App Success Stories is a series of posts in which where we talk with app developers about their journeys, motivation, and how they got where they are today.
In our latest App Success Story, we talked with Christian Perez, indie designer and entrepreneur behind The Name App. Christian's journey started with an idea that evolved into an app used by more than 500,000 users all around the world. In this #aftalks Christian told us more about the app's development, marketing, monetization, and more.
Here's the full interview:
Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Name App?
A: Ever since the first iPhone came out, I was fascinated with apps. That fascination led me to moving to New York City and actually working with you guys, appfigures! There I was introduced to the whole culture. Founders, Developers, Designers, Entrepreneurs all chasing ideas. Every single day I thought of new app ideas. I was obsessed. I searched available domains and social media handles to find names for my brilliant ideas. When it hit me! I could make an app that checks all of this at once. A few days later I had the first concept for The Name App.
Q: Did you do it yourself or outsource? Why?
A: I designed everything, and my co-Founder, Mikey, built it. We have nothing against outsourcing. We've worked with amazing teams worldwide in our commercial careers, but when it comes to our personal projects we're pretty possessive. This is our passion, we like getting our hands dirty. Having the ability to test an idea on the fly at 3 am is everything to us. Not for nothing, but That was one of the most inspiring thing about working at appfigures. Seeing the founders so caught up in the work, they'd be in studio until well into the night, and even come in on the weekends. That's how we model our work as a founders.
Q: What sort of challenges did you face when building the app?
A: The biggest challenge we faced was running the live search. Up until then we had worked with individual API's but never multiple at once. When you stop typing, there's a small delay, then we run through all of the domains and social media sites. Once we figured it out, we thought we were done. Then, our app got featured and we received our first 100,000 users. We had to literally rewrite the code to handle everything. I stick to the design side of things, but I know code, so when challenges like this occur it helps that we can talk through things logically.
Q: Marketing is a crucial element of an app's success. What does your current marketing plan look like, and how has it evolved since launch?
A: I'm not going to lie, we don't think about marketing as much as we should. Our plan hasn't evolved much from our launch either. We made an app that we personally needed. I learned that from other app makers like Drew Wilson. If you make something for yourself, you can never fail, because at the very least you solved a problem you had. With that in mind we built the best app for ourselves, and it ended up working for others too. Now, one thing we did do was share our process. I try to share as much as possible through my blog, hellomrperez.com. At the time of our launch I wrote an article on our journey. At the time Product Hunt was just launching and was still invite only. A designer friend saw my article and shared the app on Product Hunt, from there we blew up! It was then shared on Forbes, Entrepreneur, and The Next Web. They say luck is when preparation meets opportunity, I guess we were prepared?
Q: Which marketing channels do you rely on for promotion?
A: We've relied on our own personal channels, such as my blog and social media. Beyond that, the app really just moves through word of mouth. I know we should be more active, but we've had the luck of creating something people find useful and use everyday. With that said, we have made the steps to better promote ourselves. Just before the year was up we officially branded ourselves as, "The Apps Company," and created the respective facebook, twitter, and instagram pages. If you go though, you'll see we haven't moved much. That's our New Years Resolution, I promise!
Q: What kind of challenges did you encounter marketing the app after launch?
A: Since we don't have a formal marketing plan, then you'll see high spikes and drops in our analytics. Whenever someone talks about us, we get a spike, but other than that it's steady. I think when it comes to apps, the more useful it is, the less you have to convince people to use it. This isn't to say that marketing is worthless, but I like to think about it in terms of Chinese Food. When was the last time you seen a commercial for Chinese food? They still thrive.
Q: If you knew back then what you know now, how would you have approach marketing?
I wouldn't change anything in the past, but moving forward, we're very interested in seeing what proper marketing can do for us. When we started we didn't know anything about marketing, and I hate the thought of not having made the app just from lack of knowledge. I think we get caught up on knowing everything, it keeps us from exploring and taking risks.
Q: What is your monetization strategy, and how has it changed over time?
