…and why you may want to as well.
It all started in the summer of 2006, when my parents surprised me with a first-generation iPod Shuffle. The setup experience — though incredibly clunky by modern standards — was an absolute dream. I remember unboxing the thing and relishing in its simplicity, being in awe of its capacity… 512mb! I remember installing iTunes from a disc, and actually enjoying it. I even remember my first song purchase. Yes, it’s an embarrassing song choice, and no, I will not share it!
My love for the new toy eventually led to an obsession with all iDevices and by 2008, the App Store. When iOS2 was released, I was the proud owner of an iPod Touch. I immediately began downloading apps and experienced for the first time the real potential of the device in my pocket. I’d known it was a computer, but now it was a useful computer!
Since then, the App Store has been perfect for discovering great new tools for creativity. I’ve always wanted to contribute to it, but never committed to the time expense of developing my own product. With the release of the iMessage App Store, Apple has made it easier than ever for designers like me to contribute to the App Store.
I am not (currently) a designer who codes, but creating iMessage sticker packs requires pretty minimal backend knowledge. This new portion of the App Store is perfectly suited for artists and creatives who would prefer to focus on creating visuals, rather than development. Best of all, it’s only just taking off! Recent discoverability fixes in iOS11 — paired with iOS’s extremely high adoption rate — mean that more people will continue to discover and use iMessage apps. Things are just getting started here.
Now let’s take a quick pause.
I know what some of you may be thinking. “Joe, Joe, Joe… don’t you know that voice recognition and machine learning technology mean we don’t have to look at our devices to send messages? Thanks to tools like Siri, messaging apps are essentially pointless.” Well well, naysayer! New technology has indeed made it easier than ever to communicate with others without using screens. But, there’s a reason that the same company brought us both Siri and the iMessage App Store.
Siri and other virtual assistants can send messages on our behalf — and will continue to get better at it — but they’re not yet good enough to replace our messaging interfaces. They won’t be for a long time. Even when we standardize perfect dictation, we’ll still have trouble conveying personality through their our assistant’s confused priorities. Visual messaging platforms will continue to play a crucial role for many years to come. Even when our AI has become smart enough to handle things really well — let’s be honest — we’ll still want to be in charge of picking the perfect GIF. iMessage isn’t going away anytime soon, and neither are iMessage apps.
So, how about that headline?
Oh, right! Here are the reasons I’m making iMessage sticker packs (not in order of priority).
- They’re a great source of side revenue. If you’re unsure whether iMessage stickers would be a worthwhile project, this should be a great motivator. iOS11 makes these apps much more accessible to everyday users, and interest is growing as a result. Take note — there are stickers in iMessage, Facebook Messenger, WeChat… the messaging app wars have only just begun.
- They add value to other people’s conversations. Stickers improve the quality of people’s communication experiences. They help people have fun and express themselves. For me, they’re a good step toward a recent goal of designing more things for other people — not just for myself.
- I learned new things from the experience of making them. Designers are in the business of versatility, and we’re at our best when we’re constantly learning new things. I’ve learned quite a lot as a newly registered developer with Apple — I’m even planning on diving into real development in the near future. Making simple stickers has helped bring that goal within reach.
There’s a lot to love about iMessage as a platform. If you’re a designer who’s looking to learn new skills while creating a live product for others to enjoy, I’d recommend giving stickers a try. And if you do —please share them! I’d love to check them out.