Mobile Web Recorder App: Introducing & Why?
Today, we release Mobile Web Recorder, a mobile web recording app with narration and animated touches for the iPhone and iPad.
Why did I build this app?
We released our inline, autoplay video feature in FlowVella at the turn of 2017 and I was convinced it would be great for demos, mobile advertising and many other uses. Because of my experience in mobile, I know several mobile advertising companies who are friends. I began to contact a few of them. In every conversation, they wanted to try FlowVella and test the new feature, but didn’t have product demo videos. They didn’t know where they were, how to create them. Or, they would need a designer to help them. They all wanted to show interactivity and produce videos quickly. I spoke with Emily at YouAppi, Todd at Tout, Dan at BrightRoll, Richard at Yume, Ed at Kargo, and Jen and Rich at PadSquad (who already is a FlowVella customer) and more.
As I was building a demo video on how autoplay video works in February, I was bouncing between my Mac and iPhone to create a demo video. I was now annoyed as well. I wanted to show the interactive touches and just have an easier way to record video off an iPhone of mobile web sites. The only way to record video well off an iPhone is to connect to a Mac and use QuickTime. I looked around and there was actually no app that does shows interactive touches. There are a couple of ‘low quality’ apps that do some video capture, but they are NOT streamlined, trying to get you to click on ads or they are subscription based. None had an animating touch points and none offered completely pristine video, meaning all the videos created showed the apps interface in the video — not good for the kind of customers we want. They want nothing interfering with their demo or content, just their web site, their demo, nothing else.
In the FlowVella app, last August, we launched our ‘Record’ feature. It allows you to launch a FlowVella presentation, record the presentation and optionally add voice narration. We built this after I attended Apple’s WWDC (World Wide Developers Conference) and learned about a technology called ReplayKit. I built pieces of it, and Andrew Simmons, our former lead iOS developer, who has helped us between gigs, implemented it fully.
What if I took that feature of FlowVella, added it to a webview (a webview is essentially a web page in an app) and made a super simple app that only recorded mobile web site videos?
I built a functioning app in hours (actually to my surprise). As many in product development and programming know, you can build 80% of a product very quickly, the last 20% takes a lot longer, and sometimes the last 5% takes the longest. I showed it to Jenn, our designer, and she helped with design elements and graphics and the icon. We added the ‘F’ of FlowVella in the icon as attribution of it being a FlowVella product.
I added a ‘shake’ gesture, so there would be no buttons or interface on the video being captured. We made the interface clear with large form inputs, and kept as minimal and functional as possible.
Back to the Future of Utility Apps
Remember when the App Store launched and the iPhone was fresh and there were all these cool simple effective utility apps that did one thing? It doesn’t seem like we are in those days now (though there are some companies continuing to build smaller apps). We are as guilty as others with FlowVella, it is big app that does a lot. Our goal was to make it simple yet powerful, but to get to powerful and appeal to a big audience, you need to do more. How refreshing to build an app that is 2.5 MB, has about 3 or 4 screens and does one thing. Mobile Web Recorder is a mobile web recording app with narration and animated touches.
No Ads, No Registration, No Push Notifications, No Subscriptions, No BS
Mobile Web Recorder has NO ads — except a ‘powered by FlowVella’ logo and button. There are NO banner ads and NO takeover ads and NO other advertising or distractions. There is NO user registration, we won’t send you push notifications. There are NO paid subscriptions to use this app.
The app costs $1.99. We ask you to rate the app once, and share it once and that is all the interruption you will get.
In this new ‘app era’ where long term business models are needed to survive, we went old school with this app. We’re not going to market to you, you pay for the app and we provide value, and that’s where it ends. FlowVella, our core business and app, is completely different, you need to register to use it, we ask to send you push notifications and we need users to purchase our paid subscription plans. Our objective is for people who use Mobile Web Recorder to learn about FlowVella and maybe they will put their videos into FlowVella presentations. And this leads to the next point.
Should we build more small apps that create/edit/alter content that can be added to FlowVella?
‘Hub and Spoke’ for Productivity Apps
After I built the first iteration of the app, and after showing people who unanimously loved it and wanted it, I began to think of other small, single function productivity/utility apps. Mobile Web Recorder is therefore also a test of the ‘hub and spoke theory’ for productivity apps. FlowVella is the hub as it allows the integration of multiple content types; video, images, PDF, text, and audio into one seamless, interactive presentation experience. Should we build more small apps that create/edit/alter content that is then added to FlowVella? That is a question that this test is going to also answer and we can’t wait to find out.
App Review from Hell (Only Interesting to Few)
I submitted this app on February 27th, and expected to launch it two weeks later. We were nearing our next launch of FlowVella, so the plan was to launch this first, then ride that right into the FlowVella launch.
Apple has been doing a great job with App Review as of the last 9 months or so. FlowVella has been going through app review in days, never as long as a week. This was NOT the case with Mobile Web Recorder. The app was rejected 4 times and took over a month to get approval. It may have been longer, if I didn’t have a contact at App Review who I finally convinced to get the app expedited this past Friday. I thought that the app was flagged and that it might not even launch. I began to reach to press about it. I was frustrated, such a simple app, but I do think Apple is sensitive around video recording apps, and because it was a first version, they took their time with it.
First, we were rejected because we were trying to trick users as we were calling the app a browser recorder…? What? That’s what it is. We had a different name for the first version, Mobile Screen Recorder, we changed to Mobile Web Recorder, so it was very clear that you couldn’t record other apps, just the web browser.
We were next rejected for not having an email address on our support web site. We updated the web site, the FlowVella flow — that took literally 2 mins and resubmitted. We waiting almost a week for it to go back into review and then it was ‘in review’ for 9 days. Usually, when ‘in review’, it’s done in hours, never longer than a day.
After 9 days, they found a bug, it was a small issue, but it was real. App Review hasn’t flagged a bug for FlowVella in years, so it was a shock. I found the issue, fixed it a couple of hours later and resubmitted. The app went ‘in review’ another four days later. I called my contact at Apple and said that it’s been over a month, she said she would expedite it.
Then, on Monday morning, we got the email, our app is approved. Holy shitake mushrooms! They actually approved it!
So, now go and check it out!
You can download Mobile Web Recorder from the App Store, it’s available everywhere for $1.99.
I’d love your feedback and thoughts on the app, and any of the above.