Pitch Perfect - great guide to getting app reviews.

Pitch Perfect
Pitch Perfect

Pitch Perfect is a fantastic new book that explains how app developers can up their PR game when pitching apps to bloggers and review sites. It's packed full of advice, case studies, and mistakes to avoid. Pitch Perfect is a practical and very engaging read, so much so that I today I rode the train to Balboa Park, and that ain't where I live!  Eria Sadun and Steve Sande are your teachers. They really know their stuff because as TUAW.com staffers they read tons of app pitches every day. In fact, I personally emailed Erica twice last week, making a total of at least 4 of the mistakes she points out in the book. [Cringe.]

So app developers, here's the bottom line - get it, read it, and use the advice. Or would you rather your apps stay in the 99% with 3 downloads a week?

Amazon Kindle edition

Apple iBooks edition

iPhone Development Books 1: Learning iOS Programming

bookshelf
bookshelf

I own 91 books covering iPhone app programming, design, marketing, and business, and I've browsed plenty more. From all those books I've picked out the ones I consider to be the very best. My recommendations are split into four parts:

Learning iOS Programming (below)

Design for iPhone and Mobile Apps

Building iPhone Games & Unity 3D

Marketing iPhone Apps & Business

'

Part 1 - Learning iOS Programming

Learning to program the iPhone & iPad has never been easier due to some fabulous books. Programmers who are new to Apple have to learn Apple's Cocoa Touch SDK and in most cases will be learning Objective-C as a new programming language too. Of the 21 iphone programming books I've read, here are the best...

I recommend you start with Beginning iPhone 3 Development – Exploring the iPhone SDK (soon to be updated to 'Beginning iPhone 4 Development'). Jeff LaMarche and Dave Mark clearly introduce and explain the most important topics to get new iOS developers over the initial steep learning curve. Of all the iPhone books this remains the best for developers new to iOS. They have a companion book 'More iPhone 3 Development', but you won't need that unless you later want to delve into advanced topics.

Another great book for learning iOS programming is iPhone Programming: The Big Nerd Ranch Guide by Joe Conway and Aaron Hillegass. This books is written by the premier iOS and Mac training company in the world. It covers more topics than Beginning iPhone 3 Development, but it still starts out slow and easy, has a lot of great explanations of 'good ways to do it' and it includes introductions to Apples iOS development tools too, so you get a very well rounded kick start on the platform. Because it covers so many topics it makes a good reference later for stuff you forget.

If you like books with lots of text to explain stuff, you should start with 'Beginning iPhone 3 Development' if you hate lots of text and really just prefer short lessons on 'how to do it on iOS' then start with the Big Nerd Ranch book. But people, this stuff is really difficult when you first start, so its worth having both so you can hear two different voices when you get stuck.

Once you start writing your first app you'll find there are lots of little specific things to figure out, your best bet is to check with Erica Sadun first by looking in the pages of her wonderful book 'The iPhone Developer's Cookbook'. Its a great companion for any iOS developer, and its the one book I refer back to most often.

Programming for iPhone means programming in Objective-C. Objective-C is the C language, with dynamic object oriented extensions. Coming from any other language, you'll need to learn the Objective-C way, and for that you should check out ‘Learn Objective-C on the Mac', though there are a bunch of newer Objective-C books I've not seen (if you find one you love, let me know). Also consider adding 'Programming in Objective-C' by Steve Kochan to your library, as this is the comprehensive language reference, it will have the answer when you are trying to figure out more complicated parts of the language. Some of the more advanced parts of iOS development, eg audio processing, are done in C rather than Objective-C. This means that when you get to those you'll need to understand the crazy C stuff of pointers to pointers to functions returning references to arrays of pointers to alloced memory buffers... If all those stars and ampersands get you down you should go back to an easy learning C book, of which there are many, eg ‘Learn C on the Mac'.

