What it’s like managing 10 million users as a solo developer

Sven van der Zee
Dec 15, 2019 · 4 min read

This article tells my story from running Sticker Studio which gathered more than 10 million installs in just one year.

The beginning

It all started on a Friday evening 9th of November 2018, I sat behind my computer and read that WhatsApp would introduce stickers to their app and open it up to developers.

So I looked up their documentation and thought it would be so much fun if users without programming or design skills could create their own stickers from their phone.

It had already been quite some time since I developed an Android app, my focus had been on AcceptCrypto(Munt) which failed to generate any revenue. So I got started with Sticker Studio, the idea was simple users draw a line around the area where they want to make the sticker out of and it is automatically exported to WhatsApp.

The launch

First version of the app

The first workable prototype was done on Sunday and I launched to Product Hunt on Monday which did not do super great but I did get some attention from reporters and first users at that time.

On Tuesday everything changed, Abhimanyu a journalist at The Next Web where I used to work reached out to me and said he wanted to know more about my app, pleasantly surprised I responded to his request and he wrote an awesome article about Sticker Studio.

What happened after that was crazy, people shared the article on social media and other news publications quickly picked it up such as Metro UK and Gizmodo Spain. In two weeks the app jumped from 0 to 1 million downloads, but not without its problems.

Aftermath

Number of crash reports after the launch

Remember I told you that the app was built in just a weekend? Yeah that backfired on me, I did not test the app enough on low-end devices and since most Android users have low-end devices the app did not work as expected for most of my users or not at all 😬.

There were over 40 thousand crash reports per day, most of the users deleted the app almost immediately. So I needed to look for a quick solution. The problem was that an API I used to generate WebP images was not available for all Android versions. So I found an external library also made by Google called libwebp that solved the problem.

1 year later

Still doing about 100k downloads per week

One year later the app still grows in downloads, the app gets about 100 thousand downloads per week and has 2 million monthly active users. In September I released Sticker Studio 3, built from the ground up with most bugs of the legacy version fixed, added features such as backups to drive and launched a feature-rich Pro version. The update not only increased user satisfaction but also revenue.

What I learned

To update in phases instead of all users at the same time. I had once pushed the wrong update to all my users, that did not go well and a lot of users crashed.

Respond to reviews helps getting a better rating. Try to respond to as many review as you can, some will even email you back and give really valuable feedback such as my next point.

Localize to make all users understand your app. I have translated the app into Spanish and Portuguese, since most of users live in Brazil, Mexico and Argentina they do not all speak English. Even the Play Store screenshots are localized to get more downloads. This does cause that my email inbox is full of different languages.

Because you understand your app doesn’t mean someone else will. Since a large percentage of my users are not very tech savvy I have to test new features with my parents first and see their reaction, so that everything is easy understandable.

And get social media presence from the start, I just recently started using Instagram and Facebook and have gather 60 thousand followers in just a short period of time. That not only gets new users but also allows you to reach them better.

What’s next

Sticker Studio is far from finished, I still plan to release some exciting new features such as a sticker store in the coming months. Furthermore I plan to launch other apps by making use of the reach I have generated through Sticker Studio.

If you have any questions regarding apps or if you need some help email me at sven at playstudioapps dot com.

PlayStudio

PlayStudio is a Dutch app development studio focused on creating fun and innovative concepts.

Sven van der Zee

Written by

Founder PlayStudio an app development studio focused on fun and innovative concepts.

PlayStudio

PlayStudio is a Dutch app development studio focused on creating fun and innovative concepts.

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