- Don't Anger Your Users

    Today I am launching the product , the goal of which is to enable mobile application developers to be always aware of the problems of their users, and the last to be happy because they were heard. In short, it's Getsatisfaction & UserVoice , but for mobile apps and private communities.
    And I would like to share (not) a lot with you, how I created a product alone on a bare bootstrap. I would also like to discuss the topic of such systems, and most importantly - to find among you my first, most difficult, most moody, but most beloved customers! Free and without SMS.


    Before moving directly to the product, I would like to tell you a little what was behind it.
    My name is Roman Nikitin ( facebook , twitter ) and I, like most of you, are a geek, techie, programmer (mainly C #, and a fan of good science fiction.
    A couple of years ago, I ran into a thing called "startups" and from programmers I was immediately elevated to the rank of technical director with the functions of Team Lead, PM, Scrum Master, all-rounder and with all the ensuing problems and consequences.
    We then worked on the ePythia project (this is such a contextual scheduler that takes into account your location for tasks) and went through at least 7 circles of hell. But today is not about that.

    In working on the project, we tried to use techniques fromLean Startup and Customer Development , which led us to think that we need a good feedback channel with users, and most importantly - “mobile”, since the main product is a mobile application.
    And in the end, we formed the requirements for this kind of product:

    1. Support for mobile applications - in the future, on different platforms
    2. Work is always inside the widget without the need to switch to an external resource, easy return to the application context (there is an opinion that half of the users do not return)
    3. The lack of double authorization, it is also Single Sign On (they say that half of the users, having seen the requirement to enter a username and password, immediately abandon the idea of ​​writing anything, but we wanted to hear everything)
    4. The minimum price, and ideally the first time, is free (not a trial of 30 days, but something more)

    Finding a system that is 100% satisfactory with all of these requirements proved to be an impossible task. UserVoice & Getsatisfaction were the closest, but their focus on marketers and offline brands (like Tide), in addition to the price of $ 59- $ 99 and the lack of necessary features in the free version, scared us off.

    As a result, we slapped sending a message to the mail from the application and postponed the question until better times. But the thought already entered my head - why is there nothing like this yet, and at first glance the system does not look so complicated to develop?

    And in February 2012, I had a little time, and another Harvest loomed ahead (a start-up event for the weekend, like StartupWeekend in the west), and it was planned to follow Mobile HackDay after it (oh, sorry that it was canceled). And the idea still haunted me.
    For a couple of weeks, I actively asked all the friends of the developers / executives / and all those who are at least somehow connected with mobile applications, is this product interesting?
    Many thanks to all who participated for the criticism, advice and interest. It strengthened my mind that I need to act.

    And I decided to experiment on certain conditions:
    • fully functional prototype in a week
    • bootstrapping, i.e. abandonment of investments and self-development
    • minimum team, or rather do everything as much as possible alone

    A week of hard programming, 18 hours a day after six months of work away from programming, is wonderful.
    I had time to Harvest , delivered a short pitch, but ... I knew that developers almost didn’t go to Harvest , but I didn’t expect that there were people who were very far from product development. Only about 3 people from the audience turned out to be familiar with Copiny / UserVoice / Getsatisfaction. But, probably, my pitch was too technical and complicated after a sleepless night :)
    Then, unfortunately, Mobile HackDay was canceled , which made it impossible to test the product for the target audience.
    Then about 80% of the project was done. The refinement of the remaining 20% ​​took all the time until today. As usual, the most difficult thing at this stage is to suppress the desire to rewrite everything, refactor, use something from freshly released technologies. With difficulty I force myself to enter this all into the task manager for the future :)

    Technical details

    Modern technology really allows you to work miracles.
    Since I have been developing for the web on .Net for many years, I decided not to experiment with all kinds of cool Ruby & Python, but to use something that I am already familiar with.
    Separately, the question arose sharply about how to maximize the reach of mobile platforms with minimal effort. The most logical answer was html5 + native wrapper.

    And so, the project can be divided into:

    1. backend website
    2. web application - a panel for community moderators and developers
    3. html5 mobile web application for embedding in phones
    4. shells for iOS, Android, Windows Phone

    If classified by technology, it turns out like this:

    1. all 3 websites are based on MVC 4
    2. the mobile site is built on jQuery Mobile + Cordova (ex-PhoneGap is now only used to intercept the “back” button)
    3. Orchard CMS as the main page
    4. of course, Android SDK (2.3), Windows Phone SDK, iOS SDK

    In general, of the completely unfamiliar technologies, there were only mobile SDKs, but a minimum of code was planned for them.

