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Should we build a native Mac app, and if we do, should we put it in the Mac App Store? Over the last 12 months both these questions have been hotly debated.
Offering a Trial and App Store Policies In the crowded world of software, differentiation is difficult, and often comes down to one or two unique experiences. This has been true for SmartDraw. Our two most popular features content and automation really needed to be experienced in a trial. Words and screenshots don’t do it justice. This meant the lack of a trial in App Stores was a major hurdle. We could have hosted the trial on our website, then when the user decided to buy send them to the app store to purchase there and reinstall.
This experiences leads to a lot of user confusion and technical overhead that didn’t make sense. Software purchases via the App Stores provided very little customer information, and returns happened in somewhat of a black box.
Observing others experiencing the results of these policies didn’t leave a great impression. More often than not, issues were pushed public, where users were desperate for answers, and developers and support personal were left scrambling for better ways to communicate with their users. While the App Stores certainly has its positives, some of these policies are downright hostile toward businesses trying to sell software.
Customers expected App Store apps to be cheap, low-risk, and perpetual. None of those expectations make it easy to build a sustainable business from, and all were directly related to the policies that made the app store troublesome.
Because users couldn’t give apps a test-drive, they were less likely to impulse buy pricier apps with sane prices. This, coupled with the flood of apps available created a race to the bottom for prices. There were very few examples of professional, infrequent user apps that had seen success.
An examination of the App Stores top charts indicated a very obvious pattern of free-to-play apps which derived revenue from consumables available via in-app purchase. Public outrage over excessive in-app purchases, and the complete lack of upgrade pricing policies in the App Stores further reduced options. We concluded the App Stores pricing dynamic was a poor fit for the kind of software we produced.
Reliability and the Customer Experience Apple provides many frameworks to help build great apps. In many cases they truly help developer productivity. CloudKit, is a great platform for a startup. But, its pricing is unclear and Apple has not had the best track record with its cloud services.
We never wanted to be in a position of not being able to answer our users’ questions because of unknown issues in CloudKit or other frameworks. We also had many customers not using Mac and iOS, with a legacy Window business and growing Android market. As attractive as they were, they were again a poor fit for our product.
The only question left was whether we should build a native app, but that question almost answered itself. On the one hand it was clear Apple’s development platform showed little benefit for us.
As we iterate on SmartDraw we will continue to ask ourselves if the market has changed. SmartDraw makes diagramming easy.
Learn more about automatic ERDs and database diagrams. Once generated, you can continue to edit your database diagram using intuitive tools. Move shapes around, add new tables, delete existing ones, and so on. It’s simple and intuitive.
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