THIX LAB’s Facebook page says, “We develop the Apps for your childhood dreams.” They certainly have brought out some incredible education Apps in the past and they did not disappoint with their latest creation – BEAKER, with the help of which your device turns into a virtual beaker. “You can hold it, shake it, heat it up, cap it, add in chemicals, pour out, or pour between BEAKERs…” Here is an honest and in-depth interview with the THIX LAB team wherein they shared their experiences and some great advice.
How did you conceive the idea for the App?
4 years ago, because my chemistry was bad in high school, I got the idea of building a virtual lab on my computer so that I could do chemistry experiments at any time. So I started developing a virtual lab. One year later, with the introduction of iPad, I put this program on to the Apple store, which became our first App, Chemist. Chemist just passed 400,000 downloads this year.
The idea of BEAKER was sparked in early 2015. We found that the demand for an iPhone version of Chemist was very high. And we decided to make an iPhone version of Chemist — BEAKER. After a half-year of research and design process, we decided to make BEAKER as an experience unlike anything before: BEAKER will magically turn your iPhone or iPad into a virtual beaker to experiment with hundreds of chemicals. And holding your iPhone is like holding a beaker ready for experiments.
What gave you the kick to convert your idea into reality? What kept you awake all night long?
Our first intention was to improve students’ chemistry grade. But later on, we thought our goal at THIX was never just to improve something superficial, but to inspire people by giving them a chance to experience something they like. The real key which drives us work harder everyday is that if we never made Apps, like BEAKER or Chemist, there will be few chance for the majority of people to experience something they may be willing to try before, like mixing chemicals, shaking a beaker or making an explosion. And if they ever got a chance to experience it, through an accessible, friendly way, they may have a different understanding of this subject, which may lead them to different career tracks.
Can you describe your “Eureka” moment while developing the App?
From the very beginning, we knew that if we simply port the whole screen of Chemist to the small screen on the iPhone, the App would become unusable and boring. Moreover, we realized that in order to let people experience as a real chemist, rather than simply providing them a tool or a tutorial lesson, we need to allow the users to freely explore their interests. We went through more than ten different prototypes. And finally the ‘wow’ moment came when we were looking back on the projects we did before. An unpublished game we made years ago using the accelerometer to simulate the water in the iPhone became a big hint. People have been holding, tilting, shaking their iPhones. So why not just turn the whole iPhone into a beaker?
What has been your marketing strategy? What marketing techniques do you use to promote your App in this heavily competitive application space?
We actually don’t invest heavily in the marketing. We just stick to developing our ideas, and being confident that our App will eventually pop up because it has been an irreplaceable experience. Though we put BEAKER into the education category, lots of people are using BEAKER more like a toy or a game and neither we regard BEAKER as an education App. So other education apps are not fully considered as competitors.
How long did Apple’s approval process take and how would you describe your relationship with Apple?
Apple’s approval process took about one week. Since BEAKER has been featured by Apple as Best New Apps in many countries, our team and Apple are having more cooperative works.
Lastly, what advice do you have for aspiring developers?
We think the App Store has been a huge chance for individuals and small teams because they have many privileges that a chunky big company doesn’t. One of them is that small teams have less structural timeframes or deadlines. So they can have more flexibilities in their development process. Therefore, they can distribute the time accordingly to their own priorities of the product. It took us half a year to design BEAKER but only one month to code, because we thought design is more important and it could lead us to the success after the launch.