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What I’ve learned: Releasing a popular iPhone App

Fat Mum Slim /

A couple of days and a year ago, I released an App. The Little Moments App. I had such little expectations when I released the App that I actually hadn’t thought beyond releasing it. And when I say ‘little expectations’ I don’t mean that I didn’t love it, I was and am still in love with it, I mean that I knew it was awesome and that it was going to fulfill people’s needs and desires {which was what I wanted to do} but I just didn’t know that it would be received so well, or that it would reach so many.

On the night we released Little Moments it went to number one in Australia, and number seven in the USA. It’s still in the top-selling lists in the App store. It’s also been picked as the App Store’s best app for 2014 and has been Editor’s Choice {selected by the App Store worldwide}. This is quite a big deal, and something to celebrate. So, hurrah!

I do get asked a lot of questions about creating and releasing Little Moments so I thought I’d share what I’ve learned over the past year, and in those planning stages too {which just so you know was about six months or more}.

little-moments-app

PICK THE RIGHT PEOPLE
If you only take one thing away from this post, let it be this. I absolutely could not have created the App I have without my App Developer partner, Stuart. His brain works in a way that mine doesn’t. He knows functionality, he’s passionate and he just gets it. Without him, I actually don’t know what I would have created. Over the six months we spent building Little Moments we had many phone meetings {we still haven’t met in person which feels like a crime!}, and he’d come to me with concepts and I’d fall in love with what we were creating. I’d mention things that I didn’t think possible, and he’d find a way to make them happen. Stuart had created two successful photography Apps before creating Little Moments, so I knew that he was the right guy. He also understands how Apple works, and how they like things to be… which is a big thing when you want to be one of their favourites. Make sure that your developer has created good things in the past, is easy to work with {understands that you don’t speak tech!} and you’re comfortable with the way they work.

EXPECT TO INVEST SOME DOLLARS, OR PLAY SMART
Apps are not cheap, and it’s not just the initial outlay you have to worry about. Apps require continual development to fix bugs, and to keep update with changes that Apple are doing. Thankfully Stuart manages all of this, because I’m just not a technical person. Stuart and I went into a business partnership from the beginning with the App, which meant we shared all financial costs too. This has taken a lot of stress off the project for me. So by play smart, I mean shop around for developers, partner up with people or if you’re in a position to go to a brand and partner with them, that would be a neat way to make your App dream happen.

KNOW THAT YOU WILL DISAPPOINT PEOPLE
I’m going to throw this one in here now, because this has happened and will continue to happen. I have cried so many tears about these things, but I’m getting tougher. Firstly, the money people spend on Apps is the equivalent of buying a car, I’m sure of it. Two dollars and fifty cents can buy you half a hot chocolate, and if you didn’t love it {like it fulfilled your sweet needs, but you wanted it to have a marshmallow and a bit more chocolate sprinkle} you probably wouldn’t write the cafe owner an abusive email, would you? I hope not. But Apps are different. Apps are a huge investment for some people, and they have really high expectations. Be prepared for people to share their opinions and thoughts over email, on Facebook, in your Facebook messages, on Instagram, on Twitter or on whatever platform they can find you. There will always be people that want things for free, or always expect more. This isn’t wrong, they are entitled to feel and want this. Just know that you’re not going to make everyone happy.

AND ON THE TOPIC OF DISAPPOINTING PEOPLE
When creating the App, I wanted to make it for both iPhone and Android devices. This was something that Stuart and I talked about at length. Financially, it was just really difficult to do. In the end we decided not to go down the Android path initially because we were both passionate Apple users, Stuart was most experienced in developing Apps for Apple products, and we’d researched and read case studies and conversations with App owners told us that it wasn’t the best business decision to go with Android to start off with. With releasing an App on only iPhone, we did seemingly involuntarily enter into the Apple VS Android debate, where we appeared to pick sides with Apple. I’ve never used an Android device, but would happily do so if someone wants to throw one at me, so it’s not a platform I’m familiar with, or have anything against. We haven’t ruled out Android altogether, but it’s something we’re wary of business-wise. Nobody wants to make risky business decisions, and at this stage it’s still a risky one for us.

COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE
I spend a good chunk of my week communicating with Little Moment App users. As I’ve said above, I’m not super technical {my knowledge is limited} but it’s good to know your basics. It’s very normal for Apps to have hiccups, especially when Apple does an update and things are entirely compatible. Or if we do an update. Most of the time it’s because people’s devices are low on memory {people love to keep ALL their photos on their phones, don’t they?}. So be prepared to spend a good chunk of your week answering emails and getting back to people. Honestly, people can get really upset when things are broken {which they should be!} but responding to them within a timely manner is a respectful thing to do.

FULFILL A NEED, HAVE A POINT OF DIFFERENCE, KEEP THINGS SIMPLE
If you’re creating an App, make sure you’re fulfilling a need. I knew that Photo A Day was hugely popular and people wanted a way to remember what the prompts were, Little Moments does that. It also makes photos fun and pretty, by allowing people to add filters, words and graphics on their photos. I love that we had a point of difference by including different artists and promoting them in the App. My number one requirement for the App, beyond the concept, was that it had to be easy to use. I wanted the grandmas of the world to be able to pick it up and use it without getting confused or fed up. People don’t use complicated Apps once they’ve bought them, and I didn’t want my App to be unusable.

KEEP YOUR APP EXCITING AND RELEVANT

Time has gotten away from me over this year, so I haven’t had time to update the App as much as I would like. This is about to change. It’s so important to stay relevant, and fresh and exciting.

CREATE A COMMUNITY AROUND YOUR APP
I love that we have the #littlemomentsapp hashtag so that people can share their photos made from the Little Moments App, and comment/like photos shared by other people. I think people want to extend the experience, and this is a great way to do it. I’d also suggest nabbing the profiles for your App on Instagram and Facebook, so you can continue the experience for your users too.

Lastly, building an App was a dream for me, and it’s awesome to have achieved it. If you have the Little Moments App, thanks for supporting us. If you don’t have it but want to find out more about it, just visit this page.

If you’re building an App, or have an App and want to ask any questions… please do so below and I’ll reply to your comments. I love talking about Apps and am happy to chat.

@Fatmumslim