A week has past, and I’ve managed to complete my tasks. As expected the posts from Michael Jurewitz threw up more questions and tasks. In this post I’m taking stock of where I am, it’s worse then I imagined. I’m also laying out the plan for improving the situation this week.
Making a list of current sales data was a very interesting task. I though the product was doing much better then it actually was. The sales numbers get totalled in my usual view on appfigures.com so they seem artificially high. Excluding the launch month (always an outlier), sales are averaging 20 units a month and revenue of £36. Ouch, way worse then expected.
Current Marketing Efforts
Currently I don’t do any real marketing for the application, as you probably guessed from the sales data. So what am I doing?
Looking at the website, it’s a simple, single page site that is clear and concise with it’s message. The application as I’ve already said, it’s only available on the Mac app store. Looking at the analytics data we’re converting 13% of visitors to the site into sales to the app store. App store analytics are notoriously poor, so this number seems a little high. My guess is that customers are coming from other sources, possibly the release notices, possibly reviews from other sites.
I’ve not really done any SEO work on the site, but it seems to perform quite well in searches. The application name and domain were secured before the launch, so that at least seemed to work. Google Webmaster tools show us at position 3 for the term “Work Journal” with a 10% click through rate. We also position quite highly for similar search terms and combinations.
The website content hasn’t been updated since launch, except to reflect price changes. I’d like to go through the website and review all the content this week. One thing I noticed is a lack of customer reviews, which we already have, so it should be simple to add.
Reading the posts on app store pricing that I mentioned at the top of the post has given me more work, and importantly more to think about.
Firstly, am I providing the most excellent experience that is possible for the customers of the product? No, quite frankly, not all the time. The application has a few rough edges, I’ve not updated it since February. Secondly I’m not the best at responding to support emails.
Secondly, Is this priced correctly? The whole series of posts is a basic walk through for app developers of simple economic principles. I’d like to go and have a look at the data that I have from the last 6 months pricing and see if I can optimise the current pricing of the application.
So I know the lie of the land, I have an idea of the failings. Any marketing that I do will, or should, increase that number of units sold. It can’t have a negative effect at this point.
I’ve managed to gather a few resources like the Noob Guide to Marketing (pdf) from Unbounce. I’ve also got the fantastic Pitch Perfect: The Art of Promoting Your App on the Web Kindle book by Erica Sadun and Steven Sande, that covers pitching apps to bloggers.
The Unbounce is a 6 month plan for promoting something online. There is a bunch of information in there, some of which I’m not going to do. Some of it is irrelevant, but some of it is really simple and really easy to implement. I’m going to flick through the guide and highlight the important tasks that I need to do. For instance, “5 second website test” seems like a good thing to do.
At the moment I’m thinking that it would be a great idea to spread the word about the application a little more. Ideally I’d like a few reviews of Work Journal out there. At the moment all I have a re-prints of the original press release on link farms. Not ideal. I need to check over the press pack that I put together for Work Journal and ensure it’s up to date.
One of the things that is working for Work Journal at the moment is releasing updates to the application. Every release gives us a little bump in sales, and a better chance for user feedback. It also means we have a better application to sell.
Ideally, Work Journal would have a mobile companion application. Data synchronisation, support and how to charge for an indefinite service in a sustainable way are a few of the challenges that we’re facing with that idea. This is something that I’ll probably discuss later.
I need to come up with a development schedule for Work Journal, along with a bunch of bugs and features. I’d like to aim for an 8 - 12 week release cycle for this.
Other Ways to Boost Income
Currently Work Journal is only available through the App store. I’m looking at how to boost the income past pocket money into a sensible range. Selling direct is one of the options, I already have the infrastructure in place to support selling directly. The benefit is only taking a 10-15% cut in processing and transfers fees, rather then a 30% from Apple. Again, something I’ll be exploring in a later post I think.
- app pricing with PED curve
- review content on website
- add customer comments
- write a pitch email
- 5 blogs to pitch Work Journal to
- PR pack.
- highlight important tasks from unbound guide
- development milestones
So, I’m haunted by a throw away comment from the iDeveloper.tv podcast. “If you’re not earning a full time salary, you’re not indie, you’re a contractor with a hobby.” Me.
I’ve wanted a series of posts that explain how to improve sales as an app store developer, there is little out there. Even less that I think contains authentic advice. I’m suddenly compelled to share my experiences, only because no-one else is doing anything similar. Not because I have the answers, as you’ll soon see I’m probably more clueless then the rest of you.
