When I was a kid growing up in Ephraim, Utah my brother took me to the computer lab at Snow College. He showed me a room full of massive mainframe computers crunching numbers (at about the rate of my son’s scientific calculator today). I was impressed. But then he turned me around and there, sitting against the wall on an old folding table was the NEW computer the school had just received – the IBM 5150 PC. It was sleek. It was clean. And what’s more, He told me, it possessed the same computing power as the big mainframes chunking away behind us. Then he sat me down and showed me the power of the 5150 in the form of a choose your own adventure game (without graphics of course – even the 5150 wasn’t powerful enough for graphics in those days). My mind was boggled. A game! On a computer! And only the size of a suitcase! I was no longer impressed, I was in awe.
Fast forward thirty years to the first time I brought an iPad to life. It was like holding a prop from Star Trek Next Generation, only it really worked. And what’s more, it was probably 5,000,000 times (or more) more powerful than that state-of-the-art IBM of my youth. It had all my e-mail, all my music, my photos, my favorite books – and all those glorious apps. No need for a stylus and made up language for input. No need even for a keyboard and a mouse! Just tap and touch. What more could an admitted gadget geek ask for? I was in awe once again. The simplicity and elegance of the iPad got me REALLY excited to build an app worthy of such a tantalizing piece of electronic cherry pie.
Fast forward once again to my very first day at the Deseret News. My boss handed me an iPad and asked me to build an app for the Deseret News. Total dream come true. I was as excited as my Jack Russell Terrier Roxy when she sees the running shoes come out. And not a little intimidated. There were a lot of amazing apps on the market at the time (think NYT and USA Today) with more coming out everyday (hello Daily and how-do-you-do Flipboard). They’d been built by teams of developers fueled by millions of dollars and here we were – me, a single developer (the stalwart Scott Lewis), a designer (the amazing Garth Bruner) a dream and a deadline.
We got to work and I quickly realized this wasn’t just another web app. This was software. It took me back to my days producing packaged software which required tight planning, greater attention to detail and more trial and error than I’d become accustomed to in the ever changing web-world. Deadlines passed. Dreams became reality and many lessons were learned (I’ll save that post for another day) but in the end Apple came through for us. While I’m not about to hang a mission accomplished banner from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, I am proud of our little app. It’s simple. It takes advantage of the amazing iOS operating system to deliver a unique reading experience. It just works. But most importantly, it’s a terrific showcase for the incredible stories that our staff produce.
The numbers seem to show that you agree, with a 4+ rating on the App Store, thousands of downloads a week and average time spent on the app growing by as much as 50% week-over-week.
As I said before, there are lots of news apps out there. I know you have a choice. Thank you for picking ours. I read your comments online and see your tweets or Facebook posts every day. You’re smart. You’re funny. You’re informed and you’re trying to make a difference in the world. I hope this app helps you to live ready to do your thing. I believe it will. Not just because it’s my job to think that. But because it’s more than just my job. There’s a little bit of me – and the whole Deseret News team – that lights up behind that glassy screen every time you tap the DN icon to bring it up. I hope you see us there and know we’re not going anywhere as long as there are readers like you looking for something more from the news.