Meet the Developers Behind Whisper

I’ve made it no secret that I’m in love with App.net, but my review of Whisper made it pretty clear that I also love the apps being built on the service. Whisper is a phenomenal app worth every penny and in-app purchase.

You can find Jared Sinclair and Jamin Guy, the developers of both Riposte and Whisper, on App.net. I was so excited about Whisper that I just had to talk with them about the creative process behind it and what’s coming up in Whisper’s future. As you can see, they were happy to oblige.

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After Riposte, what inspired you to make Whisper?

App.net has a great podcast hosted by their cofounders, Dalton Caldwell and Bryan Berg. In several of the episodes they talked in particular about the potential of the private messaging API component of App.net. At the time, most App.net apps designed their private messaging to work just like Twitter’s direct messages. We realized that by breaking private messages free from the baggage of apps like Riposte, and making it a standalone app, we could build a more fun and more focused way to share stuff with your friends and family.

It’s also important to us that App.net grow as large as possible (obviously). We think that as long as App.net is viewed as “just a Twitter alternative,” then its appeal will be limited. Anecdotally, our extended family and friends are really interested in using Whisper, to an extent that they’ve never been interested in Riposte. It’s easier to share the merits of Whisper without all that other stuff in the way.

Whisper has an insane focus on little details and, in that sense, is very Apple-esque. What was the development process like?

We think and talk a lot. We stare at walls and build the app in our minds, from bottom to top and back again, over and over until we see how all the pieces fit. It’s pretty rare for us to just sit down and starting coding. Jared will get the ball rolling in Photoshop to help set a direction for the look and feel, but for the most part our development process is thought-work. We also have great beta testers who are quick to spot when an element is off by a pixel.

A lot of Whisper’s design details are decidedly pre-iOS 7, for lack of a better word. And you guys had some hilarious release notes for an app update recently that gently mocked some of iOS 7’s radical departures from tradition. Does Whisper’s “traditional” design worry you in the wake of iOS 7’s announcement and forthcoming update?

We have reservations about it, which other people have articulated better than we can. We like many of the under-the-hood changes in iOS 7, and some of the new interactions are fun. Whisper’s look and feel are going to have to shift towards the flatter side of the spectrum going forward. Half of our app is the system keyboard. It’s really hard to design around those thin keyboard labels and stark white buttons. The current design clashes badly with the new keyboard.

I have to ask: What are the chances of seeing more stickers in a future update?

We have a huge to-do list for stickers.

After seeing an app like Whisper, I know I’m often inspired to start designing apps myself. I can’t be the only one. What advice do you have to aspiring app developers?

Software development and app design both come with a big learning curve. Most people feel like quitting early on. Don’t quit too early. You’ll know it’s too early because it’s always too early to quit. In other words: don’t quit because you want to quit. Quit only because you have to quit. Find some good books with lots of learning projects and do them all, then start building little projects of your own. It’s important to find a good mentor, too. There are lots of high-level questions that you can’t find answers for online or in books.

Do you have anything new coming up you can share with us?

We have a big Whisper update pending, with updated visuals and an updated icon, background message sending and more.