We talk to the developer of the iOrnament App. The App is extremely unique and is all about drawing creative geometry art. While it may appeal to only a certain group of people, the numbers are highly impressive. We talk to the developers of iOrnament to get a deeper understanding of the App concept, marketing strategy and take a look at the behind the scenes picture.
1. How did you conceive the idea for the App?
iOrnament is an app that combines math and art and lets you create beautiful patterns based on mathematical rules. In fact the idea for the app reaches far back in the past. In 1986, at a time when the computer mouse was an incredibly innovative input device, I was invited to create an ornament-drawing program for a huge symmetry exhibition in Germany. Already then, the way, in which the ornament drawing program combines strict rules with creativity, immediately connected to people and made it a very popular exhibit. Over the years I have created several versions of this basic idea for various platforms and used in hands-on mathematics exhibitions. With the advent of the iPad the desire grew to have such a science/creativity tool optimized for touch driven input devices. This was the birth hour of the iOrnament App. The ultimate design goal was to have an app that –while still being mathematically correct– allows for true artistic expression.
2. Is this your first game? What are your plans for the future?
iOrnament is the first app I wrote. However I have a lot of experience with the creation of interactive visualization software and a lot of this experience went into iOrnament. It was however quite a challenge to rethink many user interface aspects under the light of having a genuine touch driven interface. The latest project (which is a co-production with my daughter Angela) is an app that goes in a completely different direction. The two of us created the word game “Mind the Gap“, that helps you to improve your language skills in authentic contexts. The app is at the same time a learning app and a word game. We have been told that the game experience can be quite challenging and addictive. For the future I have plans for several apps, which will -just like iOrnament- connect seemingly unrelated genres. For instance, I have planned for an app that connects music and science. However, it is very important for me to put a lot of love into the detail and the interface of the app. As a consequence it often takes me months if not a year to produce a new app and none of the new apps will be on the market any time soon.
3. What’s your marketing strategy?
I would not say that there is a specific strategy. Perhaps the most important thing is to create software, you love to play with yourself and that you love to show to other people. I personally like to put a lot of attention to details in the app; to find out how things can behave in the most natural way. I think the secret in the iOrnament production is that the app connects the artistic “right brain” with the intellectual “left brain”. This makes it difficult to squeeze it into a particular genre. It is at the same time a game, a teaching tool, a relaxation app, a creativity tool, and much more. It connects to people with very different backgrounds (users I know of are between 2 and 80 years old, they are artists, scientists, creative people, relaxation seekers, playful kids, craftsmen,…). Of course I am very happy if people like the app and the word of mouth is probably the most effective marketing tool. But to be honest, I still have not found any recipe to maintain a position in the top ranks. Most probably the best strategy very much depends on the nature of a specific app.
4. Can you share some numbers?
The number that I am perhaps most proud of is the following. There are around 80,000 apps in the US Education App store. If you consider those, that have a considerable number of ratings (say at least 500) there are only around 800 of them left. If you order them by their average ratings, then iOrnament has a constant place in the “Top 25” best rated apps. The international average rating of iOrnament is 4.74 based on over 1,700 ratings and reviews.
Here are some other numbers:
So far, iOrnament was downloaded approximately 450.000 times. This (unfortunately) does not mean that it has been “sold” that often. A vast majority of the downloads came during promotional “free” phases where it may happen that you have up to 24,000 downloads a day.
The development/marketing/design team of iOrnament consists of just one person: myself. I have not counted the hours, that went into the app, but the first release was programmed in an approximately 6 months development process, alongside my daytime-job as a maths-professor. Some of the updates were serious work as well.
iOrnament is connected to the Ornament world exhibition. So far, there were around 17,000 contributions by roughly 3,000 artists from 70 different countries.
5. Do you have any tips for new upcoming iOS App developers?
* Create things you like and love yourself.
* Pay attention to the detail.
* try to connect to your users (and be friendly and patient).
* Do not get discouraged too fast.
* Create screenshots, that demonstrate the power of your app.
* Do not create clones of successful apps. Do your own thing.
* Try to create apps that feel good and intuitive on the device.