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· Tim Riley

Decaf Sucks Launch Countdown: Starting Again, Again

By the 5th of September, we will release Decaf Sucks for iPhone.

On that day, Icelab is heading to Swipe Conference, Australia’s first big iOS and Mac developers conference, and I figure there’s no better way to do so than as fully-fledged developers ourselves, with our offering available in the App Store.

They say that the best side project to build is the one you want to use yourselves, and this has certainly been the case with Decaf Sucks. Even two years later, it remains a joy to use, and it’s exciting to see a community of reviewers grow around it.

The one other thing we’ve always wanted to use is a native iPhone app for Decaf Sucks. While it already has a very good mobile-optimised web interface, a native app would allow us to apply an even greater degree of speed and polish to the Decaf Sucks experience. A presence in the app store will also help more people to discover the site, and in turn increase everyone’s chance of finding better coffee!

I’ve made several attempts at building this native app. First, I tried Titanium, but it was very early days for the framework and it didn’t do everything we wanted. Early last year, I spent a RailsCamp weekend building a small prototype in native Cocoa Touch code, which didn’t go any further due to shortcomings in my fundamental understanding of the API. A little while later, I played around with Sencha Touch, but I figured if I was going to spend the time learning a big framework, it might as well be Cocoa Touch itself. This brings us to the first half of 2011. By this time, we’d beefed up our iOS chops by getting a successful client project out the door, our design and UI implementation work on the BOM’s Water Storage app. I’d also started waking up early, and spent a solid month just reading Programming iOS 4 before work everyday, internalising things and ruminating on them, away from the tools. Then our friend Jake MacMullin offered a hand, and built a starter sample app that listed Decaf Sucks reviews.

Finally, everything lined up. Since then, we’ve made slow and steady progress towards a beautiful and functional native iPhone app. And with this post, it’s time to pick up the pace. Between now and our launch, I’ll write regularly (inspired by the Naked Startup) to share how we go.

To get started, here’s where we stand right now. Most of the work so far has centred around presenting lists of cafes around a particular location. Max has built some wireframes & I’ve been making things work:

Decaf Sucks Wireframe and App Screenshots

So far we have cafés shown in a list, plotted on a map (which presents even more cafés as you pan around), and have all the reviews for a café shown on a details screen.

I’ve written up user stories in Trajectory to represent all the work for the first release, and what we’ve done so far constitutes 11 completed stories and 14 points of work. According to the calculated velocity from this initial work, we should finish by August 19th, which is just about when we’d need to be submitting Decaf Sucks to the app store. This means it’s time to get to work! Today’s a Jelly day here at Icelab, so there’s plenty of time to get more done. We also have some other friends generously volunteer to help us out: (Jake MacMullin, Tony Arnold, Cameron Barrie & Jason Crane), which will be a big help in getting across the line.

That’s it for now. Time to get back into XCode, and I’ll report back next week!