What I Learned Building LittleIpsum

Lessons learned in designing, engineering, and shipping my first OS X application.

Solve A Problem

LittleIpsum is successful because it solves a user’s problem. There are no novels (or even blog posts) which discuss the workflow issues when generating latin text. LittleIpsum addressed a minuscule issue in my productivity, an issue as it turns out, others shared.

Simple & Focused

LittleIpsum is an incredibly simple application. There’s no complex preferences, no shiny visuals, and no filler. Every decision made while creating LittleIpsum was validated against one question: “Will this make LittleIpsum the best latin generator for Mac?” If the answer was no, it didn’t make it into the application.

It’s Good Enough

LittleIpsum won’t win any software architecture awards. The code is stable and memory-leak free, but is by no means perfect. I would still be working on the codebase for LittleIpsum if I wanted it to be perfect, and you wouldn’t be reading this. It’s incredibly important to launch a project when: It has the minimum amount of features to be useful, and it’s stable. After you launch you can decide (based on feedback, finances, motivation, whatever) if development is worth continuing. The website and logo were created in a couple afternoons and are good enough to be live, once again, not winning any awards. (I have yet to test the website in any flavour of IE)

User Testing

During the development process I asked a small group of my peers to test LittleIpsum. They ranged from designers, to developers to project managers. Their feedback was incredibly useful. It’s very easy to have tunnel vision and assume that what you need is what everyone else needs. Everyone uses software differently and expects it to react differently. Get others to critique your work as soon as possible, and listen to their feedback.

Twitter is Powerful

Twitter is the sole reason LittleIpsum is known. I put no effort (and no money) into marketing LittleIpsum. A couple notable individuals tweeting about LittleIpsum was all it took. Thank you.

The Mac App Store

I doubted anyone would pay more than a dollar for LittleIpsum. I also doubted anyone would take out their creditcard on my website for a 99 cent transaction. Hence why LittleIpsum was free. I can only speculate what the outcome would have been if I had decided to charge for LittleIpsum - I doubt very much.

The Mac App Store changes this. The friction of buying a small, focused application for 99 cents is removed and it opens a new world of possible applications which LittleIpsum would fit nicely in.

Do It

Don’t wait for all conditions to be perfect. Don’t wait till you have a little bit more knowledge, time, money, etc. Stop talking about building something and just build it.

No one will ever put you down for trying but you’ll forever regret it if you don’t.