You can still make $ millions on the Mac App Store

Denys Zhadanov
Nov 16, 2016 · 4 min read

Some products make millions of $ just on Mac App Store alone. So can you! Here’s our story.

Exactly a year ago we launched our first Mac app — PDF Expert. It quickly became #1 app on the App Store and won App of the Year Runner-App later on. For those who don’t know, PDF Expert is a fast, robust and beautiful PDF editor.

PDF Expert in action.

More than 1 million people visited PDF Expert site, 150K trials were downloaded and over 50K units sold.

The journey

Over 5 million people were using PDF Expert on their iPhones and iPads, so having a Mac version for consistent user experience was a good idea. Moreover, we’ve looked around and realized that all PDF apps/ services on Mac are outdated and poorly designed from user experience perspective. So we thought “Hey, we are the guys who can absolutely nail it and create the best in class product in this category”. We’ve already done that with Scanner Pro, Spark other Readdle apps.

That’s why PDF Expert for Mac was born. We are extremely happy that we managed to build the best product on the platform. That is why it became #1 App on the Mac App Store and won all the awards.

Competition is good

More people and companies go paperless, fully relying on digital forms of documents. And here comes the PDF as the most popular file format.

Since PDF Expert is a newcomer to the PDF industry on desktop, we’ve had to be super fast adding features others spent years on developing.

Competition and Positioning.

The pace of updates was incredible: 8 major updates with over 30 big features added such as Readdle Transfer, text and image editing, outlines, new reading modes, redaction of sensitive info, better management tools and much more.

The virtue of creating a great product is to make it powerful enough, yet keep it simple and easy to use.

What makes it possible is our direct connection with our customers. We’ve conducted dozens of interviews and surveys, trying to figure out real problems people have. Thanks to you, we can improve our product to solve those problems.

There are many apps working with PDFs, but we entered the space and quickly became a leader in the category. But once you make a great product, create a loop for customers’ feedback and deliver frequent updates based on it — the growth is exponential. Apple editorial team recognition is probably the best proof.

The Mac App Store is not dead

Despite the mobile trend and rumors than Mac apps are dying, I think it is still possible to make millions by creating amazing Mac software. Look at Omni, 1Password, CleanMyMac, and PDF Expert. Yes, there are plenty of free tools, but if you create an amazing product that provides good value for money — people will buy it.

The Mac App Store is great because there are fewer apps in there, so it is easier to be a dominant leader in the category. Once you make a great product you have a great chance of being featured by Apple editorial team, because you stand out.

Moreover, if your product supports the latest and greatest features and technologies that Apple provides — you will get even more love. Press was talking the whole week about the apps with Touch Bar support. Apple has even featured the early adopters of that technology.

Adopt technologies quickly.

Being “the best in class”

Our goal was always to make the best in class product in each industry, be it scanning, PDF, calendars or emails. Once you nail that from the product perspective — the rest is just execution. Make sure the product category is big enough so you can hit good revenues.

In our case, PDF Expert provides a great variety of use cases for a wide audience: ! More people and companies go paperless, fully relying on digital forms of documents. And here comes the PDF as the most popular file format. Once you become the best PDF editor on the platform — the growth is exponential.

The Future

So what’s next?

We are dedicated to make PDF Expert the best solution for work with PDFs. It will evolve into a cross-platform product that provides the best experience for every user.

If we are talking about short term we are excited to add vital and innovative features. Here’s the roadmap that we can share:

  • PDF file size reduction
  • Split view mode for two files
  • OCR
  • Page numbering
  • Touch bar support

Hopefully Apple will bring more love to Mac App Store, by adding analytics and other things we already have on the iOS App Store.

I’ll be happy to hear your comments and thoughts.

Denys Zhadanov

Written by

Vice President at @Readdle, a company behind popular productivity apps with 100M users (Spark, Scanner Pro, PDF Expert, Documents). Tech and inspiration.