Brittany Tarvin, FadingRed


Brittany co-founded FadingRed, an independent software development business in Chicago. She is its CEO.

  • What do you currently do?

I’m the co-founder and CEO at FadingRed in Chicago. We are a small, independent software development shop focused on mobile and web development with a specialty in building apps for iPhone, iPad and Mac. We create our own apps which ship in the App Stores, and also build a lot of exciting apps for other businesses, whether they be startups or major corporations. Our team is characterized by an extreme attention to detail, user focused design, and high quality native app experiences.

  • How did you get started in Mac and/or iOS programming?

I got started in Mac development completely by accident. I loved programming classes in high school, but by the time I got to college I had decided that I didn’t want to be a computer programmer. I had this idea in my head that it was all a bunch of geeky guys coding all day and all night, and that it wasn’t right for me. Then I met my co-founder and now husband, who was a computer science major and also happened to be building a couple of awesome Mac apps on the side! This was before the iPhone was announced and back when building apps for Apple platforms was not extremely hip or popular. He taught me how to code in Objective-C and Cocoa which are the technologies we use when building apps for iPhone, iPad and Mac. He also encouraged me to pursue my passion and showed me that programming didn’t have to be the way it was portrayed on TV. I fell in love with building software and haven’t looked back since.

  • What was the first app you created and what did it do

The very first real app I worked on was a Mac app called Senuti. Senuti is a music recovery app that helps people transfer music off of their iPod, iPhone, or iPad onto any Mac computer. This is especially helpful after a hard drive crash, when getting a new computer, or for DJ’s who need to get music onto a venue’s system quickly. My co-founder taught me to code by having me start out responding to customers who were experiencing issues using Senuti. I would go into the code and try to figure out where the bugs were and then try to fix them. It was really hard at first and definitely a slow process at first, but I started to get really good at it and eventually, I knew enough that I could write new code and add to the project as well. From there, I started working on a personal finance app called Koku, another Mac app that is now also available on iPhone. I did a lot more work and had more responsibility on that project, where I was able to think about how to make managing your finances easier and more fun.

  • Where did you get the idea for the app?

brittany koku

Koku was inspired by a previous finance app that my co-founder had built called Cashbox. We sat down together and re-imagined that application, building it into what Koku is today. We were inspired out of sheer necessity in our own lives. We both really understood the importance of keeping tabs on your spending and saving on a continuous basis. However, every app out there that we tried was clunky, poorly designed, over-featured, and no fun to use. We thought that we could do better, so we created the personal finance app that we would want to use. It’s still a learning process and we are constantly working on improving the app (now with an amazing team to help us out). I think a lot of the best app ideas come from a place of your own personal needs. Plus, it’s really fun to work on something that you want to use, and will keep using for years after you build it!

  • What went well? What could have gone better?

When we first started really dedicating a lot of time to working on Koku, more than just a side project, we tried to put too many features in it at once. We had so many ideas and were so excited to get them all into the product, but that caused our development cycle to be very long. If we could do it over, we would have broken down our feature ideas into a road map with little milestones along the way. That would have allowed us to roll out smaller updates to the app, but on a much more frequent basis, which would also mean we would have a chance to incorporate user feedback more quickly and be more adaptable to change. We are doing this now, but it took some learning to get there! On the flip side, Koku has been featured by Apple in the App Stores on numerous occasions, which we are really proud of, as well as highlighted by top Mac and iOS publications. We get a lot of great feedback about the product and have many people who have been using Koku daily for years to keep their finances in tune, all over the world. That’s exactly why we built it, and we couldn’t be happier with the outcome.

  • What is your favorite among the apps you’ve developed?

I would have to say Koku, since that is the app I spent the most time developing on, and is what I use every single day to track my bank accounts and credit cards, and to make spending decisions and budget. Really, I couldn’t survive without it!

  • What advice do you have for young people who want to make apps?

Building an app takes a lot of handwork, dedication, and patience. But anyone who wants to learn can do it! Try to keep in mind every day what your goals are and why you have decided to become an app developer, maybe even write it down in a place that you can reference easily. That way, when you are stuck on a really tricky bug, or cannot seem to get past a particular problem, you can remind yourself to keep working at it! Also, never be afraid to ask questions (even if they seem dumb) and to lean on other people for help! There’s not a single developer out there in the world who knows everything there is to know, we are constantly learning. That’s part of the fun in it!

Follow Brittany on Twitter.

Help more girls learn software development. Contribute to the App Camp For Girls Indiegogo fundraiser, get a cool perk, and enjoy the feeling of having helped the next generation of software developers.


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