Meet the Developers: Nick of Appetites

Today’s interview is with Nick Alt, the creator of Appetites for the iPad. We’ll learn a little about the Appetites team and what motivates them, as well as diving into a discussion about the difficulties of creating an app – from developing features to naming an app!

Even better, find out what advice he would give himself, in retrospect, about the development process, and what apps he couldn’t live without! We love the developers that produce the amazing software we review, and hopefully this will be a great way for you to meet the names and faces behind the apps that you use every day!

I hope you enjoy it!

Tell us a little about the Appetites team, where are you based, how many of you are there?

Appetites is a project of Clear-Media, we’re based in El Segundo, California (near LAX) and New York. Right now we have 6 employees (4 in LA / 2 in NY).

What motivated you to create Appetites, do you remember the specific moment that the idea came to you, or was it a process?

Appetites came from what we’ve been working on for the past 5 years – our own unique approach to doing educational yet entertaining video content. I got us into developing for the iPhone/iPod Touch in May of last year and that kind of started my thinking behind combining our best capabilities (content and software) into something cool.

In September of 2010, on a whiteboard wall in my office, I sketched this idea for a step-by-step cooking app. By November we had figured out who are first chefs/food bloggers would be for “Season 1” of Appetites.

It came about by distancing ourselves from what has already been done in both TV and in traditional cookbook publishing and creating something entirely new. Appetites really became my take on replicating that collaborative experience that happens when you cook with someone in your kitchen.

A shot from the new update of Appetites.

How long did it take for you to move from ideas to the launch of the app?

Appetites started as three simultaneous projects in November 2010. The first being the design of the app for iOS, producing the video cooking classes, and developing the software in Cocoa Touch.

We had a pretty stable version in time for Macworld in mid-January where we won our Best of Show at Macworld. And by mid-February, we submitted version 1.0 of Appetites to the App Store. This was in tandem with all of our other projects that were happening at Clear-Media. I was thrilled that we had a product to ship in under four months. It’s a real testament to the team we have here.

Finding a great app name can be a real struggle, Appetites is an amazingly apt name, how did that come about?

Oh man, I was coming up with all sorts of crappy names for this thing in early November. I remember I had GrubApp and What’s Cooking? Really dumb stuff. My wife came up with Appetite and I added the s. That’s why she’s my wife.

Appetites is your first experience of developing an app, how did you find the move into iOS development, did anything surprise you?

We developed an app for a TV celebrity on the iPhone mid-2010. That was our first real experience. And that was a rather intense process from start to finish. Longer than I had originally envisioned. So we definitely made up the time with Appetites.

In developing for iOS, we were trying to push the envelope with Appetites.

Do you have any interesting updates in the pipeline that you can give us a sneak peak at?

Why yes – we just wrapped production on Seasons 2 and 3 of Appetites. Some really great chefs and cooking classes coming to the app.

The new update to Appetites is coming early this week!

Involving popular food bloggers was a great idea, how did it work out in practice? Was it difficult to move forward quickly with people scattered across the states?

It was great in working with popular food bloggers for our first version of Appetites. The process was very simple in that I called them up and asked if they wanted to be involved with a new app we were creating. They all had to take a leap of faith since none of them actually saw any of the design even while they were here filming their cooking classes.

So I give them credit for having an adventure with us to see what we could come up with. Everyone’s timing seemed to line up really well too since we shot everything right before Thanksgiving -people’s travel schedules were a little lighter prior to a big holiday.

Appetites' high quality video tutorials perfectly suit the iPad.

With apps like Appetites, the iPad is beginning to break into areas of our lives that computers have so far been absent from, do you think this is going to be growing trend?

I think people have been bringing laptops into the kitchen more and more, but it has always lacked a certain seamless elegance to cook along with it. Something like Appetites wouldn’t really work in that format though. The experience of having POV video broken into a step by step format, without playback controls, and advancing by a mere finger swipe couldn’t have existed until the iPad made that possible.

It’s a testament to Apple’s ingenuity and design philosophies. I’ve had the iPhone since the very first Edge version, but it wasn’t until I had the iPad that I really saw me bringing my company’s strengths to iOS in a meaningful way. I think most people aren’t techie and gravitate toward things that they can pick up and instantly understand. That’s what the iPad represents – technology getting out of the way. Something like Appetites tries to take the focus off the technology and more on the user experience.

That’s a good point, talking about user experience, are you considering developing for any of the competing tablet platforms (PlayBook, Xoom, Galaxy Tab)? What do you think about the iPad’s prospects for 2011?

We’ve been discussing this at length and we’re really open to the possibilities of bringing this to any of the other tablets. The iPad will continue to be the leader in the space for at least another year or two.

If you could go back in time and give yourself a single piece of advice from your experience of developing an app for the iPad, what would it be?

My advice to myself would be to not get hung up on features that people won’t necessarily even need for a 1.0. It’s a very challenging thing to do in not bloating software with what we call “feature-creep.” You can easily get into development hell by continuing to tack on more and more until you’ve made a monster app that ultimately your customer doesn’t need.

That’s what I try to keep in mind every time we come up with a new feature for Appetites and other apps we’re talking about building.

Another slick screenshot from the newest update to Appetites.

I know it can be hard to admit, but did you queue for the iPad 2? I’ll help you by admitting that I did…

I did!! BUT, I was as smart as I could be about it. I went to a local Apple reseller shop here in town that not many people know as well as the Apple retail stores, Best Buy, Target, etc. That panned out, as I walked away with my iPad 2 on the first day.

Nick's desk.

Is there one app that you couldn’t live without?

I’m a software junkie. It’s like my addiction – trying out new apps and seeing how other people solve information problems on the device. It’s very exciting.

Besides Appetites, I probably couldn’t live without The Daily, Spirits, Instagram, Pulse, Nalden, and FlightTrack Pro (tied into my TripIt). I’ve recently gotten into Galcon Fusion – that’s addictive.

Thanks for taking the time out to chat to us!

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and experience with us. It’s always great to get insight into the thoughts and lives of the people behind the apps we use every day!

If you have any questions that you’d like to be answered by future developers then leave a comment below and we’ll see what we can do!