Automation Tips for Indie Developers

When you are a one man show, you have to automate everything you can. If you do a task more than once, spend a minute to see if you can automate it. I have three apps that I use extensively for automation.

TextExpander

First, I use TextExpander from Smile Software to answer support emails. TextExpander has tons of features, but I mostly use it for canned responses to common support questions. You type in an abbreviation and it expands to the full text.

An example:

I type: “;addv”

I get: “Thanks for the feedback. Adding voice to the calls is the most requested feature and I hope to add to the app soon.”

I type: “;pleaserev”

I get: “If you like my app, please take the time to give it a nice review. It really helps.”

TextExpander Automation

I also make a snippet for links to the app store for each of my apps. I type ;fflink for the link to my fake phone call app. If you get a lot of similar support emails, you will use TextExpander all the time. Be careful not to respond with only canned text. It’s important to connect with your audience, so be sure to personalize your response if time allows. Although a bit clunky, their iOS app makes it easier to respond to support emails on your iPhone or iPad. I use TextExpander along with Clips for this.

Keyboard Maestro

Next, Keyboard Maestro allows you to assign hotkeys to a command or series of commands. You could assign Control+Option+Command+X to open Xcode, xScope, Spectrum or any other app you use during development. There are tons of other uses as it allows you to simulate a mouse click, pick a menu action to execute, or execute a series of keyboard presses. This can be handy for scraping data from a web site or formatting an XML file. It works well with Applescript, so you can automate just about anything.

Hazel

Finally, no Mac user should be without Hazel from Noodlesoft. Hazel allows you to assign actions to folders. Save or drop a file in a folder configured with Hazel and any rules in Hazel will be applied to that file. You can move, delete, rename, upload, reveal in Finder, etc. I often use it for cleanup of older files and moving specific file types to new locations. Pro tip: Use Hazel together to execute actions on files synced through Dropbox on a remote Mac.

Hazel Automation

 

Final Thoughts

If you love automation, check out Brett Terpstra’s site. He is an automation ninja. Visit David Spark’s site, macsparky too. Good stuff on Hazel and TextExpander there.

Also, don’t forget Automator, Apple’s automation tool that comes with every Mac. I find myself using it for quick automations such as image resizing.

If you have a cool automation tip, let me know. I would love to feature it on the site.

Announcing Indie iOS Focus Weekly

I’m excited to announce a new weekly newsletter focused on independent iOS development.

Indie iOS Focus Weekly will include topics such as

  • Developer tools
  • Frameworks
  • Tricks (Xcode, ASO, balancing life)
  • Indie lifestyle management
  • Marketing your apps

I look at it as a brain dump of all the stuff I’ve come across in the past week with a focus on the independent developer. Oftentimes, the coding is the easy part. Indie iOS Focus Weekly won’t be very code heavy as I want to focus more on the toolbox you will need to be successful in this crazy app market.

I’ve been independent with a full time ‘regular’ job for over three years and have released over 10 apps. I’m passionate about iOS development and run across cool stuff all the time. Time to share!

If you see something cool, send it to me at cdbeshore@cozyapps.com or on twitter @cdbeshore.

First issue is January 22nd, 2015.

Subscribe to Indie iOS Focus Weekly



The Success of Quit That!

A few months ago, I created an app that lets you track bad habits you are trying to quit. It is a simple app and I borrowed (heavily) from Stuart Hall‘s 7 Minute Workout app. I had read his awesome An App Store Experiment article and it motivated me.

The app is called Quit That! and it has received a lot of praise and some success. I measure the success not on how much it’s made (not much), but on downloads, reviews and customer support emails. As an independent with a full time job, I’m trying to build my knowledge and portfolio, learning along the way. The feedback I have received from the app is immeasurable.

Quit That! Main Screen

Quit That! has been downloaded about 8,000 times. That’s not a ton compared to some of my other apps. Engagement is good, though, and I can’t tell you how good it feels to get tons of emails telling me how much the app has helped them. There are plenty of bad habit apps on the store, but I wanted one that was dead simple without all the features that can bog down the main purpose.

“Ah!! A free app, a good app, that is without ads, and voluntary donation!! That is to my heart. Beautiful. Thank you.” -Anne

“Just donated. No intrusive ads, early iPhone 6 support. This is a great model for apps and you’ve helped me give up smoking for 23 days. Thanks from the UK.” -Paul

I get emails like this all the time. Also, if you take a look at the reviews, it’s more of the same. People from all over the world love the app.

Quit That Reviews

Now the hard part. Quit That! doesn’t make any money. I’ve made less than $100 since it was released back in August 2014. I wasn’t trying to make money on the app. It was more of an exercise to see what I could do with a week and some motivation from Stuart Hall (Thanks Stuart!). The experiment part of it for me was making it donation ware. Not a good model to make money, huh? Here’s the donation page I used.

Quit That Donate Screen

I wanted to make it personal. (BTW, I know it doesn’t look the best on iPhone 6 Plus, I only have so much time!) I think it works pretty well, but you’re not going to hear a bunch of stories of developers living off their donation ware.

Why is Quit That! successful?

