There seem to have been a number of blog posts of late talking about how difficult it is for indie developers to make a sustainable income from their apps. The app store has evolved over the past few years, and not all of us developers have managed to find that pot of gold.
For example, I consider myself an indie developer, though I don’t try, and never have tried to make a living from my apps. Yes, it would be nice to be able to, but I’ve not managed to create any of those app store hits, and I didn’t enter this game early enough to establish my ‘brand’ before the app store became crowded.
With a few exceptions, I’ve focused my attentions on kids educational apps. It’s what I enjoy writing. I know that, even though my apps might not be runaway successes that are loved by all, they are loved by some, and that’s good enough for me. I know that my apps are used regularly by some people; maybe not a lot of people, but by some. I want my kids educational apps to be fun, and helpful; it’s what got me started when I wrote Tap Times Tables.
Early on in this adventure I discovered the Moms With Apps forums where I found other developers. I was looking for help because whilst I knew how to write an app and make it work, I had no idea on how to market it or sell it. I know a lot more now, and that is largely because I found Moms With Apps. The people there, especially the team, headed at the time by Lorraine were so helpful, and through them I discovered “AppFriday”.
“AppFriday” has been, for several years now, an opportunity for developers of kids and family friendly apps to promote their apps at a discount, or for free in attempt to gain more visibility, connect with customers, and hopefully increase sales.
What many of us have found is that AppFriday has been very successful overall, however there has always been an undercurrent of wishing we, as developers didn’t have to mark our apps down so much so that we could not make enough income from them to keep developing. For some time now I’ve tried to avoid setting my apps to free, only doing so when combining it with other promotions, or when I was basically desperate enough for a sale that going free wasn’t going to lose me anything.
Most of the times I set my apps to free, I would see a little kick, but that would only last a day or so. So whilst AppFriday was helpful, it didn’t produce any big sales numbers.
Something that a number of developers have been noticing for a while now is that the number of people turning up for AppFriday has dropped off, and that when an app is set to free, there have been some unusually large educational volume purchases. I can speak for everyone here, but in my case, I set Tap Times Tables to free on the 25th of April. Leading up to that date I was making roughly 1 or 2 educational sales each week. Since that date, I’ve had one single educational sale of Tap Times Tables in the US.
As the images show, educational sales in the US prior to setting the app to free on the 25th of April were a significant proportion of my sales. Since then however that has changed dramatically.
This observation (and I am not the only developer to make it) plus the oft mentioned race to the bottom for prices has led the AppFriday team to try something new. When AppFriday went on hiatus for the Northern Hemisphere summer break, the team sought some feedback from developers on what we wanted to do when the hiatus was over. Did we want to continue with AppFriday in it’s present format (i.e. discount or free promotion only) or did we want to try to try something new?
Well, as I just mentioned, the decision was to try something new. As of the 1st of August 2014, AppFriday has changed to a new format where the only apps that are promoted are apps that meet the guidelines shown at: http://www.appfriday.com/About
Now, instead of promoting discounted apps, we are promoting quality apps that have been Handcrafted for use by kids, that are family friendly, and safe to use. This new emphasis is an attempt to shift the focus of customers so that they will hopefully place some value on the apps that they purchase. We want people to buy our apps because they meet a need; that they are fun, friendly and helpful. Getting people to download something just because it is free or discounted heavily doesn’t encourage buyers to value the apps or what they can do for their kids.
It is also an attempt to return to the days in the app store when you had a new app and actually had a way to let people know it. When many of the developers in the Moms With Apps group began this journey, Apple provided a space in the “New and noteworthy” area of the app store. This gave customers a way to see the new apps, regardless of who published them.
The “Best New …” area in the app store these days is not actually a list of “new” at all; it’s a curated list of what is selling well. Sometimes there are new apps in there; but most of the time the apps there are not actually new. People like to see new, shiny things on the shelf; even if it’s just to take a look and consider whether they want it. This new AppFriday is our effort to give you a new way to find the new apps, and the freshly updated apps for your family and your kids.
So this Friday, when you see developers and other people on Twitter using the #appfriday hashtag, take a real look at the apps. See if there is something you need. Are your kids struggling with their Times Tables? Do they need help with spelling? Do they need a fun distraction like colouring in, or playing with concepts such as recycling, body parts, reading, etc?
And, if you do purchase an app, and you like it, don’t be afraid to pop into the App Store and post a review to let the developer know. Reviews make a big difference. Even if you don’t like something about an app, the developers would love to hear from you via email (most of us provide links to support sites).