This post was originally published on April 25th, 2014
We used to offer Hill88 Lite for free and we had to decide on increasing the price for the Pro version or to go Pro only. We decided to eliminate the free version after all and go Pro only, starting from Monday 28th of April, which means that the free version will be removed from the App Store and future updates will be Pro only.
There are plenty of reasons and interesting debates around freemium models, but we think that this decision is the best for our users and allows us to deliver a great productivity tool.
We are simply not willing to limit ourselves, our product and our customers to mediocrity, so we found that keeping the price for the pro version low, makes the app affordable for every one (who is interested in a proper crafted native app) and permits us to build the product they deserve.
Of course someone could suggest that we further reduce the functionality of the free version and make the Pro version more attractive by offering the better features only to paying customers? But this is not as simple as it sounds. Do we create a mediocre product that’s lacking half the functionality? Do we maintain a good version of a feature and a poor one at the same time, with all the complexity that this adds to the product?
What about support? Do we ignore non-paying users, offer them no support or bad support? Not saying that we would do that, but with the quality of support that we want to give to our customers, that’s definitely an issue for us.
The idea that free users generate free marketing is self-defeating. It’s easy to think that the more users we have, the more free marketing we get.
More accurately, it’s happy users that create free marketing for a product, and we haven’t found a magic way to make free users happy at zero cost.
We couldn’t find evangelists among the people who think our product isn’t worth $5.99. Users who can be made happy enough to create good word of mouth about our product, are probably the same people who would pay for it already.
Free users are notoriously hard to please. They want something for nothing. They probably don’t like our product too much and they’re not getting a lot of value from it (if they did, they wouldn’t mind paying $5.99 for a well designed quality app that helps them to organize their daily projects and tasks).
Maintaining a second-class version of our product, just for the sake of having a free version, would only create a mass of under-served customers, ultimately hurting our brand.
On the internet, the paying user doesn’t have a stronger voice than the guy who never paid for software in his life.
When someone tweets “this product sucks” readers can’t tell if this is coming from someone who got the good version of the product or the bad. Oh, and for every paid user we probably have 5 or 10 free ones. They will be louder, by sheer numbers alone.
Is it really good marketing to make a mediocre impression to a lot of people? We decided we would rather have fewer people experience our product so that we can give them a product worth experiencing with the quality, features and support that we want to define our brand.
Customers who expect to get real value out of our product are the only customers we have a chance of making happy. There’s a world of difference between “free” and “very affordable”. It forces an honest decision. Will I really get value out of this product, enough to justify paying for it? If someone is not getting $5.99 worth of value out of Hill88, then we’re not solving a real problem they have.
We only want customers that we can hope to make happy and we don’t see a sustainable way to do this for non-paying customers.
Let’s be honest. Whatever we do, supporting an overwhelming host of free users does have some cost, even if we manage to keep it low. Guess who will pay this cost? The paying customers, of course. We don’t think that’s fair.
We know that not everyone will like and need our product enough to justify paying for it, and that’s ok. We just want to spend all of our effort and resources serving those who do.