Beta Testers Wanted For The Brand New Swellnet App
We're very close to launching the long-awaited update of the Swellnet App, and are looking for people to help with the final testing stage.
If you're interested, please leave a comment below or email [email protected] (you'll need to be a Swellnet Pro subscriber), and we'll send you some details.
The Background Story
I'm gonna admit it straight up - Swellnet hasn't had a great run with its App.
But, there's a bit of history to discuss, so please allow me to indulge in the backstory.
Prior to the advent of the smartphone era - fourteen years ago! - we'd been through several years of peripheral mobile technologies, all of which promised robust revenue streams to small businesses like Swellnet who had unique content.
Of course, none of it eventuated. As a tiny business with one staff (me!), it was an endless source of frustration to waste time, money and effort pursuing opportunities that would soon vanish into thin air.
So, when the iPhone was released in July 2008, I was cautious with new technology. Still enjoying my BlackBerry (remember those?), I found the concept around Apps quite interesting, but there was still no related business model: Swellnet was solely ad-funded, and the small display sizes on the phones attracted a fraction of the advertising income compared to the website. Subscriptions didn't exist at that time. Corporate sponsorship was too complex.
So, pushing your audience from your website to an App would essentially be akin to in-house cannibilism. We couldn't afford to lose any advertising revenue just to make Swellnet more convenient to those surfers who'd decided to buy an iPhone.
On top of that, App development was (and still is) very expensive. Around this time, a high profile website owned by a colleague of mine spent a small fortune building their new App with a much-hyped development company, yet it failed spectacularly upon release, to the point that they wrote off the entire project and started the whole thing from scratch. Big companies can often absorb these kinds of costly technical fuckups, but Swellnet couldn't. I was determined not to make the same mistake.
Gradually, development work began on our first App, however we too made errors hiring developers who weren't suitable, spending time and money on failed versions. Eventually we teamed up with a trusted colleague who built an App that worked really well at the time - around 2012 - but over the following years, it became less compatible with each update of the iOS and Android operating systems, to the point where it now barely works at all. Regularly updating the App soon became an expensive, pointless exercise, because we'd chosen a poor technical framework to begin with - we knew we needed to start afresh.
So, back in about 2018 we started planning a brand new rebuild of the Swellnet App, using a different software approach, all the while feverishly hoping that our Subscription numbers would increase to counteract the rapidly declining advertising revenue (you may remember my article from 2017 - almost five years ago - We need to have a talk about: Subscriptions).
And there was an upside to our previous failures: we now had the benefit of a decade of hindsight and experience - we knew why the first versions went wrong, and what was needed to make them work properly. And, we knew that Subscriptions were on the rise, as a sustainable business model.
If you boil it down to basics, there's a couple of ways to build an App (and indeed, a website). You can drop a shit-tonne of money in one go, find/recruit/employ/contract a team of development guns, hope it works out as expected, and then gradually recoup the costs back over time. The upside is that you'll get your product to market much more quickly. The downside is that if the App doesn't work properly, your already-expensive upfront costs can blow out considerably.
Oh, and remember: you need that shit-tonne of money upfront, too.
The other way is to gradually scrimp and save, and put those funds towards a couple of small offshore developers who can slowly build the framework. The upside is that you're risking much less money, the downside is that it takes a lot longer to get your new App to market.
The second option was the only one available to Swellnet, so we took it and ran (well, 'walked briskly' is probably more accurate, I suppose).
The good news is that in the last year or so, we've built further upon the App development team, spearheaded by Mitch (welcome!), who's helped us overcome some major technical hurdles. There's a number of benefits in having Mitch on the team: he's not distracted with any other parts of the Swellnet website, and moving forward, he'll be able to respond to you all in real time about any technical problems you have, and we'll be able to fix them all up really quickly.
And now we're at the final stages of testing, so we thought we'd get some trusted Swellnet Pro subscribers in for a sneak-peek of the App, to see if they can find any bugs we haven't uncovered.
We're after genuine, unbiased feedback in the comments below too. We reckon we've built a great new App, but want to hear directly from you as to what's missing, what doesn't work, and what you'd like to see in the future too.
Thanks for your support!