My Name is John, I Am a Contractor With a Hobby
In my mind I’m an indie developer, when I look at the figures in the cold light of day, I know that the reality is that I’m a contractor with a hobby. My hobby is making profitable applications. The profit is not a full time salary.
There is quite a lot happening at the moment, products, contacts and application development. The company is thriving and busy as ever, but the future still depends on outside projects. NimbleWorks is a two developer company, our expertise is developing, not selling applications. As a company of two developers I fear that our weakness is in the promotion of applications. In the Cocoa world there has been a lot of talk about the difference between “indies” and contractors, it’s a healthy discussion to have as I think a lot of it boils down to a frame of mind. It’s prompted me too take a good look at my efforts to promote our own applications, quite frankly it’s embarrassing. We have a small application, WorkJournal, it earns some money but I’m not even sure how much. I’m setting the goal of increasing the revenue from Work Journal by 10 in the next 48 weeks. As an experiment, I’d like to also prioritise marketing over writing new code. Writing new code makes me feel safe, I know that this is best for the product, but also my easiest solution. Pushing my comfort zone has got to also be an aim, this is a learning exercise for me.
Why not? Quite frankly, I have no idea how much we earn from Work Journal at the moment. but increasing the revenue by 10, I’m assuming, would increase it from an unknown figure to a respectable figure. I know that I don’t do enough work in promoting the application, in part because I don’t understand what is required to be successful.
In this series of posts I’m going to set myself weekly tasks focused around increasing the marketing efforts for Work Journal. My aim is to spend about 1 - 2 hours a week on this. I’ll be reviewing my progress and posting it here every week.
The next week
Over the next week my aim is to assess how Work Journal is currently promoted. I’m calling this the audit. I need a reference point to start from. I’ll also need to list all of the current methods of promoting the application, from the website to tweets, most of all though I need to know about revenue. I’ve already written about the cost of developing Work Journal so I need to know if I’m on track with sales.
Pricing is a big issues with Mac applications, in particular the Mac app store. Currently Work Journal is only available in the app store, as of publishing it’s available for $3.99 (actually, I’ve bumped it to $5.99 in an effort to increase my revenue). I need to go through the Michael Jurewitz 5-parter on app pricing urgently.
- read the jury.me posts on pricing
- get historical sales data on Work Journal
- make a spreadsheet for sales data
- make a list of current promotion efforts
- write next weeks post
If you’re an Apple investor you’ll want to see the quarterly numbers, of course, but you don’t really want them filtered through someone who spends most of his time talking about iOS weather apps, do you? And if you’re not an Apple investor, what difference does it make to you?
Personaly I don’t care for all this earning calls, it only fuels pointless religious arguments about who is better Samsung or Apple. Me, I’m rooting for BenQ to win the smarphone war…
I came accross the TI SensorTags at last weekends SpaceApps challenge at the Met Office. Texas Instruments were giving them away. They only retail for $25 (€26 from EBV).
They’re a really interesting platform full of interesting sensors, some that you can get access to on existing hardware some you can’t. The tiny circuit board contains
- IR temperature Sensor
- Humidity Sensor
- Pressure Sensor (barometric)
It also has two physical buttons. It transmits over Bluetooth LE so is only supported by newer hardware, not my laptop sadly, but this mean you do get 100m range and a long battery life from the button cell.
A few weeks ago I spent some time riding in the Alps, where I managed to spend quite a long time talking to a geologist about the innacuracies of GPS measurements. I particularly wanted a portable way of measuring barometric pressure. This is always a relative measurement as it changes with the weather, but if you know your start height and could calibrate at various points along the route, say top of every known col. You could end up with a very accurate measurment of altitude gain.
Helpfully the iPhone application that TI provide also provides sample code for interpreting the data coming from the device. It’s a pretty neat little, inexpensive package of sensors for playing with.
Sorry, I’m reorganising my RSS feed so duplicates may appear in feed readers. It will stop shortly.
RSS is dead! I strongly disagree with this statement. So much so that it’s the core of a new product that we’re building. What I beleive happened is that Reader stifled innovation in the area. Also, the tech press loves a saucy headline.
One of the most exciting things about RSS to happen in the reign of Reader was PuSH, or Pubsubhubbub. It’s the ability to push your content into aggregators. Like realtime updates for blogs and websites. It turns out that it’s a really simple thing to setup.
Dr. Drang has a great post for implementing this on your Wordpress site. The good news is that if you’re on Wordpress.com, it’s alread been done for you.
