Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A thousand comments later

I am a perpetual noob.
Funny? Yes, but I'm actually referring to the fact that I get bored easily with the stuff I already know and always get distracted into learning new things. One of these new things is Android development. I have been poking my way around the android platform for almost 6 months now. It may seem like a lot but all the poking was done during short sparse bursts of spare time so it doesn't add to a lot of work hours.
It's not a lot of work hours but it's a lot of work.
I wrote Fleya as an experiment to test the limits of my Android phone and because I needed a pet project to lead me into the Android world.

Google tells me that the market can install Fleya to 400+ devices. That's a lot!
Even if some of those devices have the same hardware but different release names (think i9000 and i9003) that still leaves a lot of them. This large number of devices means there are lots of implementations of Android and with that come compatibility issues.

Samsung has its own build of Android which moves some stuff around under the hood. All is great until things start to fall apart. The problem is that sometimes, apps lose access rights to their own preferences. Even to the default settings. This manifests itself as apps forgetting your preferences, your username, the last level you played and your high score, etc... If you've ever seen this happening, there's a pretty high chance that it's not the developer's fault. This is a very annoying problem because it's the developers that get the blame.
I fell into the same trap with a recent update. Although I made sure that if settings are lost, the app reverts to defaults, I never thought that accessing preferences could become such a problem that even the defaults would be screwed. This caused Fleya to not only forget settings, but crash in certain situations. I don't own a Samsung device and never got to see my app crashing. I only got reports in the market.
A crashing app crashes the rating.
It sounds obvious but it's even worse. Users will encounter a crash, leave a bad rating and then uninstall. The result is that the bad rating stays there, with very little chance of change because the average user won't have the chance to see you fix things.
By the way, I managed to fix the crash, so you should update to the latest version of Fleya and change your bad rating to a 5 star hint! ;-)

Remember when I said that I'm working on this in my spare time? Nobody is paying me to build and maintain Fleya. Another new thing you may notice in recent updates is ads.
Ads keep things free!
I know ads can be annoying so I did my best to make them as unobtrusive as possible.
To display ads in a mobile app requires a permission to access the internet. When asking for this permission, Android calls it Full internet access. OMG, FULL internet access...
For some reason, some people don't understand that there's no other kind of internet access. You either have it or you don't. Try to remember the last time an app asked you for any other kind of internet access and you'll believe me :)

A thousand comments later, there's something I never expected in the beginning:
It's very hard to get useful feedback.
At the time of writing this post, Fleya is approaching 90000 downloads. While it's true that at 3:00 AM that cold night in February when I published the first version on the market I never expected so many downloads, I also thought that by 10k, my inbox would be overflowing. Well, it's not, but still there are some people, to which I am very thankful, which took the time to write.
Because I am building it and know how things work under the hood, I have no idea if the interface is intuitive enough. Friends are useful but to a point. When they get the hang of it, they also go blind in terms of intuitiveness. My goal is to build an app intuitive enough that it doesn't need a help screen or tutorial to use but still complex enough to keep you from getting bored.
Since I recently discovered Google Moderator, I decided to use it to get some feedback.
Try it out:
You can submit ideas and/or vote on ideas already submitted. I'm not lacking ideas, I just want to see what is the most popular one so I can start working on it first.