How did you first come up with the concept of Mailplane?
I’ve used and tried many different email clients and services and was never happy with them. Spam was a problem, or I didn’t get my attachment through or email never reached me. Plus, I was always deleting mail to make room and searching my inbox wasn’t working right. Then came Gmail. It solved most problems and suddenly email was good again. But because Gmail runs in a browser, I missed features that were normal in installed email clients like Mail.app (like easily sending a picture attachment, or tight integration with iPhoto).
How did you go from concept to end product?
In July 2006, I wrote an iPhoto plug-in to compose a Gmail message instead of using Mail.app. Then I shared it with my brother and a friend. They used and liked it. From this idea grew Mailplane, a dedicated Gmail client that is both a web browser and client application. In March 2007, I searched for 200 beta users. Many more users followed. The beta users input led to many features like multiple accounts, screenshots, text snippets, and a menu bar icon.
What are your current goals for Mailplane?
Mailplane has been released to the public and now exists in two versions: stable and cutting edge. Cutting edge is like the new beta, with support for Gmail 2, with better picture optimization, better CSS support, background account notifications, and much more. See Mailplaneapp.com for all new features. My goal is to improve and stabilize the cutting edge version and then release it as the new stable Mailplane version.
What are your thoughts on software development in general?
I think it depends on the goals. There is freeware, donation ware, subscriptions, shareware and more. Each has its pro and cons. To make a living (or part of it), I believe shareware is the way to go. This model is widely used by many software developers on Mac.
Finding the right idea: Make sure it’s something you use yourself. “Eat your own dog food” is so important. It helps to deliver the right solution to the users with similar needs.
Listen to your users and communicate with them. Creating an application is only 30% programming. The rest of the time is emailing, blogging, promoting and whatnot. So don’t feel bad if you’re not coding.
Keep your vision: New features should fit with the vision you have of the product. If you add every possible feature people suggest, the application design will eventually break down. In short: You can’t please everyone!