A: From the beginning I avoided using ads. I saw how in the blogging world people relied on ad revenue, and when the ad market changed a lot of them went out of business. Not to mention, you need a lot of users to see any real money. The basic ad model is $1 for 1000 views. That always seemed ridiculous to me. Instead we chose affiliate sales. When you find the name you want, you have the option of receiving a free domain with the purchase of hosting. Every time someone signs up, we receive a payment. It's served us as amazing side income, so we've kept it. We haven't changed our strategy since. The only thing I can foresee is adding more affiliate links, but only if it adds value to our users.
Q: When it comes to apps, users play a major role in providing feedback through reviews. Do you incorporate user feedback into planning new features for the app?
A: This is the most important thing to us. Since word of mouth is our marketing, people are at the center of our success. We explore every single bit of feedback we receive. If you took the time to use our app, and then more time to talk to us about it, we will always make the time to listen. We design our own apps, we code our own apps, and we talk directly to our users. I think this is really the only way to do it. If we don't make apps for the people, what are we doing? User feedback is the top of our list when creating new features. People know what frustrates them, we shouldn't try to guess.
Q: If so, how do evaluate suggestions?
A: We literally treat every suggestion as the best idea in the world. This may sound counterintuitive, but we understand that our perspectives our limited. Therefore we approach the suggestion without bias and dissect how it would work with everything else. This doesn't mean that we implement everything that's said to us. For example, we had someone ask us for more domain extensions. We explained to them that we purposely chose the most important domains because they're the ones that users know about. I know technology has changed and we have hundreds of different extensions, but the average user still just knows .com. On the other hand, we had another user recently bring up that our app wasn't friendly to people who were color blind. This is something we've never thought about at all, and now we are approaching the redesign with this in mind.
Q: Starting something new requires making hard decisions. Were there any decisions that were particularly hard?
A: To be honest, I think it's the act of starting itself was the hardest decision. We live in a world of opportunities. No one making apps has lack of work, lack of ideas, or lack of resources. It's quite the opposite. We have an over abundance of everything. So how do we decide what to spend our time on? The Name App for us was a no brainer. It's literally the idea to launch other ideas. We gave ourselves a strict deadline and just pushed forward. Starting is the hardest thing, from there you just have to see it through.
Q: How do you measure success?
A: We both have other forms of income, so money isn't a metric we measure. All of the money that we make is invested in other projects. We also don't measure amount of users. We have an app that has 500 users and one that has over 300,000. Any one user from either app is equally important to us. Our measure for success is simply this: is it useful? When we hear someone say, "I use your app everyday." That's a win for us. That's our goal. The day no one finds our apps useful is the day we stop making apps. There's already so much noise out there, we don't want to add to it. We just want to make things that people find useful.
Q: Are there any particular metrics you focus on?
A: International users. I wouldn't say we focus on it, but it's definitely something we keep an eye on. It's amazing to us that people in China, Russia, and Brazil use our app. We've never been to any of those places, and we have users there. We have family and friends that will never use our apps but some random human in another country we've never been to has used it. That just blows my mind. So we pay attention to how many countries use our apps.
Q: What was the first success you remember for the app?
The first success was being on Product Hunt, that gave us a good spike of users. It felt surreal because in one week it had out performed all of our apps combined. By the end of this year we'll be at 500k users. Never in 500,000 years would we have dreamed that for this app.
Q: How do you plan on evolving the app and growing its user base?
A: My co-founder and I talk about this all the time. We had no intentions of reaching the amount of people we did, so growth was never part of the discussion. However, now that we're here, what's next? How can we further help almost half a million people looking to start their ideas? We're working on a resource, not sure if it'll be a video, app, or book, but it's going to give insight on what to do after you have your name. There are so many resources online that claim to teach you how to start up, but I feel lack perspective. Not everyone has startup capital, an all star team of technology experts, and live in a great city. Yet there are people all around the world who start an idea and turn it into something amazing. In the most unlikely of places, a small town in America, a village in Colombia, or even a city in Thailand, I've seen first hand how people have made extraordinary things in the most impossible of situations. There are core fundamentals that don't change o matter what industry in any country of the world. This is what we'd like to bring to our users this year. You have your name, now what?
Huge thanks to Christian for sharing his experience with us! Searching for your new online identity? Download The Name App for free from the App Store.