Image for post
Image for post

How We Made Our First iPhone App with Zero Budget

Michael Dolejš
Jan 30, 2015 · 6 min read

We are finally releasing our first significant update of DEFQT app this week, so we decided to write this small summary of how we created this small sideproject, that we've been working over a year now and what have we learned in the process.

Let's start with what is this all about. Meet DEFQT — a mobile app for editing your photos with lots of different effects (defects, how we call them). You can create lot of crazy and weird things and share them with your friends. Since our launch in April 2014, the app was downloaded about 29,000 times (February) and more than 1500 Instagram shots just with #defqtapp were posted. Not bad for a small app, with minimal budget and created by two guys, who had not any experience with creating their own product before.

We've released couple more version later, that fixed most of the bugs, before ultimately deciding to work on much bigger version, that we are finally releasing now. Let's talk about how we got there.

Image for post
Image for post

First ideas and concepts

We started working on concept of DEFQT with my friend Teodorik Mensl about August 2013, since we both discovered that we want to do something useful. We both done lot of client work before, but we wanted to take a shot at creating something from the scratch and make it work. We both saw lot of potential with iPhone camera, that we both love and use every day and decided to focus on that area, where we think there is a still lot of potential. Our intention was not to get rich of it, but rather create something we want to use ourselves.

First version of the app concept, was simple camera app with few unique effects, that were mostly masks and distortions of the photo.

Image for post
Image for post

Searching for developers

Probably the hardest thing after doing the concept, was finding the right developers for the job. We didn’t have any actual budget for the app, so we were finding someone, who liked the idea as much as we did and that wanted to take a part in the the process and do it as a side project.

We first few emails to some developers and posted the first few screenshots on Dribbble and Twitter in hope for someone to catch up, with great response from the community, but without any response from developers. We explained our intentions and plans, but sadly none of developers that got back to us were currently available or interested.

We were ready to give up, but than from nowhere an email came from Anthony Fresina, Mobile developer from San Francisco, that actually contacted me summer before for a design for his project. He liked the concept and agreed to work on it with us, if we help him with his projects. I’m really glad that Anthony is working with us, as I can only recommend it to everyone who is looking for someone with this amount of skill!

Image for post
Image for post


We started working on the app in January 2014 with Anthony and things started moving quickly. New defects were created on top of what we originally planned and the app started to take shape. We decided to make the app free with few Premium effects that we priced at $0.99 for each, but we still wanted to make the app fun even without any additional effects. This was necessary, since everyone worked on this in their free time and this allowed us to make some money for further development.

We made something about $1200 by end of January, which is about $115 per month. Not a bad start!

The whole building process took about 3 months from start to finish, which was reasonable time, given we weren’t working on just this project with Anthony. Take a look at Snap Task App too!

Image for post
Image for post


From the beginning we knew that we have no money for the promo. We tried at least to be active on all networks that were already on, which was great for the start is that we have a some/good amount of followers on Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest. We briefly tested some paid services like Facebook Ads as well, but our budget wasn't enough for it have any actual effect.

We needed to take care of the promo right before the launch, so we focused on creating simple landing page, that Teodorik designed and developed. What actually helped was fact we were featured on One Page Love. We got really great traffic from the website. This was essentials if we wanted to post it on various blogs, sites, influencers on Instagram and also nice thing to have to show all the functionality.

I also posted on Dribbble from time to time and created Behance Case Study, that helped us as well. All an all, what was most important was our Instagram account, where we started putting pictures that were created in the app. Part of this was also thing we call Weekly Roundup, where we post best shots from our users that were tagged with #defqtapp or #defqt, so they can get some exposure as well. Instagram is powerful tool for us and became our main tool for communication.

We also created Tumblr blog, that you can visit here, that showed all the photos on Instagram, tagged #defqtapp (via IFTTT), so everyone can see what can be done with the app.

There are lot of ways how to stay active with your users and I think we did a great job with that.


New Features

And what is new in our new version 1.5? Lot of things actually. We focused on making the app better in what users like and refine everything that needed refining.

  1. Updated UX, that resolved few of the issues with the flow we had
  2. New cropping feature, that makes all your photos square, so all defects work flawlessly
  3. Bigger export, so you are able to use the photos not just for Instagram
  4. Lots of new defects, that were designed to make your photos even better
  5. iOS8 sharing, that allows sharing your creations straight from the app
  6. Updated for iPhone 6 and 6 Plus

And most importantly, you can buy all the Premium effects for $0.99 now! Everyone that bought the Premium effects before will get the new ones for free.


Future plans

And what are we planning next?

We are planning to add more defects for you, new features and maybe even iPad App. Stay tuned and feel free to let us know your ideas on

We hope you like our newest update and we help you create something special.

Thanks for reading and feel free to share.


Follow us on twitter @defqtapp or visit for more!

Developed by Mutable Studio. Designed by Teodorik Mensl and Michael Dolejs. Made with love in Prague & San Francisco.


Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store