Which begs the question: does the world need yet another photography app?
I've spent lots of time wading through the photography category, and while there are lots of fancy filter apps, photo taking apps, apps that swap faces, apps that show off someone's photography, ... while there are so many of that type, I found one type to be virtually non-existent: apps that teach photography.
I know I know, there are a few that try to use the iPhone as a teaching platform, and some of them come close, but none of them gave me what I was looking for.
Here is what I am looking for in an iPhone app:
It's an app about photography, it HAS to be visually appealing. It cannot be a run-of-the-mill clicked-together-in-the-UI-builder type app. When I started the project, I tried this approach. It simply didn't work.
The visuals need to correspond with real-world experiences. A photography teaching app must be fun to use, because people simply learn better while having fun. They need to have something that they love to interact with to lower the learning hurdle. The haptic component is the reason why we've been using SD cards as the chapter buttons, hand-written labels, black material similar to a camera's surface, checkered paper, a real-world click sound when swiping the wheel, and a cut out paper look to little PocketChris.
The app needs to feel zippy and fast. It cannot be clunky in any way or people won't love using it. In those rare few places where it needs a second to think about something (unpacking chapter pics for example), the app must give the user the feeling something's happening by employing visual wizardry in the form of smooth animations.
The app has to allow the user to explore and find stuff on their own, without any need for documentation or too obvious hints in the app. Thus the article drawer inside the chapters, or the wheel that you can explore, or the shenanigans Chris does when you just watch him.
The content in such an app cannot be too shallow, but it also cannot be too deep. Striking the right balance between the visual and the reading side is crucial for the success of the app. I usually write over 1500 words for one chapter, then tighten things down to leave out anything superfluous. This is especially important in a smart phone environment where casual use of apps is the norm. Providing real value to the use is a key component in making them come back.
Tickle The Senses
Addressing multiple senses helps to make the app appeal to different audiences. In PocketChris you have a tactile component, a visual component, and a written component.
I keep getting feedback from people who have turned themselves into photography teachers using PocketChris. They say that if someone asks them about depth of field now, they just open up PocketChris and show them. Having PocketChris in your pocket and with you all the time enables you to help others learn.
A Great Team
I'm a very lucky guy to have a great little team that has helped me make PocketChris what is is now. Johannes is an excellent programmer with a keen sense of anticipating next steps and often when I mention the idea for a new feature, he returns with an answer along the lines of "it's already prepared to do that". Peter is my brother, and he also is a great graphic and interaction designer. When I think something within PocketChris might be solved best a certain way, he often comes up with a more elegant solution, making everything just that little bit more easy or logical for the user.
I have the feeling we managed to tick quite a few of these with PocketChris.