My 'Today' app has been out almost a week now, and i'm sure you're all itching to know how the sales went?
The spikes on the 13th and 17th were from these two blog posts I paid for on MinimalMac, respectively: http://ow.ly/d4pI3 and http://ow.ly/d4pIn. It really does look like sales drop off by halving each day, which is unfortunate. If it's like my other apps, it'll drop down for a couple weeks until it hits a constant plateau, which i hope is decent. By my guesstimations based on dropoff rate and previous experience with launch weeks, without the blog promotion, I would have made 486 less sales. So the promotion pretty much exactly paid for itself. But that doesn't take into account the gracious help that Patrick from MinimalMac gave me when designing the app, so i have no regrets sponsoring his blog.
Anyway, long story short, these numbers are a long way off what i'd hoped for, and if the dropoff continues, the app will struggle to pay back my $600 investment in design work, let alone my time spent. I've had a few dozen emails from people who have bought the app suggesting new features, and i now have a pretty comprehensive list of features people want for the next version, but i'm not sure it'll be worth the time to implement them. Maybe i'll wait for another week's sales stats before deciding if i'll bother. But I have a hunch that when the app reverts to $2 that the sales will be in the low single digits.
There seems to be an ongoing meme these days about the decline of the quality of the community on Hacker News, you can read the latest instalment in the saga here: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4396747
And it's got me thinking: I can really relate. A few times i've launched things, most recently the Today app, and they fail in the marketplace. It's hugely depressing as it is, but it's far worse if you announce it on a forum, and instead of getting encouragement you simply get shot down with mean-spirited criticism. It's like rubbing salt in the wound, and it sure doesn't encourage you to get up and take another shot. So, on forums, please be nice to people who are having a go! They're probably nervous as hell at launch time, so be sensitive.
I'm not sure why online communities seem to devolve to this state. Maybe it's a product of online anonymity, where small men spew out big talk, meaner than they'd ever be face to face without the mask of a made-up forum name. And as communities become full of these people, all the nice folks shrug their shoulders and leave. Please, if you've got something encouraging to say to a budding entrepreneur but you hold back because everyone else is being mean, say it anyway and do your bit to change the atmosphere for the better. Also, if you find you sometimes can be that cruel poster, the best remedy is to get your hands dirty and build and launch something for yourself, get out of the grandstands of life. You'll be a bigger person for it, and the pettiness of criticising people will become beneath you.
Sometimes it's well-meaning folk, trying to give what they think is 'constructive criticism'. Many times, what people think is constructive criticism is in fact destructive criticism. 'Speak the truth in love' is what you should aim for: don't be a blunt prick and say 'Your landing page sucks'; rather say 'It looks promising, your ideas have potential, why don't you tweak your landing page a bit with these suggestions...'. Do you want to help the person, or do you want to simply sound smart and knowledgeable by harshly criticising their mistakes? If you want to help, then use basic human psychology: be nice, polite, encouraging, and build people up. If you simply want to criticise, you may as well be the Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons.
I think a lot of people have watched too many 'reality tv' talent shows, where the successful judges are harsh and cruel, and subconsciously try to become like that. I'm sure the actual reality is that those judges are either hamming it up for the cameras, or if they're really like that I'll bet they're estranged from their children.
I think all this stuff is really important, because I think it's fair to say that Hacker News raised up maybe hundreds of programmer-entrepreneurs in it's really-encouraging-community stage. And forward-thinking entrepreneurs like that are precisely the types we need to drag the western world out of the great recession. But now where are those people going to be encouraged into existence? I'm not sure. Montessori schools, maybe?
Anyway, that's all just my random rambling food for thought.
My brother in law, who basically spends his whole time at school browsing the app store, tells me that having a slick icon is a Big Deal. It determines whether or not someone will click on your app in the App store to read its description and see the screenshots. Makes sense to me.
So I was browsing through Dribbble (a design site) and found some great icons that designers just made for practice, and i'm thinking of buying one or two (they seem to want about $200 each) and making apps to suit them. Is that crazy or genius? I'm not sure. Then again, maybe i really should just write off iOS as an unprofitable tarpit and focus on making a Saas webapp. Thoughts?
Here's one of the icons I really liked, can you think of an app idea I should make to suit it? Link:
It's off to work I go: I'm starting at Google Sydney tomorrow. It's probably a good thing that it's only a 6 month contract, otherwise I'd likely give up on this entrepreneur thing entirely. But since i've only got half a year there, it'll (hopefully) motivate me to keep trying to build an app/saas income on the side so i can keep paying the bills when they let me go. Having said that, I probably won't do anything for a month or so, i'm just too disappointed about the Today app's sales.
Thanks for reading, guys, and thanks for all the encouraging emails over the last week, they're really appreciated!
Thanks for reading! And if you want to get in touch, I'd love to hear from you: chris.hulbert at gmail.
(Comp Sci, Hons - UTS)
iOS Developer in Sydney.
I have worked at places such as Google, News Corp, Fox Sports, NineMSN, FetchTV, Woolworths, and Westpac, among others. If you're looking for a good iOS developer, drop me a line!