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    Entries in wordtracer (5)


    Word Tracer - Learn Chinese iPad App in Action

    Our new app to learn Chinese is out. Watch the video to see how it works! To read more about how people who have used it feel about Word Tracer, go here.

    Word Tracer - Learn Chinese Field Test

    Ann Su homeschools her kids and she did a field test with Word Tracer on her kids recently. I love the part in which Ann asked her 6-yr old kid Ian to practice on Word Tracer and then test him on a blank piece of paper later. Word Tracer has been designed to be a fun and effective tool for both kids and adults and this review affirms that.

    Word Tracer - Top Paid and Top Grossing

    We are elated - like a mother who just had her baby delivered after a ten month ordeal.  Working on Word Tracer - Learn Chinese is almost like having a baby.  All the pain of taking the idea (thanks Elon!) captured in the form of written words to the final form (a digital being that lives on the amazing iPad!), all the love we put into crafting it, all the hope of how it will make a few people lives better, all the worries about how it may not turn out well.  Of course, after a baby is delivered, the job is not done yet.  Now the mother has to worry about whether the baby is going to survive and hopefully succeed in the real world.  To prep Word Tracer - Learn Chinese for the real world, a world with 500,000 apps and counting, we put in a lot of effort into making this product as useful and polished as we can make it.  Of course there is always room for improvement, and anyone in this industry knows that if your goal is to make a perfect product, it will never be done.  Evolution is a process that applies to any creation, natural or artificial, biological or digital.

    After the app was submitted and subsequently approved, we daydreamed that the app would one day show up on Top Paid list and Top Grossing list, and showed up it did - in a mere few weeks after the app was available on App Store.  Truth be told, this is probably a luck thing as no one in this industry has any idea how to reliably get Apple's blessing.  All we have control over is to build a good product that people want.


    Of course, we realize this is only a small milestone and things won't last forever.  In the grand scheme of things, we are but a drop of water in the ocean, but what a lucky drop of water we are.  Regardless, we will toast one around (干杯) and get busy once again.  We got more some good stuff in the works for you.




    Word Tracer - Learn Chinese is Apple's Staff Favorite!

    Word Tracer - Learn Chinese just got featured on App Store as a Staff Favorite, ten days after it got approved. If you pay attention, the most recently released app on this list is in May. So perhaps Apple fell in love with Word Tracer at first sight? Regardless, we are honored.

    This is the first iPad app we have created and the second app from our company to be featured on App Store (the first was our iPhone app Idea Organizer) and we feel incredibly fortunate and honored. It goes to show that if you put your heart into making a product for your users on App Store, it has a chance to be recognized. Word Tracer - Learn Chinese was a labor of love for us. We have no idea what the market is like and how many it would sell but we know an app like this will help a lot of people learn to write one of the hardest languages on the planet. With Asia rising, Chinese has become increasingly more relevant. Case in point, we have an office in Shanghai and we constantly witness the huge influx of people coming to China for business, for long distance relationship and for the rich culture.

    In the coming weeks, we will blog about our experience developing this deceptively simple app (or as I call it - the complexity of simplicity) and the enormous pain we went through - from preparing the massive amount of data for the 1500 characters to keeping the app size under 20MB down so our users can download the app over 3G. Even little thing like the app icon has taken multiple iterations to get to where it is now.

    For now, we urge you to check out the app and start introducing Chinese into your household. If you have kids, be sure to introduce them this important language early on. They will thank you for it. Even if you have no interest in doing business in China, learning Chinese will give you unexpected side benefits. Scientists have found that learning Chinese can be beneficial to your cognitive development and increase your musical talent.

    As an interesting side note, fame investor Jim Rogers moved to Singapore precisely for this reason - to allow his daughters grow up learning Chinese.


    Word Tracer Editor

    When we first started working on Word Tracer - Learn Chinese (WT-LC from now on), we were going to do a few hundred characters.  Each character was generated using Photoshop.  As we got into it, we decided to increase the character offerings to 1500 characters and ran into a problem.  Using Photoshop-generated character, each character takes up about 60KB of space. Multiply that with 1500 characters, that's 90MB just for character assets alone.  Clearly this approach isn't scalable.  We want our users to be able to download our app quickly, and ideally over the 3G network.  The current requirement for 3G download is 20MB max.  Another issue is that in the future we may expand our offering to 3000 characters or beyond, using the Photoshop approach means the app size will approach 200MB.  So we decided to generate the character via code.  The end result is a slight compromise on the oveall character quality (If you look at the characters on WT-LC's Home screen, you will see what a Photoshop-generated character looks like), but the resulting app is much smaller (14.9 MB currently).  There is another side benefit from going with code-generated approach.  The guide markers you see on each character have to be placed manually.  To help with that, we have created an editor to help with this (see picture above)  When we were using Photoshop approach, the editor has to deal with two sets of files - the character assets and the marker placement data.  Now the editor only needs to load the marker placement data file and generate the appropriate character in code, which greatly simplifies collaborations (we have five people responsible for placing the markers on all 1500 characters).  Over the course of the development, the editor became more and more powerful as we find ways to cut down on time to place the markers.  Because we didn't establish an agreed-upon standard in marker placements, we were getting inconsistent placements from different people.  For example, for the same character radical, one person placed three markers while another person placed four.  After discovering the inconsistency problem, we established a standard and spent additional two weeks re-repositioning all markers.

    Our near future plan is to release Word Tracer Editor for download so users can generate their own character data.  So instead of five people placing markers for weeks like we did for WT-LC, the upcoming release of Word Tracer for other languages (Japanese, Korean, Hebrew, Thai, etc.) will be community-generated.