There is a slightly different implementation for RSS and ATOM feeds. I used RSS, and started by adding the following two lines to the root element.
<link xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2005/Atom" rel="hub" href="http://hencedigital.superfeedr.com"/>
<link xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2005/Atom" rel="self" href="http://hencedigital.com/rss.xml"/>
The url http://hencedigital.superfeedr.com points to my free hub at Superfeedr who also provide stats. You could also use the open access http://pubsubhubbub.appspot.com/ hub, or write your own.
Once the RSS is ready we need to inform the hub that new content has been published through a webhook. Most publishing systems come with the ability to perform some actions after publishing. Like update your sitemap, Secondcrack is no different. Simply add a file named
post_pubsubhubbub.php to your hooks folder.
We create a class that extends the base class Hook provided by the system, in the
doHook method we ping the hub with a publish parameter and the url of the feed.
class PubSubHubBub extends Hook
public function doHook(Post $post)
$host = 'https://hencedigital.superfeedr.com/';
$additionalHeaders ='Accept: application/json';
$payloadName = '';
$process = curl_init($host);
curl_setopt($process, CURLOPT_HTTPHEADER, array('Content-Type: application/x-www-form-urlencoded', $additionalHeaders));
curl_setopt($process, CURLOPT_HEADER, 1);
curl_setopt($process, CURLOPT_TIMEOUT, 30);
curl_setopt($process, CURLOPT_POST, 1);
curl_setopt($process, CURLOPT_POSTFIELDS, $payloadName);
curl_setopt($process, CURLOPT_RETURNTRANSFER, TRUE);
$return = curl_exec($process);
This call notifies the hub that there is new content ready to be fetched. This isn’t ideal, as we might have to wait for a crawler to visit, it’s also not truly realtime. We can do a “Fat Ping” which pushes the content into the hub. I’ll leave that for another time.
So, dear reader, I implore you: If this post at all rings true, sounds a little too familiar, do yourself a favor — take a vacation. Get away from your work for a bit. Reset. And when you come back, pick some number under 35 and try working that many hours per week, and no more.
Tomorrow I’m off and I can’t wait. It’s been 49 weeks since I last took a week off work. In that week I built WorkJournal, so probably not the best holiday.
It’s been a pretty unhealthy year for taking time off, on the flipside for the first time in 3 years I have a sense of job security. Nimbleworks is now a real company with a bright shiny future. We’re building something exciting it’s proving to be a bigger job then anticipated.
I’m impatient and excited by Read HQ and I want to work on it all the time. It so easy, as Kyle Bragger points out, to keep your nose to the grindstone. You lose perspective pretty quickly.
To read Kyle Braggers advice today is quite pertinent. The more I think about limiting the number of hours a week, the more I like the idea. If I can only work 35 hours a week (notice how I’ve defaulted to the maximum alowed instantly, so unhealthy) I need to make sure every hour counts. No more Hacker News for hours on end. Instead I should put effort into automating everything that can be automated, backups, testing, deployment, payments and purchases. Increased efficiency, not more hours.
I had a strange bug report from a customer of Work Journal just after a release.
when clicking on —> PDF —> save pdf …. It pauses for about 5 seconds and then nothing… It doesn’t bring up any window for save, no dialog box to save the file. On the workspace I noticed translucent well.
Remember to set Read/Write User Files entitlements when setting print entitlements.
As it says above, not setting the user files entitlements to Read/Write means your use won’t be able to save a PDF without previewing it first.
Lots has been written about how restrictive entitlements are, but if sandboxing is to enhance security this does not help either.
I’d like a write only entitlement or better, allowing the print entitlement to write to the users documents. It’s radar number 13156092 if you’re wondering.
Building a static iOS framework is a pain in the ass. There are a variety of existing solutions already and each one has its own disadvantages.
This looks like quite something to undertake, but would really help when starting new projects. Just to grab and include all my own helper classes and categories in one go. At the moment they are scattered around through several projects.
Ubuntu announced their mobile operating system this week. There wasn’t much hype or anticipation around the announcement, infact I read about it after the fact. In my opinion there are plenty of things wrong with the announcement, the product and most of all the timelines. However…
Reading the annoucement, the fact that we could have the promised single device to rule them all, I was filled with a warm glow. This is what sci-fi promised me for years. Sci-fi and futurists never promised a cloud connected portal to all my data stored and controlled by anonymous corporations. I was promised a single device that could do everything. Magical.
