The adventures of a mobile diary. A young team from the province - about their experience in developing a B2C startup

We are a young team that has decided to look for happiness in the market of mobile applications and has chosen for this a very intricate niche related to self-digging, self-soaking and reflection. This is our debut series of publications on Habré, whether others will follow - depends on how our adventure will develop in the future.

In the meantime, our path is tortuous and full of difficulties. Nevertheless, we try to keep our spirit steady, even in moments full of despair and pain. I hope that my story about our one and a half year and still ongoing journey can bring practical benefits to someone and, at least, warn novice developers from the mistakes that we have made.

We note right away: the product we are developing is not yet launched, and we are far from somehow evaluating our results at this stage. However, the mobile app has already been posted on Google Play. Implemented as long as the main, basic functionality. At the moment we are in the final stage of development, after which we have to face the most difficult part of the plan - market entry and product promotion.

We took part in many start-up events organized by state and local government funds. I don’t know how it will go further, but so far we have had enough “ate” theories on the creation of IT start-ups and ... still went their own way. We went slowly, without investors and kicks from above, inspired by the belief in your product and the desire to gain experience in the development of mobile applications.

We are aware that our product is very specific, it is not designed for a mass audience, and requires a special, non-pipeline approach to promotion. It is also obvious that creating a high-quality product and building an effective business model are two different processes, we can achieve success in one, but fail in the other. Nevertheless, we did not set ourselves the task of “at any cost, quickly cut the dough”, it is much more valuable and more interesting to make a good and useful product, which we will be pleased to use. Unfortunately or fortunately (we will estimate this later), but we are not looking for easy ways.

From the fourth attempt

We are a small agency in the field of web development and online advertising from the Russian province. We have been working for 6.5 years, the customers for the most part are medium and large local businesses. However, our activities are limited to websites and portals. So we have a double debut. We are not only making our mobile app for the first time. We have never done them before.

I personally dreamed for a long time to make my own product, which could potentially not only bring benefit to people, but also monetize. Since the beginning of the 2010s, "hatched" three ideas for creating their own Internet projects, but they have not yet begun implementation for various reasons. And now - a new “approach”.

Finally, the idea got off the paper and slowly began to turn into quite tangible code. And this is our small victory. After all, as they say, it is better to do and regret, than not to do and regret. In the worst case, we say: “No one needs our product? OK. But we did everything we thought was right and how we could. ” And we will remain honest, at least, to ourselves, and at the same time we will acquire competencies and will be able to use our experience for other commercial purposes.

I do not know the more my partner, who was responsible for the technical part, was guided by, agreeing to get involved in this project, whether with faith in the idea or a desire to acquire new competencies. It is important that he "gave the go-ahead", and the matter went. We have done most of the work together, occasionally involving third-party contractors to solve non-core issues (such as design and layout).

The idea and its evolution

The well-known Gleb Arkhangelsky has an equally well-known book "Time-Drive: How to Have Time to Live and Work." In this book, the mass of all that is interesting, but let us dwell only on one technology, which the author himself calls as “Memoirs and the definition of values”. Its essence is that at the end of each day it is proposed to write out the most important and emotionally vivid events of the day and compare it with personal values. This technology, notes Arkhangelsky, will allow not to lose the key values ​​of life in the bustle of current affairs. The idea seemed very attractive and efficient to me, and I tried creating a simple file using Microsoft Excel. I tried and got carried away, so began a long and thorny path to the idea of ​​the application.

Gradually, my file began to “overgrow” with new functionality. For example, I came to the conclusion that, in addition to fixing events, it would be useful to evaluate every day on an understandable scale, look at our ups and downs, and identify the reasons for their occurrence. The system got accustomed: on the one hand, this is a great self-motivator (unconsciously trying to do more and live a day more efficiently), on the other - visual analytics. For example, now you can say for sure how you have lived the past month - not according to your own exemplary feelings, but by a very specific score.

Further more. With the advent of the fitness bracelet, data appeared on the steps, time of sleep and recovery. With the release of the Welltory app, metrics related to energy and stress levels have been added. A convenient CoinKeeper at the end of the day in one click shows your personal financial balance for the day. So, slowly, scattered, important for me, the data began to “migrate” to this very xlsx file. The whole picture of my life is before my eyes. On the one hand, analytical value - a bunch of different numbers intertwined, you can trace the trends and relationships. Again, the motivation is: when all the data is clear and at hand, I would rather like to achieve results in various areas of life: walk more, stand up earlier, spend more efficiently, and so on. On the other hand, over time, these data may acquire personal historical value. For example,

Gradually, my file expanded both horizontally and vertically. In addition, the textual description of the result of the day for many years, I have evolved from a few words to almost longridov, so doing it all in Excel was not very convenient. Having tried various other options, I did not find a single solution that would solve my problems 100%. And we started developing an application, a certain “symbiosis” of a personal diary and tracker with a personal analytics system in one bottle.

