Happy Monday, everyone!
We made it to the 36th issue! Thank you to everyone who read last week’s issue ❤️
I’d like to give a special shoutout before getting into this week’s issue to one of my most dedicated readers and supporters. Sending lots of ❤️s to my Aunt Sandy! Thank you so much for all of your support 😊
📆 Today I’m featuring Charlie Chapman.
Charlie is an indie dev icon to me, to a lot of our spotlighted indie devs, and to many many others. He took the indie developer world by storm with his release of Dark Noise in 2019. Dark Noise itself and the marketing Charlie has done for it is just so amazing. It's gotten great sales, great press, and was even featured as App Store's "App of the Day" 🤯 It's really impressive and inspirational... especially since this was Charlie's first app.
Charlie loved the launch process of Dark Noise that he decided to create a podcast specifically about launching products. Launched is a podcast where Charlie interviews app developers about their experieces releasing their creations to the world.
I'm super excited to have Charlie in today's issue ☺️ Like I said earlier, Charlie is an indie dev icon but ontop of that... he's also now a really close friend of mine 🤗 He has been rooted in Indie Dev Monday since the beginning. Listening to Launched is what got me highly interested in the indie developer space. When I had the idea for Indie Dev Monday, I sent Charlie a DM asking for his thoughts and opinion 😛 I wanted some feedback with his experience and success of Launched. He quickly replied with some great tips and advice and I think sent me down the right path!
But with that all said... Give Dark Noise a download and go subscribe to Launched! You'll be happy you did 😌
👉 Please make sure to follow them or support them anyway you can! 😇 I’m excited to share their indie dev stories.
1) What is your name? Where do you live?
Name: Charlie Chapman City: St. Louis, MO
2) Introduce yourself. Education? Background? Main job? Interests outside of tech? Interests inside of tech?
I’ve been writing software for almost 10 years but I’m relatively new to iOS development. After graduating with a Computer Information Science degree I’ve spent the majority of my career in the Microsoft tech stack until an opportunity about 2 years ago let me switch to an iOS team and I fell in love. For my main job I recently joined Stitch Fix as an iOS dev and I’ve been loving it there so far!
My major passion outside of software is motion graphics and design. I grew up obsessed with film and animation and even after going the computer science route in school I maintained a hobby/side hustle creating motion graphics projects and doing some video editing. Generally speaking I’ve found that I love any form of digital art creation (though I’ve never been able to figure out music 😄).
3) Have you ever considered yourself an indie developer?
I suppose since I’m the creator of an “indie app” I would be considered an “indie developer”? 😅 But I’ve always considered “going indie” to mean you work full time on an independent app so in that regard I’m definitely not. 🤷♂️
4) What got you started/interested in creating your own applications outside of your “normal” job?
When I got the opportunity to switch to an iOS project at my job I had zero Apple developer experience. So I knew I needed to do some work on my own to get up to speed faster so I could contribute to the team. Releasing it as a “real” app was something I was really excited to do as well. I had briefly dabbled in indie app development during my short time as a Windows 8/Phone developer and I knew how much I enjoyed getting to put on all of the different hats of building a product. Design/Marketing/Project Management are all things I don’t really get to take on in my day job, so I love getting to dive in and try my hand at all of them in a low pressure environment where I can take as much time as I need.
5) How do you balance your time between friends/family, work, hobbies, and indie dev?
In a way having kids has made this pretty easy. Basically when they (if they 😒) fall asleep at night, I get a small window to do fun side-hobby stuff if my brain has any power left. And I think having that small window actually makes it easier to focus when I get it.
6) Launched - I just first wanted to say thank you for starting your Launched podcast! I honestly had very little knowledge of the indie developer community before I started listening to your podcast. Launched was a huge inspiration to me getting into indie dev and creating Indie Dev Monday. I just can’t believe that your first episode was only a little over a year ago 🤯 What were your goals and expectations going into Launched? Would you say that you’ve met them? 😊
First off, I’m flattered! It’s surprising to hear you say that because I thought you were already in the indie community whenever I joined! I remember bragging to one of my co-workers when “the lead maintainer of Fastlane just followed me on Twitter!” 😅
I want this to exist and genuinely think other devs and creators would find it beneficial. I think it could help me raise my profile in the community which would help with future app launches and all the nice benefits of having a strong network. I’d get to meet and talk to a bunch of interesting people whose work I really respect.
I think I can give myself a pass on all 3? The audience is pretty good size but it isn’t exactly growing like I was hoping it might. But it does seem to have struck a chord with the community that I’ve come to love and it’s given me the opportunity to spend time chatting with a bunch of my heroes so it’s been a wonderful experience that’s definitely been worth the work.
7) Dark Noise - If I’m not mistaken, Dark Noise is the first app you created. I’m always interested in what inspires people to create their first app 🙃 A lot my apps are challenges to myself of “Can I technically do this?”. What was the inspiration for making a white noise app? And not just a white noise app but a really really gorgeous white noise app? 😍 What were your biggest challenges?
So like I said earlier Dark Noise really started as a “I need to learn Swift/Xcode/UIKit/ect” project so when I was going through app ideas I narrowed in on a white noise app because it didn’t need a server side component and I could focus all of my time and energy into learning UIKit and Swift. What I failed to realize at the time is that audio, especially background audio, is a can of worms on iOS 😅. I’ve spent a lot of time ensuring audio will handle all of the different interruptions and different output but it’s been really fun. My background was mostly in web and backend development so I’ve really enjoyed spending all of my time polishing the user experience on the client side.
