January 6, 2020

Released Public Beta

Arnaud Joubay @sowenjub

In the summer of 2019, after using the app for 2.5 years, I decided it was time to release it.

The Pareto principle hit me hard. Not that I wasn't expecting it, it was the very reason why I still hadn't released the app. Because it meant going from an app that is understandable by me, to one that can be understood by anyone. And that's a lot of explaining to do. Also, I had to refine all those little things I would cope with but that I would find unacceptable as a public app, especially one that would offer paid features. Oh, and adding payment in itself was a big chunk of work that was entirely unnecessary until this point, and that would also mean more designing + coding + explaining.

I was full time on my co-founded startup and my daughter was a couple of months old. So I had very little time for myself, and sleeping less was not physically possible.
But this project was important to me. It was a (modest) effort for this planet, and good for my mental health I guess. It allowed me to work on iOS and I just loved toying with the concepts in the app and find a storyline so that it all kind of made sense. You attract cows when you don't eat meat, scare them away if you do eat too much of it based on your goals. Having too many cows on your planet wouldn't look nice, so at some point, they start to merge.

To get to a public beta, I had to:

  • refactor code
  • remove all the things I started to play with but wouldn't have time to add in a reasonable amount of time for an end of year release (iPad - which meant iCloud sync - & Apple Watch support mostly)
  • simplify a lot of the dynamics (eg. at some point, you were freezing cows)
  • design a lot more elements
  • refine the animations and looks of the planet
  • adopt Dark Mode
  • invent, implement, design a subscription model (thanks RevenueCat for the coding part)
  • design and write the marketing materials for the App Store, Facebook, etc.
  • add a lot of modal explanations as you use the app

That last part is important. I designed an entire onboarding sequence that I just discarded because I thought the app was so simple that you shouldn't have to go through even one onboarding view.
I wanted users to open the app and just use it, figuring details along the way.

So it took me another quarter of work, but I finally reached a point I felt happy with, and released it.

Also, I announced it on Facebook and Twitter and got my first beta users 🎉

The main thing I discovered was that in-app purchase is very confusing to test, I still don't know why (like it asked some users their passwords 3 times in a row).
To avoid further confusion, I added in one of the builds a Konami code to unlock all features without going through the (fake) purchase process. That was a lot of fun in itself, I felt like I reached a new stage in my life as a programmer.

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