Anti-rant

Written by David Frampton @ 3:52 am, January 24, 2011

My last post stirred up a bit of controversy, and though there were many nice comments, there were also those who thought that after ‘making 100k’ in a week I shouldn’t dare to complain about nasty emails.

I totally disagree with that. Just because someone is successful doesn’t mean they lose the right to speak out about the bad things that come with that success. Such a point of view is foolish, and often shows that such people are allowing envy and hatred to cloud their minds. I wouldn’t be surprised if these people are the exact same who I was targeting in the post. Outraged at being called out for being mindless thugs, they did what they know best.

ANYWAY. There was some truth in such comments. The post was not adequately balanced. It was, as I titled it, a rant.

I could go on and on about all the wonderful things that have gone right for me, and my apps. This would make boring reading, so I won’t.

But I do feel the need to give a little perspective. Chopper and Chopper 2 have done amazingly well, and I am blown away on a daily basis by the incredible things that happen to me and my apps. From the fan comments to Apple’s feature spots to just seeing the ranks and sales reports. I am very, very grateful and feel insanely lucky to be where I am.

Less than a decade ago I was selling paint in a retail outlet 9-5, Monday to Friday and getting paid about $10 an hour. I did this for 2 years, before it finally did my head in and I quit to go on the unemployment benefit.

During the next couple of years I managed to survive as an artist, where I occasionally only ate porridge or lentils for days due to a lack of money to eat properly. I also taught myself to program, which really was what put me on the path to where I am today.

I won’t go in to my whole life story, but that part of it perhaps helps to offer a bit of perspective.

There is absolutely no doubt that I have got from there to where I am thanks to a lot of hard work over the past decade, but also a lot of kind, generous, and helpful people, and a shit load of luck.

I didn’t make 100k in a week, I made it in years of hard work. But that doesn’t stop me from being hugely grateful for my privileged situation.

Though comments from idiots can make me angry enough to type up a rant, deep down I’m the happiest guy in the world.









Rant

Written by David Frampton @ 1:49 am, January 18, 2011

Chopper 2 launched on the Mac App Store on the 6th of Jan, at 99c, and as the #2 paid app. In the first week it sold over 100,000 copies at 99c, and continues to sell well (currently at #5). Keeping an eye on tweets about it, and listening to feedback, it has overall been well received.

It has made enough money to make the port, and even the resulting support headache worthwhile.

But I am angry. I’m angry at a small percentage of customers who actively work towards harming its success. I’m angry at the customers who send me nasty emails or reviews, threatening me with ‘telling Apple to remove it’ or rating it 1 star with a ’should be cheaper than free’ remark because after paying the ridiculously exorbitant 99c, they found it didn’t live up to expectations. The absolute worst is users who condescendingly ‘try to help’ by outlining every little thing they think is wrong with it.

I’m not sure if it’s that Mac users have more time on their hands to bitch to developers and leave nasty reviews, whether they expect more than iOS users, or if something else is at play, but I have clearly scraped the bottom of the barrel by having such high visibility at such a low price at launch. And I don’t like what I’ve found there.

It has changed me.

Once upon a time I looked forward to support emails. They gave me an opportunity to improve the product, and find out what my users think.

But no longer. I am now incredibly cautious of engaging my customers. Paying too much attention to support trolls has ended up costing me huge amounts of time and always ultimately proved pointless. These people don’t care about Chopper, they don’t care about me, they just want to vent and be noticed. And I no longer have any time for them.

The majority of support emails and reviews have been from nice people who genuinely want to help, but they are overshadowed by 10-20% that aren’t. The anger, the sense of entitlement, and the overriding theme that I owe them something for daring to take up any of their time is sickening. It makes me angry at the world.

What really makes it difficult for me is that I put my heart and soul into this game. I’m not just the support guy. I’m the guy who spent 16 months creating the thing. I take this reckless disregard for my hard work and care personally, and always will. I totally feel like I have worked my ass off to create something for people to enjoy, only to have it thrown back in my face.

These emails have a very real affect on my motivation levels. I have not had the motivation to even fix many of the issues that are causing some of the emails/reviews. I really have a sense that it is me vs. them. If they are going to be such cocks about it, why should I even bother. I can see now why many companies provide rubbish support, and have a ‘give us your money then piss off’ attitude. They have no doubt learned the hard way how soul destroying taking pride in your products can be.

