Developing Minds Want to Know: Q&A with Rebecca McInerney of Manilla.com

by Brad Spirrison

Rebecca McInerneyManilla organizes and simplifies people's lives by providing one secure access point to all household accounts and services. The free service helps consumers manage their household accounts, including finance, utilities, subscriptions, daily deals, and travel rewards programs, all through Manilla.com or via the Manilla mobile apps on Android and iOS.

In this installment of Developing Minds Want to Know, we talk to Rebecca McInerney, Senior Software Engineer at Manilla LLC about what inspired her to become an app creator, where she sees future innovation in the mobile sector, the technical constraints app developers face and some advice for people who want to create great apps.


Key Company Facts:

Name and Title: Rebecca McInerney, Senior Software Engineer

Company: Manilla

Location: Headquartered in New York, NY (Rebecca is based in the San Francisco office

Size (Revenue and/or Employees): 50 employees

Primary Apps/Platforms: Manilla.com and the Manilla mobile apps (Android and iOS)


APPOLICIOUS: What inspired you to become an app creator?

REBECCA McINERNEY: I’ve always been passionate about software development, and I got involved with mobile apps specifically because I was excited by the rapid growth of mobile. More and more people are managing their lives through their mobile devices, and the amount of amazing apps coming into the market right now is pretty incredible. When I first saw a demo of the Manilla iPhone app, I was really excited by the possibilities of growing the product in the mobile space. At the time, Manilla was looking for an engineer from our web team to work on the Android app, so I immediately volunteered.

Here’s a video showcasing the main features of Manilla and how easy it is to use:

APPO: How long have you been developing apps, and what is the most significant difference between now and when you began?

RM: I started developing mobile apps about a year and a half ago. Even during this short period of time, I have seen a huge shift in people moving from personal computers to mobile devices. Because of this, mobile apps have become an important part of everyday life. Emerging app technology and all of the cool new devices coming out continue to keep this field exciting. I feel that Android is more interesting than iPhone in this way because there are so many new devices coming out all the time, from the Samsung Note to Kindle Fire, and other tablets such as the Google Nexus 7. Each new platform brings new possibilities.

APPO: What apps (outside of those that you develop) inspire you the most and why?

RM: I am really interested in apps that leverage the technology of a mobile phone to solve problems in people's lives. For example, the Strava Run app lets me record my runs using a timer and GPS, so I can easily keep track of my training progress. Evernote is another app I am impressed with. Their ability to attach photos and audio recordings taken with the phone to different notes is really helpful in staying organized and having easy access to important documents. I also love apps that have obviously put a lot of effort into creating a clean and intuitive user experience, such as Flipboard and Google Currents.

APPO: Where do you see the most innovation in the app sector?

RM: I think it's amazing how so many apps are sprouting up that take advantage of the latest technology to solve a problem in a new way. We’re also seeing innovation on the user interface side – companies are striving to create even more intuitive and attractive user interfaces than they have in the past. Creating apps that truly solve a problem for people is another place we’re seeing innovation in the space. For example, Manilla solves the problem of being able to easily keep track of all your accounts on-the-go. Rather than needing to use multiple apps to manage your various accounts, you can simply view everything through the one interface, under one password. Another great example is Flipboard – it solves the problem of needing to go to multiple sites to get your news by letting you access all the sites that interest you in one app.

APPO: How do you harness that innovation in your own titles?

RM: We’re always exploring ways to integrate new technology into the Manilla app in order to make life easier for our users. We recently launched an update to the Android app that guides people through the process of adding accounts, making it even easier and more intuitive to get organized through Manilla. Manilla lets users manage all of their accounts, from credit card bills to magazine subscriptions, all in one place, so it’s crucial that adding an account is an easy process. Along these lines, we also updated our sign-in pages, navigation bar and headers to improve the user interface.

APPO: In such a crowded space, explain how you generate awareness and drive downloads to your applications.

RM: The Manilla Android app is very well liked by users, but not many people were writing reviews. So we added a prompt that encourages customers to rate the app in Google Play after they’ve used it a few times. This has increased our number of reviews considerably – we now have nearly 1,400 reviews and an average of 4.5 stars. In addition to this word-of-mouth promotion through the Google Play reviews, we also work closely with our marketing team to highlight our mobile apps through articles in consumer and technology sites.

APPO: What are the biggest technical constraints that exist today in the app sector?

RM: Battery life is a huge deal to mobile users, so making sure not to drain a user’s battery is one of our number one concerns. We’re also conscious of the importance of developing apps that respect the mobile network connection and amount of bandwidth being consumed. As an Android developer, supporting the fragmentation of the Android market is also a challenge. This challenge goes beyond the variety of physical devices in the market, as there is also huge fragmentation in what version of Android people are using. Ideally, we’d use all of the latest APIs, but for this to be successful, we need the majority of our users to have upgraded. We have addressed this problem by carefully watching what version of Android people are running, so that as soon as the majority of Manilla users are on a certain version, we use those features. We have also added some logic to check which version a particular device is running, and use the correct APIs for that version.

APPO: How do you (or will you) make money from your application?

RM: The Manilla app is an extension of Manilla’s web product, which makes money by helping companies go paperless. The Android app, as well as the web client and iOS app, is completely free to users.

APPO: What advice do you have to those working on their first applications?

RM: Whatever platform you are working on, get that type of device and use it as much as you can. Try to get a real feel for what you like about it and also the limitations. Spend as much time as possible checking out other apps and taking note of what you like about them, as well as what could be improved. This will help you build a great product, and be very aware of the unique features of a particular platform. In the case of Android, since the market is so fragmented, it's important to get ahold of as many different devices as possible, and see what the experience is like on all of those devices.

APPO: Where do you see the app sector one year from now? Five years from now?

RM: I see the mobile space taking off in ways that we might not be able to imagine at the moment.  At Manilla, the growth of users on the mobile apps is increasing phenomenally. In one year, I think we will continue to see a huge growth away from personal computers towards mobile devices, and in five years, I see mobile devices being most people's primary computer.

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