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· Tim Riley

Decaf Sucks Launch Countdown: A Restrospective

As everyone at the lab winds down for Christmas, I’m taking a moment to wrap up my series of articles about the development and launch of Decaf Sucks for iPhone. When you last heard from me, I was rather ebulliently announcing our availability in the App Store. Since then, enough time has passed that we can take a good look at how we went.

How did we go?

We’ll let the numbers speak for themselves:

  • The app has been out for 115 days
  • It’s had 3,065 downloads, at an average of 27 per day
  • 2,801 of these downloads have been in Australia, followed by the USA, with 158 downloads (clearly we have promotional some work to do)
  • We have an App Store rating of 4.5 stars
  • We’re featured in the “Made in Australia” section of the App Store
  • And we’re on Shawn Blanc’s iPhone

Most importantly, the app helped to make Decaf Sucks a better service for coffee lovers everywhere. Here’s a chart to prove it!

Decaf Sucks growth chart with app release

This is the history of submitted reviews dating back to the site’s launch in August 2009. The red line represents the number of reviews contributed each week, with the blue area showing the cumulative number of reviews in total. The release of Decaf Sucks for iPhone not only brought best day of reviews ever, but kicked off a new positive trend:

  • In the 115 days before we released the app, we received 392 reviews
  • In that same period after the release of the app, we received 1,068 reviews
  • That’s an average of 9.4 per day versus 3.4 per day previously
  • Of all the recently reviews, exactly half have come from the app
  • Since the app was released, we’ve flown past the milestone of 2,000 reviews. We’re currently sitting on a total of 2,683. And as you can see, they’re coming in thick and fast!

What did we learn?

We’re very happy with how everything has turned out so far. It’s made Decaf Sucks a better place, given us a first major foray into iOS development and another experience at shipping a significant internally-developed product. This was a big learning experience for us all.

The public deadline

With our own projects, we’ve often found that we can be our own worst clients. We can be too easy on ourselves when it comes to shipping, especially when we have competing demands from other client projects. While I believe we would have shipped this app eventually, without the motivation of Swipe Conference and the associated public deadline that I announced, I don’t think we would have done it so soon.

While such a trick wouldn’t work in every situation, it certainly was invaluable for us in this one.

The long sprint

The longer a project runs and the closer it approaches the release, the more immersed I become in it. The project becomes the top idea in my mind, where there is accreted a great mass of context: quickly and easily accessible working knowledge about what is done, what is left, and how everything should fit together. It’s important to make the most of this state, because as soon as you swap out that context for something else, resuming work on that project becomes a lot harder.

What does making the most of it mean in this case? It means taking the time to complete your features properly. Of course your code can’t be perfect, but you can at least ensure the user experience is. This is especially important for iOS apps, because the notion of the minimum viable product is very different on the App Store than the web.

Sacrifice scope, not quality

Sure, the App Store has plenty of shoddy apps, but we’re not looking to be one of them. We’re looking to be up there with the best, and the best apps provide beautiful and polished user experiences. Getting out a minimum viable product for the App Store is not about satisfying a list of features. It is about building something that is both useful and delightful.

So when it comes close to your deadline, you should be actively reducing your scope in order to maximise the time you can spend on polishing the features you already have.

Thanks

Decaf Sucks for iPhone has actually been an amazingly stable 1.0. We’ve had no major issues since the release. Thanks very much to all the Decaf Sucks users and contributors who have downloaded the app and supported the service!