With Seasonality Go just released, I thought I would post an entry looking back at all that has led up to my latest application.
This story begins with a tale of developing Seasonality 2.0 for the Mac. Last year, I officially ended all my contract work to focus solely on Gaucho Software products. This has been a great change, but things have been slow going. I was working for many months on Seasonality 2.0, and by the end of last year it was very clear that I bit off more than I could chew. Seasonality 2 was supposed to be a fresh start with a brand new interface. I really think the app needed it, but never underestimate the time it takes to redo an application interface.
Probably the biggest amount of time has been spent on the new 3D globe view that will show radar, satellite, and other data. To say I spent months on this single view would be an understatement. Was it worth it? It is tough to say. Right now it doesn’t offer much more than the original map interface in Seasonality 1.x, but if you take into account the possibility for future expansion, then I think it was worthwhile code to work on. You can judge for yourself once the software is completed and released (this code is not used in Seasonality Go, not enough memory is available for all the required texture images on the iPad).
In January, I was getting ready to let a designer take a look at the interface to clean up the loose ends and take a shammy cloth to the app, when it happened. “It”, in this case, is the iPad. Apple announced the product, and suddenly I had to stop and rethink my development direction. Should I keep working on finishing up Seasonality 2.0, or should I set that on the back burner and go after the iPad as a new platform for Seasonality?
If you follow me on Twitter, you know the iPad won. It was a tough decision, because Seasonality 2 was almost in beta, and it was ever-so-tempting to head to that light at the end of the tunnel as quickly as possible. But the iPad really excited me as a new platform. I was already wearing my old MBP pretty thin, and was planning on replacing it with a MacBook Air, but the iPad was even smaller and lighter than the MBA, and it did 90% of what I needed it to at less than half the cost. It wasn’t tough to decide to purchase one as my new laptop, and if the iPad was going to be my new mobile platform, I wanted Seasonality to be there too.
I started working immediately on getting my weather and foundation frameworks compiling on the iPhone SDK. It took much less time than I anticipated to do this, which was a pleasant surprise. The views took a little bit longer, because UIKit on the iPhone/ iPad definitely has some distinct differences from Cocoa on the Mac. Overall though, it only took about a week to get the software running in a reasonable state on the iPad simulator.
It was at this point that I decided to talk to a UI designer. I enrolled the help of FJ de Kermadec. I had worked with FJ previously on the DynDNS Updater for the Mac, and I felt he really had what it took to knock a new Seasonality iPad interface out of the park. I was not disappointed. First, FJ worked on the Seasonality brand. We had to find a good way for the iPad version of Seasonality to fit into my product lineup. FJ came back with a complete branding document that described the future product lineup, complete with product names, icons, slogans, colors, fonts, and goals for each app. It was great, and I really got on board with the direction this project was taking. The new iPad app was to be called Seasonality Go, and it would be an iPad user’s go-to guide for weather on-the-go.
Next, FJ spent some time working on a document describing the features of Seasonality Go–how the software would look and behave. The plans set out by this document were ambitious, and it would be months before I would have the time to finish all of them, but the direction was solid and it was great to have this vision of a future Seasonality Go, even before I got a true start on the first version. We decided on a starting subset of functionality, and FJ got to work on a UI mockup for the features selected.
The mockup came in the middle of March, and I hit the ground running hard after that. The Seasonality Go design was nothing like the Seasonality Mac design, so I scrapped the view code from before and just built new views from the weather and foundation frameworks I have. Good progress was made, and by the time my iPad 3G arrived at the end of April, I actually had an app that was pretty usable to test on it.
I obviously wasn’t finishing the app for launch day of the iPad, but I didn’t want to wait too long to release the app. I decided I had to set a deadline, and I chose to finish it absolutely no later than WWDC. So from the end of April through the end of May, I spent pretty much 24/7 working on it. I would get up early, work all day, come up for dinner when Katrina got home from the office, spend an hour or two hanging out, then went back downstairs and work until 1-2am. I made a ton of progress, and by the third week of May, I had an app that was ready to beta test. The beta testers (thanks Elliot, Mary, and Jim!) hammered on it for about a week, and I had 1.0 ready a week later. I submitted it to the App Store on May 21st.
Looking back, it has been a long road, but I think this app really turned out to be a great piece of software. Altogether, it is around 45,000 lines of code, which is 3 times more than Seasonality 1.0 for the Mac. Now I will be getting back to finishing Seasonality 2.0. There are some amazing features there that didn’t make it into Seasonality Go, so stay tuned for the rest of what I have been working on…