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Preparing for a 1.0

I think I have gotten my app Bridges to the point where I want to ship it as a 1.0. I wanted to get it released before the upcoming DeepDishSwift conference I am excited to go to but that won’t be happening… Life gets in the way and it’s hard to find time. Lots of indie/solo developers encounter this and know it well. I have shifted the goal to shipping before WWDC and June 5, 2023.

A segment in one of my favorite podcasts ATP has stuck in my head thinking about this launch. In episode 528: My Favorite Slap in the Face Marco Arment and his co hosts talk about the idea of software getting worse. A listener wrote in to ask if the state of our software is worse off today than it once was. Mac fans love to call out Snow Leopard and how things just aren’t how they use to be. And while thats correct Marco answered the question in a really clever perspective. It’s at 1:57:37 he begins his point it’s worth a listen. Arment breaks down how while what we remember software to be in the past as stable it also did so much less than today. Today we expect so much from our software from our phones, tablets, and desktop computers. We expect our files to be everywhere up to date, our apps to be full featured, and everything to be one price. None of these things are news or surprising but sometimes stepping back we forget how much has changed.

He talks about iOS apps in the segment too and what users expect out of developers. Naturally as I am building my app and want it to succeed my focus sharpened. Marco talks about how users want indie developers with apps that support:

  • Cloud Sync
  • iPhone/iPad app maybe Mac app (As a same purchase)
  • Share extensions
  • Widgets (Home & Lock Screen)
  • Apple Watch App

It’s definitely a tall order but I can’t say I disagree with him. But if I look at my link formatting app Bridges its got only one of these items. In its current iteration it’s an iPhone app with a share extension. For the goal of the app to help podcasters or writers compile lists of links with a few taps I think the app has its essential functions. So is this months away from shipping as a 1.0? If I would check every box on this list yes for sure.

This segment has instead of discouraged me its encouraged me. I am really proud of myself for making the app work the way it does in its current build. It’s the idea I had in my head and I am proud of it. Every time I use Xcode or use the app on my phone I think of new things it needs. Things I never considered when first having that idea. But using a product shows you things that the idea didn’t have time to consider.

I feel encouraged because I have to remember and embrace the fact that my app is my app. I am the one writing it and I define its scope and features. I get to decide what is full featured and what is lacking. I know it’s not going to be a mainstream app that many millions use but thats okay. I want to make it for the hopefully thousands who need to solve this problem. Thats what I’m focusing on and how it can sharpen my development skills.

I look to other developers like Daniel Gauthier who makes the amazing app Up Ahead. His app is just made by him and while its got more universal appeal than Bridges even his app couldn’t check everything on that list. Daniel has taken the very smart approach and shipped a really great version for the iPhone that has gotten better over time. This is how I think it should be done. Every developer and every app has its own scope and feature set. Not every app needs to support all platforms or APIs Apple has. Or at least on a 1.0 release it’s okay to build up to more features and should be the goal for any app.

If we all needed to check every box users expect for mature apps no software would ship. It’s better for everyone if more indies ship software that is a great core idea. That is build up over time upon by user feedback and input over many months. This is the mindset I have for Bridges. I want to ship something for a manageable scope for me and iterate on it and improve it.

I want the iPhone app to fulfill its core functions. Then expand to support other things like: sync, shortcuts, widgets, and more. But I think it would be a wrong approach for me to wait and ship the 1.0 if I can’t have these features on day one. If the app catches on I am sure users will also help inform the app and bring me new ideas. I want to make an iPad app for it and I definitely want it on my Mac. But this is gonna take time and it is something I am looking forward to. I want to have an app that has a long roadmap of features and ideas. It’s been awesome having a public TestFlight for the app but I know this still is not the same as the app being on the App Store. It will be a different experience.

So right now with just a TestFlight out for Bridges I need to start work on getting a 1.0 build ready. One I can be proud of and one that I need to build on for the future. One of the hardest things I have been wrestling over is the business model.

I know the user base of the app is small and thats okay. But if I hope to earn some money from it subscriptions seem to be the best bet. Carefully considering this before release is crucial. A subscription with options for monthly/yearly purchases seems right. And I do like the option for a lifetime unlock letting users skip monthly costs if they really find the app useful.

Another part of me thinks that free with in app purchase is a good approach if I want the app to do well but not scare of users who don’t like the subscription model. I guess a part of me has been leaning this way because I feel like I have a cleaver idea for the in app purchase. Users will use the app to copy things to the clipboard and paste the results in other apps. I could let the app be free to download and have it paste with a new line of text “pasted with Bridges”. That way users can try the app and see if it’s for them and then pay to remove that if they enjoy it. These are the two leading ideas I have had for the business models and I think each have their merits. But like many developers I admire and look up to I am most excited at the prospect of shipping the app and idea I had. I know lots of Indies probably feel their identity tied to their apps and I feel the same about Bridges. I want it to be a great app and hopefully improve overtime as my skills do too.

So if you have an app you have been working on remember its your app. You are the sole person who gets to decide what that 1.0 and minimum feature set is. Because if we let our minds run wild trying to fulfill every expectation on its first run. Well maybe that first run will never happen. As some one said

“Real Artists Ship”.