Hipmunk for iPhone

tl;dr Hipmunk has an iPhone app and building it was a lot of fun.

It started with me bored and pissed off. Pissed that so much of the world just didn’t care about doing things well. As therapy, I banged out a blog post about my frustrations. A tribute to a few companies who give a damn and an indictment of their sloppy competitors.

High in my praise was Hipmunk, the only travel site I’d seen whose central philosophy was to provide a great search experience. No user-hostile, junk-covered homepages. No constant upselling. Just the best way to visualize your flight options and pick the best one.

I published the post, submitted it to Hacker News and moved on with my night.

I got some traffic, but that wasn’t the interesting bit. The interesting bit was an email the next morning from Hipmunk co-founder Adam Goldstein, thanking me for the mention and wondering if I would want to be considered to work on a future iPhone app.

Uh, yes? But “considered” my ass – I was going to build it. Awesome side project. I’m incomplete without a side project.

A couple of weeks later, I turned up at Hipmunk HQ, during their Startup School open house. I hung out for an hour, got to know everyone, then cornered Adam at the end.

“What do I have to say to get you commit, right now, to putting me on your iPhone project?” 

An old sales tactic: ask for the sale. I spent my teen years in a Best Buy, selling Dyson vacuum cleaners.

Adam was cagey, claiming he had a couple of other developers to talk to, so I decided to build some wireframes on spec that night to sway his decision.

A couple of nights later he called me. They didn’t want this to be a side project for me. Adam made me a full-time offer and with minimal haggling, I accepted.

After three months of prototyping, design, development, iteration and testing, we’re proud to announce Hipmunk for iPhone. It comfortably scales your favorite flight search visualization to a 3.5 inch screen. Now you can easily pick and book your flights anywhere.

Like any good iPhone app, Hipmunk does its best to be fun. You can zoom and scale your search results just like the Maps and Photos apps. Turn it over to landscape for more elbow room, if you’d like. When you’re ready to book, you can do that from your device’s browser or email the booking link to a friend. If you’re near a desktop computer, you can also finish your booking from there, using a secret word Hipmunk will give you.

Screenshot_2011 Screenshot_2011 See the full gallery on Posterous

Building this application has been the greatest joy of my professional life. I was shown complete trust and autonomy in the design of the interface and overall user experience. Well, except this one time Steve got really heated about whitespace. We compromised.

No meetings, no approvals, no bureaucratic nonsense. Just working my ass off, the way I like it. The freedom to create has been so all-consuming, my usual insatiable hunger for side-projects quickly evaporated. Hipmunk is just a fun product to work with – everything else seems boring.

While co-founders Adam and Steve gave me continual feedback and suggestions, the only hard requirement was that Hipmunk for iPhone feel good to use. When I finished a feature that was decent, I was encouraged to polish just a bit more and make it great. Getting it done soon was a lot less important than getting it done well. If you take pride in your work, this kind of environment really sets you up for success.

So now that you know a bit about how our new app came to be, go grab it, Hipmunks! Let us know what you think.

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