When Apple releases a new version of iOS, the blogosphere gets excited, as do customers. After all, each new software release comes with new toys for us to enjoy.
For developers, however, iOS updates mean learning new code, which can sometimes be a frustrating and time-consuming process. For would-be developers looking to learn iOS, updates deliver another challenge, as instruction books and videos become obsolete. Fortunately, the folks at Mysterious Trousers have come to the rescue.
TinkerLearn, which I discussed earlier this month, offers a new way for developers to learn code.
To get started, users download a real, working app onto their Mac. From there, TinkerLearn guides you through the code, explaining things as you go. Best of all, as you make changes to the code, you’ll see how those changes affect the app using Apple’s own Xcode and iOS Simulator software.
Recently, I had the chance to speak with one of the company’s founders, Rob Foster, and also with Parker Wightman, the project leader for TinkerLearn. What I found were two intense guys dedicated to the idea that iOS learning can be quick and easy and, yes, also fun. As the TinkerLearn website says, “Learn to build apps by DOING.”
This is the second of many in-depth developer profiles we plan on bringing you in the weeks and months ahead. In June, we looked at Rally Interactive, the folks behind the National Parks by National Geographic app.
Filling a need seems to be the main reason behind why Mysterious Trousers created TinkerLearn in the first place, which really shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, this seems to be the reason the company got into the iOS business in the first place.
According to Foster, who along with Adam Kirk founded the Utah-based company in 2010, each of their apps grew out of their desire to create apps that were simpler to use than ones already on the market.
The result, in the case of TinkerLearn, is a sleek learning process that users can pickup on immediately, even if they have no previous iOS code experience. Best of all, they’ve created a system that they tweak often to reflect Apple’s ongoing changes to the iOS software.
Wightman’s goal in managing TinkerLearn is to avoid the pitfall that bedevils other learning sites – producing slick tools that suddenly become outdated. He says, “No out-of-date videos, here.”
Another goal is making sure TinkerLearn doesn’t price would-be developers out of the market. For just $15, customers get TinkerLearn’s core curriculum, which includes lessons on iOS clues, buttons, tips, shapes, browsers, and todos. More advanced projects, for which there are currently two, includes events and Twitter lessons for $3.99 each.
Plus, Wightman is in the process of providing a learning interface for blind developers, another way to attract more to iOS development. Accessibility is a topic that is only now becoming much more important in the world of iOS, as Stella Violano suggested earlier this month.
Finally, Mysterious Trousers expects to go a step further and allow “guest” developers to post their own lessons for customers to enjoy.
About those apps
In an approach that Steve Jobs would certainly love, the Mysterious Trousers team takes an incremental approach whenever they update apps. Instead of releasing app updates that contain new bells and whistles, which may confuse current customers, the company only release updates they feel will make the product quicker, or will add value.
For example, a future Calvetica Calendar update will make the product more robust and faster. But, the app’s overall feel will remain the same.
Foster states that when thinking about new updates, his team always asks themselves one question, “How fast can I do this task?” Mysterious Trousers’ incremental approproach to releasing app updates, didn’t come out of thin air, however. Instead, it came after customers complained about a radical update to Calvetica Calendar.
As Foster concludes, “No one was happy.” As a result, the company released Calvetica Classic for those customers that wanted to keep using the original app.
In the months ahead, the company may release TinkerLearn-inspired apps that will be “cheap or free.” They are also working on an Instagram-like app as well.
No matter what the future holds, I’m convinced Mysterious Trousers is onto something with TinkerLearn. Making it easier for others to learn iOS, means that the App Store will only become more popular and more versatile in what it offers. And that is great news for all of us.