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AMA: William Wilkinson, App Maker / Filmmaker

4 years ago from , App Boy at Will Global

Hello people! I’m Will, and me me a designer & app boy. I make iOS apps like Manual, Everyday, and Slide. This year I created Will Global as a dumb brand to release my apps under.

Previously I worked at MetaLab as a product designer for 7 years, starting out as a 16 year old intern when the company was three people in total. During my time there I worked on web and iOS design for our startup and corporate clients. In my spare time I created apps for the (then new) App Store, the first being a stupid gun app that was oddly successful for a couple months while I was in grade 11. I made a few more forgettable bad apps over the next few years before focusing on creating Everyday in 2011, which was a big hit. Two years ago I made the leap and left MetaLab to make the App Store my business. I’ve since released Manual in 2014 and Slide in 2015. I wrote a bit more about my story in Offscreen last year.

My one person company is Will Global and I’m Lovin It. I got a tiny office with a neon sign of my logo and everything. Outside of that I am half of the director duo Ft. Langley where I make music videos and commercials with my friend Oliver. You can find my personal site at williamwilkinson.com, and I'm willw on Twitter and Instagram.

I’ll be answering questions on Wednesday, August 10th from 12PM PT.

Ask me stuff! Anything.

Disclosure: my nerdy big brother publishes this internet site or whatever

SUP

37 comments

  • Nick LooijmansNick Looijmans, 4 years ago

    Don't want to be that guy that talks about money, but... let's talk about money!

    No seriously. How sustainable is it to live off of being an indie designer/developer? Do you think it can sustain the lifestyle that you're planning for future Will? Is it a matter of compromising the financial aspect to gain quality of living?

    4 points
    • William Wilkinson, 4 years ago (edited 4 years ago )

      For me, it's quite sustainable, and I don't feel like I've compromised. But I was willing to. When Everyday turned into a consistent side business I still stayed at my day job for a good three years before making the jump. This gave me a small financial buffer to try out making software on my own. At that point Everyday could only partially pay my bills if I was reliant on it. Luckily soon after I went indie, Manual became a huge hit that consistently sells well, and that has made my business much more stable. It's only been two years so it's hard to see too far in the future. Who knows how sustainable it will be in a few years time.

      But yes, my apps do well and I am able to live a nice life.

      3 points
  • Michael AMichael A, 4 years ago

    Should Designers Code?

    4 points
    • William WilkinsonWilliam Wilkinson, 4 years ago (edited 4 years ago )

      Buuuuhhh

      But really I dunno, I wish I could code but I've never felt like I have the right mind for it. I think it's worth learning the fundamentals (even broad strokes) so that it can inform how you think about design.

      5 points
      • Michael AMichael A, 4 years ago

        As a designer with a dev background, I definitely agree that you gain a different perspective as a designer with at least a small understanding of what goes on behind the scenes.

        Thanks for answering!

        2 points
        • Jignesh LadJignesh Lad, 4 years ago

          Totally agree! Some knowledge or little experience in development can help understanding between designers and devs!

          0 points
  • Matthew VernonMatthew Vernon, 4 years ago

    How did you first convince developers to work with you on the apps you designed? I feel like every developer already has their own side projects to deal with, so they can't even comprehend wasting their time with an idea from a designer.

    4 points
    • William Wilkinson, 4 years ago

      When I was starting out I had luck simply by tweeting that I needed a iOS developer for a simple project and my email address, even back when my network was a lot smaller. Actually now that I think about it every developer I've worked with has been a connection made through Twitter, weird.

      A developer will be interested if they think A) it's a reasonably good idea B) it seems relatively simple to implement C) it has a decent shot at making money. It's super important that you vet your ideas/concepts/designs for development difficulty and marketability. If you're starting out with a super ambitious concept that will require hundreds of hours of someones time, you're gonna have a hard time opening a collaboration with someone. I do everything I can to make my software easy to develop, with simple interfaces. When I was working side by side with developers on client projects at MetaLab I learned a lot about what is and isn't hard to develop. Developer limitations inform how I conceive and design my software. It makes it far easier to find a partner and streamlines timelines.

      The next thing is that, like the rest of the world, they need to be sold on the concept! Is the idea new or captivating? Does the market desire this app? Do they think they'll make any money? You need to sell them on it too.

      1 point
  • Dmitry SholkovDmitry Sholkov, 4 years ago

    Hi Will, How did you market your apps? What steps have you taken to make sure your apps got noticed?

    Cheers.

    2 points
    • William WilkinsonWilliam Wilkinson, 4 years ago

      The commercials are my main focus, as they've been extremely effective so far. Manual wouldn't have blown up like it did without the commercial. Filmmaking is a big interest of mine so it's a natural progression. A captivating/funny video is a great way to showcase a new app.

      As for getting the word out about release I reach out to ask many relevant publications as I can. I'll make a list of email addresses for publications and writers that might be interested. I'll write a short template email and customize it quickly. If you have something new and newsworthy this can be very effective, especially if make a wide net. But still, it needs to be newsworthy. They aren't just gonna write about your cheap Angry Birds clone.

      Over time I've built relationships with people that know my work so it's gotten easier, but it's never a sure thing. It's always gonna be about the app.

      3 points
  • Ernest Ojeh, 4 years ago

    Hey Will,

    First question: Did you really break those iPhones in the Manual video?

    Second question: What advice would you give a designer that wants to start out creating apps?

    Cheers.

    2 points
    • William Wilkinson, 4 years ago

      Ha, nope. I got a broken water damaged iPhone and while shooting I would switch my working iPhone with the broken one to throw. Here's behind the scenes.

      Make apps that actually do something people want, that are reasonably original, and make an effort to market it. Don't just make an app cause you want to make apps. Or do, and don't expect anyone to buy it.

