It’s July 25th 2016, day one of the Etsy France Hack Week. For the second year in a row, we’ve made sure we’ve left room for innovation.
A HackWeek is a time during when employees get to do something different from their day-to-day responsibilities and innovate. This year we’ve had an algorithm that ranked images based on their quality, an internal user management system, and many more.
Another was a tvOS app for A little Market. Here we’ll take you through how it went from a Hack Week project becoming featured in Apple’s App Store Best of 2016.
I had been reading up on tvOS for a while but had never really had a reason to go any further. With the HackWeek coming up, I thought that working on a tvOS version of A little Market would be an interesting direction to go, both for the business and for me as a developer. I had no idea how challenging that was going to be.
New User Interface Challenges
First things first, what was the app going look like? As you no doubt know, Human Interface Guidelines are very different when moving from one platform to another.
Apple TV does not have a mouse that allows users to directly select and interact with an app, nor are users able to use gestures and touch to interact with an app. Instead, they use the new Siri Remote or a game controller to move around the screen.
In addition to the new controls, the overall user experience is drastically different. Macs and iOS devices are generally a single-person experience. A user may interact with others through your app, but that user is still the only person using the device. With the new Apple TV, the user experience becomes much more social. Several people can be sitting on the couch and interacting with your app and each other. Designing apps to take advantage of these changes is crucial to designing a great app. Given that, we had to go back to the root of our product. Which means figuring out what the user core experience is / was, and making sure it was our focus.
We had managed to get a hold of a contact at the App Store, who helped us implementing the guidelines. This involved some going back and forth between TestFlight builds and their feedback. It was amazingly constructive and without doubt helped us raise our app quality. A week after the HackWeek, we decided to ship the tvOS app. A couple days after the validation, we got an email saying that the app was going to be featured on launch! It was an amazing result and the team here were incredibly excited. It was a first for us, and the marketing guidelines were understandably strict but we managed to get by. Fast forward a few months and our app had been chosen in the App Store Best of 2016 too, which was beyond all expectations.
Shortly after, some of the magic rubbed off on iOS too, as the ALM app was featured in Apps of the Week too…
While the number of apps is low (relative to iPad and iPhone/iPod touch), I’ve found the average quality of tvOS to be much higher. Most Apple TV apps are made by more established developers who already have an iOS version of the app.
My advice to you: Go for tough challenges, anticipate and implement new Apple features as they get released, and have fun developing!
Thanks for reading!