How I (try to) Make My Apps Better

Developers run into a lot of problems making apps. They can be anything from simple typos to having to redo entire sections of the app to fix a tiny issue. But one of the most annoying things I’ve come across is retention rates.

Switching topic for a bit. You may have noticed that nothing I’ve made so far is completely formal. I’ve put bad (like, really bad) jokes on my website, hidden an easter egg in Bagels, and even put a screenshot on the play store listing for Status that nobody seems to have noticed yet. Don’t even get me started with Storage Cleaner.

What I’ve recently started to notice is that even though Storage Cleaner took me less than 10 minutes to make, it still has over two times the retention rate of Status. Even though it has less features, even though I never update it, even though the app literally uninstalls itself for the user, there’s still a greater percentage of people that have kept the app installed. Now, I could be misinterpreting this. There’s a good chance half of them simply forgot they ever downloaded it and have only opened it twice since they downloaded it. But my view (what I would like to believe) is that if you give an app a personality the user will like it more, regardless of how well it does its job. Promising weekly updates means nothing unless you show why you’re updating it. It’s simple: I love making things. I probably always will. The idea of having a small world to myself in which I can do whatever I want gives everyone that soft mushy feeling like “If only I could make what I can imagine, then I could be awesome and go to GDE Summits and make other people jealous of me”.

Summing this up, what I have done so far and what I will try to improve upon is that projects should be made for a user, not an audience. The only way to keep the retention rate up is to keep the user busy with an app that isn’t just something you command to do what you want. Material Design has helped a lot with this, especially with feature discovery — Status’s average rating improved a ton after I made the search function more obvious using this pretty useful library. It’s not just about the features though. To really capture a user you need to be completely open about the app, not just making it open source but also accepting feature requests and replying to them (even if they’re stupid). It seems simple when you think about it — the reasons Android is commonly favored over Apple (no arguments please, I didn’t say one was better okay?), the reasons so many people like MIUI and Oxygen OS, and the reasons everyone was obsessed with all the google search easter eggs when they were first added are all because it makes it feel like you know the people who made them. This isn’t just how I hope to make apps, this is why I make apps, and why I hope I will never have to stop.