We’ve had a few emails and tweets asking about the iPad version of Sparks and whether features that are in the new iPhone version will be making their way over to the iPad. The short answer is an emphatic YES! I suppose that shouldn’t surprise anyone but I’d like to give a little info on where we are right now, where we’re going and some background on our process for the 2 apps. So, in no particular order:
Why iPhone? Well, we never set out to do it. Jerry and I wanted an experience on the iPad and that’s what we set out do. While we were at this year’s CodeMash I had no less than 10 people demand an iPhone version. By the end of the conference I had a working prototype and the rest is history.
Cool new features but where are they on the iPad? Patience, my friends! :) One of the big wins of the phone’s UX constraints mean that there is a lot less work to be done to bring ideas to life. We work hard to provide a compelling experience not just a list of features. If a feature seems cool but doesn’t quite fit then we take it back to the whiteboard and iterate on it. The iPad version has a lot of real estate to account for and it’s a delicate balance to find just where some functionality should go, if it’s simple to interact with and truly provides value. We could easily ship a “big iPhone” version to the iPad but it just doesn’t feel right (we tried it and hated it thus no universal binary). So, instead we shipped some features we’ve been discussing for a long time to the Phone to see if they were worth bringing over to the Pad. Many of them are but it means that the iPad is going to need a fresh coat of paint.
The Icon When we were creating the iPad version the only client representations of Campfire used the exact same HTML presentation that exists on the web. Jerry and I don’t actively dislike them (far from it!) but wanted to present an experience that utilized the best parts of the target platform. For example, if you look at how text is rendered in Safari vs native Text controls on either the iPhone or the iPad you’ll notice a clear difference. To us, this is important. We wanted to love using campfire away from our desktops. Jerry conceived a fantastic aesthetic for the iPad that would evoke the “camping/campfire” aspect of the namesake while not infringing on 37Signals’ brand. While this was a great introduction to the platform we eventually felt boxed in by the choice. Suddenly, new features had some kitschy outdoorsy pun in the name and when we started rolling our own eyes, we knew it was time for a change. We want to focus on chat and less on being a “campfire” client.
Long story short, we’re currently developing a major update to the iPad version. The iPhone version allowed us to quickly prototype some new ideas (not all of them… there have to be some surprises, right?) and provide value to a new group of users while taking our time in taking the iPad to the next level. The Icon hints at the new visual direction Sparks is taking that will eventually make its way to the iPad.
WHEN, WHEN, WHEN?! Jerry and I believe strongly in the notion that you iterate quickly and ship as often as possible. With this in mind we prioritize on a daily basis and push when we’ve had enough time with updates that we feel they are stable enough to ship. We could have held onto the iPhone until the iPad was ready but that would have meant time would go by with a pretty solid version sitting on the shelf while we worked on the iPad version. That’s not who we are and while it may feel odd for iPad owners to see new features hit the iPhone first, they’ll be reaping the benefits of real world testing and use from iPhone users when they finally come to the iPad. It all leads to a more stable, usable and enjoyable experience in the long run and that’s really what’s most important.
Hopefully that clarifies our position on the 2 platforms a bit. As always, if you have any questions, concerns or comments please shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you and can’t wait to show you what we’ve got in store this year!