The Bombing Brain Blog

The Story of Setlists Part 1 – Humble Beginnings

Setlists Icon

Teleprompt+ has been an amazing success for us over the past two years. We’ve listened to our customers and added so many great features that we lost count. All while sticking to our clean and simple interface. And we have amazing plans for even more coming soon.

But a funny thing happened late last year when we took a look at our feature request list and the stats from our web site. We noticed that a very large group of our users were musicians. Singers who wanted to keep a song book of lyrics to prompt while singing on stage.

Literally every day, people were coming to our web site after having searched for a way to use an iPad for lyric prompting. They still are.

Recent Searches that led to

Recent Searches that led to

I found this both odd and interesting, because I was amongst those musicians taking Teleprompt+ to the stage. And if I was honest with myself, the app always felt much more public speaking oriented than musician oriented. It got the job done better than anything else I had found, but it was clear that Teleprompt+ was designed for speech prompting, not lyric prompting.

So how to meet the needs of the singers? We could have crammed a bunch of music-oriented features into Teleprompt+ and muddled up the user experience for everyone. But then late one night during one of our regular iChat sessions, Gene said, “We should just build a completely different app for the musicians.”

Well, you can’t say things like that during a Bombing Brain meeting and not expect repercussions. For the next week, I had this new app on my mind so much that I had to start sketching to get it out of my head. Before I knew it, I had a fairly decent UX outline and was even designing possible icons and the basic look and feel of the app.

I started out thinking the app would be very much like Teleprompt+, and probably even be able to share a majority of its code. (Ahh, the naivety of a non-programmer.) But the more we refined it, the more it became evident that Gene was so right to suggest this was a different app. This needed to be a very different experience, tailored for a completely different audience with very different priorities.

When I brought my rough ideas to the other guys, I was worried not that they wouldn’t like it, but that it would be a long time before we’d be able to develop it. I couldn’t wait to use this app myself. But we had other projects that were already too long in development. How would we find the time?

But the guys liked my crude structure so much that we decided we’d plug away at it and try and give it some serious attention for a release sometime in 2012.

So we kept refining, and Tim started coding on breaks from other projects. Slowly, but surely, it started taking shape.

The Set Chooser

The Set Chooser

Before we knew it, we had a basically functional app on our hands. And the rest came together from there. Bit by bit, the three of us plugged away, preparing not just the app itself, but all the other hoopla surrounding a new release. The web site, documentation, marketing and instructional videos—most people don’t realize how much collateral material needs to be created beyond the app itself. It’s an amazing undertaking getting an app on the App Store, if you want to do it right. If you think about the hours involved, and the likelihood that you’ll fail to get the app enough traction to make it financially viable, you’ll probably quit before you begin.

There are lots of little details that we’d like to share about the Setlist development process. We always love reading stories about how our favorite apps are made. So over the coming weeks, we’ll be pointing out some more particulars about how Setlists came to be what it is. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed living it.

Meanwhile you can find out more about Setlists on the Setlists web site.