Is Atley Hunter the hardest working Windows Phone app developer out there?
He might not say so – he’s a humble guy – but Atley has more than 350 apps published in the Windows Phone Store now, and he shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Atley is also generous with his time and knowledge sharing. He is both a Nokia Developer Ambassador working with the DVLUP program (as well as an active member of DVLUP), and he is a Microsoft MVP in Windows Phone Development.
Bear in mind, this is not a fairytale or overnight success story – it is a story of hard work, and perseverance. Eventually, Atley was able to quit his day job – after lots of long nights, lost weekends and sacrifice along the way.
“Once I started making money and saw that I could make ends meet from the apps, I gave my notice,” Atley says. “It took a fair number of apps to get to that point, my first apps really sucked and I had no idea what people wanted and had zero graphic or marketing skills.”
But now, as he notes: “I have no problem with my two-minute commute to my office each day and, thanks to Windows Phone, I get to wake up and do exactly what I want each and every day.”
Atley has been developing apps for a long time, getting his start back in the Palm Pilot and Windows Mobile days, or as he says “before it was cool.”
A focus on Windows Phone apps
Today, he is primarily developing apps for Windows Phone, although he also has more than 150 apps for Windows 8, too. The apps he has published for Windows Phone are either under various accounts he maintains within the Store, or on behalf of third-party entities.
“I have developed for pretty much every platform,” Atley says. “I find the money with Windows Phone to be far and away much better… Especially with regards to ROI.”
And remember, he has more than 350 published apps today (such as via CodeCreators.ca and Happy-Monkey, the latter featuring games shown in this story). How is it possible? Suffice to say he is remarkably well organized, and disciplined when it comes to his work habits.
“I often work on a feature and apply it to a group of apps that will need that feature, allowing me to create large flocks of apps which I release together, usually on a quarterly basis,” he says. “I do tend to release at least two or three apps a month just as casual releases though when the time is right for them.”
When it comes to individual apps, he starts with his own curiosity or need, and goes from there. “For example, my latest apps, released at [Microsoft’s 2014] Build were all popular on other platforms, and I simply wanted to see if I could make comparable clones and if so, how well would they perform in the marketplace.”
The app creation process
How long does it take Atley to create a new app? Believe it or not, he says it generally takes him just a day or two to go from concept to first release. But, he doesn’t stop there.
“I find that, creating a minimum viable product and releasing it, with obvious hooks to communication for the users allows me to do the least amount of work to get the idea out there, and then hone it into something that users truly want,” says Atley.
For instance, Atley recently published his own 2048 game (at right), and it “took me a day originally to create and then I put it out for testing.” That next part is important – Atley had more than 50 people testing the game and giving him feedback about missing features or new things to add to the game.
“I put another 20 hours into it and was able to release a fairly robust product that shows up well in the Windows Phone Store and has steadily made money,” he says. “Not bad for less than a week’s work on an app that already had well over 100 direct competitors in the marketplace.” Not too bad at all.
Interestingly, he notes that it is the apps that he tried to over-think and over-architect that have ultimately performed the worst in the Store. “We, as developers have to remember, that, aside from games, the average user spends less than 1.5 minutes in the average app. If it takes you more than a day to figure out the workflow, perhaps it’s too complicated.”
The majority of the apps that Atley publishes are free to download, and he uses a mix of in-app advertising and in-app purchases (such as to remove ads or unlock new features) to monetize his content.
What advice does Atley offer other developers?
For starters, don’t rely on a one-hit wonder to get rich!
“I tend to tell most developers that if they only want to make one big app and get rich from it, that they should calculate how much time it would take to create the app and release it, then spend that time shoveling snow, or mowing lawns, then take that money and buy lottery tickets with it. The odds are about the same,” says Atley.
That said, for those who have yet to start developing apps, he does have some final advice: “Jump in, the water’s great, it is a good time to be entering this fray. But don’t hesitate too much longer though, you may well regret missed opportunities.”
If you want to get in touch with Atley, you can often catch him on Twitter.