer.

 

Chris:              Oh, that’s right. Yeah.

Dennis:            And we’re just doing this as an experiment. I’m not expecting to make $10 million off this app. I don’t really care if I make $20 off this app. The idea is we battle it out with the exact same code.

Chris:              Oh, cool.

Dennis:            We both have a match-3 code that he created, we both picked a Christmas theme, and we went from there. We didn’t discuss anymore until we met back and released our apps. So we did all of our graphics, we did all of our keyword research and we’ve talked about it, and we’re going to compare the numbers and see who comes out on top, and then we’re going to pick it apart and try to figure out why that person’s was better…

Chris:              Yeah, that’s great.

Dennis:            …and what the other person could have done better to improve apps for other people.

Chris:              I’ll have to look for that. That sounds like a really cool segment or series to follow.

Dennis:            It’s similar to what Gabriel Machuret and Steve Young are doing with the App Battle. We’re doing a re-skin version.

Chris: That’s awesome.

Something else you said – I feel a little bit like the grandpa who says, well, in my day, I walked to school in the snow uphill, you know that kind of saying. There really wasn’t as much available as there is today 18 months, two years ago, for people like us trying to build out an app portfolio, like you were saying, which was kind of the impetus for the iPhone App Experiment podcast and the actual app you were creating. There wasn’t a step-by-step guide. And for the beginners out there who haven’t created an app yet or for those that only have a couple, guys, there was no re-skinning back then. You couldn’t buy code, like Carter has made available now.

So, it really is easier now, and there should be no excuses. If you’re not sure about mobile, that’s one thing. But if you are sure that you want to build a mobile app, my gosh, it’s so much easier than even 18 months ago. So take it from two old guys like us. It’s easier now.

Dennis:            Not just the simplicity, but the barrier to entry has been lowered so much, you just lift your foot and step over it. I mean, if you think about it, if you take out your $100 for a developer’s license and assume you have a Mac computer, you can download Xcode for free. You can buy a code, let’s say $100 – or let’s go a different way. Let’s say the real simple Slot Machine code from Carter Thomas over at bluecloudsolutions.com, I think it’s like $70 or something for a single license, if you buy that and do the graphics yourself, you’re an app developer. For under $100, you can actually get into the space and get a little bit of experience and you’ll learn what’s involved in it. You can see what code looks like, you can see how to switch out graphics. Better yet, you can go to Udemy.com and search for courses that have codes included that show you step-by-step how to do it. Re-skin is not going to make you rich, unless you’re pumping out a lot of them, but the wealth of information is where the value is.

Chris:              Absolutely.

Dennis:            And you can do it for so cheap.

Chris: Yeah. So, this is one thing we talk about on the podcast often, and it’s not doing too much. So for those of you out there that are serious about building a portfolio of 10, 50, 100 apps, re-skinning, so much is already done for you. I highly recommend, even though it’s cheaper – and that was Dennis’s point, that it’s cheaper and easier; how easy it is to do it yourself – I still recommend hiring a developer, hiring a designer, because that experience is what you’re ultimately getting from buying a re-skin code. You don’t have to create the code, but you still have to go through the experience of hiring and managing and working with the designers and the developers, and I think that is really the lesson you should be learning from buying re-skin code. You’ve got to learn something from that, otherwise, it’s just a wasted opportunity. Like Dennis said, you’re not going to make a bunch of money from it. You might not even make your money back, even at $100. But at $500 to hire a designer and a developer and really do it right, that’s really, just mark it off as education, and that’s what I recommend. Learning the hard way a little bit at first, because that experience will go a long way.

Dennis:            Absolutely. I learned a lot because that was actually the way I went. My first app was not a re-skin, it was a completely original app. I had like a four-month window that I was expecting to get it done, and it took nine.

Chris:              Oh my gosh.

Dennis:            My graphic designer was epic. She was awesome. I recommended her on my podcast, she did great work. The app looks great, and my developer was not good at all. I thought I did everything right through the interviewing process, but you actually have to do it. You have to really get a feel for people. You have to sit down and interview them. And that’s priceless, too, to get that experience and that little bit of knowledge as you’re doing it.

Chris: And it’s not just managing people. I’ve managed people before in my career. It’s managing people that are developers, when you’re not, and it’s managing someone with a different primary language, you know, first language. It’s managing people that live on another continent in another time zone. It’s not a small thing, you know? It’s hard. It’s hard to do right. It’s hard to do well.

Dennis:            It is. Another thing, other than managing people, is you have to learn to convey your message to others. You can simply say, I want this app with Sugar Glider and it goes from left to right, but that doesn’t answer, what does it do when you tilt your device?

Chris:              Right. It’s not the developer’s job to design your app. Right.

Dennis:            Exactly. And you really have to learn how to be thorough and detail oriented, and that’s another very useful skill that you’ll learn along the way.

Chris: Yeah.

Hey, Dennis, so we talked briefly on your podcast about beer. What kind of beer do you like?

Dennis:            I am a domestic Bud Light drinker.

Chris:              Oh, wow.

Dennis:            I’ve never really ventured too far out of it. I like Yeungling. I believe that’s an Ohio company, in Cincinnati, Ohio. It’s a pretty light lager, but I like it. But I don’t go too far away from those two.

Chris: I went to college in Chico, California, and that’s where Sierra Nevada brewery is. I just have had a crush on this beer, it’s a seasonal beer called Celebration. At the time, IPAs – I don’t even think I knew what an IPA was. But turns out, it’s a fresh hop IPA. I guess the first batch of hops that come out for the year are just being able to be brewed at this time. It’s kind of like a holiday beer. Anyway, long story short, there’s a Chargers game on tonight, and I got some cold Celebrations in the fridge. I thought maybe you were a strong ale fan, and you would appreciate the Celebration, so a swing and a miss on that one.

So, Dennis . . .

Dennis:            The game’s on right now, isn’t it?

Chris: Yeah, and we’re just at the 30 minute mark. So any parting bits of wisdom, or where can we connect with you? I think we’ve said it 10 times, but…

Dennis:            You can find anything about me that you want to on iphoneappexperiment.com; there’s my Twitter, Facebook, email. If anybody has questions or just interested in saying hi, feel free to email me through there, or you can do it directly at dennis@iphoneappexperiment.com.

The advice I have is take the leap. Jump in both feet first. Don’t be afraid, don’t make excuse; don’t build your own hurdles. There’s no one that’s going to stop you in this world except yourself.

Chris: Yeah, amen. Well, Dennis, we’ll be looking for your Udemy course, and I hope you can get it out soon. I think the thing you have going with the app competition will be really interesting, so I hope you win. But I hope we all learn some things along the way.

I really appreciate you being a guest today.

Dennis:            Absolutely. It was an honor to be here. Thanks for having me.

Chris:              Okay. Thanks, Dennis. Thanks, guys

 

2 Comments

  • Dennis Bowles

    Hey Chris. Thanks for having me on the show! Had a great time chatting with you and look forward to seeing you continue to build your app business and podcast!

    • Chris Chidgey

      Thanks Dennis! Yeah – 1st “real” interview in the books and live – thanks for being part of this as we figure it all out.

Comments are closed.