  • I learned a few new tricks while developing it (nice clean flat ui, iCloud, etc)
  • I learned more about ASO and marketing the app with no budget
  • I get great feedback which motivates me to improve Quit That! and my other apps
  • I have genuinely helped many people fight their addictions (have I mentioned this is cool)
  • I added to my arsenal of app templates if I want to create something similiar (I already have and will post about that experiment soon)
  • I did make $100 so it paid for 1/5 of my new iPad

Success in the App Store is what you get out of it. Quit That! is a step in the right direction. I do plan on adding a few features and making a Pro version, so maybe I can turn Quit That! into a nice app that pays for dinner every day.

2014 Podcasts

I have been featured on a couple of podcasts in 2014. Wouldn’t it be smart if I finally mentioned that on this blog? If you are at all interested in hearing about my journey from very little coding experience to creating 10 apps for iOS, give them a listen.

Mobile App Chat with Steve P. Young

there-wasn0027t-anything-like-it-on-the-app

The App Guy with Paul Kemp

Using Sensor Tower to Optimize Your App Keywords

I’m in the process of updating my app, Censor Ninja, and I thought I would give Sensor Tower a try. Sensor Tower is a keyword optimization and research service. I have used AppCodes in the past, but have been hearing many other developers talk about Sensor Tower and it’s great keyword research tools. As an indie with a limited budget, I had been hesitant in the past to give it a go with a minimum cost of $79 per month (as of 8/5/14). They do offer a free trial, which does fit my budget, so I jumped in, prepared to fry my brain with every keyword related to a censor app you could imagine.

First Impressions

After I signed in for the first time, I was impressed with the user interface. Coming from http://www.appcodes.com/, which isn’t visually appealing, Sensor Tower has a nice simple layout and easy to understand tools.

My first stop was the Keyword Optimization tool, which told me my keywords were optimized correctly. I have worked hard on my keywords and know most of the tricks to maximizing how many you can cram in those 100 characters, so no surprises there. However, I know many developers out there that can use this tool to learn about what they are doing wrong (no spaces!). This is also a good tool to see where you rank on all your current keywords. Here’s how I ranked on my top keywords.

Sensor_Tower_-_Keyword_Optimization

Keyword Suggestions

The Keyword Suggestions tool is a good place to start a brainstorm session. I learned from this tool a few keywords that I hadn’t thought of before. It’s important that you use keywords that are relevant to your app. It wouldn’t do me any good to use ‘twitter’ as a keyword even though you can share your censored pic there because my app is never going to rank high for “share my pic on twitter”. But keywords like block, private, and mask are relevant and important for me to target. This tool can be a little intimidating with ‘seed’ keywords, weights to each keyword, and filter strength, but there is help available that explains it all fairly well.

Keyword Research

My favorite is the Keyword Research tool. Simply type a keyword or phrase and see what apps rank high for that word. If I try ‘photo censor’, my app ranks fifth.

Sensor_Tower_-_App_Marketing_and_Mobile_SEO_Keyword_Optimization_for_iPhone_and_iPad

You can also use this tool to see what apps show up for keywords or phrases you want to try. It’s important to look at the traffic, difficulty and number of apps for each keyword. I keep a spreadsheet with potential and current keywords showing this data so I can easily sort to see which keywords might be easier to target. For instance, if the traffic is 2.4, but difficulty is 1.1, this is a keyword I may want to target.

Sensor_Tower_-_App_Marketing_and_Mobile_SEO_Keyword_Optimization_for_iPhone_and_iPad

Other Features

The keyword translation module is good for research, but I would be very careful relying on machine translation with an app. It can be ok for the Spanish translation of ‘pixelate’, but bad for phrases and words that don’t translate from English well. The Keyword Spy is a nice tool for letting you compare your shared keywords with your competition. I really like be able to see the keywords that my closest competitors are using that I am not. It’s nice to see them using keywords that aren’t helping them, especially.

It’s also nice to get daily digest emails that show any changes in keyword rankings. As a developer, it’s common to work on keywords, submit to Apple, and then get caught up in the next project. It’s important to closely follow how the keyword changes you have made effect your downloads and how your rankings improve. Unfortunately, marketing you app is just as important as coding it, so no dropping the ball here.

My Killer Feature Request

I do wish there was some sort of mechanism to keep track of keywords you would like to try, but haven’t. It could also track how your keywords have changed over time. Since Sensor Tower can connect to your dev account, it can pull in your downloads. All the data should be there to give you a birds eye view of what keywords are underperforming along with what potential keywords could replace those. Sensor Tower is awesome at researching keywords, but you ultimately have to keep track of your keywords in a spreadsheet or text file.

Overall Impressions

Sensor Tower has an impressive feature set. Although the price can be steep for indie’s like me, I think that if you use the tools correctly and put some time into it, you should easily make up the difference in increased app sales. I’ve tried a few keyword tools and I agree with my fellow developers that Sensor Tower is the best. With several apps in the store, I will be spending quite a bit of time with Sensor Tower this week.

Welcome

Hi. Thanks for reading. This is the first blog post for Cozy Apps. My name is Chris and I am an independent iOS developer based in Kansas City, MO. I have several apps on the Apple App Store and one Android app on Google Play. I’ll be using this blog to talk about my apps, my journey, products I like, things I’ve learned, and other iOS coding/marketing related stuff. Stay tuned and thanks for reading.