Martin (TheBeebs) Beeby did an interview on stage at a recent event with one of the guys from Touchnote. Touchnote allows you to take a photo with (or from) your phone and send it as a physical postcard (yes, a physical piece of card you can touch – whatever next!).

It’s a fun application that merges the best aspects of technology with the sort of emotional connection you can only get from a physical object (listen to me – must be going all soft).

Below is a video of the app in action (so you get an idea how it works- apologies about the music, that’s my doing) and a transcript of the interview. It’s interesting to note from the transcript that the app does image re-sizing on the fly (you don’t need a super high-res image for a postcard) and also the discussion about their Marketplace submission.

Tounchnote Application for Windows Phone 7


So who are you and what do you do?

Hi. My name is Tony, I’m a mobile product manager at Touchnote. Our app turns photos on your phone into physical postcards and we’re currently on Android, iPhone, Symbian and Windows Phone 7.

How did you get your WP7 project into development?

We started off not knowing anything about windows phone 7. We’ve also never done any .net in house. Luckily, we’ve integrated with mobile platforms before and our server side is exposed through an API. Long story short, we outsourced the build of the app to a mob in Brighton.

There are two platforms in Windows Phone 7  XNA and Silverlight. Which did you use and why?

We decided to go with Silverlight, primarily because XNA would have been overkill for what we needed. Silverlight was going to be much easier to implement and more than enough power to handle our graphical needs. It handled our panorama, effects and image manipulation activities just fine.

You mentioned that you outsourced development to a company in Brighton, why did you make that decision and how hard was it to find a company that could develop WP7 applications.

We didn’t have the internal resources to build this on our own. So we had to go looking for someone who knew what they were doing. Unfortunately when we first started, that was basically no one. However, we did find a company who had Silverlight and .net experience. They kind of learned as they went, but we still got it done in a very reasonable time. It’s quite a bit better now that lots of people have now gotten their first apps out.

You save the images back to the server, how is this possible aren’t you having to send up 5mb pictures?

No, that would be quite a bit of traffic even over 3G connections. The cards we print on are only postcard sized, so the image doesn’t actually have to be that big, even for it to hit our maximum printing DPI. The application will dynamically resize the image before sending it up.

Your application has a very distinctive UI, how did you come up with this and how did you make the application feel like part of the phone.

From the outset we wanted the application to feel native to the phone and at the same time still keep to our brand guidelines. A lot of the design elements were inspired by Metro. For example, the initial panorama, the way the call to actions tilt when pressed and even the font we used, were all inspired by Metro.

Did you start developing on the phone, were there differences between the emulator and the phone? What did you have to change to make it perform well on the phone?

The emulator was actually quite faithful. The only trouble we had was when we had to do multi-touch gestures like pinch. We also did have some issues with the initial panorama. We used a background image which was WAY too big (like it took 90% of our application diskspace) and that didn’t crop up until we got to testing on a real device.

Did you have any issues when you submitted your application to marketplace?

We built our app in a few phases. The first phase had fairly limited functionality so it was quite easy to pass through. The submission tools were straightforward enough. Our app is also translated into 5 languages, English, Italian, Spanish, French, German, so we also had to make sure we had all accompanying information for them. When we submitted our 3rd iteration though, we added live tile integration, but didn’t ask users permission, which got that version rejected. We added a soft opt-in, and it went through fine.