My recipe so far:
I released a major update of No Meat Today with an Apple Watch app, a way to see your cows from up close and name each of them. It also introduces an exclusive cow design to celebrate Earth Day on April 22, and I already sketched two more cows I plan to add in the coming months.
I based all of those features on ideas I had before releasing the first version, but they made it into this version because I received feedback and requests from users that were matching those ideas.
Before I published the app, I was building an app that would please only me, and imagining that some people might love it.
Now I build features that still please me, but I also think about those users. And I always send them a follow-up email when a feature we talked about makes it to a new release. This is a big boost for motivation, knowing that at least one or more users will feel a bit of joy when the feature becomes available.
The Watch app is built entirely with SwiftUI, which I knew nothing about. It took me less than an hour to build the first version of the UI. The hardest part was actually to learn about Watch Connectivity and make it work with SwiftUI.
For the cow population tab, I decided that I needed a zoom transition. It took me a whole weekend before things finally clicked, thanks to a Stack-Overflow answer.
So I learned a lot, hit a couple of roadblocks, and felt quite lonely at times, but I had a lot of fun.
Lastly, I'm trying something about the subscription. I know people tend to dislike subscriptions, so I added a small text which explains why it is a subscription instead of a one-time purchase. I also make it easy for users to contact me if they think my business model is unfair. We'll see how that goes.
Ok, this is scary for me, I've mostly lived in the comfortable shadows of this community.
I was hunted by Chris Messina, who made it really easy for anyone to get ready and ask him to https://chrismessina.me/hunt-me. Even if you don't plan to launch on PH anytime soon, it's worth visiting.
We'll see how that goes 🤞
This post gave me the idea to submit my app on the SideProject subreddit.
I got more upvotes than I hoped for. It sparked a couple interesting conversations as well.
It felt really good to have that level of recognition, this was my first post outside of my comfort zone.
Those are ridiculously low numbers, but I haven't moved a muscle in weeks, so I have no idea what's happening, and I'm so happy that people still manage to find my app, download it, and even think it's worth unlocking the advanced features.
Also, I was stuck at 50 downloads with no reported purchases but it jumped to those figures yesterday so it was quite a surprise. I guess the iTunes trends were closed ruing the holidays or something.
I announced the release on Facebook & LinkedIn and got a couple of downloads and my first customer.
Okay, it's a friend so I'll repay him with a beer, but he's been using the app for some weeks now and it really helps him. I think that fact (which I learned later on) made me feel even more amazing than that first sale.
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:
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.
I came up with the idea a bit before that, maybe a few days. It all started with me wanting to eat less meat because of a mix of ethical and ecological reasons.
After a couple of weeks trying to be careful, I realized 3 things. First, I was eating meat at every meal, sometimes not even paying attention to it because it was in small quantities (think bacon in a quiche). Second, it was hard to keep track of my efforts: because I didn't stop entirely, I wasn't sure if how much less meat I was eating.
That last part was a bit disheartening.
I wanted to track my meatless meals and imagined the most simple way to do so: an app that would push a notification every evening and ask me "Did you eat meat today?". To which I would answer by a simple "yes" or "no". I wouldn't even have to open the app if I didn't want to (I end up opening it daily just to check my cows, but it's unnecessary…)
I didn't (and still don't) care about the quantities. I consider that I am already complacent enough by not going 100% vegan, so I decided that just one bite of meat during a meal would make it count as "with meat".
And so I started to imagine an app from there, for myself because it would be so basic.
But I have a hard time not going the extra mile, so even if it was only for myself, I got a little be crazy.
I would get asked a question every day. But someone had to ask that question, it couldn't just come out of nowhere. So I invented Naomi the cow, as in Naomi't Today. She'd be my companion.
Seeing that same notification every day would be pretty boring, so I wanted to have a random message. And because I tend to be silly and like bad puns, it would be a silly sentence or a bad pun.
There had to be some sort of history to view my progress. I was heavily influenced by the Apple Watch rings, so I created a similar-looking view for history because I enjoyed it.
And since a simple total of how much meatless meals I had logged wasn't much fun, I imagined that you would get cows for not eating meals. But then, where would they show up? On a planet of course. And I would answer "yes" or "no" to the daily question by pushing planets.
And so the first commits reflected this:
My oldest log entry is Feb 1, which is probably the day I came up with the idea. My first commit was on Feb 2, 00:20 am. Yes, I love coding during the night.
I only worked on the first 2 commits on that Feb 2 night. It was enough for my MVP running. Of course, it wasn't fancy and at the time I wasn't sure I would ever release it.
It would take me more than 2.5 years to release a public version.
2 years ago I wanted to start eating less meat. After a month or so, I realized it was really hard to measure my efforts, so I created an app for myself. It's fun & stupid but useful. So I released it.