Learning Your Favorite App’s Secrets…

And speeding up development


With a hackathon this weekend, and impending deadlines on multiple B2B related products at TenTen, speeding up development has been on the mind. Being a product designer/manager with development skills that don’t go beyond an MVP, often the best role to personally play is supplying components. Sometimes that’s designs and graphics in Sketch, code from PaintCode, or open source libraries/code snippets from Stack Overflow.

In particular open source libraries came into play last week in working with Anthony (TenTen’s iOS expert) on a image slider element. The sketches and conversations had already started when the realization came that there was an out of the box solution that had personally saved a lot of time on a past project, Cobypic. In that case iCarousel was used (by @NickLockwood) for a coverflow, not a flat image carousel, luckily the iCarousel is full of options.

At the time the name iCarousel didn’t immediately come to mind, but it was easy to find simply by opening Cobypic’s settings page. There the two open source libraries that had been used in our relatively simple app were listed. Great ones like iCarousel that saved us a week, likely more, dev time designing from scratch and the awesome GPUImage (by @BradLarson) that made some of our and our child artist’s favorite features possible.

That’s when the epiphany came…

All my favorite apps have this page!

And there’s a good chance some of the great features, interactions, and behind the scenes magic they depend on are available free too!

So it came time to put the usefulness of this exaggerated epiphany to the test… Enter Monoco (disclaimer: Monoco is a friend’s app but one that I’ve used and admired the UI for sometime) and finding their thorough acknowledgements page…

From here it was time to put in a few minutes Googling or Githubbing to be exact. A few minutes that already likely saved weeks, if not months of dev time, and thousands, if not… well just open Github at this point.

Admittedly this was a skim search at this point, focusing on ones that seemed to be UI/UX related, and declining NSDate-Escort. Out of the minutes put into skimming Monoco though these are the top 5 that personally stood out:

  1. Appirater… “ A utility that reminds your iPhone app's users to review the app.” Awesome! As much as it can be a pain in other apps the temptation may be too great. (by Arash Payan)
Just don’t use ALL-CAPS like facebook… please.

2. Harpy… “Notify users when a new version of your iOS app is available, and prompt them with the App Store link.” That’s a day or so of dev time saved. (by Arthur A. Sabinstev)

3. JASidePanels… “Reveal side ViewControllers similar to Facebook/Path's menu” Another feature that’s been considered. (by Jesse Anderson)

4. JazzHands “A simple keyframe-based animation framework for UIKit. Perfect for scrolling app intros.” Maybe an alternative to using iCarousel in order to get a flashier intro. (by the great team behind IFTTT)

5. VTAcknowledgementsViewController… and… an open source project to help you easily list all of the open source projects you just found! (by Vincent Tourraine)

So these are the basic steps…

Favorite App ▶︎ Settings ▶︎ Legal/Licenses ▶︎ Github

This is an especially great step for designers, developers, and project managers to do during their competitive analysis stage. Whether that’s at a hackathon, or during weekly agile planning meetings before each sprint. In particular this weekend at Aviary’s hackathon many camera related apps’ acknowledgements pages will be plundered.

There’s no doubt that there are countless lists and newsletters of the best open source projects available online, but this is just one more way that gives great context to the libraries you will discover.


ps. Thanks @AriAwan and Monoco for all the great open source libraries! If this blog has helped you please download Ari’s app and maybe even buy something to say thanks.