    Of all this, the iOS SDK is currently under development.
    And in a week of prototyping, I managed to make almost the entire web and SDK for Windows Phone, as in language, the platform closest to me.

    I also decided to go on an open path and all SDKs are provided in the form of source codes and posted on github: - which, I hope, will increase the credibility of developers.


    I didn’t have much money for the start of the project, I didn’t want to think about investments, but I had to do the project, so I had to find a way to do it for free.

    Contrary to popular belief, “free” is not always open-source technology such as php, ruby, java, python. In the camp of Microsoft developers, you can also find ways. So:

    • Tools = 0 rub.
      We register in the Microsoft Bizspark program and get all the software and tools absolutely free (you can also use express versions of products)
    • Hosting = 0 rub.
      Again, MSDN Subscription or Bizspark offer the ultimate discount — see here for details .
    • Design ~ 1000r , the price of 2 pizza in Papa Jones and a bottle of wine.
      The site design at this stage was not in the first place, the standard themes and the principles of minimalism were used to the maximum (looking at the new site, I understand that I did not lose :)). For the design of the application, I went to visit a familiar designer, having bought 2 pizzas and a bottle of wine - together in 2 hours we sketched approximate layouts.
    • Domain = 200 rub.
      GoDaddy always holds all kinds of promotions and sales, so the domain is really cheap.
    • SSL certificate = 0 rub.
      I would love to invite a user of syncer to beer for a tip on article

    Total we get 1200 rubles of expenses and a lot of time spent. Not bad!


    Let me remind you that at the very beginning of the article I outlined the main criteria that were needed from such a system.
    Based on them, I refused a web widget, public community pages (Tide, sorry) and much more. Some of this may sooner or later appear, and it will depend on you, my future beloved customers.
    Also, after looking at competitors' pricing policies, I decided to simplify this aspect as well. I do not want to introduce a multi-level line of tariffs and no trial accounts. The system can be used fully functional for as long as you like, until the number of your users has exceeded 10,000, then you need to pay $ 49 per month.
    Those. pure water freemium .

    Since I determined that in my clients I primarily want to see young and fast-growing startups, these figures and such a policy are just what we need. This allows you to immediately use the right tool and not spend the missing money.
    In general, pay later when you get rich :)
    Everything is as in the textbook - I first of all made the perfect product for myself, and now I am ready to modify it for others.
    For a visual demonstration, I made a smart interactive demo page:


    From the very beginning, I perfectly understood how to make this product, how to use it and who would use it approximately. Therefore, various marketers, marketers, racketeers and other pr-people fell out at this stage, I don’t trust the designer-cofounders, and whoever really could be useful are the developers, but all my friends were busy at that moment.
    I will add that if you have a task - to get into some accelerator, incubator or startup competition - then you need a team. It is desirable enough mottled. Lone practically do not take.
    In other cases - you need to look as necessary.
    Whose help is really invaluable to me - this is Nikolai Mikhailovsky, who in this project acts as my consultant / adviser (if in the West, then an adviser or mentor).
    Well, I would also like to say thank you very much to my future wife, who all this time not only listened to me, but also helped me with advice, edited my Russian texts, helped with translations into English, cooked delicious dinners and generally endured it all :)

    And then what?

    And then you need to develop the product. Of course, in my head I have a rough plan for the near future:
    • possible rejection of jQuery Mobile (still slow)
    • support for themes and visual customization
    • detailed analytics of user behavior
    • and it will be possible to rob the cows

    What of this and in what sequence will be implemented will depend only on you, my clients. And maybe I still do not fully see your needs and you need something else?
    Time will tell.

    In conclusion

    Yes, there is still much that is missing in the product and there is only a bare empty new building, but this adds value. I and you - we - have a good chance to make the product the way our business requires it.
    Therefore, most of all I want to hear from you criticism, preferably constructive, wishes, implementation reports and any other useful information.
    If you like the idea of ​​a product, be sure to try to use it and write to me about your impressions.

    In turn, I promise all my first customers free lifetime accounts and nice T-shirts when I get rich :)

    Email me (, facebook (, twitter (@rnikitin), skype ( neu.romantic), leave tickets on github, join the group on facebook (, call on your mobile - in general, in any way convenient for you.

    If you liked the project or liked the article or liked something else, do not hesitate to go to my profile and click on +, this will allow me to add this topic to the “I’m PR” hub and, perhaps, more people interested in the product will see it! Thanks!

    May the Force be with you!

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