Of course, when making a decision, we were far from being guided only by my own needs, it would be quite blasphemous and utopian to project our problems to the needs of a large audience. Extensively studied the existing market of web services, mobile applications and Windows-based programs, conducted surveys and studies.
As a result of this work, some functions were crossed out, as unnecessary, others, on the contrary, seemed promising and were added to the project.

But we admit honestly: at the first stage of development, we all made things too complicated and in the end we left with intricate paths not at all there.

Version 1.0. How we reworked and reached a dead end

Some things we treated too fundamentally, but some simple basic things were missed. As a result, a complex and rather attractive service was born, but ... absolutely unviable. But first things first.

First of all, we determine the approach: we decide that the core of the project will be a web service, which we will then hang up the API for and will connect applications for different platforms.
The first thought on the technical implementation was that we already know and are able to: PHP, framework, MySQL, and more. But, having thought better of it, having estimated the volumes and the planned amount of data, having taken a fresh look at all the modern “trend” movements, they changed their minds. The choice fell on MongoDB, NodeJS, React. First of all, attracted the speed and transparent scalability of the architecture. Yes, and the output turned out really reactive "application", albeit browser-based. In order to speed up and simplify the development process, we decided to use the Meteor framework on top of our technology stack. It is powerful, well documented, everything that is needed for the prototype and even for the final product is already in it. Summed up only one detail, but about her later.

In general, they did their best. Two hundred-page technical documentation has been written, which describes all internal processes and future functions of a future web service / application. A designer has been hired under a contract that draws a logo for us and more than 20 detailed screens. One more contractor was brought in for the layout - a month and a half of hard work, and the layouts become html-code. While everything is going fine, we are completely satisfied with the quality of work.

So, our web service is gradually gaining its face. Module by module, the main functions become operational, and the idea is clear. And we finally decide to go beyond the studio with the project, “bring it to the people”. We open service in public access with a mark of Beta. At the same time, we go to offline public and tell about our project at one of the local start-up events.

Under the cat, we hid a few design layouts of our web service, so you can appreciate what we roughly created:

Watch mockups
веб-сервис Личная История

At a startup event, we receive advice from experts from one of the venture capital funds. According to their advice, the first step is the rapid attraction of users. We solve a specific problem: in one week to attract 200 users in order to understand who can become our active users and get feedback. Note that at that time we did not have the opportunity to test sales: payment instruments were not yet connected. After all, far from all the functions were implemented by us, and it seemed strange to collect money for a semi-finished product. But in perspective, we saw the monetization of the project in the subscription model.

Users were attracted in two main ways. The first one is your own environment, participants of IT events (through social networks and personal communication). The second one is paid and free advertising in specialized social networks; even a targeted address mailing to users was carried out. Invited to participate in the beta, promising a free subscription in the future. As a result, the task is accomplished by 75%: within the designated time frame, we attract 150 users.

To track quality metrics, we worked on the administrative panel: we created indicators of the activity of using various sections of the service.

The results were disappointing: out of 150 registered users of active users - five. A few more people came into the service from time to time, but were not active. Which of these five people was willing to pay for the service remained unclear. Thus, we did not receive any confirmation of the viability of our business model (as well as the usefulness and usefulness of the product).

As for the feedback received, here are the most striking examples:
“A very unusual interface. It is difficult to understand.
“The only thing you liked was the design. Give the designer contact? ”
“Everything seems to be good, but I will not use it. This is about storing my personal information, but I have no confidence in Russian services. I'd rather use the Singapore web application. There, even if my data is decrypted, nobody needs it. ”The

security question, as it turned out, was a key one for many users. In addition to the author of the last quote, several people in one way or another stated that they would not have entrusted the placement of private information on the server to any known company from the Russian hinterland.

Sometimes it came to frank absurdity. In one of the VKontakte groups, where information about the project was posted, the participants conducted their own investigation, calculating the e-mail address of the owner of the service’s domain, went to the website of our agency, in the “Portfolio” section and made amazing conclusions. Say, all our personal information will still be resold to large corporations. Among their clients - Sberbank. Surely he will be sold. In general, the feedback came out so-so ...

