Laura Brandt invited me to like iconary fan page on facebook a while ago. iconary is innovative icon based dictionary app for Android and iOS with a very exciting story.
1. Hello Laura, who are you and what is your job at iconary?
I’m 31 years old and work as “Creative Conceptioner” for a digital agency in Bremen, Germany. Before that, I worked as a media designer for some years. Including my studies, I have more than ten years of experience in the advertising, design and media branch. I came up with iconary as my own private project beside my job for the past few months. I’m responsible for idea/concept, design and marketing, while Kevin Skyba, our mobile developer, made my ideas come alive.
2. How do you hit upon the idea of creating iconary?
I wanted to take action, when a refugees camp was built close to our office last summer. Along with a friend, I started to teach german once a week. But sometimes it feels like a drop in a bucket. So my wish was to make something available for the people they can teach themselves with. And in addition, I was looking for a private project where I could test my skills and which combines my digital profession with my personal social interests. Most refugees own a smartphone – so making an app suggested itself.
3. iconary is an app designed for iOS and Android. Who should use iconary and which advantages does iconary have?
I started with a market research for similar projects and of course there are many dictionary and language apps. But no one was created as a pure icon based dictionary that was made for refugees. Our benefit is a free app, which is accessible in offline mode, has a small file size and authentic voice output by native speakers. Besides that, iconary has a nice look & feel and a very intuitive usability that makes learning easy and fun – even for kids. My first goal was to start and just realize my idea in a small and reduced version, instead of keeping up with the well-known apps.
We noticed, that iconary helps anyone who would like to fresh up their vocabulary in French or Italian, for example. As i mentioned, we also figured out that the colourful design and the intuitive usability is very well received by kids.
4. Does the idea fit the final app?
The final app exactly matches my first idea and the vision I had in mind. But the current, first version of iconary is only the beginning and we’re working on upcoming releases with new features. Sometimes it’s hard to deal with a fulltime job (or job & university in Kevin’s case), personal life and to improve the app at the same time. But it’s worth it. We are happy that we created this little app within a few weeks and proud of the positive feedback so far.
5. Success and disappointments are always part of product development. What is your experience?
We’ve already reached a good awareness in Bremen caused by word of mouth from friends and colleagues. I have a quite good network in the media scene of Bremen, so we were covered by a local magazine, local and even national radio stations (e.g. Funkhaus Europa) and on one of the biggest technology blogs in Germany. Each report has a positive effect on our facebook likes, website visits and app-downloads, of course.
We were lucky and only had to manage one disappointing situation while developing, when another icon-dictionary collected a lot of money on Startnext and started to improve their app for refugees, too. There was a short moment where I asked myself “Is it really worth it? How could we keep up with these big projects?”. But yes, it is! Even if we don’t make money and won’t get famous :).
We got a lot of positive feedback but a true challenge is to reach our target audience, not only supporters and other volunteers that help indirectly. We need a marketing budget or a huge network of volunteers for promotion. We only invest in flyers, posters or facebook ads but apart from that we use free resources like networking on events for refugees, mailing lists for volunteers, interviews, blogs or facebook groups. It is very hard to reach our target audience at a national scale considering that we have neither time nor money.
6. “Refugees” are a hotly debated topic in politics and in the media. How does the debate affect your team?
Not at all. Of course there is always criticism like in comments on blog articles, but fortunately our direct feedback is only positive. I do have my own opinion and I’m really convinced that the only thing that helps is to get active, instead of discussing too long. Thoughts of others is not really influencing me – besides feedback from users. My “work” with refugees, who became very good friends already, is a confirmation and motivation for everything, day by day.
7. There’s always a team behind a product. What is the iconary team size and which key skills does your team have?
A big advantage is our small team of only me and Kevin. Kevin is developing the app for Android and iOS during his leisure time besides his studies (“Digital Media”) and a student job. Some dear volunteers helped us with translations and the voice recordings in a studio and iconary could have been realized only with their support.
Kevin is one of my colleagues but we didn’t know us before. As we were getting to know us and talked about iconary, we had the same vision for the app instantly. It’s very comfortable to work together via internet only and another big advantage to cover most of the skills like design & marketing. I also studied “Digital Media” and after that “Media & Design Management” and worked as a graphic & motion designer and online conceptioner for more than five years, so this experience helps a lot, too, of course.
8. Finances are an essential part for further product development. How is iconary funded?
Not at all :). Right now, we’re only investing passion and a lot of time. And of course a small amount of money for advertising (flyers, posters, facebook ads), web hosting or “thank-you-dinners” for our volunteers.
9. Iconary is already broken into the market. What do you desire for the future of iconary?
We are still highly motivated and keep on developing additional features to better fit the needs of refugees. The next release will have some improvements and little but nice new functions.
A big desire is to increase the amount of words or even whole sentences. But this is not possible at the moment. We would need supporters again to reach this goal and these people couldn’t work for a better karma only, of course ;). I have to invest a lot of time for marketing tasks, such as this interview or to contact interesting multipliers and keep on networking. But it helps a lot: last month we were invited to present our project besides 100 other initiatives at an event for refugee help in Bremen. So it will never be boring!
10. Thank you very much and further luck with iconary!
Thank you, Marco!