About

I’m a web and mobile software developer based out of Kitchener, Ontario. I’m currently working for Threadflip.

In the past, I helped build batman.js at Shopify.

Before that, I worked for Causes, building products that helped charities raise a lot of money.

I graduated CS with a minor in psychology from Waterloo.

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Lessons From An App Launch

04 Sep 2012

My Minutes hit the App Store the evening of August 28. I was out to dinner with some friends when I received the 'Status changed to in-review' email from Apple. It took the reviewer about 20 minutes to make the app available for sale. My app had gone live with very little warning. That night I touched up my landing page a bit tried to get some sleep.

The day itself

The next morning I started emailing iPhone app and niche productivity bloggers about My Minutes. I contacted 23 blogs in all, most with personalized emails. Tracking down good bloggers to contact and writing emails turned out to be a good chunk of work, even though I had prepared a list of blogs and bloggers a couple days ago while waiting for the app to be reviewed.

Around 1 p.m. I posted my landing page to Reddit's iPhone, Productivity, and Entrepreneur subreddits. The stories slowly gained traction and rose to the top of their respective subreddits.

Around 2 p.m. I posted to Hacker News. Again, it took a little while for the story to catch on, but eventually it started rising, and managed to reach #15 on the front page.

The amount of support and kind comments that came in really made my day (and 6 weeks of working on the app). It was really gratifying to see that people thought the app was useful and well-designed, and the feedback I received has been really helpful in shaping what I'm going to build moving forward.

A few posts on HN had previously complained about how poorly product launches were being received by the community. Though I was never not going to post about my launch, this had made me somewhat anxious. In the end, responding to people on HN and Reddit was the highlight of my day.

All of the big tech blogs, unsurprisingly, never got back to me. Getting coverage on them seems to be beyond my reach, at least through unsolicited emails.

A number of productivity bloggers responded and took a look at my app. A few of them are working on blog posts which should publish this week. One post got published yesterday and strongly recommended the app.

All in all, I spent 12 hours exchanging comments and emails, touching up my landing page, and obsessively refreshing the ludicrous number of tabs I had open in Chrome. It was a very exciting day.

Numbers

  • myminutesapp.com had 4,134 visits with an average visit duration of 19 seconds.
  • Of those visits, 1,794 came from HN, 1,043 had no referrer, and 1,005 came from Reddit.
  • The buy button and and App Store badge converted at 1.67% across all visits (which I'm told is not bad for a paid product).
  • 883 visits hit the landing page the next day, and 129 the day after. This traffic was mostly people who came across the HN and Reddit postings a day later.

The traffic dip continued and traffic to the landing page has been tiny since the launch stories died out.

I'm not sure exactly where the 1,043 direct traffic visits came from. My best guess would be HN and Reddit users with browser extensions that disabled tracking.

Sales

App sales followed the same trend as landing page traffic. My Minutes sold 56 copies on launch day, 23 copies the day after, and 4 copies the day after that. Again, not bad for a paid product, or so I'm told.

Based on landing page traffic, this amounts to a 1.63% conversion from hitting the page to buying the app, but it's unlikely that just about everyone clicking through the landing page ended up buying the app. The App Store must have driven some organic sales due to the app being highly placed on the newly released list.

Lessons

Release early

I launched with a minimal feature set, getting the app in front of users as soon as I could. This allowed a ton of ideas to emerge from people replying on HN and Reddit. Because the app didn't have too many bells and whistles, people had an easier time imagining features that could be added.

Make sure your app's appearance appeals to your market

I used the MarkerFelt font in My Minutes to give the app a more informal feel. I wanted to create a contrast between the more feature-heavy and, in my opinion, bloated time tracking alternatives in the App Store. This backfired and was the number one complaint I heard throughout the day.

People prefer a more professional appearance in their apps, and this includes the font. My Minutes 1.0.1 will ship with the cleaner Thonburi font. Looking back, I'm not sure what I was thinking.

Getting blog coverage is hard

While I did my homework and researched a whole slew of bloggers to contact, I put off contacting them until launch day. This was an obvious mistake because it did not give the bloggers enough turnaround time to check out my app and get a review up. I should have contacted most of these bloggers well in advance - established relationships before even starting work on the app - if I wanted to get blog posts up for launch day.

In the end, not many bloggers responded, which further cements the fact that this is a difficult task and should not be taken lightly. Getting good blog coverage can pay off handsomly (more on that below), but you need to lay the groundwork well in advance.

Figure out your pricing

I didn't think pricing through deeply enough. I looked at my competitors and saw that they were priced at either $0.99 or $1.99. Then I looked at my comparatively minimal feature set and came to the conclusion that I had to price My Minutes at $0.99 if I wanted to get sales.

I was worried that people simply wouldn't pay more than $0.99 for an app that didn't come with a lot of bells and whistles.

But being minimal is a feature in itself. My Minutes is dead-simple, and a lot of the comments I received throughout the day praised exactly that aspect of the app. It was easy to pick up and use. You can start tracking your time immediately.

With this in mind, I shouldn't have been afraid to price the app at $1.99, though we'll never know how sales would have gone at the higher price point.

The other thing I didn't consider was a freemium model. Given that I'm bootstrapping, I need the app to generate some revenue. Pricing at $0.99 seemed a straightforward way to get revenue from day one.

Don't neglect SEO

At an HNers recommendation, I looked into doing some basic SEO for both my landing page and app description. Luckily I had released with reasonable keyword density, which seems to be the main thing when it comes to app description SEO.

One thing I missed is that app titles in the App Store can be longer and so are ripe for keyword loading. I could have submitted My Minutes as "My Minutes Time Tracker" to iTunes which would land me further up in search results. I might give this a try with the first app update, though I'm not thrilled with "My Minutes Time Tracker".

Freemium

Although the app was well received and had reasonable sales in its first few days, traffic has inevitably died down. While I'm eager to get back to building features, My Minutes needs more users if it is to be successful.

With that in mind, I've made the app available for free. I reposted to Reddit yesterday and the results are encouraging.

Not surprisingly, people are much more willing to try something out for free. The conversion rates of people visiting the site and clicking through to the iTunes page reflect this.

Conversion rates jumped from 1.67% to 7.58% for Reddit visitors.

Blog and mailing list traffic from this review of My Minutes was in another league altogether, with 43.96% of traffic converting.

This highlights the importance of targeting and context. People coming from a productivity blog/mailing list and way more interested in a personal time tracking app than someone browsing the Entrepreneur subreddit.

Moving forward

After one week in the App Store, My Minutes is up to 566 users and the app ranked 185th in the productivity category. After just one week, this is pretty amazing to me.

My next steps are to complete work on the feedback I've gotten from users since launch. Version 1.0.1 is already in Apple's hands. (Update: It's available now!)

I'll soon need to decide whether to work on premium features such as time reports, or build an Android version of the app. I'm leaning towards the former just to be able to judge user response to a paid feature as early as possible.

Along with development work, I'll keep getting the word out about My Minutes. I intend to circle back with the blogs I reached out to on launch day and update them with how the app has been received.

If you'd like to get in touch, please shoot me an email or ping me on Twitter. I'd love to hear from you.

And lastly, as I mentioned earlier, My Minutes is available for free. If you'd like to check it out, you can get it here.