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Book Review

SideProject Book Review

SideProject is a series (39) of interviews with developers of iPhone (mostly), Saas (Software As A Service),Mac and PC software.

Most of the interviews detail:

  • the product
  • how the developer got started
  • what they were doing before or during development
  • what tools they used (development and analytics)
  • sales (first sale, first few weeks, now, etc)
  • advice for developers who want to build their side project

There are a few common trends, specially for the advice. Unfortunately, it is not as helpful as you might think, because developers both say:

1) Just stop thinking about it and do it, and do something you want. It doesn't matter if people think it is useful (cue in reports of naysayers before the app became a hit). Learn from the experience, even if it fails.

2) Research to find out if people actually want your product before you start building it.

Personally, I think you should stick with 1 unless your idea is is very expensive/time consuming to develop, at which point you might want to switch to 2.

Some other pieces of advice

  • (repeated many times, and I agree) Find your minimum viable product (MVP), release it and then improve it gradually with customer feedback. Don't try to put everything in on the first release. You will just never be ready to ship it.
  • Being involved in related forums to your product or target market is great for getting sales.
  • Ruby on Rails (which I personally like too) is the primary SaaS tool.
  • Doing your idea as a side project is great because you have a safety net if it fails.
  • Tracking tools: Google Analytics (mostly), KISSMetrics, Flurry (popular), Apsalar, AppViz, TestFlight, Clicky, AppFigures, Piwik, Verify, MixPanel, ¬†AppAnnie, GoSquared, Visual Website Optimizer (author was interviewed in the book,BTW)
  • Increasing prices can be good for extra revenue and sometimes sales (a well known fact).
  • Hire someone to do the graphics if you are not good at it (specially for iOS apps)
  • Try talking to bloggers in a related area and asking for reviews, or offering coupons for their readers.
  • Development tools mentioned: XCode, AppEngine, Eclipse,
  • Start with a small project, then larger ones later.
  • Pay attention to user feedback, and make it easy for users to send it.
  • Outsource. But use money you can afford to lose, because while your app might do great, it might fail too.
  • Keep trying even if it doesn't succeed at first.
  • Don't spread yourself thin – focus on one project at a time.
  • Test, specially with app stores that take time for a new release.

Conclusion

SideProject is not only full of useful information, but it is also fun to read. Recommended if you are planning on starting your own side project, or even if you already full time on your apps.

You can get it at their site for US$34.

By Luiz A D R Marques

I've been developing software and selling it on-line since 1994. Current products include STG FolderPrint Plus - a tool to Print Folders, and STGThumb - HTML Album Generator, among others. Some of my other sites - Disk Usage, Directory Printer ,Print Folders and Jejum Intermitente .