More book recommendations:  App DesignGames & UnityMarketing & Business.

iPhone Development Books 2: App Design

I have a handful of books on user interface & app design, and one shining star is 'Tapworthy, Designing Great iPhone Apps' by Josh Clark. Josh takes the reader through a journey to understand what makes great iPhone apps. Josh examines how real people use their iPhone and their apps, what thrills them, how people like to get in and out of an app quickly and use it for one thing without having to think too much about it. For example he compares gestures that are known by everyone with gestures that most people never use (ie don't design for a UI gesture that only geeky iPhone experts know about). He introduces all the standard controls and talks about how to use SDK components to structure and organize the your UI in a way that will be natural for iphone users, and then goes on to show how you can dress UI components for a custom look. Josh doesn't shy away from discussing when you shouldn't use a standard interaction too, and Apple should take note: no-one likes the shake! Throughout Tapworthy there are case studies based on interviews with app designers explaining the design choices of some hugely successful apps including Facebook, Gowalla, USA Today, Things, Twitterific, & PCalc. Whether you are building for iPhone or another mobile platform, you should study this book and keep it on your shelf, its that good. Suzanne Ginsburg's 'Designing the iPhone User Experience' is another worthy read. Its 277 pages cover iPhone apps from the point of view of a UI specialist and includes tons of good advice about market research by, prototyping, testing, how to approach the overall app design, UI design, and branding. On my first look through I feared it was another manual of 'how the pros do it' that would not suit the resources of my own two person company, but on closer inspection that's not the case at all. When the author does explain bigger budget approaches she also explains low budget 'guerilla' methods. There are tips and anecdotes throughout the book drawn from Susanne's experience working on iPhone app design and UI testing. (Suzanne is an acomplished user experience consultant in Silicon Valley.)

One piece of advice about listening to designers... They have a lot to say about things you should do, and stuff you should put into you app. All those 'shoulds' are scary to an indie software developer short on time and money and focused mainly on writing code. Think of all the 'shoulds' as a menu of stuff you can consider, and then spend your time and money where it makes sense for you. Remember though, end users don't care one bit how costly or time consuming an app is, they only care how delightful, fun, and useful the app is, and your app is going to be competing against apps that have had a lot of careful design put into them.

For those of you who can't get enough I'd like to recommend a couple more design books, though they are not iPhone books. 'The Design of Everyday Things'by D Norman is an industrial design classic. As the iPone is a device you hold and touch, the app design direction of physical / real world metaphor has proved very successful for a number of apps, and Norman's book is probably the best design guidance you will find for that kind of app.

'Don't Make Me Think' is a concise and accessible book on web usability design, it has some great lessons that iPhone designers can use too that might be a little easier to learn when seen in the context of the more familiar web.

Finally a quick mention of 'Design Basics Index' by Jim Krause, which is a useful intro and reference for graphic design concepts that's helpful to those of us without training in graphic design.

More book recommendations: iOS ProgrammingGames & UnityMarketing & Business.

iPhone Development Books 3: Games & Unity 3D

As game players we all think we can design games, but to make a great game you really need to step outside your own enjoyment of playing games, think about what makes games fun and more, how games generate an emotional experience for they player. 'A Theory of Fun' by Ralf Koster is an easy to read 221 page masterpiece exploring what games are and why they are fun. Every 2nd page is a cartoon that illuminates the concept on the proceeding page. This is no gimmick, it really makes the book more accessible and will aid your understanding. Koster gets right to the heart of what the human mind gets from game playing, how people vary in how they like to play, whats happening when players cheat. This book is so good, I need to go read it again for a third time instead of describing it more. Making a game? Buy this book. Scott Rogers' 'Level Up, The Guide To Great Video Game Design' is my second recommendation for game makers. Its a much bigger book that Koster's and instead of looking at the heart of what gaming is in the player's mind, the book takes a hands on look at the elements of computer games: characters, camera, controls, UI, cevels, combat, game mechanics, audio, etc. Its also a very readable book with lots of cartoons, and it will help you understand what you are building in terms of the conventions of all the games that came before, from which your players learned how to play computer games. Its an excellent resource to help you understand some of your choices when you get stuck with some part of your game's design, and it will help you round out parts of your game you've neglected.

