Dictionary! was born out of a frustration with existing dictionaries available on the iPhone. They either cost a lot of money, or had features that got in the way of our goal of… well… just looking up a word. The concept was to focus on radical minimalism and efficiency. We believed that the large bulk of users had one, overriding goal when referencing a mobile dictionary, and that is to find out the meaning of a word they just read or had just heard. Whether they read or heard the word didn’t matter – the result needed to show the definition.However, adding in the design constraint that hearing was an important part pushed the design in a certain way.
First off, the application starts with a minimalist screen, without word of the day, advertisements or any other clutter. Further, without having to do anything, they keyboard is presented to you and the search field is in focus. The application doesn’t require a tap to search or allow anything else to get in your way.
As you type, the search is performed on the phone in real-time. The iPhone and Android versions don’t require any internet connection to function. Instead the dictionary, a rather humble version of WordNet, is carefully compressed as to fit on the phone and at the same time allow for fast searching.
As anyone who’s ever dealt with real-time searching can tell you, it’s often a tradeoff between memory usage and speed that is nearly impossible to balance. That balance is our proudest achievement with Dictionary! It’s also a balance that that users will never notice, except for the smooth experience they have and the fact that the application can be installed over-the-air since it weighs in at under 20mb.
That balance and formula has been a huge success. Dictionary! for iPhone has been downloaded over 50 million times, and over 200,000 words are looked up every day. For years, Dictionary! beat out the well-funded Dictionary.com application, until finally succumbing to their relenteless updating about 2 years into release. That being said, we’re totally happy to have our little hobby project still be used by so many people and remaining a top application for over 5 years at this point!
Fast, easy to use, direct, and accessible. That’s why we’re so damn proud of Dictionary!