In addition, we realized that our chosen technical solutions lead to a dead end. The devil, as always, disappeared in the details. As I wrote above, for the service we used the Meteor framework, among the buns of which there was one “killer bun” - a built-in application generation for mobile devices (Android, IOS, even for Blackberry respected). Naturally, before starting development, a quick prototype of some interface was filed, an application was generated, and it was launched. It even worked. After that, thoughts about exporting the application were postponed to the last stage with the note “everything works, with one button”. The situation changed dramatically when this very stage came. The application with the final layout and functionality turned out to be an incredibly cumbersome, godlessly buggy monster. And yes, it worked only in online, in the presence of the Internet. After the first launch, there were incredible six weeks of suffering, anguish, attempts at least to revive this “Frankenstein”. All branches on Cordova optimizations have been re-read (Yes, yes, it turned out that, as it turned out, the export of the mobile version to Meteor is based). Attempts were in vain, local work with Storage could not be achieved, the application’s interface and work could only be partially completed, and pain and suffering are everywhere. As a result, they came to the common sense that with the project in its current form, only one thing can be done - to bury. to speed up the interface and the operation of the application could only partially, and everywhere pain and suffering. As a result, they came to the common sense that with the project in its current form, only one thing can be done - to bury. to speed up the interface and the operation of the application could only partially, and everywhere pain and suffering. As a result, they came to the common sense that with the project in its current form, only one thing can be done - to bury.

So, the main conclusions of the first stage of development:

  1. Complex and unusual interface that repels a significant part of users
  2. Implicit product value and erroneous positioning.
  3. The question of trust regarding the security of data storage in our service.
  4. Erroneous technical solutions.

Further development has been suspended. Alas, but most of the pages of carefully described documentation, like many design layouts that have not yet been put into development, turned out to be nothing more than wasted resources. Then we had two ways. Surrender and minimize the project or try to rethink it and turn it all over. Not that we did not hesitate, but finally chose the second.

Version 2.0. Rethinking and Optimizing

No additional expenses that may be unnecessary - this is perhaps the main postulate with which we began the second stage. The name, logo, promotional site, design - we do everything with minimal effort, without scattering money or time. All this can be modified later, after the product proves its viability.
As a result of long discussions, based on the previously made mistakes and newly emerged ideas, the following basic concepts of how we proceed further were developed:

  1. Native mobile application. Development on a universal platform, which in the future will allow to create applications for various types of platforms. As a result of the search for a suitable solution, React Native was chosen. The framework has appeared with its own charms and problems, but this is already a topic for a separate article.
  2. Clear and familiar to the user interface. Simplify the functionality.
  3. Obvious positioning. Moving in a clear direction - a personal diary. Choose a simple working title: About.Me
  4. Resolving personal information security issues and resolving trust issues. No decisions that may cause suspicion. All user data will be stored in encrypted form on the device, or as a backup in a user account in the cloud storage. It was decided that the first cloud system with which integration will be configured will be Google.Drive
  5. At the first stage, we will implement the Premium version in order to be able to evaluate the financial side of the issue, if necessary - to experiment with a set of paid features and price. But the most important thing is the presence of purchases, confirmation of the hypothesis that the product is not just needed by someone, but people are ready to pay for it.
  6. Immediately implement multilingualism. This will allow us to quickly test the hypothesis about the prospects of the application on the markets of other countries, first of all - in English.

Go. Three months of work - the minimum workable version for Android devices is ready and uploaded to Google Play. The decision to adapt for other platforms will be made after we have a sufficient user base and we get an exhaustive feedback on the application, as well as we estimate the prospects for its monetization.

Today, our efforts are focused on the completion of development, after which we plan to move to actively attract users and marketing. In my opinion, launching this process today is premature: for a start, we must become, at a minimum, full-fledged competitors with the diary applications already available on the Store. So far, in terms of functionality and usability, there are still moments in which our application is noticeably inferior.

As for monetization, the only way that we see, at least at the initial stage of development, is a freemium model, one-time payments. With their size, we still have to experiment. We started from the “golden mean”: the unknown and uncollectible volume of users cannot be expensive by the application. On the other hand, we soberly realize that our product will not become too widespread, which means that too low a price is not interesting for us. Therefore, while staying at a little over $ 5. The advantages of the premium version are the ability to create, without limitation, criteria for evaluating days, areas of life and categories of notes, create a backup in the cloud storage, as well as access analytical monthly reports that are generated based on user input.

And the last - about our costs. Over the entire project period (including the first, unsuccessful project), we spent a little more than 300 thousand rubles - mainly payments to contractors for the design and html-layout. Since most of the development was carried out and conducted on its own, the main resource spent is the efforts of two people, however, combining this activity with the main one. To recapture only the cash costs incurred, we need approximately 850 buyers at the current cost of the Premium version. Such is the mathematics that we still have to realize, check and correct at the stage of entering the market.

All adventures end sooner or later. We plan to complete the development of the project About.Me before the end of the year. After that, within two to three months, it will finally become clear if we can survive in the Mobile Store, and if so, how interesting our life will be.

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