iPhone App Developer Spotlight: Ben Smith and Heap Dashboard

This is another entry in the iPhone Application Developer Spotlight series here at the Business Blog @ Intuitive.com. I hope you find it interesting and enlightening.
Q: You wrote Heap Dashboard. How long did it take you? How many lines of code is the program? Written in what language?
It took about three days to write Heap Dashboard. 2526 lines of code. All iPhone apps are written in Objective-C.
Q: Tell us a bit about the application, including your target market and what problem or problems your application solves?
Heap CRM provides a central location to store everything related to your customers, potential customers and past customers. It also has automated systems that help with communication with customers throughout the sales process and beyond. You can then improve your sales process over time as Heap tells you what’s been effective in the past.
Heap Dashboard solves the “offline” problem for mobile users of Heap. While our iPhone web app for Heap is full featured and fast, Internet service isn’t everywhere. And really the most important data that a sales agent needs is the contact info, and most recent conversations of the prospect. Which is exactly the data the Heap Dashboard stores offline. You can also create a message immediately and have it sync back to the main service when you get Internet access again.
Q: Where did the name “Heap” come from?
Apple iPhone Application: Heap DashboardI was trying to give people the impression that there was a lot of ways to get data into Heap and it was ok to save information in a somewhat disorganized manner. One of the reasons (if not the primary reason) CRMs fail for companies is that people don’t want to enter data into them. So Heap is really focused on giving the user a whole bunch of ways to get data into it. And sometimes that data isn’t in the right area or isn’t saved in a category, etc. In addition to systems that automatically detect relationships, detect different types of data, etc; Heap has a search systems that I would put up against anyone: heap find.
Which brings us back to the idea that as long as you get it in there, you’ll be able to find it. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
Q: The iPhone Software Development Kit has been written about quite a bit, but I’d like to know your opinion: was it easy to get up to speed with this SDK? Is it sufficiently complete that you weren’t stumped as you developed your application?
The SDK is fine (in fact quite well documented), but I already knew Objective-C. I spent way more time fighting to get into the developer program (and the contract/approval process) so I could release the app.
Q: Tell us about the experience of submitting your program to the iPhone Application Store and how long it took to gain approval. Did you have to demonstrate that you weren’t accessing external data like the Address Book? What else was required for your app to show up in the public store?
There wasn’t any list of requirements that I had to meet. My app was approved once it was looked at by somebody. It’s just a matter of getting someone to look at it. People say there is a big line to get approved, but that’s not right. Because a line would work on a FIFO (first in, first out) method. The app store approval process seems to work randomly.
Q: Did you develop all the graphics in the app yourself or contract with a designer to create the look-and-feel of your application?
Heap Dashboard is a productivity app, so I just used the built in interface elements so that it matches the rest of the apps.
Q: How much is your application, and how did you decide on a price-point?
It’s free. It’s an “alternative interface” to our web based Heap CRM (customer relationship manager) product which we do charge for.
Pricing was never a decision. We just charge for the core web app [you can learn more about Heap CRM at wbpsystems.com –DT], all the things that connect to it we give away.
Q: Are you inspired to write more iPhone applications? What’s in the pipeline?
We have a number of things in the pipeline for Heap CRM and our other web app, Torch Project Management. The next iPhone app will be Torch Dashboard.
Q: If you’re not a full-time iPhone application developer, what’s your day job?
My primary focus is on improving Heap and Torch.
Thanks, Ben, for your insight on your own experience with the iPhone application development process!

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