Monthly Archives: April 2014

Google Play No Longer Loves Indie Developers

Both the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store were built on the backs of independent developers.  The platform was wonderful!  People could easily find exactly the apps they were looking for, and developers could finally reach out to niche markets.  The pay for developers was reasonable, and the cost for users was much cheaper than traditional software.  Life was great.

But not anymore.  Let me share a couple experiences…

unnamedOver two years ago I released my second app to the Play Store, Funny Voice Changer.  My first app, Palette Painter, had a really slow launch, after all it only supported Android 3.0 on launch day which had less than 1% of the market (though it supports 2.2+ now, and is still going strong).  I expected the same slow response with Funny Voice Changer, so I clicked Publish and went on vacation.  Boy was I wrong.

Funny Voice Changer exploded overnight.  It was getting thousands of downloads a day.  In fact, it was too many.  I wasn’t ready for the barrage of ratings, the bugs it encountered, and the emotional roller coaster that ensued.  I gave up on the app after just a couple of months, something I have regretted ever since.

unnamed1I have since learned about the importance of iteration, and finally decided to fix those two apps, and remove that regret from my shoulders.  Yesterday, I finally released the refreshed versions, Funny Voice Changer 2.0 and Scary Voice Changer 2.0.

So how is the launch going so far?  Try a little experiment for me, go to the play store and search for Funny Voice Changer or better yet, use the name exactly Funny Voice Changer 2.0.  Do you see it?  If you don’t, that’s because it is ranked #124 for the first, and #88 for the second.  That’s right you can’t even find your own apps by name anymore.  Note: You will see my Voice Changers from 2.5 years ago in the 1st and 4th places.  You won’t find my new voice changers.

You can’t even find your own apps by name anymore.

Perhaps this is a one time thing?  (Well two technically, since there are two voice changers)  But the same thing happened to me just a couple weeks ago.  I released a fun Hidden Animals game.  My son loves it, and I’m certain other kids would as well.  But the day of the launch I couldn’t find it.  Even searching by the exact name it didn’t show up at all, not in any page, in any search I tried.  I have since tweaked the name and description a bit and have gotten it to show up at about the same 100th place on the search, but not exactly a searchable spot.

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So how are they ranking apps via search?  Nobody knows.  Which is probably for the best, otherwise people would game the system.  It is obvious that the title and description don’t help as much as they once did.  So perhaps there is a variety of good reasons they’ve done so, right?  After all,the goal is to provide people with the best apps possible.  So what factors could they be using to rank apps?

Here are a few ideas along with some comments:

– Ratings.  This actually seems like a fairly reasonable way to organize apps.  But I have my doubts that it actually has much of an effect.  After all my previous Funny Voice Changer is ranked #1 and it has a miserable 3.3 star rating.  But worse, even some 1-star apps are showing up higher than my new apps, and these are apps that people obviously don’t want.

Screen Shot 2014-04-25 at 11.28.46 AM

– True intent.  A user types in “Funny Voice Changer”, but is really interested in any voice recorder out there.  This has a grain of salt to it, we don’t always know exactly what we are looking for.  Though I believe people are generally pretty good at it… but if they are looking for a funny voice changer it doesn’t make much sense to show a face changer.  That having been said, there are a *lot* of voice changers, so I do applaud Google for trying to parse it into something reasonable (assuming the results are reasonable).

– Number downloads.  Once again it makes sense that if an app is downloaded a lot it must be loved.  Though I do argue this should be weighted by how well people *liked* the app after they downloaded it.  For instance, even though this app has 100,000 – 500,000 downloads, something tells me that if you download it, you won’t like it.  This method of course helps either apps that have been in the store for a long time (regardless of worth), and developers with large pockets who can advertise to get a lot of downloads quickly.

Screen Shot 2014-04-25 at 11.27.47 AM

– App awesomeness.  I think this is a great metric, but how do you calculate this?  The only way I can think would be how pleasing the screenshots, title, description, ect are.  I would love to believe that they’re doing crunching on these to calculate an awesome score, but seeing apps like this and this make me believe they aren’t.

– App life – I’ve heard some people say that uninstalls have a huge impact on your ranking.  That makes a fair bit of sense, and I hope it is something they are doing.  On the other side of things, not all lifecycles are the same.  While some apps like Facebook you may keep on for the long haul, there are apps that may be perfect for an occasion.  Mine are great for sleepovers, others are great for weddings, and others for travel.  But you still should be able to find those apps if you’re in the moment.

– External links/Google magic.  This seems the most reasonable idea.  But it also tends to benefit those with large pockets.  Do you want lots of reviews of your app?  Do you want press releases?  Then open up your checkbook, because nothing is free.  And that’s assuming  your SEO efforts even pay off, it is very likely they won’t.

I don’t know how their ranking algorithm works.  But it is clear to me that as an indie developer it is no longer worth it to invest my time into building creative apps for the Play Store.

I’d love to hear your experiences on deploying to the store.  Has it been the same for you?

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Google NEXT

For the past 5 weeks I’ve had an amazing opportunity to be a part of the NEXT program in Provo.  It has been an amazing experience, and I am very grateful for all the mentorship shared with us.

