Learning from others is a powerful tool. When looking to develop a mobile application, it is important to get different perspectives on the industry and hear others’ experiences with the development process, so you can hear what works and what doesn’t work for them. You can then apply someone else’s experiences and knowledge into your own project to make something that was once just an idea into a beautiful and amazing product.
Recently, I had the privilege to speak with Lea Marolt Sonnenschein, CEO & Co-Founder of Presevent, and hear about her experience developing this beautiful app.
Check out the app here!
For those who may not know, Presevent alerts you to upcoming Election 2016 speeches, forums, and fundraisers, so you can sync your calendar with our next President’s! With the help of Presevent’s candidate locator and event tracker, you can promote transparency and engage in the Republican and Democratic primaries by seeing your favorite candidates face-to-face.
Where did you come up with an idea like that for your app?
The idea came from a discussion with my co-founder Joe in mid May about the lack of
quality mobile tools for political engagement. We were both about to graduate from
Grinnell College in Iowa, the first caucus state, so we were very aware of the upcoming
influx of political events. I had a lot of experience in creating mobile applications, having
co-founded Grinnell AppDev, and Joe thought it might be a good idea to leverage that
experience in creating an application that would track all Election 2016 presidential
candidates’ events. I loved the idea, and we both jumped right in. We started to work on
it before we even graduated.
What problem are you trying to solve?
The problem with many modern political campaigns is that they target event invitations
to likely supporters, not curious voters. This narrow targeting blatantly disregards
America’s storied history of face-to-face democracy. Presevent is trying to combat this
targeting by harnessing publically available data about upcoming Election 2016 events
and presenting that data in a visually appealing and scannable format. Our users can
share information about upcoming events with their family, friends, and communities,
which translates into a more diverse and transparent political discourse.
Did you develop this app yourself or did you hire someone?
I’ve been developing iOS apps for a few years. I’d be too embarrassed to hire someone
else :D! So, yes, I developed and designed the app myself.
What were some of the biggest struggles you had over the course of developing your app? Did you have to learn new APIs? How much experience did you have?
From the get-go, we decided that our most important features were ease of use and
minimalism in design and interactions. Keeping in line with those constraints proved
very difficult from time to time and provided some interesting design challenges–both
visually and architecturally.
Since everything (except for the Parse backend and 2 CocoaControls) was developed
“in-house,” I didn’t have to learn any new APIs. I did, however, learn a lot of other iOS
related topics. For example: How to use size classes and autolayout–a topic I avoided
like the plague before Presevent. I also learned a lot about “best practices” in application
development. I knew I wanted to build an app that we could modify and extend easily,
so from the beginning, I built the app out by abstracting the classes into smaller
I had about 2 years of actual application development under my belt, and about 1 year of
learning and failing before that :D! Prior to Presevent I lead 4 other iOS apps into
production. I’m also currently working as an iOS Developer for Rent the Runway, so I’m
continuously improving my craft.
How long did it take to develop this application?
It took about 3 months to design and develop the first iteration of the app that we put on the App Store.
If you could go back and change something what would it be?
To be honest I don’t think there’s much I would change. We’ve had a lot of fun creating
Presevent, we’re learning a lot, and we’re trying to make a positive impact on the world.
What more can you ask for?
How are you getting the word out about your app?
We’re using Facebook and Twitter to promote Presevent and its cause. Another great
resource is our growing list of early adopters, who tested the app in its BETA stage and
helped shape it into what it is today. They’re not only helping us improve the app but are
also generating enough buzz that’s brought in new users.
We also just applied for the Knight Foundation’s most recent News Challenge. We’re
hoping that’s going to be a big help in connecting to curious users.
What are your future plans for this application?
As far as the app itself goes, I’m working on improving the architecture quite a bit to
make the app faster and more responsive. Joe is also working on improving our event
coverage, so that no candidates’ events are left out of our database. We’re also constantly taking
in feedback from our users to make sure that the product we’ve developed is the best it could
possibly be in terms of usability.
As far as the bigger picture goes, we know that if we truly want to have a big impact on
democracy, we can’t limit ourselves to just the iOS platform. So the next steps for us are
definitely creating a web and Android platform for Presevent, to make it truly accessible
to everyone with an Internet connection. In order to build those, we’ve applied to
FbStart and the Knight Foundation. If anyone wants to help us out, though, feel free to
shoot me an email, and we can have a chat (: !
Why should someone download your app in one sentence?
People should download Presevent to have more in-person and unfiltered conversations
with Election 2016 presidential candidates and promote a more transparent and
positive political discourse.
Presevent’s Website: http://presevent.com/
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