Interview with Roman and Cristian Castillo
Tell us a little about yourself
My brother and I have been working with online platforms for over 10 years. Web was our first experience as software developers, but over the years we’ve had to make the transition to mobile web and now to the app ecosystem.
Last year we developed our first iOS app, ‘instaDM‘ which allowed Instagramers to send private messages to each other. This application got over 2M downloads and, more importantly, allowed us to drop all the client work to devote our full attention to app development. It’s safe to say that we’re indie app developers now, coming from agency work in the past, and some failed startups in between.
With ‘instaDM’, we basically had a web app before the iOS app. It was alive for a year before we revamped the 4 day hack that originally was launched. When we did a remake, the icon turned out to be cool enough for people to post it on Instagram — then it just went viral! You can see the history here and here.
We started based in Mexico City, but right now Roman is based in Monterrey, while I spend time living here and there: Mexico City, Seattle, Sausalito and soon San Francisco. Most of our spare time is spent with family (in Roman’s case) or girlfriend (in my case). Being independent app developers allow us to tightly integrate work and fun.
So tell us a little bit about your latest app ‘Like it!’Like it! exists because browsing Instagram on the iPad is a complete nightmare, therefore we’ve set to create a beautiful tablet experience.
With this in mind, we decided that just making an Instagram client would have been stupid because that is Instagram’s job. Instead, we decided to focus on the content, allowing photos to live beyond the timeline.
‘Like it!’ allows you to discover, track and collect the best content on Instagram. You can follow streams of related photos or create your own Instagram album. This is important because great photos are timeless and should be freed from the chronologic feed.
What is a unique feature of your app?‘Like it!’ is the best way to experience Instagram on the iPad. The challenge is to create a product that will stand the test of time, and that will allow us to keep adding to it, as opposed to a one shot type of app.
Why did you choose Titanium for your mobile development?We did our first app, ‘instaDM,’ with Titanium because we didn’t have any previous iOS experience. After millions of downloads and seeing the framework improve every month, we realised that we didn’t need to go further, at least on the first iterations of our apps. As web developers, Appcelerator has been key for us to get into the app world.
The documentation is amazing — both the tutorial and API. That’s really important while dealing with something you’ve never heard of before and probably the reason we never got to develop with Objective-C
What were some of the highlights of Titanium development for you?I love the new Alloy framework as it makes it very easy to keep the code in check. The first time I used Appcelerator, the whole app was just one .js file. Then, as I started to understand the framework, I started separating files and even created my own framework to switch views and optimise memory usage. When Alloy launched, I went to a lot of trouble to understand how memory works and how Appcelerator makes use of resources. I realised that the implementation was both optimised and easy to use. Using alloy allowed me to keep adding more and more blocks to the application without worrying too much about performance. This is pretty sweet.
How long did it take to design, implement, and test?A bit over three months.
What resources did you use to learn and develop with Titanium?For our first app we went trough the tutorial. We went from nada to App Store in 21 days. It was simply awesome. With this code, we got over 500,000 downloads on our first month.
Do you have plans for updates to ‘Like it!’ or future Titanium apps? Care to share some details?Yes, but we need to keep them up our sleeve =)
What advice do you have for companies that want to delight their users with mobile?Build something that you find useful, and delights YOU. If it doesn’t, then keep improving. Don’t settle for less because your customers won’t!
What is it about the mobile development community that makes them powerful agents for change?I think it’s about the distribution and presence. The fact that you can code something that in over a day could be in the hand of millions of people and stay with them everywhere they go.