Shipping An App

avTag was finally released back at the start of May after a development period that spanned something like three years. Since then I’ve released a couple of minor version to fix some bugs as well as adding a few features which I originally felt should have been in the initial release. In fact this weekend has been spent adding some more of those features to what will become version 1.2.

‘Originally’ is highlighted for one very simple reason. The features I’m adding now didn’t stop version 1.0 from working. It might have been annoying that they weren’t included but they didn’t make avTag unusable and that leads me into the biggest thing I learnt whilst creating and releasing my first personally commercial app…

Built the absolute minimum you can get away with and then ship it.

Plenty of people have said this before but until you’ve shipped an app you’re unlikely to believe it. However, in a vain attempt to convince you, here are my three reasons why…

  1. Trying to make a perfect 1.0 means that you will probably never release anything.
  2. Shipping the bare minimum necessary for your app to function means that you get customer feedback about what they think is missing and can then prioritise what is important to other people, not just yourself.
  3. Adding a few features and shipping an update is far, far easier and much more satisfying that you’d ever imagine.

Let me expand on number three in particular…

Once your app has been released you can make as many or as few changes as you like and then ship an update. You can spend an evening adding a single feature and then release that or you can spend a month adding a raft of features. It doesn’t really matter because the key point is that you are enhancing what has gone before and enhancing is not a burden; it is fun and it is rewarding and, more importantly, it helps you engage with your customers.

As an example, when avTag shipped I decided not to implement variable playback speeds in the media player. Audio and video could only be played at the normal rate. This weekend I added variable rates so that playback can now be done at half speed, normal speed, one and a half seed and double speed. My customers have asked for this feature and will be pleased that it has been added and that makes them love avTag a little bit more and it makes them feel that I love them too. Not adding it to the initial release saved me some time and made releasing avTag one step easier. Everyone wins.

Shipping updates also liberates you from eternally long to-do lists. The list of features you want to add to your app might be 10 items, it might be 100, it might be 1,000. If you are releasing updates then you can cherry-pick features, add them and issue releases whenever you like. Your to-do list no longer looks like an oppressive taskmaster; rather you now own it and it becomes a reminder of things you should do, not things you must do.

Creating, releasing and maintaining your own apps should be fun and rewarding. Releasing something, anything, early and then being able to iteratively develop it make it just that. Don’t let your feature list enslave you.

###About avTag

avTag solves the problem of watching or listening to something and wanting to be able to refer back to particular moments quickly and easily by allowing you to create tags whilst you watch videos or listen to audio on your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch.

You can give tags titles and add notes and all of the tags are stored in a repository which is fully searchable.

Browse or search for a tag, select it and be taken straight back to the moment you wanted to be able to find again.

For more details please visit the avTag web site or view it in the App Store.