Back to basics

Tempus Fugit. As a developer, one of the things that causes me to stress the most, is a simple lack of time.

I have so many ideas (mostly useless) floating around in my head that I would like to turn into reality. I have three apps in the App Store, which I don’t really update. I also have a day job.

Faced with so many things to do, I really struggle to focus. I can lock in on something for a week or two, but a customer email will arrive, or a new idea will pop into my head, and my priorities change, leaving something half done.

This excellent Commit Strip is basically my product range – http://www.commitstrip.com/en/2014/11/25/west-side-project-story/

Strip-Side-project-650-finalenglish

My iOS app, Roomr, is a good example of this.

What started out as a simple app for viewing the availablility of meeting rooms morphed into something more complicated, but which wasn’t *more* useful. I kept reacting to user’s feature requests, without keeping an eye on the growing complexity. Complexity, I said to myself, is natural as a product evolves.

Roomr doesn’t make much money. I’ve sold a few thousand units over the years, which I’m very thankful for, but it’s never actually been worth my time. Rather than maintaining that app, I’d have been better building an app for somebody else and getting paid.

It took me a long time to accept this simple truth.

Uncontrolled feature creep is the biggest issue I face.

I recently had a user state, in an email, that if I added feature X, they’d buy ten units of the app. I knew it would take me 20+ hours to implement this and that ten sales hardly covered 1/2 an hour of my time, but I went ahead anyway, knowing full well, that I’d probably never see a return on this investment. I justified it by saying “if I add feature X, more people will buy it”.

The fact of the matter is, it won’t make a blind bit of difference. I’ve had this request from two or three other users in the past three years.

Another justification for adding complexity is that by adding feature X, a large company will buy many, many licenses i.e. £££ for me. Again, reailty has taught me otherwise. I’ve had large multinationals inquire about the app and large scale deployments, but none of them ever made a purchase, despite many changes. An app with just one developer behind it, presents too much risk for companies, which I understand.

I’ve come to realise that, when you’re on your own building apps, simplicity is probably best. My iOS apps, Roomr and Peopler started with a very narrow focus on doing one thing and doing it well. Somewhere along the road, I lost focus on that. Sure, it was fun and interesting working on the complex stuff, but in the end, I think my nerves and customers, suffered.

I had planned on Roomr 4.0 being more complex than the previous versions, but I think it’s time to start ripping stuff out and making the app more focused than before. I’m also going to try ad support. If I can generate more revenue, it will be easier for me to update the apps.

This will, I suspect, upset some existing customers, but I would rather try a new approach, then kill the app off completely.

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