Finally on general game design, I'd like to give a shout out to Nicole Lazzaro. I don't think she's written a book yet, but go hear her speak if you can, and get her papers on the 4 Keys to Fun at her website XeoDesign.com.

Typically games means animated 2D or 3D graphics, and you'd be a fool to write a game from scratch without using a game engine. There are a bunch of excellent game engines on the iOS platform, but undoubtedly the two leaders are Unity 3D and Cocos2D (with Box2D or Chipmunk Physics). After writing our first iPhone game from scratch in C and Open GL ES, we've now chosen Unity 3D for our next games, and I have to tell you so far its amazing, brilliant, excellent value for money, and totally fun to use! Despite the name, Unity 3D is good for 2D games too (check out Sprite Manager 2). It speaks volumes about Unity that there are several books now available to help you learn to harness it...

Unity Game Development Essentials by Will Goldstone, and Unity 3D Game Development by Example are two good beginners books, feel free to select either one or both to get started in creating Unity scenes, scripting objects, and making basic games. Unity Game Development Essentials introduces everything by working through the building of a simple first person perspective game where you walk around an island and interact with the 3D world. The example game the book takes you through can't be run on the iPhone though, as it makes use of the terrain modeling features of Unity which are not supported on iOS. Unity 3D Game Development by Example on the other hand takes you through building a handful of casual games without using any features that aren't supported in iOS. The book is aimed not just at Unity beginners, but at beginner programmers too, and it a very easy to follow. If you are an experienced programmer you might find it a bit annoying, and in fact the authors very casual style ends up detracting from the book a little because the humorous section titles just make it hard to look up Unity stuff you need help with.

'Creating 3D Game Art for the iPhone with Unity, Featuring modo and Blender Pipelines' by Wes McDermott is a fantastic book to help you get to grips with Unity. From the title you might think this book is for game artists about 3D modeling, but really the title could have been 'Everything technical you need to know about making 3D games with Unity for iPhone except programming'. It will teach you how to use 3D models, animation, and textures in Unity whether you are creating them yourself, using stock, or hiring a 3D artist. Also, despite the fact that modo and Blender are in the title, this book is for you whether you use those applications or not. The book explains the power and limitations of Unity on the iPhone and has great advice on how to get good graphical performance. It teaches how to use all the different settings for importing graphics into Unity so they will work well on iPhone, and explains some performant techniques for constructing the game world. The author takes you through all this by building up an animated 3D over the shoulder perspective shooter game.

More book recommendations: iOS ProgrammingApp Design,  Marketing & Business.

iPhone Development Books 4: Marketing & Business

If you're making iPhone apps to try to make money, then marketing is key or only your friends will ever download your app. When most people hear the word 'marketing' they think of telling people about a product after its been built, but I see marketing as much more than that, and in fact I think the most important type of marketing is the basic understanding of the market in the first place, and that comes before you make you app. Why? The most important factor in getting people to buy your app is having an app that people will want! If you can do that the rest is much easier. You have to think about out what kinds of apps people want to buy, why they choose one app over another, how many people want something like this, what you can do to make your apps desirable. Once you've got a handle on all that, then you actually make your app and go ahead with the advertising and PR part of marketing to get the word out. So here are some books to help...

The Business of iPhone App Development by Dave Wooldrige and Michael Schneider is an excellent on book that covers market research, app design & design for your promotional materials, different pricing and revenue models for apps, working with the press, connecting with customers, and running promotions. There's a lot of hands on techniques and information in this book you can really use.  (I was the tech reviewer for the first edition of this book, Dave just updated it in 2011 to a 2nd edition.)

In App Savvy Ken Yarmosh takes the reader through a masterclass in app product strategy, managing app development, marketing and engaging with customers. The book is packed with sophisticated approaches that successful app publishers are using, but all the material is presented in a accessible easy to read form. Ken's expertise comes from publishing his own iOS apps and working as a consultant on more, but he goes further and includes interviews with plenty of other successful app developers, marketers, and industry experts. App Savvy can give you an up to date understanding of the app store marketplace, will help you understand where your own app plans fit in, and its filled with guidance towards success. I especially love App Savvy because Ken introduces the ideas of Customer Development / the Lean Startup, which have been very influential on my own apps business. Whether you are an indie app maker, or working in a larger company, I cannot recommend this book strongly enough.

