When Kickstarter first debuted over in the States in 2009, the site radically transformed the ability of individuals and small businesses to get their pet projects off the ground. The site made the concept of crowd-sourced funding mainstream – no more begging venture capitalists for money. And indeed no more changing the business plan to suit what VCs want to hear. Just straight talk from creators directly to people who might potentially back them – with as little as one buck.
Since then, Kickstarter has evolved, made its way over to the UK last autumn, and now it has moved into new territory still – namely a free iPhone app, the first mobile app from the company with tools for both funders and inventors.
Slick, quick, engaging, and charming, the Kickstarter iPhone app will undoubtedly open a few more doors for people with passion and a dream. As a potential project funder, I was drawn in through videos, bright images, and the unbridled passion that exudes from the creators, whose works are showcased on little cards in the app. Meanwhile, those who post projects to Kickstarter via the app get tools to let them share their progress and keep an eye on pledges as they continue to come in.
Setup and interface
To use Kickstarter for iPhone, you need a Kickstarter account, although creating one on the spot takes little more than an email address and password, or Facebook authentication. Downloading, installing, and logging into the free app takes mere seconds, so you can swiftly start browsing all the quirky and sometimes unbelievable projects out there.
After signing up or logging in, you'll speed right into the discovery area, where you'll first land on a page of staff picks. Each project appears as a little card with a huge photo illustrating the project and a play button superimposed (although you can't watch the video just yet; click the button, and you'll move to a new page with the video).
Below the image, the name of the project appears with a green progress bar showing how close the creators are to reaching their pledge goal. Additional details appear at the bottom of each card: The actual amount pledged to date, target total pledges, number of backers, and how many days are left in the project's campaign to raise money.
Click on any card, and more details emerge on a new screen where you'll find that playable video summarising the project. If you'd rather read about the project than stream a video, which isn't always ideal sans Wi-Fi, you can do so by tapping on the snippet of text directly below, where you'll also see the city or region where the inventors are hopefully hard at work. Continue scrolling, and you'll see the number of comments on the project (which opens in another page), number of updates from the creators (which also opens in another page), an "additional details" link, and then a list of options for the different levels of contribution, and what each pledge level will award you as a backer.
Ways to browse for projects
As a casual Kickstarter browser, I loved exploring potential projects by theme: Art, comics, dance, design, fashion, food, and so on, with 13 themes in all. Staff picks turned up some interesting content across the various themes, as did the Popular filter.
Other ways to explore include a Favourites button, for all the project cards you mark with a star, and Nearby. That last geo-location enabled option seems like it needs a little TLC from the development team at Kickstarter. In most iPhone apps, selecting a feature that requires location services results in the app checking whether it's enabled. I had location services switched off when I tapped the Nearby filter, and all I got was a lousy loading icon at the top (a green bar) that animated endlessly.
This was a minor annoyance, and one I bet will be fixed with a fittingly minor update. I noticed the problem myself, turned on the required setting, and finally saw a list of Kickstarter projects in and for my city: A new restaurant, a film about sports culture in my city, an outdoor architectural art project imagined to appear in a public park next summer, and many more.
Another nitty-gritty issue: If someone emails you a link to a Kickstarter project and you click it from your iPhone, the site launches in Safari, rather than prompting you to download the Kickstarter app, where you could potentially read about and fund the project with greater ease.
Goodies for creators
While the app does have some tools for Kickstarter creators, it doesn't have the complete gamut just yet. If you're not already a Kickstarter creator, there isn't an option within the app to become one. But existing creators will find some tools for helping them manage existing projects, like notifications of when new backers sign on to support their work.
The best use of the mobile app for creators is that they can post updates about their projects. A creator can share updates with written notes, as well as videos and pictures taken from their mobile devices. These capabilities bring a new and welcome level of social interaction, or maybe even intimacy, between inventors and backers.
The reason this iPhone app is so important to Kickstarter is because the site reaches a good deal of progressive trend leaders, people who may very well be leaving their PCs to live on their smartphones. In other words, it's not just designed to give backers and creators a new way to use Kickstarter – it could very well become the primary way many users leverage the site.
Additionally, the added ability for creators to post updates from their mobile phones could greatly enhance the social nature of the site and create stronger relationships between funders and projects they pay to see come to fruition. We hold the Kickstarter for iPhone app in high regard, and recommend you grab it – after all, it’s free.