March 25, 2015: 9/10 Developers give up
I had a conversation with an app engineer yesterday. He has worked with many start up app developers over the years. He said that almost 100% of new app developers will either stop production half way through the process or will give up on the app after it is released. He said that Invited is actually his longest sustained app to date.
The odds are against new app developers. There is just no question about it. Especially new app developers that aren’t technically educated and have to completely rely on someone else for the whole app building process.
Putting out Fires
Just yesterday, there were some pretty big issues that hurt user experience.
1). We have been working on our website OnlyInvited.com which will have a similar user experience to our mobile app. Yesterday, when we started syncing www.onlyinvited.com with the Invited app, the app took a big hit. The mobile app loading times increased 10 fold. The app almost became unusable. As soon as I found out, I immediately told our programmer to Undo the changes. Unfortunately, he had already gone home for the evening and so I had to wait until late last night to get it fixed. It was a frustrating day.
Unfortunately, the only way to resolve this issue was to erase all of the posts and comments made by all users. So, I’m sure there are some confused/upset users out there somewhere.
2). Appthink.org also had backend issues that have been frustrating but are hopefully fixed now.
3). I have two more apps in production that are coming along, although very slowly. Sometimes I think I should have stopped at Invited. Other times I get bored and keep building.
It is during these down days when I can see how easy it is to pull the plug and eat the costs that have been invested in my app and other software. Over the years, I have withdrawn and given up on many of my technology products. But, I’m getting kind of comfortable with the ups and downs of Invited and I am 100% committed to its long term success.
Here is a sneak peak of my new budget app. Yes, I am going to try to squeeze another app into the already crowded finance/budget sector. I think this app will have some things to offer that will make it worthwhile:
Update #2: Even though apple said they wouldn’t be able to expedite my update, three hours after I sent my expedited request my app was approved. No more big bugs! Still a lot of small ones to work on.
Update: I just received word from Apple that they will NOT expedite my review. So, all users are stuck with the bugs until my turn in line comes due.
March 17, 2015: Dang – Just uploaded a buggy update
After 5 waiting days, apple has approved Invited 1.0.5 and it is available for immediate download. The problem? IT IS BUGGY. And there is very little I can do about it in the short term. Here is a list of the bugs that I have noticed since it was released:
1). When a user comments on their own post – the app crashes or reverts to a different page
2). When a user replies to their own comment – the app crashes or reverts
3). When you open the app in a new network (ie from wireless to 4g) the app loads and crashes.
I plan on fixing these asap and then asking apple for an expedited review. I have heard that some expedited reviews are honored, while others take the typical 3 to 7 days.
In the meantime, I’m not too concerned about losing a whole lot of active users or receiving poor feedback because frankly, the biggest users are still my immediate family and friends.
March 16, 2015: Upgrading to Iphone 6 & 6+
We are still pending apple approval for our most recent design change. Following this, we will be working on upgrading the code to be compatible with iphone 6 and 6+. This will likely take a few weeks.
In the meantime, I am getting close to submitting my 2nd app to the itunes store. This is a much simpler product. I like how it is turning out. I think it can carve out a niche. After I release it, I will wait until I get 5000 users before I start monetizing it.
March 12, 2015: OnlyInvited.com
Most of the Functionality for www.OnlyInvited.com has been completed. We are still working on design.
Here is an interesting story of the creation and evolution of Yik Yak, a popular anonymous social media app that has become popular on college campuses. I have used it. Blah to me. I prefer private, non-anonymous interactions.
March 10, 2015: Our “like” button
Update to this post:
I just heard from the people that helped inspire the design change.
They “HAte” the new design, it’s probably worse than the old design and Invited is going to fail”
Oh well. As I’ve said all along, I’m more of a functional creator. I don’t have an eye for design. I’ll re-visit the design later when/if the app becomes more popular and when I can justify spending more money on it.
The new design (*Currently pending apple approval)
One of Invited’s unwritten bylaws is to never ever under any condition implement a “like” button. I hate that word. I hate what it has become to social media. To me it stymies conversation and encourages self image posts. (It has been pointed out to me that I have a like button at the top of Appthink.org) ;}
Social media has become social ME because of the Like button.
However, over the two months since Invited was released I have listened to the cries of the people.
They “need” a like button or similar function
I have fought the crowds long enough. Invited will soon have an “upvote” function with its new design (pending apple approval):
We are also changing “discuss this” to “thoughts?” and improving the font and look a little. This is as far as I will take the Like function. I have bent far enough.
Will Invited be available on Apple Watch?