I now have my brother helping me with support, and he has taken over the majority of the load. This is helping quite a bit, though I still find myself reading App Store reviews and the emails as they come in, as any good developer would. It’s still very hard to watch, and will continue to be as long as the thoughtless, negative comments keep rolling in.

In the mean time, I’ll keep going. I’ve left two previous jobs/careers in part because I was fed up with the customers therein, but have somehow managed to land myself in the thick of it once again. Hopefully things will improve over time, or I’ll develop a thicker skin.

I knew I was taking exactly this risk when pricing it at 99c on launch, especially with the remote feature which was always going to fail for some people due to obscure network/firewall issues. Over time hopefully improvements to the apps will help, and I’m itching to put the price up so I can get a better caliber of customers, but I still have to finish the free remote app first.

Thanks for putting up with my rant. Don’t worry, I’m not jumping ship just yet.

UPDATE – A follow up post adding some needed perspective is here.









App pricing strategy

Written by David Frampton @ 6:14 am, January 5, 2011

I’ve read a lot of opinions on how to price apps from iOS and Mac developers over the past few years that make me cringe. Particularly lately with the Mac App Store launching, many developers have really struggled with how to price their apps, and some are making the wrong choices.

I’ve seen developers state that they will charge 1.4x their shareware price, to make up for Apple’s 30% cut. I’ve seen developers say that they will price based on the time spent, or the complexity of the app. Others have said they will price it at what they ‘feel it is worth’ or what they think customers should pay.

All of these ideas are wrong.

For any given time period there is a single price point that will make the most money. There is also a single price point that will get the most downloads. And neither of these can be figured out by any of the above reasoning. In fact they can’t be figured out at all, it’s a best guess situation. But that best guess can be a hell of a lot better than ‘add 40% to the shareware price’.

The first thing a developer should do when pricing an app is to decide on what their goal is. Whether they want to make the most money, or grow the largest customer base, or probably somewhere in-between.1

The ideal price point for any app is going to be somewhere between the ‘most money’ price and the ‘most customers’ price, dependent on how important a large customer base is. It could even lie higher than the ‘most money’ point, to drive customers to another product. The ‘most customers’ price is easy. Without the developer actually giving money to the customer, that price is free. The ‘most money’ price is the tricky bit. This price is something of a bell curve, it is unique to every app, and varies continuously.

To clarify this ‘most money’ price point concept, at 99c, developers are selling their apps at the cheapest price possible to make money – without going freemium which I’ll ignore here for simplicity. Most apps will make less money here than at higher prices most of the time. Despite what you might read, 99c is not the average ‘most money’ price point. At $1.99 you might expect 75 downloads if you were getting 100 at 99c. To continue pulling numbers out of the air, at $2.99 you might get 40 and at $4.99 you might get 10. This is basic economics, and in this particular case means the ‘most money’ price point is $1.99.

I won’t go into exactly where this price lies for any given app. It requires experimentation, and research into the potential customer base and competition. It is also heavily influenced by the app type, any current marketing pushes, and many other external forces.

What is really important here, and really what is the entire point of this post, is that this elusive price point that makes the most money bears no relation to so many of the pricing strategies I have seen. The amount of time the developer has spent, other development costs, Apple’s percentage cut, emotional investment, or ideological concerns do not in any way affect the price point at which an app will make the most money.

Developers will continue to price higher because they think app store prices should be higher, or because they spent 6 months on the damn thing so it is worth $20, but these developers are leaving money on the table. Whether they are actually achieving anything or proving anything by doing so is up for debate, but they are certainly not making the most money they could out of their work.

Price is hugely influential in whether a customer buys an app or not, and is one of the most powerful tools that developers have to position their apps and drive sales. It is incredibly important to get right. Throwing away that opportunity by carelessly pricing on emotional grounds is a huge waste, and can be the difference between a failure and a huge success.


  1. Developers also have to decide how generous (or not) they are going to be. In general there can be more money to be made short term by being evil, but this will eat away at future potential, as customers remember the way they were treated. When Chopper 2 reached the #10 app at $2.99 there was a huge temptation to drop to 99c, get higher in the charts and stay there longer. But I didn’t, as this would piss off everyone who had paid $2.99 already at the ‘launch sale’ price. It probably cost me financially in the short term, but it didn’t destroy my customers’ trust.


Update: You may also be interested in this post by @MarkusN http://pocketcyclone.com/2011/01/04/mac-app-store-sneak-peak

It describes the pricing strategies and expectations for the Mac App Store launch of myself and other similar minded developers.