Reblog

2024-06-17

It's been ten years since I let go of the How to Make iPhone Apps blog.

After a few years passed I came to regret letting this blog go. After all, this was a pivotal feature of my career and personal life. The How to Make iPhone Apps blog was a constant companion that followed my life as a so-called Indy app developer in the 2010s.

When the chance to reclaim this blog came up in May 2024 I did everything I could to get it back.

I managed to get the domain back and I'm now in the process of restoring as much as the old content as I can. Over the past two weeks I've been web scraping, digging through my old backups, and doing as much as I can to bring everything back online. It's far from perfect, but at this point I at least have a record of the work I did during that time.

So I'm taking this chance to reflect about that time and to talk about what I learned after reading through that old content. I also want to talk about the blog itself and what I've learned since 2014 about publishing and business on the internet. I've made a ridiculus number of mistakes that I can see now after ten years and I hope there is some value in looking back at these.

Of course, as the title suggests I want to start the process or rebooting this blog for 2024.

What does it mean to make apps in today's world of modern tools, clearer processes, and emerging technologies like AI? Where can we find the joy in the craft of coding? Is there any space today for a business in apps? Is iOS where you want to be as a developer?

My intent now is to treat this topic in a way that hobbyists will relate to.

Learning From Old Content

The first thing I want to talk about is what I learned about the old content I managed to retrieve from The Way Back Machine. I was extremely active on this blog for about three years but it was pretty clear that I was struggling to find the bandwidth to produce the quality of content that I would expect today. I was posting five times a week and at the same time I was teaching boot camps, coding apps, and trying to stay informed of the developments that came at a break neck pace in the early days of iOS.

This served me at the time and frankly created enough web traffic to get my content business going. But, these pressures clearly show when you look at some of the content itself. There are some good articles there and at the time they provided enough value to help a lot of people.

As I looked through these old posts, I can see that I was a little conflicted about what I wanted to write and about how much I had to offer. There is a lot of valuable "how-to" content that I clearly spent a good deal of time on. But, there is also a lot of "Internet Marketing" content on here as well. I was really interested in this topic and kept trying to shoe-horn that into what was really a software developer's blog at heart. It would have been better to save that for a different venue.

A lot of the things I don't like about my old posts were caused by the pressures of keeping up with SEO and trying to incorporate advice from other online business when it came to things like length of content and style. This explains the absurd number of posts that were lists of links or the click-baity "10 Ways To .....". Much of my content was also just shameless self-promotion. Again, this was at the advice of mentors in business and at the time it did help my business.

The ebooks and other paid content I produced did have a much higher level of quality. My original ebook that went along with this site was a comprehensive journey into learning everything you need to build an app. The other content was similar. I guess I figured that the website was the sales page and the paid content itself was the real value. That was a business choice that made sense in 2009 I suppose.

Blog Design

One of my biggest sins in the 2009-2014 time frame was that I kept messing around with this blog design. I would change the underlying Wordpress installation and break all my links and I would never be satisfied with the design. Or I would try and jam endless widgets and advertisements everywhere on the screen. All of that really distracted the viewer from what the core value of the blog was. Whenever I see a list of 20+ social media icons appear on an old post my stomach turns.

At the time, I really didn't have a handle on design at all and I was sometimes blindly taking advice from online business gurus on the internet. I was also trying to follow the advice of "outsource everything" and many of those problems were created because I was outsourcing core processes without being truly ready. I was really trying to do what I thought was expected of a new business owner and not really following what I knew to be true. This was a huge lesson.

My blog design was also overly complicated and that was partially due to the technology of the time. I was using WordPress, special themes, plugins, databases, and special hosting just to keep it running. At the time, I didn't have many options and didn't know enough about web programming to do things differently. It wasn't that WordPress itself is bad, but it's so easy to use that it comes easy to abuse.

The worst part of this was that I was never able to make the site mobile-first. Considering this was an app about developing for the iPhone that was pretty bad. But, the pressures of creating something that would support an online business outweighed the feature of making something mobile users could use. This didn't matter much until latter but it always bothered me.

Learnings

All that being said, the blog served a function at the time. Going forward though, I want to take things in a different direction and be laser focused on the core mission as I see it.

This blog should stay focused on topics that promote the joy of the craft of programming using iOS as a vehicle. That will be my northstar.

Here is a list of specific things I want to implement in service of that mission:

  • Keep the blog clean and simple while continuing to serve it's mission
  • Stay focused on the core mission when it comes to content
  • Make sure the content is reabable on small screens
  • Only keep the minimum UI needed for business functions like email lists or notifications if I decide to add those features
  • Try to spend more time on evergreen and deeper content
  • Don't worry about SEO
  • Keep a more joyful vibe