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Does size really matter? 3 tips to help you reduce your app file size

Size matters?

I have a confession to make, I’ve been very wasteful in the way I package my apps…

Until iPad 3, I never had any issues with file size for my apps. Graphics were small enough to keep universal app file size below 20mb (more on that in a moment) and life was good. Then came the “new iPad” and everything changed…

With the new iPad, and its retina display, file sizes started to become an issue. If I want to create a universal app (which is easier to manage if you’re creating a game for example that needs updates for iPhone and iPad), and have it run in retina mode, the file sizes start to get big… I ended up at 70 MB for my new game, guns of war <<< >>> and that was a problem.

Does file size matter?

On iPad, not that much. iPad storage sizes start at 16mb, and using them on Wi-Fi is fairly common since they are not designed to be in your pocket at all times. When it comes to iPhone though, it becomes an issue.

Apple imposes a 50mb download limit for app file size on 3g networks (no limit on Wi-Fi), so if your app is larger than 50 mb, people will get a message saying they need to connect to Wi-Fi to download it. In many cases, that’s not a problem, but why would you limit your customer base if you don’t absolutely have to? In my personal experience, most apps are more of an impulse purchase, so if I can’t download them when I want to, I’ll just forget about them and not get them.

Here are a few tips to help reduce your app file size:

1. Don’t make universal apps. It’s a bit disappointing, but it looks like graphics heavy universal apps are a thing of the past. If you want to fully support the HD functionality of the new iPad and have rich graphics, you’ll need to make separate iPhone and iPad apps.

2. File formats: some IOS files have to be in .png format, but not all of them. If you use backgrounds in your games or apps (and those are usually the bigger files since they cover the whole screen), you can use .jpg format, which is significantly smaller than the same file in png.

3. File quality: in my experience, you can reduce jpg quality down to about 50-60 percent without it being noticeable in an app. that means that you can get a file that’s several MB in .png format down to 200-400 kb in .jpg format. And this adds up if you have a few different backgrounds in your app. the same goes for audio files. In most cases, sound quality changes aren’t really noticeable to most users unless you go really low, so you can reduce the file sizes of sound affects you use by lowering the quality. This is more of an art than a science, so you’ll need to play with it until you get to a level that seems acceptable to you…

Also, make sure you check the file size after you prepare the archive for submitting to apple, the app file on your disk doesn’t accurately represent the file size apple puts on their app store.

Do you have any other tips on reducing app file sizes? Do you use any best practices you can share? Please share in the comments section below.

Disasters With Designers – 5 Lessons Learned From Hiring Freelance Designers – Part 2

Last time I mentioned the first 2 designers I hired and how I ended up shutting down my app development because of the mistakes I made hiring them.

This is the 2nd part of the post where I talk about 3 other lessons I learned working with freelance designers.

Designer 3: The noob

After working with the offshore pro, I decided I wanted someone more local, and surprisingly, found a US based designer that had great hourly pricing. We ended up agreeing on a fixed price and he started work. The designer had a great portfolio, but said he was new to odesk.
He started working, but then after a week or so came back to me and said that the work is more than he thought and that he needs more time and money…
Again, I was stuck, I had to pay a bit more, but it seemed like we were both not enjoying the relationship anymore, so we ended it.

Lesson: new designers will most likely underestimate the amount of time it takes them to finish up a project. Either budget that into your project or make sure they show you why they think their estimate is accurate. It pays to start a bit higher rather than start low and then have both sides disappointed when it doesn’t work as planned.

Designer 4: The messy one

The next designer I worked with was very talented, but quite a mess.
The quality of his work was good and he did have experience, but he ended up delivering the final product in a zip file and I didn’t make sure that I could use it as is in my game.
What I mean is that he did deliver all the character files I asked for, but they were all in different sizes, and they weren’t set up so I can just drop them into my game. I had to spend a lot of time, resizing, matching them up with the rest of their set, and positioning so that the moving animation would line up with the shooting animation and would be usable with the other characters in the game. Again, lots of work that I shouldn’t have been doing.

Lesson: make sure you set expectations as to what deliverables you want and how you want them delivered, even down to file name. For example: enemy_walk_iPad_1.png, enemy_walk_iPad_2.png etc.

Designer 5: The Long term designer
I had a small project idea in a very specific niche and hired a designer for it. He quoted an estimate of 3 weeks to finish the project.
I paid upfront, and 6 months later, I’m still waiting. It’s not like he’s vanished or anything, but he just keeps saying that he’s working on it…
If the project were important, I’d push harder, but I don’t have time to work on it anyway, so I’m not in a rush.

So there you have it, 5 lessons I learned working with freelance designers. I’d love to hear from you, do you have any interesting stories to share about working with freelancers? Good or bad?

Disasters With Designers – 5 Lessons Learned From Hiring Freelance Designers

designer problems

Photo credit: saaleha

Part of creating a great app, is making it look good, and as I mentioned earlier, I do have some good design skills, but when it comes to drawing characters for games, I have to resort to hiring professionals.

I’ve used odesk and elance to find designers and have gone through a lot of trouble until I managed to find some good talented people to work with. I was inspired by Trey’s Post, so I thought I’d share some lessons learned so you can avoid the same problems I had.

Designer 1: The flake

I thought I really lucked out with the first designer. She was very talented based on her online portfolio, very responsive to email, and was priced very affordably.
During our initial conversations, she seemed to really “get it” and came back with the first sketches in record time.

I should have seen this as a warning sign, but she did use a lot of emoticons in the skype conversation…

One day, she just stopped responding!

I was already in the midst of building my game, and integrating the first set of characters I got from her, and then she just vanished!

I emailed and skyped her, and contacted her through odesk, but no response.
After a week or so, I had to hire someone new…

A month or so later, she got back to me, saying she had some computer problems (so no Internet café’s in your city? No friends with a computer so you can check your email and let your clients know what’s going on?)

Lesson: For the first project you do with a new designer, don’t give them too much work and don’t put them on the critical path of the project (that is – if they don’t deliver, the project dies). This problem could have easily been avoided if she would have only done a smaller part of the project and could have been dropped without too much loss.

Designer 2: The Pro

After this bad experience, I decided to find someone more professional.
I posted my ad on odesk, and got contacted by a design agency.
The work they did seemed impressive, and their hourly rate was good, so I did a Skype interview with them and they seemed very professional. They even used a SharePoint like product to manage the project, set milestones and manage other project management activities.

The work started coming in and it was really high quality, so I was happy, but then I started to see the hourly reports come in…

While the hourly rate was low, they had a designer working full time on my project. The work quality was high, but it was taking way too long to finish and costing me an arm and a leg!

By the time the backgrounds were done, I was in for around $2000 and the characters weren’t even started yet!

I asked the project manager to stop work and provide an estimate on how much work it would be to create the characters, and they said that it would be at least $5000 more, which I didn’t have…

So I had to stop the project again.

Lesson: Unless you are very clear from the start what the scope of the project is and what the amount of hours you approve are, do not work on an hourly basis!

Costs can really creep up on you and you could end up paying much more than you expected.

After this incident, I decided to only work on a fixed price basis. This also motivates the designer to work faster to get the project done so they don’t spend too much time on it and lose other hourly jobs they have.

I’ll be posting the next 3 lessons in my next post Disasters with designers – 5 lessons learned from hiring freelance designers – part 2, but in the mean time, I’d love to hear from you. Have you had any good or bad experiences with designers that you’d like to share?