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App developers achieve top rankings

Nicole Toczauer | Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Gridiron 2011 College Football, an Apple product application, ranked among the top Apple apps on the market this weekend and the credit went to two members of the faculty and staff at Notre Dame.

Tom Klimek, manager of network design for the Office of Information Technology (OIT), and engineering professor Pete Massey created the Gridiron app and released it to the market three years ago.

This weekend, the app grabbed top spots on Apple’s Top Paid Sports App list when it placed third for the iPad and 12th for the iPhone.

Klimek and Massey released this year’s version of the app in August. Like editions released in its past two years, Gridiron 2011 allows users to access schedules and scores of the 120 Division IA college football teams.

The app also features the outcomes of past games and stadium seating charts for fans scoping out tickets, he said.

“If you’re looking for what teams are playing on a Saturday, you pick it on the app and it will show you all the games scheduled and when they play,” Klimek said.

While the app is completely automated, Klimek said he and Massey scour the Internet daily and enter new information to ensure its information is up-to-date.

“Every day we update several files,” he said. “The app indicates on startup the newest data from those downloads.”

Klimek said the college football tracker app’s popularity is based in its simplicity and speed.

“Other apps are either prone to crashing or are so bloated with features and support for every sport it’s difficult to navigate to what you’re seeking,” Klimek said. “If you’re just looking for college football, that can be cumbersome.”

Klimek’s goal for this year is to double the number of users. Based on reviews and the number of repeat customers, Gridiron 2011 might be able to achieve that feat.

“Our first year of the app [in 2009] had about 25,000 [purchases],” Klimek said. “The next year had double that. We’re on a better track this year than last year and we’re hopeful to double it again if we can.”

Reaching the top of Apple’s charts was not a victory easily won, Klimek said. The project began in February 2009 in a RecSports locker room.

“I was talking to [Massey] about a great idea after a pickup basketball game with faculty,” Klimek said. “He liked the idea.”

Massey told Klimek he had experience with programming language, so the two purchased a Mac Mini computer, signed up as Apple developers and began creating the football app.

“It was a lot more effort than we anticipated, but we got our first app out before the 2009 football season,” Klimek said. “The first day in store, it sold 121 units and a week later Apple featured us with eight other football apps.”

Klimek and Massey created another application later that year called “Men’s Bracket 2010” for March Madness. The basketball app was so popular its sales exceeded those of Gridiron, vaulting Men’s Bracket 2010 to the No. 6 spot on the Top Paid Sports App list for two weeks.

Over the past three years, Klimek said he and Massey improved the apps in response to user emails.

“The second year of our March Bracket app, we automated it for an office pool,” Klimek said. “We also felt it was important to support other users with versions of both apps geared for Android. This year we made an iPad version of each.”

The iPad version, he said, was easier to develop than when he and Massey created the original version.

“On a small screen of an iPhone, you have to worry about font sizes and being very careful with organization,” Klimek said. “The iPad gives more freedom.”

Klimek said he sees many opportunities for new and better apps in the future. He and Massey will continue to create new versions each year of their existing apps and may add a few new sports apps. Along with these two projects, they plan to develop two business apps.

“One of them is a fundraising app to help non-profits in sharing content, accepting electronic donations and managing raffles and auctions,” Klimek said. “The other is for location management to share floor plans and building maps.”

The opportunity to establish and enhance a reputation in the young app market is still available, Klimek said.

“I talk to a lot of people who are interested in mobile development and many think the gold rush is over,” Klimek said. “But the app store provides worldwide distribution, and there are very few household names yet. In my view, there are still many opportunities for developers.”