Developer Spotlight: Itamar Belson

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In our “Developer Spotlight” series, we sit down with members of our developer community to talk about everything from career paths and current projects to the future of app development. With the state of mobile always evolving, these interviews serve as a checkpoint on where things are headed.

It’s not every day you wake up to find your app on the App Store’s “New Apps We Love” section or featured in big name media outlets. Itamar Belson has accomplished both with two separate projects, the first of which he built before he graduated high school. We talked with Itamar to learn about his growth as a developer, the challenges of app store discoverability, and what’s next for his latest app, Scope: Lists, Tasks, and Reminders, after the App Store boost.

Tell us about your journey so far as a developer. How did you get started?
I started developing apps in high school to see if I could create something from scratch that people would want to download and use. The first app I built was a game on native code called Hexmania, which ended up getting featured in a number of media outlets and saw close to 1 million downloads. It was quite a pleasant surprise.

I have always been drawn to apps with an aesthetic appeal that focus on design as well as user interface and user experience. The need to iterate quickly on design and function is why I began using Titanium when I got to college at MIT. I like to start from a more general idea and tweak detail parameters as I go, and Titanium really lends itself to such a workflow.

What was the development process for Scope like?
With Scope, I set out to design a task management app that I would personally want to use. One that simplifies existing concepts from other to-do list and task management apps by eliminating the clunky and unnecessary features and boiling down what remains into a complete and aesthetically appealing design. Titanium was awesome for the prototyping phase — in the matter of an hour, I was able to get a prototype of what I had envisioned up and running on my device. Just getting everything wired up in native code would have taken much longer. From there, all the modules that Titanium offers allowed me to figure out exactly where I wanted to take the app. I didn’t have a set-in-stone idea when I set out to develop Scope. Instead, it was more of developing the main concept, followed by a longer process of iteration to discover what it would become.

How have your approach and challenges evolved since you first started as a developer?
It’s a lot harder for an app to stand out today, and I have to constantly think about discoverability as I build an app. When I released Hexmania, the landscape of the App Store was completely different. The pool of apps was smaller. Now, you can search in the store and an app will likely exist for something you were looking to develop.

Another thing I always struggle with as an indie developer is staying up to date. When I was developing Hexmania, there were only three iPhones and they were all basically the same size. However, now Apple is constantly releasing new phones and updates, but Titanium has been helpful in keeping up with such changes.

What features do you think helped your app stand out for “New Apps We Love”?
Two weeks after I released the app, I woke up to see it featured on the front page of the App Store. I don’t think any developer really knows exactly why their app is selected to be featured by Apple. What I intended was to make the app as aesthetically appealing as possible by focusing on design and functionality hand-in-hand. I spent a lot of time making the workflow intuitive and simple, so I think it was a combination of the user experience and the careful attention to the design of the app that helped it get noticed. The downloads definitely spiked, and it became the top-rated productivity app later that day and throughout the following weeks.

What project(s) are you most excited about now?
I’m an indie developer, so I work on projects like Scope on the side. I was working on another personal project before releasing Scope, but I’ve had to refocus on Scope after its reception. I received a lot of great feedback from users praising the app and requesting features, and am currently working hard on an update to be released very soon.

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