What I learned by launching my first app
Ever since I started to learn how to build things for computers I have followed blogs, newsletters and forums where people make incredible things.
Some things are just for fun, like Rafael Conde's Break This Safe that inspired my own game The Impossible Safe, and others are the start of new businesses.
I've always watched these people with a feeling of "I want to do that, I want to make things". However this year something changed. It went from feelings to actions to an actual launched app.
Maybe it was because of COVID or maybe I was tired of starting making things but never completing them, who knows.
During christmas last year I launched Xcode on my MacBook as I had many times before without actually completing any projects, but this time I was determined to actually launcing my app.
Making the app was the easy part
The app that I was going to make was pretty simple, a workout timer that works like the one I have at my gym. This would solve both my "I want to make things" problem but also my problem of not having a good workout timer for workouts at home or outside during COVID.
Due to my lack of follow through on previous projects I've started, I actually had pretty little knowledge about how to build and launch an app.
I got some experience with bulding things for the web, but Swift is not a language I speak fluently. Luckily for me it's pretty simple and there's a lot of tutorials out there.
Building a timer, with some settings and a specific look and feel was not that complicated, plenty of people had done it before.
There was very good references, Hacking with Swift and YouTube being my go to ones, to use for how to build each feature I wanted to have in the app.
Smooth sailing to the App Store
I've heard about the Apple review process, the rules and general pain of getting apps onto the App Store. But when I acutally went through each step it was a piece of cake.
Apple have done a really great job with making the process feel seamless. It goes something like this:
- Upload your app to Apple's App Store Connect from Xcode
- Enter all details about the app, upload all marketing images and so on in App Store Connect
- Press publish
I know there's a lot of things that can complicate the review process, but for small simple apps like mine it really is a really good experience.
Getting users is really hard
So I had done it, this time I actually followed through on a project. And I have a published app in the App Store to prove it.
How do I get people to use it? I asked all my friends to try it out of course, but that only goes so far.
I launched on Product Hunt, a community where people all over the world share new and interesting products, with some success, 130 upvotes and 29 app installs.
Apple Search Ads
Apple give new developers $100 in credits to use on Apple Search Ads, that's an offer you can't refuse. I blew it all over the course of two months.
I went with the Basic version of Search Ads where Apple magically select who the audience of the ad should be and when to show it. Maybe I could have got a better result withe the Advanced version, but I didn't have the energy to learn all about it.
The Search Ads resulted in about 250-300 app installs, that's of course amazing with it being free and all. But if I was to pay for it the price would have been around 30-40 cents per app installs. That's not a sustainable growth method for a free app built as a side project.
With the price for Apple Search Ads in mind I went to my next growth idea. An idea all based on me hearing Gary Vee go on and on about how you should just spend time commenting and following on Instagram.
I will admit that I don't really like this growth method, but it worked really well!
To ease my conscience and not feel like a complete spam bot I decided to deliver value on Instagram as well using it as a marketing tool. This plan would also give me an excuse to stay relevant to the followers on Instagram.
First I created an account on Instagram(@theboxtimer) and converted it to a business account, this gave me access to statistics, marketing and other business features.
Then I created a few images to use as promotion for my app both in posts and in stories. This would be the foundation of the actual marketing of the app.
The additional value I would bring to Instagram was workouts(WODs), a simple post with a workout you could do at home or outside and using the app at the same time.
Each day I posted a new workout and with a few days in between I posted one of the marketing images. This let me reach the followers on a regular basis without spamming them with marketing material.
But just posting alone won't give you any followers though, this is where the Gary Vee part comes in. I went full on hustle mode and started commenting, liking and following all around the Instagram fitness bubble.
It was a bit slow in the start, but after a while I got a lot of followers. Not just "follow for follow" type of follows but actual real users that liked both the app and the workouts.
As of today Instagram has resulted in over 500 app installs and the account got over 4 000 followers.
The process of taking an idea and making it a reality, no matter how small it is, is really fun and rewarding. It beats just thinking about all day!
It's really hard to get people to use your thing! But the feeling you get when they do is amazing.
Interested in the app I made? It's called The Box Timer