Petoskey is regionally famed for a lot of things, including its ‘million dollar sunsets,’ Gaslight Shopping District and the Odawa Casino Resort, to name a few. But now, one man and his ambitious small company are aiming to be the Next Big Thing out of P-town.
Keith Schmidt and New Focus Creative are calling themselves “Northern Michigan’s only iPhone, iPad, and Android developer,” and they’ve already made a couple of strides right into the online media app stores, while also doing web design and ecommerce projects.
Schmidt has been in web design since the early ’90s, mostly as a graphic and interface designer. He moved with various jobs from Detroit to Denver, Colorado, and did stints with the likes of AT&T, ESPN, and Mapquest.
“During this time, I’ve seen the web evolve from something static to something very interactive, and watched it become a necessary part of life,” Schmidt says. “Today, more than half of people accessing the internet in the U.S. access it from a mobile device, a smart phone or tablet. Because these devices are cheaper than a PC and more mobile, this trend is predicted to continue.”
In 2009, Schmidt began talking to his web clients about the importance of designing for mobile platforms and having mobile-friendly websites.
“At the same time, I felt that the mobile browser experience was lacking,” he explains. “While you can design a web page to look like an app, you still have to open it through a web browser on your phone, not just hit a button to open it. So I started looking at developing ‘native’ apps to address some of the shortcomings.”
Working with his local team, Schmidt does all of the design and the workflows - how the app is navigated - and then based on the target platform, iPhone or Android, one of his programmers starts coding.
“Native smartphone apps require not just knowing the language the apps are developed in, but knowing how to code well and efficiently for each platform,” Schmidt explains. “I’m lucky in that respect as I have the two smartest guys around for this.”
New Focus Creative’s first ‘big time’ app is called SnapColor, which Schmidt claims is the “first shoot and print coloring book creator in the App Store.”
“It’s actually an idea we came up with by accident,” he says. “My iPhone developer was working on a series of video filters for another app, and he showed me one that did an amazing job of making the iPhone camera’s live video look like hand-drawn line art, just really jaw-dropping stuff, and all in real time.”
Schmidt says he immediately thought of a trip he had taken as a kid with his parents to Mackinac Island.
“They bought me a coloring book that had all the Mackinac stuff in it, the fort, soldiers, Indians, the lighthouse, which I loved. I thought, ‘how cool would it be to go on vacation and make your own coloring book of memories and really commemorate it in something that would be fun and remind you of the trip.”
The SnapColor app is simple to use. You create and name coloring books, select a book, and add ‘pages.’ Each page opens a camera window, but in the app’s special line art mode.
“Then you just tap a button to ‘snap’ that image, give it a name, and save it to your book,” Schmidt explains. “You can add and delete pages at any time, and add and delete books at any time.”
The books can be printed to an Airprint-enabled printer directly from the iPhone, or published to iBooks as a PDF file. You can even email the book and share it with others.
And of course, once it’s printed, you can color it in.
“You can use it for everything from making a coloring book of your family vacation to technical illustration and more,” Schmidt says. “The Northwest Michigan Botanic Garden in Traverse City wants to use the app to make a coloring book of the garden they can sell in their gift shop for fundraising. I have a friend using it to make a comic book. The uses are practically endless.”
APPS ON A WHIM
Both an iPad and an Android version of the app are in the works, too. And SnapColor is just the beginning. New Focus Creative has already worked on an app for Western Michigan’s resort towns called ‘Michigan’s Gold Coast,’ and another specialty medical app that assists doctors with the conversion of medical dosages.
While prices to develop an app are in the thousands of dollars, it’s not something to be done on a whim, Schmidt says.
“Because of the specialized skills and effort to develop a smart phone app, they are definitely not cheap,” he explains. “It’s difficult to convey the complexity and cost to clients. If you have an app idea, we’d love to hear it, but keep in mind that an app will cost a considerable amount to develop, and you will need to market your app for it to be successful in the increasingly crowded app store.”
“On the bright side,” he continues, “modern travelers may well forget their wallet, their tickets, even the running faucet, but one thing they’ll never leave home without is their phone. We think that apps that assist vacationers are the ones that have the greatest potential in this market - and you never know - your app could be the biggest seller in Japan.”
Visit Petoskey’s New Focus Creative and Keith Schmidt online at www.newfocuscreative.com, telephone 231-330-0229. The SnapColor app is available for $1.99 in the iTunes store.