So what is NEXT?  NEXT is a program for entrepreneurs to help them validate their idea.  To prevent spending tons of time and effort building a product that nobody will ever use.  The biggest thing I learned from the program was to Fail Fast.  

The principle if very simple: the quicker (and cheaper) you can validate an idea, the quicker you can move on to the next idea.  If you can do that before you fall in love with the idea, then you’ll be able to pivot over and over again.   Soon you’ll refine your idea into an idea that people are banging down your door to get their hands on.  Of course that is easier said than done, and the 5-week class was there to teach us how.

As a developer, I spend way too much time in the underbelly of an idea.  I want to see how hard it is, how fun it is, how interesting it is.  And by the time I start showing people I’m well past the point of no return, the idea has become my baby long before it is ever validated.

And of course idea after idea I’ve had a very silly approach to building them.  I outlined this faulty approach in my presentation as follows:

Screen Shot 2014-04-17 at 10.31.32 PM

 

Essentially it boiled down to:

1) Come up with an idea I liked…
2) Work my tail off to see it come together…
3) Release, and scratch my head at the results.

So how well as this worked out for me?  Well of the apps I’ve worked on they currently fit into one of the following categories:

Successful:full_res_logo_dropicon

Successful (but did not reach full potential):vocode_icon_512icon_512

Unsuccessful: icon app_icon_512  icon

Unreleased (or TBD): app_icon3  app_icon  app_icon

Needless to say, that is a terrible business plan.  Never knowing what will work before launch, and never completely knowing why the successful ones are.  The good news, I started doing these apps for fun, so the loss isn’t a big one.  I’ve enjoyed working on each and every one, and am actually very proud of them (even the non-successful ones).  That having been said, there is nothing worse than working on something really hard, loving the project dearly, and then releasing it to the applause of nothing but crickets.

For my future projects I plan to follow the lean startup ideal, and Fail Fast.  Thanks NEXT for all the advice!

 

 

Spot! Animals Released

I just recently launched the perfect game for kids and toddlers.  It is a hidden objects game like Where’s Waldo or Eye Spy.  It is a 100% free for a limited time.  Below are more details about the game.  Check it out, and let me know what you think.

iOS: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/hidden-objects-spot!-animals/id859258283?ls=1&mt=8
Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.givewaygames.spot

Screenshot 2014.04.09 09.21.18Search for animals and hidden objects and this perfect game for kids and toddlers.  Match the cards along the bottom with the animals in the scene as you explore these beautiful landscapes with hidden animals.  Search in the zoo, prairie, ocean, and more to earn stickers.  With over 400 animals and items  to find in 10 beautiful levels your kids will enjoy playing Spot! Animals over and over again.

Even toddlers can play with a mode that doesn’t require any matching at all.  Tap any of the animals and be rewarded with a splash of color and sound.  My son loved it, and was the perfect little beta tester to make sure they game is perfect for toddlers, I’m sure your kids will love it too.

Screenshot 2014.04.09 09.21.30

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7vI-tA0Py0

Where the wild things are

Where_The_Wild_Things_Are_(book)_coverAs part of #ChildrensBookDay I thought I’d write about one of my favorite books growing up.  This book is none other than Where the Wild Things Are.  But to be completely honest, it wasn’t so much the book I loved as the experience.  But to truly understand you have to know my Dad.

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I was lucky to have a really amazing Dad growing up.  He cared deeply about us kids, and our education, and spent plenty of time teaching and playing.  We had a family motto: “Work hard.  Play hard.”  And we did a healthy amount of both.  But anyone that truly knows my dad also knows he is super clever and extremely hilarious (as long as his funnies don’t go way over your head, which they often do).

This was no different as a child.  We had story time every night for long hours at a time.  Like any good storyteller he did the right voices, perfect intonations, and of course an energy that really helped us to engage in the story.  And Where the Wild Things Are was one of the best.  Right in the middle of the book are three amazing pages.  No words.  Pure party.  The Wild Rumpus, of course.

where-wild-things-are-rumpus rosenbach-sendak-wwta-rumpus_300dpi_ WildThings1

Every night we would conduct our own wild rumpus, and I never wanted to the last rumpus page to turn.  I hold that tradition with Logan still.  When we read Where the Wild Things Are we hold a wild rumpus that Grandpa would be proud of.  We party all around the house, and Logan loves it dearly.  While my memory fails me, something deep inside of me tells me we throw down many of the same dance moves my dad and I did nearly 3 decades ago.

Thanks Dad for reading to me as a kid.  My love for books is in large part thanks to you.  And I’m doing my best to impart that same love to Logan, which is succeeding all too well.  He is already bartering hugs for books.  “One book, big hug”, he says, a request that is nearly impossible to deny.

(And thanks mom, you taught me to love books too.  Although I sometimes think you gave me the, life-stops-because-I-can’t-put-a-good-book-down gene.)

Kickstarter is Live

After lots of work I am proud to finally announce that my Kickstarter has gone live.  I’ve been super impressed and grateful by the amount of support I’ve received so far.  Please help the good vibes keep rolling by sharing in any way possible.

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As the project goes on, I’ll be sure to bring updates and information about the process.  So check back soon for lots of news and goodies, but in the meantime go back the project!

Goodnight Lad Kickstarter