As an indie app developer you are faced with many challenges both external and internal. You feel like David vs Goliath, ready to throw yourself at these challenges and beat the big apps.
The truth is that your biggest foe is yourself. When we were starting our first app, Cloud Photos, we started with a core problem. It was a problem we had, that our photos were taking up too much space on our phones. We became fixated on the problem, and it evolved to a vision of an app that would free up that space on your phone and sync your photos to the cloud.
Cloud Photos faced many internal problems, namely; we couldn’t design worth a damn and we didn’t know how to get people to find the app. Through lots of long nights, hiring the right support and tenacity with marketing we met these challenges. We faced external challenges, such as the Dropbox app implementing our features.
We knew the right questions to ask and the right features to add because we were solving a problem for ourselves. Our users found Cloud Photos, because they had the same problem we did and the app reflected this vision.
Our next project Jukeboxer seemed to have more going for it, we were more experienced, we had a bigger team and we had awesome designers. But it had a fatal flaw. Our original vision was a way to share and experience music with a group of friends, a Jukebox. We tried to purchase music rights to deliver on this vision, but being indie app developers with no funding and music licensing being VERY expensive we had to change directions. But instead of moving onto another vision, we tried to shoehorn the concept into another type of app.
We created a music game where you were the Jukebox for your friends, singing and guessing the latest pop songs. However, we weren’t singers ourselves and we didn’t realize that although it was fun, the game could only be played for a few weeks before getting old. As we weren't the target user, we had to just make a guess on the right experience for these users.
There was no way to test our app quickly to see what a better experience would look like for these users. We created an app that didn’t solve a problem for us, that didn't have an overriding vision and we had no way to arrive at a pleasurable experience for our users. In the long-run Jukeboxer never found its audience and didn’t catch on.
By closely standing by the core vision of your app you give yourself the best insights into what the optimal experience is for your users. You can ask the right questions and then test and improve the right experiences within your app using a platform like Taplytics. Stray from your original vision and you get lost in the weeds, unable find the path to a great app. As an indie app developer, you are your own worst enemy.