An interview with app developer Todd Bernhard of NoTie Software

We’re starting a new series of blogposts where we take a deeper look at some of the people who are using the Ostetso platform to enhance the social and sharing capabilities of their apps.

Today we’ll be talking with Todd Bernhard of NoTie.com, who has integrated Ostetso into his SkinCam photo app and is now in the process of adding it to some of his other apps.

 

  1. Tell us about your app and your business

My firm, NoTie.com, actually has over 100 apps, but the common thread for most is Text-To-Speech functionality. We have apps like AutoRingtone that let users create custom text-to-speech ringtones for talking Caller ID. Another one of our award-winning apps is AutoVerbal which helps kids with Autism, or anyone who is non-verbal, communicate using talking custom photo buttons.

 

  1. About how many users do you have?

Altogether, our apps have been downloaded over five million times! Most of those are free apps, of course!

 

  1. What category (categories?) do you list your app under?

With so many apps, it varies, but usually Music, Entertainment, Photography, Education, Business or Utilities. We don’t have a lot of game apps.

 

  1. What platforms do you support (iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Android, etc.?)

Most of our apps are Universal apps, for iPhone and iPad. We also have three Apple Watch apps, two Apple TV apps, and a couple of Android apps. We even have a couple of Windows Phone apps and macOS apps.

 

  1. Roughly how much time did you spend (man-hours and calendar weeks) developing your app from when you first started on it until it was released in the app store?

Some of my favorite apps were built over a weekend, followed by several months refining them. I’ve participated in a couple of Startup Weekends (and won both of them!) as well as several hackathons and won about a half dozen such contests. I find that a deadline, even if it’s an artificial one like a hackathon, forces me to focus and build a working prototype in a short time. But I always spend the following weeks and months tweaking those projects. The best thing about the App Store is the opportunity to get customer feedback and the ability to turnaround updates and enhancements relatively quickly.

 

  1. What were some of the technical challenges you had to deal with when developing your app?

I am self-taught, since I started developing apps when the App Store was new, so I have to find my own opportunities for learning. Apple has had several Tech Talk Tours which I’ve been able to attend, as well as a few Worldwide Developers Conferences (WWDC.) MacTech also puts on a good conference and it’s cheaper and easier to get a ticket compared to WWDC.

 

  1. What third-party APIs, SDKs or Cloud Platforms do you use in your app? What was it like integrating them? What value did they add?

I use Ostetso for photo sharing, Foursquare for retail info, and a variety of advertising and analytics platforms like Flurry and AdMob. Integration is usually pretty straightforward, but the challenge is finding a partner that has your interests in mind. I used a couple APIs that will go nameless that changed their priorities or were acquired and discontinued service and that is frustrating.

 

  1. How do you market your app? What are some of the challenges you’ve faced with marketing your app?

I’ve tried everything including paid advertising but that seems to just benefit the ad platform. After all, that’s why Google and Facebook are so wealthy. I have found the best bet is App Store Optimization (ASO) combined with free apps of your own that promote and upsell your paid apps which have more features.

 

  1. Can your users interact with each other within your app?

Until recently, my apps didn’t pay attention to letting users interact, but I came across Ostetso and found that it was easy add a social network to my app.

 

  1. If you have a way for users to interact within your app, do you have a way of measuring that activity? What metrics do you collect, and which is most important to you?

I use Flurry analytics to let me know when a user uses my app, takes a photo, customizes it, and shares in with Ostetso. Without such analytics, you are “flying blind” so this is a great way to get inside the head of your customers.

 

  1. Do your users interact with each other OUTSIDE your app via some other method? (Facebook groups, Instagram hashtags, etc.) Please describe.

I give the opportunity for users to share their content on traditional social media networks using the name of my app as a hashtag. Ostetso makes it easy to let users share the way they want and still promote our apps.

 

  1. Do your users actively post photos from your app to other social networks like Instagram/Facebook/snapchat/flickr? (which ones, and do you have a sense for the relative popularity between them for your users?)

Twitter seems to be the best avenue for my users.

 

  1. Do you see any of these external postings driving additional downloads of your app? If so, how do they discover the name of your app?

With Ostetso, rather than just hand off a photo to Facebook, Twitter or iMessage, I can have a custom page that highlights my app and allows users to discover that photo and discuss it and learn about my app. Now, when users share that page, it helps promote my app in a way that Facebook and Twitter can’t.

 

  1. Games are, by far, the most popular category of apps in the App Store (and the one that generates the most revenue). Do you have any plans to do something game-related or do you feel that the space is just too crowded?

Not only is the game category crowded, it’s not my expertise. I tend to develop utility apps that people can use repeatedly, month after month, year after year.

 

  1. What features can we look for in enhancements to your app?

I am very interested in the new features of iOS 10, such as iMessage stickers, so that will probably be the next direction for our apps. I just released PresidentCam which lets users add presidential stickers, like a podium, presidential seal, flags, an eagle, etc., to their photos, with a live augmented reality-style camera view. It’s a lot of fun.

 

  1. How did you get started in the App Business?

I didn’t set out to start an app business with 100+ apps and five million downloads. I just wanted an app that did something that no other apps did at the time, so I went about getting it made. I found that other consumers wanted such an app, and as they provided more feedback, it led me to enhance the app and create more apps to fill the need.

 

  1. What apps are on the home screen of YOUR phone?

Wink for smart home automation, WhatsApp to communicate with my daughter who is studying abroad. When I’m traveling, I make sure Uber, CityMapper, and Hotels.com are on my home screen. Also, whatever app I’m developing at the time, so I have quick access. Right now, those include FlixREMIX and PresidentCamera.

 

  1. Which phone do you use personally?

I think the 4-inch form factor is the perfect size, so I use an iPhone SE. It fits in my pockets, has almost all the features of the iPhone 6s, and has a headphone jack!

 

  1. Anything else you’d like to say about your app?

I try to build apps that add joy, retain value over time, and fill a need. I would close with a request for any user to email the developer of some of their favorite apps. It makes our day to hear from users and if you have a specific feature request, let us know. That’s how apps get better!


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