You probably want to get some press for your app, but can you afford a good PR firm? No? Yeah me too. If you are going to pitch the press yourself you MUST read 'Pitch Perfect' from TUAW.com bloggers Erica Sadun and Steve Sande. They tell you what its like on the inside to get hundreds of app pitches a week, and they coach you on how to get them to notice your app.

 

Another good iPhone specific marketing book is Jeffry Hughes' 'iPhone & iPad Apps Marketing, Secrets to Selling Your iPhone and iPad Apps', and it covers similar ground to Wooldridges book, and had lots of good examples of how app publishers promote their apps, and some financial models to help you make sensible plans.

Suzanne Ginsburg's 'Designing the iPhone User Experience' has some excellent advice about how to perform a competitive analysis of the market for your app, and lots of detailed information about user research and prototype app testing - key 'before you build it' marketing.

'Positioning, The Battle for Your Mind' by Al Ries and Jack Trout was first published in 1981. Its been perhaps the most important marketing book I've read, it really changed how I think about how customers feel about the products they buy, and was tremendously helpful in understanding the vast gap that exists between how you feel about and see the app you are making, vs how all those iPhone users our there might feel about and see your app. Really, it comes down to the fact that pretty much no-one will feel anything about most apps because for most apps, no-one will ever even know they exist! Positioning is a huge challenge for companies with millions to spend on marketing, so how can this book be relevant to an independent iPhone developer with a micro budget? The lesson I took away was to make something that people can imagine what it is... that they could recognize what the app will do... that they can make that jump to wanting to check it out when they first see the app icon, name, or a screen shot when they are in the app store or perhaps a website. Check it out, its a great read.

Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value is a wonderful read about behavioral economics. It should make clear to you why in app purchases can be so profitable, and why you need to sell multiple things in order to get your freemium game to pay. You know what - real customers are _not_ doing ROI calculations in their head when they consider buying your app!

 

 

 

  Also very influential to how I think about my iPhone business are the ideas of Customer Development and Lean Startups from Steve Blank and Eric Ries. Customer Development is about taking the risk out of startup businesses by figuring out what to make and how to sell it before investing lots of money on sales. Another way of looking at the basic idea is to say its about figuring out what people want to spend money on that you are capable of making, and it lays out techniques you can use to get there. Steve Blank explains this in his book 'The Four Steps to the Epiphany'. You can also check out the more recent The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses. If you get a chance to hear Steve or Eric Ries speak, take it.

Starting your own business as an iPhone app publisher means you've got to deal with a bunch of legal and admin stuff. Whether you hire a lawyer or not, I recommend learning some of this stuff for yourself, how else can you be in-charge of your own business? For those of us in the USA, Nolo is here to help. A few of their excellent books to check out include 'Legal Guide to Web & Software Development', 'The Small Business Start-Up Kit', and 'Consultant & Independent Contractor Agreements'.

I'll leave you with one final book recommendation which can serve you well in life generally, and especially well if you take on some iPhone app consulting / contracting work! 'Bargaining for Advantage' by G Richard Shell is a great and easy read that will explain what master negotiators do, will help you defend against getting bullied in negotiations, and will help give you the confidence to find agreements that work for you - including decent contracting terms and rates.

More book recommendations: iOS Programming, App Design, Games & Unity.

Best Books for iPhone Development

Some brilliant iPhone developer books are out now which are great for learning iPhone native app and web development, and handy references for existing Cocoa Touch experts. In this article I review several titles and give you pick of the best four for learning the native SDK and Objective-C programming: iPhone in Action; Beginning iPhone Development - Exploring the iPhone SDK; Learn Objective-C on the Mac; The iPhone Developer's Cookbook.

Read More