Slopes Diaries is my ongoing journey to turn my indie app into a more sustainable part of my business. First time reading? Catch up on the journey so far.
What is Slopes? Think Nike+, Runkeeper, Strava, MapMyRun, etc for skiers and snowboarders.
Truth be told, I've been struggling with what to do next. "I tripled my revenue year-over-year" is a great thing to be able to say, but it's left me with a near-crippling anxiety when it comes to road-mapping what's next.
Last season's roadmap felt easy. Now I'm not so sure where to go. It isn't for a lack of ideas. Oh boy do I have ideas. Tons of 'em. But now, with a little bit of success under my belt, I feel pressure to pick the features that I think will best help me continue to grow the business. The little voice in the back of my head just keeps saying "Don't f*ck this up, Curtis."
I've always prided myself on keeping Slopes focused, only shipping the ideas I thought were truly worthwhile. I've come close to shipping a "kitchen sink" idea once or twice, but always managed to realize what I was doing before it was too late. But now I feel like my focus needs extra precision, focusing in on growth.
Sure, there were some easy and obvious features. I converted Slopes to use auto-renewing subscriptions. I added a ton of new iOS 10 features like an updated Today Widget, Hey Siri support (which got me a small feature in the App Store), watchOS 3 support, and even a fun sticker pack.
I've already started working on a web-based portal for Slopes to allow for group discounts through Stripe (great for families and groups of friends). While the conversion to auto-renew subs will help me next year when I go from 30% -> 15% revenue split with Apple, moving people to an online portal with Stripe for renewals moves me from 30% -> 3% this year.
But then what?
I could localize. Like many developers I didn't plan ahead for this. I'm pretty ready in Storyboards with my Auto Layout constraints (never forget to set that trailing constraint on labels, kids), but I need to go through the code and add
NSLocalizedString everywhere. Then I'd need to get Snapshot and some other stuff going so supporting multiple languages doesn't drown me. The payoff here is potentially huge as Europe is a large ski market (~3x North America) and I haven't seen much uptake in revenue there yet (all my "why you should buy a subscription" marketing text is English-only), but it is going to be a substantial effort which will slow me down a bit going forward.
I have ideas for a message extension. But it's one of those things that to do it "right" in my book would take a lot of effort from a data-gathering perspective.
I could focus more on a web component. Right now Slopes is all local data, but I know users would enjoy an online backup / sync (ugh) solution. Tie that into some nice pages that are sharable for each recording and I might be able to improve visibility of the app online. Maybe I could offer it for free to encourage people to sign up for an account first? Emails are a nice thing to have.
An enhanced web component would also let me add social stuff. Friend people in Slopes and it could do some cool auto-detection of the fact you skied the same place / day as them and it'll link all the data up for you.
Any kind of social component means supporting Android though. As much as I'm an iOS dev, I'm not ignorant to the fact that having an Android offering would help with growth, and would be a near-necessity of making anything social work.
I've also got to make my Slopes Pass offering look tastier. Tons of users love it, but I still get the "why is this worth $20/yr?" question. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure I'll always get that question, but I still feel like I need another kick-ass feature or two to make it really stand out as a solid offering.
Those are just the new features. I have plenty of improvements I'd like to make to existing features.
The frustrating part is all of those ideas above are likely good ones and worth implementing. These aren't insurmountable tasks, either, but for some reason they feel incredibly daunting. I feel an overwhelming need to pick the right feature to tackle next. I know there is likely no 100% "right" answer to what to do next, but it sure feels that way.
It isn't just feature-anxiety I'm feeling. Last year I was smart and re-invested some of the revenue into advertising. I'll be doing the same this year, and trying out App Store Ads. Should I increase that re-investment to bring on someone to help with engineering or to help with marketing (the business side of me is screaming "YES, IDIOT!")? But as an iOS contractor myself I know how expensive a good one can be. Maybe I outsource just the PHP side of stuff? I have some revenue to work with, but if I'm not careful I could quickly blow it all.
I'm usually a pretty decisive person. I find all this anxiety annoying.