The cloud is so fragile, a misplaced raid on a data centre, outages, hurricanes or simply a train ride through the country side all cut off access to the cloud. Having a local sync of the data really isn’t ideal either. I never remember to copy the right files, or find I want to work on something I don’t have with me. To me the cloud has always seemed like a dodgy hack, or temporary fix to the real problem we face. Maybe I’m just fed up with having 3 computers I use all the time for slightly different uses.
Right now there are plenty of mobile OS pretenders looking for device manufacturers to help them out. Sailfish, Firefox OS and now Ubuntu. Add to that the Windows 8 and BB10 it’s the kind of competitive environment that will push Apple and Google to innovate quickly and franticly. The minor operating systems are interesting in some minor aspects of what they are doing
, but none are as inspirational as Ubuntu at the moment.
I realise the Ubuntu phones will be underpowered for my needs. Sadly, let be honest, it probably won’t be Ubuntu who deliver this concept to the mass market, but I’m still very pleased they are trying.
Work Journal 1.0.1 is available to download now! So whats new? On the
face of it we’ve implemented editing of entries and introduced, as
requested, a more detailed date/time view. It’s not a big update , but
addresses the most pressing issues and support requests.
Underneath though, there has been quite a bit of work. We’ve upgraded
some of the key components of the application. It’s not essential work
at the moment, but will be vital in the New Year as we start to push out
lots of new exciting features.
from the Mac App store now.
A new server, this is now hosted on my remote development server. An incredibly cheap dedicated machine from kimsufi.co.uk. I feel like I’m a member of a special club. I see what they’ve done with the package name.
Fastest way on the web
to accept credit card payments
Stripe might have something to say about that. However, it’s quite possibly the quickest way to accept payments if you’re not living in the US or Canada. Glad to see that someone has taken easy payments seriously outside of the US.
I’m going to look into moving everything over almost immediately.
BioLite develops and manufactures advanced energy products that make cooking with wood as clean safe and easy as modern fuels while also providing electricity to charge cell phones and LED lights off-grid. We feel a strong sense of responsibility not just to develop products that work well but also to create businesses that make a positive contribution to the global community.
Every one likes fire. This looks like an amazing camp stove. The biolite home stove also looks interesting.
Simply put: It was easy and cheap for a lot of other players on the Web to outdo daily newspaper journalism for cheap or free. And that lead to a wave of massive commodification of news. But those glimmers of really great storytelling and investigative work that weren’t in the paper every day were ravaged as part of the shift. And there was no clear way to replace it. Good content isn’t free — as anyone who struggles to write it or hire good talent knows.
Actually a great piece from Pando Daily, who, last time I visited, pandered to startup “news” a la TechCrunch. The Magazine from Marco Arment is collecting great writing, like Wired UK used to do when first re-launched. 21Times are kind of doing a similar thing. There is a huge demand in my opinion for decent content and very few places willing or able to provide it.
The non-news this weeks is Lance Armstrong’s doping scandal. I don’t really care about it, I try to avoid it and try no to read anything about it because so much is vitriolic, indignant clap-trap. For years there have been the raised eyebrows amongst cycling fans when people talk of Lance Armstrong’s “amazing” 7 tour victories. Like the raised eyebrows around any of the cyclists that have been convicted of doping. Truly understanding the sport is to know that 7 victories at the Tour de France in that age required some special assistance. Truly understanding the sport is knowing that 7 victories at the Tour de France doped to the eyeballs is still a feat.
I am not apologising for Armstrong, I am not condoning doping. I am not particularly an Armstrong fan. He was a bully and changed the sport. Ask men to perform super-human feats, is to ask them to turn themselves into super-humans. If you then act surprised you’re an idiot.
The Armstrong scandal however has little to do with cycling or cleaning up the sport. This is a political move, about discrediting a man who has huge political influence. The “good guys” are plying by the same set of rules to discredit and convict Armstrong that they are accusing him of.
The fact that this is being played out by leaks and backhand methods, that none of this is being conducted in a correct and decent manner in the appropriate place smacks of a political campaign. If he is guilty then his guilt should be proven in the appropriate forum. This trial by speculative media, with weighted, biased and opinionated journalists speculating to increase advertising revenues is not helpful to the purported cause of cleaning up the sport.
I have my opinions and suspicions of Lance Armstrong’s guilt. I want to see them proved correctly and not in the media through leaks and interviews.
