Elance Blog

How to Kick-Start Your Apple iPhone Application Project

Part 2 of 3

Continuing our three part series focused on the development of applications for the Apple iPhone, we asked Nick Dalton, iPhone SDK specialist, to give Elance buyers a few tips on how to scope and post an iPhone Application project. Here’s what he had to say:



The iPhone is an amazing device that invites creativity. If you’re an iPhone owner I’m sure you’ve said to yourself: ‘I wish I could do that on my iPhone, or I have a great idea for an iPhone application’.

With the iPhone Software Development Kit (SDK), programmers can make your ideas reality – even if you yourself don’t know the difference between a C-pointer and a SQLite database. But before you go ahead and post your application idea to the buzzing iPhone project area on Elance, here are some pointers to get your project kick-started:

Study the Masters
Apple has already spent a lot of time thinking about how to present information and build interactive applications on the iPhone. The applications that come with the iPhone are the results of this research. Study them in great detail and try to apply as many of the user interface metaphors as possible to your application.

Not only will Apple be flattered if you imitate the user interface in their applications, but they actually mandate it to a great level of detail as described in their Human Interface Guidelines.

Dream in Color Screens
Most applications for the iPhone will be very visual. Therefore it makes sense to provide your requirements as screen images or sketches. You don’t have to be a graphics artist to do this effectively. An iPhone programmer is looking for the following information:

- The type of layout each screen should have
- The buttons on the screens
- The actions associated with each button


The exact shape and format of your screen sketches is secondary. As long as they are readable, it’s a great way to communicate your application design to a programmer.

Be Realistic About Your Budget
Look at other iPhone projects posted on Elance to get a sense for the bid amounts on these projects. Read the descriptions of these projects to see if they seem to be larger or smaller projects than what you have in mind. If you set your budget to under $500 for something that is realistically going to take a programmer two months to implement, you are not likely to attract many bidders.

From a programming perspective, some things are easy to do on the iPhone, while other seemingly simple things are very time consuming. For example the beautiful cover-flow animation used in the music application on the iPhone should be simple to use in other applications. Unfortunately you can’t. If you want this animation within your application it will have to be written from scratch, probably costing a one month of work.

If you talk to an approved iPhone developer early in your application design process you can learn how to get most out of your budget by avoiding the things that are really difficult to do on the iPhone.

Don’t Be Too Original
iPhone users already know how to do certain tasks on their phones by convention. For example, if you tap an item in a list that has a > icon next to it, you expect to be taken to another screen with more information about that item. If your application needs similar functionality, don’t be creative and come up with a new way to solve the same problem. Use the conventions already established by Apple.

New conventions are difficult to establish especially with the touch interface because there is no way to discover how your application works on the iPhone. Unlike a website where you can hover with the mouse pointer over areas that look like you can interact with them and a tool tip or the status bar will reveal some clues to you.

Know Your Limitations
The current version of the iPhone SDK, which is used to write applications for the iPhone, has many restrictions and limitations. Some of them are common sense, e.g. you can’t send text messages from an application. Imagine an application that sends out thousands of text messages without your knowledge, who is going to pay the phone bill for that?

Other restrictions are maddening: applications cannot access the log of phone calls, or interact in any way with the calendar or the music stored on the iPhone.

To Apple’s credit, the iPhone SDK is an amazing piece of software especially given that it was publicly released as a Beta just three months ago. Some of the shortcomings listed above will likely be addressed in future releases of the SDK.

As a buyer with an idea for an iPhone application, you should educate yourself about these limitations before you spend too much time designing an application that is impossible to implement. Talk to a developer or company that specializes in iPhone development (and there are many available on Elance) and they can help you get on the right track from the start.

About
Nick Dalton (username: 360mind) is an experienced iPhone SDK specialist and Elance service provider. He has 15+ years of background in programming, and currently focuses his business, 360mind, 100% on the development of iPhone applications. For more information on Nick, read about the work he’s done on Elance and check out his book, 101 iPhone Tips and Tricks.