No. Unless the watch gets really popular. Developing software for the watch is not cheap. Right now we are focused on continued improvement and development of our mobile app and soon will be launching our website that will allow users to see their groups and discuss on a computer.
I understand that without marketing, and with the number of apps in the stores, Invited may never have a chance. It just won’t be seen. There is part of me that wants to start a marketing campaign. But, the bigger part of me wants to use that money in continued improvement and development and just hope that I have a good enough product that catches on with time.
March 4, 2015: Too late to the app game
I have about a 25 minute commute to work and back. This is about the time it takes me to listen to one good podcast discussion. I have said before that my favorite podcast is Start Up. I also really like Reply All.
One podcast episode I listened to a while ago was pretty enlightening about Apps, app start ups and the history of the App store.
The episode that was informative and pretty discouraging was #28: Behind the App – Bigger than Hollywood – Link here
Out of memory these are the points that stuck with me:
1). The first couple of years after the Itunes App Store was announced, developers had a pretty even chance at getting their app noticed. The app store used to have a “new and updated” list of apps that would feature your app whenever an update was released. These things have now been done away with.
2). Even great apps may no longer be noticed.
3). It is becoming increasingly more risky and expensive to create, market and count on an app for income. Their recommendation was basically, don’t quit your job to make an app.
So, just like most steps of my life, I have caught onto the craze towards the tail end when it is more difficult to compete. There is something about my conservative nature that causes this to happen. I am glad to have a flexible enough job that allows me to create Invited and give it time to develop and grow before I think about making it a career.
Update on New App Developments
1). Our financial accountability app will be finished by the end of March;
2). I have signed a contract for database usage on a new app that we will begin soon. Our target price is $3.99 per download. More details later.
March 2, 2015: Going ‘Hipster’
So, a group of college kids got a hold of Invited. I was nervous. This is obviously a targeted crowd for any app that wants real and quick popularity. But, Invited isn’t necessarily geared towards College Social Media Exchange. I can imagine that it would be great for study groups and discussion, but as far as being used to improve one’s social life, I don’t think it is the best app for that.
Here is the feedback I received:
1). The Icon Sucks (We have changed it, see below)
Ability to search Groups
2). Users should be able to search by groups and ask to join groups (I am not changing on this. This is part of my unwritten Invited bylaws. I don’t want users to be able to search by groups or see what groups you belong to. So sorry college kids, I am not moving on this).
I can see how this will limit group sizes. Say for instance you are a student of a Philosophy 101 class and there are 500 students. Maybe the professor would like to have a class group. So, the professor puts up on the board: “please join the Philosophy 101 Invited Group.”
It would be easier if the students could just search for the group and ask to join or put a password in to join. I understand the concept.
It is not for invited. Invited is a One by One search and Invite app. This may limit group sizes and may mean that groups grow slowly.
So be it. I believe that it will increase group strength. I am not flexible on this point. Group privacy is a huge thing for me.
The Design needs to be more “Hipster”
3). Basically our design looks like a “nintendo mario game”. It is bubbly and crap. I can see their issue here. We are redesigning now.
Again, I don’t know if “hipster” is the niche route that Invited will take. But, I’m willing to try.
Android “a Mess”
4). The college groups said that the android version of Invited is a disaster and not comparable to IOS. I agreed with them and am committed to fixing this.
The most contested issue is with the discussion upvote process. Some college age adults LOVE that the upvoted comments rise to the top of the discussion page. Some college age adults HATE that the upvoted comments rise to the top of the discussion page.
Me? I love it. I agree that it takes getting used to. At first, the comments may seem that they get moved out of order. However, once a user learns Invited and how to properly reply to comments, it becomes intuitive and great.
Upvoting comments creates an atmosphere where users care about what they say. Comments become more thoughtful, witty and relevant.
February 23, 2015: New Icon
Most people hate the Invited Icon. What do they hate about it? It sucks. So, a college designer sent me a free icon that she created. Looks fine to me. It should be live on the mobile app stores within 2 weeks: The problem is now I have to remember everywhere I put the old one (Facebook, twitter, appthink.org, etc) and swap it.
February 18, 2015: Invited for Android
Invited was approved by the Google Play Store and is ready for download for Android:
By Levi: February 18, 2015
February 17, 2015: Creating a Google Play Feature Graphic
We are preparing to upload to the google app store for Android. I think it will be done by tomorrow. One of the non-optional requirements is to upload a “feature graphic”. This is basically an after thought for me. 1). I don’t have a design eye; 2). The odds of us getting Invited as a featured app on google is pretty much 0. But, in order to upload the app, we have to design the graphic. So here it is:
By Levi: February 17, 2015
February 6, 2015: Sucky Social Media
In an effort to increase the visibility of the Invited app, I am beginning a blog campaign. The goal is the slowly increase the likelihood that someone will find and download the Invited app by using an organic search.
