Idea to App Store in 7 Days

My team built and shipped an iPhone app in 7 days. Here’s how it went down.

The Idea

There are two things we obsess over — local discovery and maps (our main product is Maply — a real-time event map). This means we use social map apps all day. One of our favorites is Waze.

A Waze feature that everyone seems to love is the ability to chat with other drivers. People use it to learn about road conditions or for entertainment from the passenger seat.

We asked ourselves — how can we incorporate map-based messaging to make it easier to figure out what’s happening at a certain location?

We began listing use cases/problems this could solve:

  • Find out how crowded a bar/coffee shop is
  • Ask how many seats are left in the library
  • Make a new friend in a country you’re visiting next month

From this, an idea was formed. Its working title was Marauder’s Map.

Basics (Name, Logo, Interface)

When we first started designing, we wanted to incorporate Marauder’s Map into Maply. It was gonna look like this:

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We quickly decided to spin it off into a separate product. There were two reasons for this — (1) we’ve been wanting to build something with a very straightforward use case (three buttons or less) and (2) we’d rather iterate on a stand-alone product, make it really awesome, and then incorporate it within our main product (Maply).

So it was back to square one — which meant we needed a new name, logo and interface.

For the logo, we wanted something friendly. We also needed something that was within my limited logo design wheelhouse (hiring an outside designer would have cost time and money). Here were some very rough ideas:

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All of these kinda sucked. But what mattered was that they got us talking. We’ve found the fastest way to get creative is to kill your pride and accept that most of your early iterations will be garbage. In quickly making these logos, we created an environment for discussion that was open to any ideas, good or bad.

At one point someone asked “if this app was an animal, what would it be?”

Birds can fly and get a ‘birds-eye view’ of what’s happening below. That was fitting. Parrots are colorful fun-looking creatures. Cool.

I drafted up a few parrot logos (all created entirely with circles — easy). To decide which to pick I created an Instagram poll. The votes were cast and we had a logo:

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Next came the name. Again, we wanted something friendly. Ideas included Parrot, Mapchat, Chatmap, Chatter, Chattr. We went with Mapchat. (A few days after submitting to the App Store we changed the name to Mapchatter because ‘Mapchat’ is apparently very hard to rank for in the App Store.)

Once we had a name and logo, we bought the cheapest domain name possible (mapchat.cool for $4). This didn’t have to be anything fancy — its main use was to house our Terms of Service and provide the URL that the App Store requires.

To design the interface (what the app would look like) we asked ourselves what features absolutely needed to be included.

  • A map
  • A way to display users on the map
  • A chat interface

We did indulge ourselves on a few unnecessary features. We came up with “the wave” and the ability to change your emoji based on your current mood.

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Development

With the design in place, our incredibly talented iOS developer (@dallashoelscher) was able to build the app within the week.

Keeping the concept and design simple was valuable during development.

We shipped (experienced a lengthy review process with Apple) and were eventually approved.

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In Conclusion

We built Mapchatter in a week by following a few rules.

  1. We kept the idea and product simple. Create something that only does one thing. Challenge yourself to build an app with less than three buttons on the home screen.
  2. We didn’t waste time on things that can be changed. We picked a name and logo that was relevant and communicated the personality of our product. We didn’t hire a graphic designer (you don’t need to be a professional to create the Facebook logo). We bought the cheapest domain name we could find and put the bare minimum on it.
  3. We shipped the app as soon as it covered the basic features, rather than waiting until everything was ‘perfect.’ You learn exponentially faster this way.

Here’s a link to check out the live app — http://apple.co/2hPuWSS

Afterward

Two weeks after we released Mapchatter, on a sunny Austin TX day, I woke up to an excited text message from our iOS developer. He had been watching analytics on Mapchatter that morning and had found something unusual. The app had picked up traction in the Middle East with over a thousand active users and 100,000+ messages sent! I opened the app and panned over to find this:

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Each face was a complete stranger using something we created to communicate. Pretty neat.

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