The end of Nextr and what we’ve learned from being our own client.

Today we have to make the sad announcement that we are shooting down our app Nextr. This means we won’t develop it any further or offer any kind of support, which — to be honest — we weren’t been able to do for quite some time. But at least, for the time the app remains in the AppStore, we’re now giving it away for free.

I’d like to use this post to explain why we’re shooting nextr down, and talk about our experience from launching an app and being our own client. Lastly we’d like to give you a small preview of how the second generation of our app would have looked like and why we won’t launch it.

To give you a little bit of a background: We launched Nextr in April 2013 with the goal to provide the best public transportation guidance app for whole Germany. The idea to create an app like Nextr was completely driven by personal reasons. At the point being there where very little to none decent public transportation apps available. The only app providing guidance for all over Germany was the DB Navigator, but it was slow, complicated and ugly. And since the best way to complain is to make things, we decided to design and develop our own app. After some initial wireframes and designs I decided to approach Marcus Wermuth (the only iOS developer I knew) to develop Nextr. Fortunately Marcus was hooked right away and started coding his first lines. The hardest part was to get the data for all public transportation services throughout Germany and the only way to get that data was to parse the mobile website of the Deutsche Bahn (the German railroad company and owner of the DB Navigator). So we casually checked in with them to confirm that we don’t do anything illegal and fortunately got a somewhat positive response.

Status Quo of german public transportation apps in 2013 before we launched nextr.

Nextr was always a side project for Marcus and myself, so we had our standard client work running simultaneously which slowed down the development. But after a lot of designing, iterating and testing we eventually launched Nextr in April 2013 and sold it for 99 cents in the AppStore. The immediate response after the launch was simply overwhelming! We had over 5000 paid downloads after a week and made it to the second place for best selling apps in the AppStore, right behind whatsapp (yes, you had to pay for whatsapp back then).

A lot of magazine and blogs started writing about Nextr including the best selling computer magazine in Germany Computer Bild. As unexpected as the immediate success was the flood of positive and negative feedback. All of a sudden we where spending hours just answering emails and reacting to reviews. It was exciting to see that the users mainly loved our app and proofed that the market was searching for an app like Nextr. Only problem was that we still had to worry about our full time jobs first before worrying about Nextr. The download numbers slowed down after a while but we still had to deal with all the feedback, fixing bugs and finding solutions for scenarios we never planed for when originally creating the app.

So after a while we had to decide wether we wanna go “all in” and spend more time on Nextr or slow things down to spend less time on Nextr. The problem was that even if Nextr created some revenue it was still far away from paying our bills. Also I still wanted to grow my design studio and didn’t really see a way to monetize Nextr in a way that it was really worth the time it costs. So we continued working on Nextr on the side and even started to work on a whole new version, but the development became the bottle neck. While I started hiring designers and earned enough money with my design studio to take the time to work on Nextr, Marcus had to worry about getting freelance jobs to earn money. So we finished the concept and design for Nextr 2.0 but unfortunately Marcus never found the time to finish the development.

A few months ago the Deutsche Bahn approached us and asked if we were interested to become an official partner and sell tickets via our app. First this sounded like a great opportunity, but creating the new version including the new features to buy tickets was still way to expensive. In order to match our costs we’d have to sell thousands of tickets per week. After explaining our issues, Deutsche Bahn set a deadline for us to either implement there ticket system or they’ll cut our data source. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming Deutsche Bahn, it was actually time to make a decision to let Nextr go anyway and this deadline helped us to finally pull the trigger. So we planned to remove Nextr from the AppStore, but a few days after writing these lines I found out that Deutsche Bahn is now apparently planing to make their data available for free via a public API. This probably means we don’t have to delete the app from the store, but it’s not changing our decision to stop the development.

While Nextr never became a real success story financially, it was still a priceless experience for us as a design studio. We’re working with many exciting start ups and understand their issues and needs much better after going through a similar experience ourself. We’re also able to help our clients not to make the same mistakes that we did. It also encouraged me to believe in side projects and self driven product ideas. I think it’s very healthy for every designer or agency to block some time for self driven projects without working for a client.

As a design consultant your client often works as a buffer between you and the actually consumer, but that’s no longer true once you launch your own product…

The experience of bringing your own baby to market an dealing with the end user directly without a client sitting between the designer and the customer is extraordinary. The Nextr experience encouraged me to push for those self driven projects within my studio which led to the Tesla UI concept that gave us a lot of great publicity. It also led to a new app that we’re currently working on. And this time we’re going all in and launch a new company with full time developers etc. But more on this soon. ;)

I want to close this story with some pictures and a link to the full case study for Nextr 2.0 that was designed almost 2 years ago and unfortunately will never make it to market.

Nextr 2.0 Homescreen with the new Nextr Corporate Design, including a new logo. See the full case Study here
Various Screens of the Nextr 2.0 Concept. See the full case Study here
Various Screens of the Nextr 2.0 Concept. See the full case Study here

Thanks for reading

Martin Oberhäuser
Founder of Nextr and Bureau Oberhaeuser

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