I have done similar campaigns before for different blogs. There are advantages and disadvantages. The positive is that it is free. I’m generally making my own content (except for one blog article written below by my 12 year old niece). The disadvantages are that it is very slow exposure (it may take google months or years to move these articles up high enough to even matter) and it takes a lot of time and effort to blog.
Here are a few of our recent blog posts:
By Julia: February 6, 2015
By Levi: February 2, 2015
By Levi: February 2, 2015
February 2, 2015: Design Changes
The one consistent complaint that I receive is about Registration and Signing In. New users are having a difficult time trying to figure out how to sign up. It is just not intuitive enough. And I agree with them. Our login page design is stupidly confusing. Here:
There are triangles, words everywhere and it is too confusing. If you are a new user and want to sign in with Email you would click on the Email triangle at the bottom. If you want to sign in with Facebook/Twitter, you would click either of those.
So, we are simplifying the login page design, removing the triangles and adding a sign up button. What I like about our login concept is that it is all done on one page. You can enter your sign in credentials on the same page that you see when you enter the app. I think some apps are getting way out of control with the many pages the user has to scroll through before they can sign in.
This new design will be implemented with 1.0.3 hopefully by the end of the week.
New Tab Buttons:
I have also made changes to bottom row tabs. This is what the tab bar will look like with the new update:
Any Real Growth Recently?
No, not really.
January 26, 2015: One Month – Not Viral
This week will mark one month since Invited was released. Has it gone viral? Ha. No. In a way, I am glad because there are so many things to do before I am satisfied with the quality of the app. There are so many issues that come up. Here are a couple recent issues that we have been dealing with:
1). Problems with Creating a New Group
I was informed today that when a new user was trying to create a new group, they couldn’t do it. I had them run me through what the problem was. It took me a few tries to realize that the apostrophe ‘ was causing the problem. Special characters (&, $, “, ‘, ) cause problems unless you adjust the backend settings.
So, when a user was typing an apostrophe into the create a group text box:
They would get this error box:
I don’t know how many users have tried to create a group, have used a special character, have gotten frustrated and deleted the app, but I’m sure more than one. We will fix this issue.
Iphone 6 Compatibility
We started building Invited at the end of Spring 2014, well before the Iphone 6 announcement. So, we made it compatible with Iphone 5. There are MANY issues that we are working on to create a better user experience with an iphone 6. One of the major issues is Image Quality and Upload experience:
Say for example you want to upload a photo of your kids mini motorcycle:
We are working on fixing this. One delay is that my co-developer in INDIA doesn’t have an Iphone yet. Ha. This is bad. We are working on getting him one.
Apple has approved our 2nd update. This update is kind of cool. It allows the user to “Upvote” reply comments and the user to see who has upvoted their comments.
January 22, 2015: Money Question Again
Why do I make apps? I must hear that question once a day and that is a lot for a guy that hardly talks to anyone.
Do I do it for Money$$$?
You see that is a difficult question to answer. If I say:
“yes, I believe that my apps will be profitable soon, I hope to quit my job and make a good living creating apps”
than people think I am 1). weird, 2). hate my current job, 3). am an overly optimistic wannabe entrepreneur and they start questioning my sanity. If I say:
“It is purely a hobby”
Than people think I am wasting my time and money.
The honest truth is that the answer fits somewhere in between. I absolutely love dreaming up apps and creating them. It gives me early morning, late night and lunchtime purpose. It fits the empty OCD gaps in my brain. The truth is:
I would never create an app that I didn’t plan on using
I cannot create based on what someone else may like or use. I have to create what I will use and then hope that there are enough people like me to make money on it.
The best compliment that I have received on invited is from my Mom (who hates most entrepreneurial things): She said simply:
I Love This App – From Mom
Frankly, I feel satisfied with the success of Invited. My family and extended family use it everyday, far more now than Instagram and Facebook. It is a simple way to have great discussion.
We have good, lively, entertaining conversations, thoughts and life sharing. My niece set up a group called “professional Photographs”. I asked to join (and she sent me an invitation), just so I could peak in on what was happening in this group:
She posted this
I posted this:
Update on the New App?
