Sometimes it pays to concentrate and do the whole project in one rush. That’s the approach Sergei Pavliuk chose for his First ABCs app.
First ABCs is a freeware educational iPhone app for kids and parents who want to learn the alphabet in a fun way. It comes with letters, pictures and sounds. It is available in English, Russian and Ukrainian languages.
Sergei Pavliuk is the CTO and co-founder of Idea Catcher, a mobile software development company in Ukraine. He has been working in software development industry for 8 years. Sergei started making iPhone apps as a hobby, which brought him to his current position. For this hobby project, he served as a coordinator and a content developer, and he also brought in a graphic designer (his wife, Natalia Pavliuk) and a programmer (Vyacheslav Bukovsky).
How did you come up with the idea?
I have a son, Darik, who is very bright but also very energetic and impatient. By the age of two and a half, he already recognized the geometric shapes, numbers, letters, and their respective names. But he would not sit down with a book for more than 10 minutes. The only things which attracted and kept his attention were an iPad and an iPhone. I mean the devices themselves. So I decided to bring the learning activities to the devices that he liked.
What motivated you to work on this, despite being busy with other tasks?
Aside from willing to make this learning app for my son, I wanted to run a project management experiment to create a full app in one day. It was also an exciting challenge to make it so simple and user-friendly that a two-year-old could use it.
What is special about your approach to project management?
I work a lot to analyze the efficiency and productivity of the development process. I always tried to do things faster and more efficient than the others, and compensate in creative ways for anything that didn’t work for me. I could not run fast or do many pull-ups, so I made up for that by lifting heavy weights. I could not do the programming – but I wanted to use a computer efficiently, so I learned to type really fast, which helped me a lot while working as a Technical Writer. I did not like Chemistry, but was one of the best students in Physics and Math class. If I like an idea or a process, I dedicate myself to it completely, and I am fully devoted to reaching the best results.
How did you convince or hire other people to join the project?
It was a pure volunteer effort. Both Natalia and Vyacheslav had experience working with me before. I shared my vision for the one-day experiment, described my excitement about sharing this for free with other parents and kids, and they agreed. After all, it was only one day of effort, and a unique experience regardless of success. It was also important to pick the date that suited everyone. For Vyacheslav as a programmer, it was also fun to do a project where he had complete freedom in all technical decisions.
I believe if I hired people only motivated by money, we would not have completed this on time.
How did you manage the project?
The main idea, as I said, was to complete it in one day. Of course I don’t include the time for AppStore review, or the first discussions of the idea, but everything from the first UI sketches and up to AppStore submission is included. Moreover, it had to be only 8 hours for each team member, so 24 hours in total.
Before we started, we had a very clear goal and everyone knew exactly what to do and when. Each team member was qualified and experienced for their tasks, and had the full working environment set up, with all the software, hardware and everything.
Natalia and I started working on the design and content for the English version at 9am. Vyacheslav joined us at 11, when we had the UI layout planned, and started coding the prototype. Meanwhile, we continued to work on the graphics and sound files.
We used some free illustrations to save time, but had to adjust them heavily to make them look nice together. For our future projects, we decided to create all the graphics ourselves.
We took a lunch break individually when we had to wait for each other’s work. By 7pm, our project was completed and submitted for AppStore review, and each person only spent 8 hours working, as planned. That was a huge success for us.
The application was accepted in a week. Then, in the next two days, we created the Russian and Ukrainian versions. It was easier of course, because we had a working application, but there was still some work required to find the new words, prepare the new pictures, record the sound, put it all together and submit for review. All in all, we have completed all three applications in three days, as planned.
Is your app in active use? Do you plan to extend it? What makes you happy about it?
Another experiment we ran on this project was to see how many downloads we would get based only on our listing and ratings in AppStore, without any further promotion. So we didn’t even mention it on social networks. Despite that, we had 224 downloads in the first month, and 2282 downloads for the three language versions combined in four months. This means we have potentially reached over 2000 families, and helped them learn the alphabet!
My son was using all three applications once or twice a week for all these four months. He can name each letter and describe each image before he touches the screen to check his results with the audio recording! Our applications and our recorded voices have helped our son to achieve these results. I am truly happy.
In future versions, we plan to add prettier pictures, make an option for the parents to record their own voices, add some animation and more interactivity.
What lessons did you learn? Would you do anything differently next time?
As I said, it didn’t work out well with the stock images. We decided to make our own in future. As a general comment, I believe it is important to make your own mistakes, accept and analyze them, because this is the type of mistakes from which the person can learn best. Someone else’s mistakes are always detached and out of context.
What book would you recommend to someone starting a hobby project?
Who would you like to see interviewed by Five-Hour Projects?
Andrey Kuzmenko. We worked together at ISM Ukraine. He is a very creative guy with lots of experience, he must have something interesting to share.
Anything else you would like to share with our readers? Perhaps a productivity tip?
I am confident that when the goals are set and explained properly, and the team motivation is at its highest level, the team can be as much as 5 times more productive than on average.
Feel free to ask Sergey about the details of his project in the comments.
This post was written by Valentyn Danylchuk, the editor of Five-Hour Projects. You can also publish guest posts here, suggest projects to write about, or get interviewed – contact firstname.lastname@example.org