Liftoff

by Rob Poulter


This morning I hit the release button on my holiday project, Repeat.

As part of my marathon of listening to every development podcast I can, I was recently catching up on the backlog of Release Notes episodes, and in particular the two episodes with guest Justin Williams, where he joked that like every other developer, he started out with a notes app, a task manager and a bug tracker.

Repeat is my task manager (at this point I don't plan on making a notes app or a bug tracker though...).

Towards the end of last year, my wife mentioned to me that someone should make an app for medication reminders, and I thought I'd use some of my holidays making one. Now of course, there are apps for medication reminders out there, but I didn't look at what was available until I had fleshed out all of my basic features which I thought were necessary for release. Mostly because I'm an idiot who likes wasting his time, but partly because I've been itching to see something through for iOS for over a year and the feature set seemed pretty achievable for a first attempt. Repeat isn't just a medication reminder, and it's both more and less than Apple's Reminders app. Over all I'm pretty happy at where it landed, feature-wise: somewhere in between a pill caddy and general purpose reminders.

I first submitted Repeat for review over a fortnight ago, and after getting knocked back by the review team for a usability issue which I decided to change rather than argue about, and pulling it from review myself after noticing a layout bug which made the app unusable in iPad scaling modes and on 3.5" devices (if anyone still has those and are on iOS 9+, which I made a requirement), it was approved. The wait has been interesting, since in the meantime I've been working on features for the next version, without knowing whether it would be approved or if anyone will actually buy it.

It's been a mixed bag of emotions since getting to the point where I thought I might actually get Repeat's 1.0 finished. There's been a large dose of impostor syndrome, since I'm not a designer and my development skills for anything past small projects are very rusty. At times it has been a bit of a battle to keep at it and finish features, especially after starting to research the functionality of other reminder apps out there. This has been offset by the joy I continue to feel at successfully solving code or logic problems that have had me muttering at my laptop in frustration.

In my first post on developing the app, I wrote about some of the uncertainty I faced when it comes to the business aspect like pricing and marketing; all of that uncertainty is still there. My app is designed by a programmer (although nowhere near as bad as this!). I don't have a business or marketing background. This is all just something that will have to come with experience as I either learn for myself or from what other developers share.

The one bit of uncertainty I've cleared up (until experience proves otherwise) is pricing. Originally I wavered between free, free with ads and free with IAP. Thinking about it more though, I've decided to charge up front for Repeat, at something other than the bottom $0.99 tier. First, it gives me something to commit to: if people are paying me money for it, there is an implicit understanding that they'll get somthing for it, like bug fixes and feature updates, even if they won't pay me for it again. Second, I've listened to a few developers talk about the impact that having a free app has on the quality of reviews: there is no barrier to anyone downloading your app and leaving negative reviews without ever having tried it. In a paid tier, it means that people are more likely to actually try it before leaving feedback which, even if negative, is more likely to be something I can fix with updates (which I know, is having a bit more faith in "People on the Internet" than 20-ish years of online experience really merits).

In the meantime, I'll continue to work on the features I didn't want to put into 1.0, try to be a better designer, and to start work on my next project which is aimed at something I'm more familiar with: education.