8) Dark Noise - I only ever thought of a white noise app having those “sshhhjjjjjjjssshhhpppsshhh” sounds but Dark Noise having other fun sounds is what really makes it one of my favorite apps. The “Keyboard” sound is actually one of the most relaxing to me 😛 How do you decide what sounds get added in? Do you get a lot of requests from useres?
From the earliest days of my first beta I was loaded in sound requests. People use ambient noise for a lot of different reasons, and for many people audio can transport them to a place and time of calm/peace/joy/ect the way I always thought of smells doing. Because of this I get sound requests that are super specific, like Japanese Summer Cicadas or specific sports crowd noises. People that have moved away from home, or have been shut off from their favorite activities due to the pandemic can use sound to bring a little bit of warmth and familiarity to their lives.
The problem is Dark Noise is still a totally offline app. All sounds are bundled into the app so I have to be super selective and slow about adding new ones for now otherwise my app size will get really big. Part of my long term business plan is to address this, but that’ll be a big job and probably require a business model change to support the ongoing cost of hosting which is always scary.
9) Dark Noise - Let’s talk about design… OMG you are so good at it 🤤 Dark Noise is such a pretty app. I’m honestly shocked it hasn’t won an Apple Design Award 😱 What is your work flow like? Do you doodle by hand? Design in code? And how do you make all the amazing animations?! Also… please take this Indie Dev Monday Design Award 🏆
Oh my gosh! 🏆🥲 I promised myself I wouldn’t cry… oh man… I just didn’t expect this to happen. Ok, well I want to thank my wife… of course and my two boys… it’s past your bedtime you two! Haha… and… oh they’re playing me out, well thank you to the academy and… good night!
Ah, workflow, yeah so basically my secret is I am terrible but I spend a lot of time refining it until it’s less embarrassing 😄. Seriously look at my first version of my designs. I designed everything initially in Adobe XD but I’ve recently switched to Figma. I like doing this outside of code because I think it frees you from the constraints of how hard it’ll be to implement, which I think opens your mind to making it the best possible user experience vs falling into designing the “easiest possible implementation” or “cleanest possible code”. I can also show them to people and incorporate feedback much faster without it feeling like I’m throwing away a bunch of work.
The animations are all designed in Adobe illustrator and then animated in After Effects and brought into the app using the Lottie framework. This is one of the most rewarding parts to work on in Dark Noise because I just love working in AE and rarely get an opportunity to use that skill in my developer world.
10) Dark Noise - My favorite feature is 100% the custom mixes! My “Perfection” mix is “Coffee Shop”, “Thunderstorm”, “Heavy Rain”, “Cat Purring”, and “Fireplace”. It’s pretty much my dream location. Do you have a favorite mix that you like to use? Have you heard about any other mixes that your users have created?
Lately I’ve been really missing the office environment so I’ve been using couple different mixes such as one with “Office”, a couple “Keyboards” really low, and sometimes some “Distant Thunder”. I also like “City Street” with some “Drippy Rain” which weirdly gives me the feeling of working just inside a cafe on a rainy day.
I hear from a lot of folks who build different bedtime mixes with crickets. It seems there are parts of the world with crickets and parts of the world without them and those who move from an area with crickets to one without find it really disconcerting when the night is missing their chirping.
11) Dark Noise - I don’t think I remember your 1.0 launch day but I do remember your 2.1 launch day. I’ve watched that video probably like 15 times 🤣 It’s such a perfect representation of what it’s like working in pandemic times. But all of your launch videos are amazing! When did your passion for video making start? Is this something that you picked up on your own? I’m selfishly waiting for your next big release so another video drops 😉
I have a long history making bumpers, idents, and trailer videos. Video was always my biggest passion growing up and I nearly went that direction before ultimately going the computer science route. I’ve always found ways to work videos into my projects for school and I think I never stopped after starting my career. I also used to do a decent amount of freelance motion graphics work for local churches and a few advertising companies as my side-hustle before having kids made hobbies with deadlines something I wanted to avoid 😄. Marketing an app launch is the perfect opportunity to stretch those skills. Once I get going on a new version of the app my brain immediately starts mulling over ideas for what type of video I could make for the next release, and it’s a treat when I get to take a little break right before release and make the video.
12) Dark Noise - What’s next for Dark Noise?! Do you have any fun features that you can share with us?
Dark Noise for the Mac! I was working on the next phase of my master plan which was the ability to import custom sounds (specifically to help with the “everybody has a specific sound they want” problem) but pandemic winter proved to be a tough one mentally so I shelved that work to pick up something more fun. Turning Dark Noise into a great experience on the Mac has honestly been a blast so far, and it’s actually become the primary way I use the app when I work!
13) What’s been the hardest part of being an indie dev? What the most fun part of being an indie dev?
Time. I guess this is more of an issue with being an indie dev on top of having a normal full time job 😅 But I definitely think having a big roadmap of things you want to build and knowing it’s just going to take a long time when you can only give it your spare time is sometimes frustrating. But it’s also ridiculously rewarding. I have zero financial pressure for anything I do with the app right now. That’s a totally liberating way to work and it allows me to take as much time as I need to polish it into something I’m proud of.
14) Is there anything else you’d like to tell the indie dev community about you?
I pronounce it “Gif”. I know that’s going to be hard for many of you to hear… but it’s the truth.
15) Do you have any other indie devs that readers should follow / lookout for?
So many! You can actually find a big long list in the backlog of my podcast you can find here 😏.
Thank you to everybody who made it to this footer! You either spent the time to read or took the effort to scroll 😊
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