I am excited for my new app also. It will be used everyday between me and my wife. Our designer has started the process. I will be using the same money guy that I use on appthink.org (because I already purchased the graphic and wanted to save money)
January 14, 2015: Second app progress
I have completed the wireframes and started the design process on my second app. I underestimated the amount of time I would still be putting into INVITED. Invited will still be and will probably always be my #1 priority. But my mind went into creation mode again and I couldn’t suppress it.
This next app will be A WHOLE LOT SIMPLER. It is in the Finance/Budget sector and will be a simple way for couples to monitor spending and track their monthly budgets. I have tried many budget apps. There hasn’t been anything that I have stuck with. So, I’ll build my own.
January 12, 2015: Sustainable, long term growth
Along with the never ending technical glitches and questions, most of the conversations I have with interested people are regarding marketing, growth and when Invited will “go viral”. My canned response is it is not going to go viral, I hope it grows and Most Apps Fail.
The thing with the Invited app is that it fosters online relationships and communities. It is not a fad app or game app that will rise and fall with the waves of popularity.
I have enjoyed my time on Invited. I really believe that even if it wasn’t my app, it would be the first one that I check and the one that I check most often during the day. Unlike Instagram, I have selected the people that I want to share with in my group. I feel comfortable here and I enjoy it.
I read this Yahoo article about the Kim Kardashian app today. It has been wildly popular in the mobile gaming app stores. I have never played it, but I have followed it to see where it would end up. They have talked about it being worth $200 million or more.
Catch the Vision
If people will slowly catch the vision of Invited, I do think it has potential of becoming a household name app. It will never be Instagram and it will never be facebook. But it is a nice way to discuss relevant issues within a private group setting where you feel comfortable. Find a group of friends that you feel you have common interests with. Start a discussion and see where it goes.
January 9, 2015: Android coming soon…
Invited 1.0.1 took less than 24 hours to be reviewed by apple and approved. It is a pretty big step up from Invited 1.0. A lot less glitchy and some better functions. It will only approve from here. Our list for 1.0.2 is about 50 things. The biggest thing is the Push notifications. We still didn’t get those to work with 1.0.1.
No Money/Time for Marketing
People ask me what I plan to do to market Invited. I hope it markets itself. I don’t have time or money in the budget to spend on marketing. I know it will be a slow growth, but I remain sold that if I work on technical improvements and user experience, it will grow on its own. I don’t want to over market the user experience.
We will hopefully be ready to release the Android version by the end of January.
Positive Experience so Far
I wish people would spend 2 weeks testing out Invited with their family or group of friends/book club, study group, church group, etc. They will find that it is beautifully private, pretty intuitive and highly addicting. Our family has thoroughly enjoyed it. I have 3 brothers that would definitely tell me if they hated it.
Later this week I will discuss the updates that we are working on for 1.0.2….
January 5, 2015: Much to Do
I knew that as soon as the app was approved, my life would get busier. And it has. The problem is trying to fit the extra busy into an already busy schedule. There have been many well meaning inquiries and advice texts/emails/phone calls/conversations.
Here is a list of some of the BIGGEST complaints so far (there are many more than this):
1). How do I register? My three icons (facebook, twitter, email) were not intuitive enough for some users. So, for 1.1 we have added the three words “Register below with”
2). Crash with Upload: Users with a slow network connection or lapse in connectivity would get the never ending Loading circle. Even when they disabled the app and came back, it would be loading loading loading. We fixed this with 1.1. Now when the user gets a fail response, the app will stop loading. I hope.
3). Goodbye VIDEO – for now: We have not been able to improve our video experience well enough to have it work properly. There are frontend, backend, database issues that we are still working on. So for 1.1 we have removed video. Will this hurt the user experience? I don’t know. I rarely post videos, but some people might. We will continue working this video issue until we are satisfied that it should be implemented again.
4). Upgrades – Push Notifications and Group Alert
Along with fixes, there are a couple of upgrades to 1.1. First of all, we have implemented push notifications for the following events: User receives an invitation; User replies to your comment; User comments on your post.
Also, we have implemented a “Group Alert” function. When you share a thought with your group and you want to alert them to it, you can check mark this box and all of the users in your group will receive an alert by push notification:
5). Here are more issues we have resolved in 1.1
– Sentence sometimes cut off in discussion page
– The stop character count over image caption was not functioning
– Landscape images were not cropping properly (still working on image quality)
– Quotations in the caption were causing crash problems
– Numerous Crash occurrences
This is a short list. There are many more on our Trello.com board that we have fixed.
6). When will 1.1 be released?
We uploaded INVITED 1.1 to the app store this morning. Hopefully by the end of the week, it is approved. At least for the near future, we plan on uploading a new update to the app store once per week.