All of this is based on a quick and simple Mac App that I built over the course of a few days off. Idea to release in
less then a month three months. Work Journal is now in the app store, here are the costs involved in developing it. There are some assumptions being made here. Costs are rated at £300 a day. PHP contact rates are a little less, iOS are more local to me. So this is a reasonable middle ground. The final project value is also less as there is no feedback to process, no designs to produce for client approval, and no sign off needed. It means I can build the UI from a mental image and sketches without the need for intermediate PSDs. This app was developed prior to NimbleWorks LLP forming, all of the out-sourced work would now be in house.
- idea, UI sketches, basic market analysis. 0.5 days
- initial basic ugly proof of concept 0.5 days
- boilerplate app code, like preferences, help etc 1.5 days
- app beautification 1 day
- app bug fixing and polish 1 day
- app submission 1 day
- app icon (mates rates) £250
- simple website design and setup £512
- domain name: £13
The total break down of cost is as follows:
Development Time : 5.5 days £1650
Website and logo : £775
Total Cost: £2425
Idea to working app only took one day. The app worked, had 80% of the final features but was completely ugly and non-intuitive. I wouldn’t have been able to make any money from it in the app store. In ratios it took 4 times longer to go from working prototype to functioning app. There is still a lot within the app that I could do.
The costs above also don’t take into account the time taken to manage the website and logo. With anything creative there is some to-ing and fro-ing. You can make this easier on yourself by producing a tight specification and trusting the people you are dealing with.
Pricing of the Application
Now the application has launched, I’m waiting for the first days sales figures. I’m £775 out of pocket, I need to earn £2425 or more from the application for it to become a profitable venture, so I’m posed with an interesting problem on pricing.
So lets look at some numbers.
Work Journal sells for £8.99($15) - I get £6 a sale I need to sell 130 copies to not have lost out, 375 copies or more to be profitable.
A sale price of £6.99($10) - I get £4.25 I need to sell 183 and 530 copies respectively.
Selling the app for £2.99($5) - I get £1.82 suddenly I need to sell 426 and 1236 copies.
A sale price of £0.69($1) - I get a paltry 42pence and need to sell 1845 and 5357 copies.
I have very little data or experience to go off from the Mac App store. For my pervious software TrackTime there was very little influence of price on sales numbers when it ranged from $17.50 to $29.99. Given the plans I have for this application I think it should eventually be selling for £6.99($10). Selling at a higher price off the bat means several things:
- I’m more motivated to develop the application
- I’ll have a lower support cost
- I can offer heavy discounts and sales of the application
Offering sales and discount is a great way to raise awareness of your application and can provide a good cash boost.
This is an area of weakness for me, and one where you can sink a lot of time and money. Previously I’ve tried banner ads and pay per click, but neither has really paid for it’s self. I’m looking into some more niche sponsorships like podcasts with very specific topics. I also fear I’m going to have to start doing some cold, hard emailing, straight into bloggers inboxes.
Paid marketing also increases the number of copies that I need to sell to become profitable, enough cash has been sunk on this at the moment, that I’m going to be really picky about what I spend money on. For me that means no more banners or PPC. I did pay for an expedited press release through prMac costing £14.50, money I could have saved with a little planning.
Whether or not the application breaks even it is a good learning process that we’ll be able to share with customers. However, with some future development I don’t see why it shouldn’t turn a profit.
Discuss this on HackerNews
So, in an attempt to spread the word here’s the first of five simple steps to better typography. To kick it off, part one is about the Measure.
Fascinating and helpful. This is something I struggle with when working with responsive designs. How to keep the width of the text wide enough to flow well, while keeping the font large enough to actually read on non retina screens.
“We’re betting completely on it,” he said, referring to native apps. “Native is going to be the approach that we go with for iOS and Android.” Much of the same infrastructure that Facebook built for iOS will be re-applied to Android, but as for an ETA for the app, Zuckerberg said “it will be ready when it’s ready.”
I’m not keen on linking to anything by Arrington, so this Verge post will do. Glad to see that Facebook are going down the native apps route. This is going to be a far better experience for users. As in the last item I linked to though, turns out they’re still using HTML5 in a clever way within these applications.
For areas within the app where we anticipate making changes more often, we will continue to utilize HTML5 code, as we can push updates server side without requiring people to download a new version of the app.
This is well worth a read. It goes into some detail about the lengths Facebook has gone to get thier native iOS app up and running fast. In this section Jonathon Dann explains how Facebook are still using HTML5 to maintain fexability and futureproof the iOS application.