Deal with the world as it is, not how you’d like it to be. – Jack Welch
About a year ago I screwed up big time. I worked on a single Android app for about 4 months. I then put it online and realised no-one actually wanted to use it.
I spent 95% of my time on development and only 5% on marketing. I wasted 4 months of my life.
This happened after I read the Lean Startup and after I read all of Paul Graham’s essays. That’s how easy it is to fall into this trap.
I ignored what the world wanted and built my own stuff. I felt like I was making a lot of progress. There was an end goal and a big pile of work to be done.
Looking for ideas, validating them and talking to people feels like a waste of time. It’s “not real work”.
Unfortunately the feeling of progress and making actual progress are not always correlated. You can make a lot of progress in the wrong direction, which brings you even further from your goal than your starting point.
With HabitBull, we got lucky. We got featured on a big website which brought us an initial influx of users.
Then, after we got some traction, we asked people to send us an email with 1 thing they liked about the app, 1 thing they didn’t like and one feature we could add.
This did not work. We didn’t receive a single email. People are not generous with their time.
So what did we do? We simply forced people to send us feedback. We limited the free version to 5 habits, and if they wanted to add more they had to “pay us” with a feedback email.
We got thousands of emails that way, which allowed us to iterate quickly.
For several weeks after that, our process looked like this:
- read emails in the morning
- categorise the feedback
- implement the most requested features during the day
- launch new version of the app in the evening
We did this until the feedback became too scattered to be actionable. The first few weeks we always saw a clear pattern. Usually at least 10-15 people requested the same thing.
During that period, feedback was way more valuable than money. It allowed us to make a great product that people actually wanted to use. It allowed us to quickly spot and fix problems in the UI/UX.