‘UK Postage Calculator’ Delivers a Handy Utility App With Corona SDK

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The popular UK Postage Calculator app quickly and conveniently calculates UK postage costs based on a number of shipment factors. UK Postage Calculator climbed the ranks to the #2 spot for paid business apps in the UK App Store, and consistently ranks in the Top 10. Developed by Eric Chan with Corona SDK, the app is easy to use and highly regarded by customers.

We asked Eric about his experience developing his popular app, the app’s success in the marketplace, and his background in development.

Please give us some background on your company, team and experience as a developer.

I started developing software as a teenager, using a number of languages ranging from Basic to assembly. As a working adult I haven’t written much software, although I have been involved in developing control algorithms. My current day job includes developing algorithms for automated cars that drive themselves. Writing smartphone apps is a separate part-time activity.

Why did you decide to use Corona and how long have you been using the platform?

Just over 18 months ago, I started learning Objective-C and cocos2d. I was making some progress, but found that when I looked at my own code a few weeks after having written it, it took me some time to understand it again. Basically, it just felt like hard work. Then I tried Corona SDK. Not only was it much quicker to develop with, more importantly I could easily understand my own code. It was just more fun!

What apps have you developed with Corona?

My first app was a game. Since writing games is more enjoyable than writing a business app, it was an easier way to learn Lua and Corona SDK. The game was not all that great and didn’t sell very well. Next, I wanted to develop a business-type app. On the rare occasion when I have to send a package in the UK, I find it a bit confusing to understand the different options and costs. I thought an app could be useful to help with shipping information. There were already several apps in the market that serve this function, but they weren’t very user-friendly. After going through a few designs on paper, I settled on the final layout of the app, with all the options viewable on one page. The options slide in and out of the screen when required and there’s a rotating scale that shows all of the weight/price points when swiped left/right.

UK Postage Calculator is a utility app that uses native UI widgets. What was your experience using Corona to develop a business-type app?

Apple’s iOS Human Interface Guidelines say that, “subtle animation can give people meaningful feedback that helps clarify the results of their actions.” Most business apps do not have many animations since they are apps for “serious” purposes. Although it is important to not go over the top, I wanted to include some animations to improve user feedback and generally make it nice to use.

The main reasons I’ll continue using Corona are the platform’s excellent support for animations and the enhanced development speed. The animations in Corona are easy to use and are fast and smooth when running on a device. Also, I can develop much faster with Corona when compared to programming with Objective-C.

How has UK Postage Calculator done in the marketplace?

The app was launched for iOS just over seven months ago at £1.49 ($1.99). This was the same price as another existing postage app, and UK Postage Calculator didn’t initially sell too well. After cutting the price to £0.69 ($0.99), more people tried it and the app started climbing up the charts. I watched with great excitement as it gradually soared, eventually reaching #2 in the UK business category! It has had reasonably stable sales since, often landing in the Top 5 of business apps, and consistently ranking in the Top 10. I recently launched it as a paid app on Android, but sales have been slower on that platform. Various market studies suggest that Android users prefer free ad-supported apps, so that may be the next step.

How does Corona compare to other tools you’ve come across, especially for the development of utility apps?

From a workflow perspective, I like that the Corona simulator automatically relaunches your app each time you save a .lua file. This makes the cycle of code/test/recode/retest very quick and efficient.

Would you recommend Corona to other companies, studios, and developers?

I looked at several other JavaScript based tools but the feedback from users suggested that the graphics performance wasn’t great. Corona has excellent performance for 2D graphics, provides access to most devices’ native functions, and reduces the time and effort needed to go from idea to finished app (compared with native languages). Seasoned programmers will quickly pick up Lua, and those with little to no programming experience will find Lua easier to learn than native languages.

Corona SDK’s free unlimited trial allows you to try it without the pressure of learning everything by a certain date. The cost of the license, while possibly high for a hobbyist, is affordable for a serious independent developer.

What’s your next project?

I am looking to build an app that involves searching for information in a database. I plan to implement a nice UI that is easy to use and that includes some animated feedback, making the relatively boring process of searching for information a bit more fun!
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