      3 points
  • Febril CuevasFebril Cuevas, 4 years ago (edited 4 years ago )

    Hey Will,

    • What was it like working in the same place as your brothers early on?
    • What influences your design/photography style?
    • What's your favourite snack?

    Love your photography btw.

    1 point
    • William Wilkinson, 4 years ago

      What was it like working in the same place as your brothers early on?

      It was definitely really fun starting out cause I was young and wanted to learn, and they were doing everything I wanted to be doing. As I got a bit older it became a bit more complicated, but by that time we weren't working together directly as our roles were quite separated. It definitely takes more work to keep your work and personal relationships separated. It's not for everybody, but I think we worked pretty well together when we did. Any problems had more to do with my juvenile anti-professional attitude.

      What influences your design/photography style?

      Damn, I dunno that's too hard a question to quantify. Everything I look at?

      What's your favourite snack?

      Gotta go with the humble potato chip on this one.

      1 point
  • Braden HammBraden Hamm, 4 years ago

    Do you help run Phootcamp or do you just attend?

    1 point
  • Nate vNate v, 4 years ago

    You're that guy that made maxgif, no?

    1 point
    • Braden HammBraden Hamm, 4 years ago

      yes, but I think he sold it.

      0 points
    • William Wilkinson, 4 years ago

      Yeah! But like Braden said, I sold it. It was a lot of fun to make, but maintaining the site was a huge pain. Mainly because people would add fucked up porn and gore GIFs and I would have to view and moderate all of them. It was pretty popular but I didn't want to be one to throw crappy ads on it and ruin it, so I let someone else do it ;-)

      I sold it on Flippa and used to proceeds to buy a used RED camera. The company that bought it changed it to GIFS.com and added ads, then changed it into a Giphy clone, and now it's a video to GIF converter.

      2 points
  • Bertrand Bruandet, 4 years ago

    Hello Will,

    I love your photos (actually I have this one as iPhone wallpaper)

    • What's your favorite camera?
    • Do you carry one with you all the time? If yes, wich one?
    1 point
    • William Wilkinson, 4 years ago

      Hey thanks a lot! That's really cool to see.

      Favorite camera would probably be my medium format Contax 645. My all the time camera is definitely my iPhone. If I want a bit more than that, or I'm on vacation, I'll also carry my Yashica T4 or Ricoh GR1.

      1 point
  • Meme Man, 4 years ago

    Me, me, how can I be an App Boy?

    0 points
  • Jay Morris, 4 years ago (edited 4 years ago )

    Hi William! Your videos are dope! Late but....

    2) Do you shoot and edit all of the work at Ft.Langley? 3) What did you shoot with prior to the RED? 4) Is it easier to do profit sharing deals w/ devs vs just paying them up front for the dev work?

    Thanks!

    0 points
    • William Wilkinson, 4 years ago

      2) I do everything with my friend Oliver, we write and direct together, then split some responsibilities (like I do more producing and post/edit stuff and he does more DOP work) 3) Before RED I used a Canon 7D. 4) Depends how dumb they think your idea is.

      0 points
  • Stephan AngoStephan Ango, 4 years ago

    Anything?

    0 points
    • William Wilkinson, 4 years ago

      Fuckin try me m8

      4 points
      • Stephan AngoStephan Ango, 4 years ago

        Oh you weren't asking us to ask you "Anything?"? If you're opening it up to anything we might want to ask, I suppose my question is whether you want to ask me anything? I'm open to any questions you might have.

        1 point
  • Rick KhannaRick Khanna, 4 years ago

    I'm starting to learn Swift and Xcode and I'd love to start a small software dev company one day that makes our own niche apps. I have some ideas that I think are good and haven't been done. I'm a designer by trade. It's hard for me to figure out how to find devs that would be "in it to win it" for the long haul. So I've decided to at least learn it myself. Build my first app and see what happens.

    How much time and effort went into making a single app? How much maintenance is required release regular updates and keep your apps from breaking with every iOS update? Do you test the apps yourself?

    The kind of dev skills I would need is very specialized. Is it ridiculous for me to think I could learn to code and go it alone?

    0 points
  • Thomas PalumboThomas Palumbo, 4 years ago

    How do you differentiate between crappy ideas and good ones. At what point did you say, "hey manual/everyday/slide is worth creating" instead of your other ideas?

    0 points
    • William Wilkinson, 4 years ago

      For a while I made all the crappy ideas too, and they were boring and nobody bought them. I think it's about avoiding a state where you're just sitting there trying to come up with app ideas. It's trying too hard. With Everyday, Manual and Slide they were all things I desired for a long time that were now possible. I wanted to do a daily photo project since I was 12, the idea came back to me when the iPhone 4 with facetime camera was released. It always bugged me that I couldn't use my iPhone like my DSLR and directly manipulate exposure values, then Apple unlocked that in iOS 8. In 2010 I briefly worked on a 3D app that could replicate the Nimslo camera by sliding your camera for movement, but it didn't create frame fast enough, then 240fps came with the iPhone 5. Follow your actual desires.

      2 points
  • Michael AMichael A, 4 years ago

    What are some pros/cons of releasing products under a company vs. your own name?

    0 points
    • William Wilkinson, 4 years ago

      Pros 1. People can better understand what I do 2. More clearly links my apps under one umbrella 3. I can have a cool website 4. can have a cool logo made 5. I can have my cool logo turned into a neon sign

      Cons 1. Only one word of my company name is my own name

      4 points
    • William Wilkinson, 4 years ago

      Fuck I don't know how to make a list with markdown

      9 points
  • Kaj H, 4 years ago

    What do you think of Swift?

    0 points