How Fresh is your Code?

I was driving back from the gym this morning, I like to swim on Sunday mornings – I find it very relaxing to do a hour long swim and reflect on what’s the past week has been like. As I left the parking lot, I saw a major grocery store chain’s truck with the phrase “We do Fresh – the Best”. The problem with the giant graphic on their truck was that it was a sub sandwich (or a hoagie if you prefer). It consisted of bread, tomato, pickle, lettuce, ham, olives, and cheese. While the bread, tomato and lettuce could be considered fresh, nothing else on the side of the truck was. Pickles were at one time a fresh cucumber. The olives had been cured. The cheese, was at one time fresh milk. And the ham was also cured. So I guess fresh is a bit of a misnomer.

You may ask why I am writing about this (and yes, I gave away the story in the blog post’s title)? In this age of app stores with hundreds of thousands of apps, getting your app to stand out is more than just having a good / great app. It’s about getting and keeping customers. Let’s face it, your idea may be good, but it’s not hard for people to create very similar apps. (Think about Temple Run and the many knock offs that have come out based on it).

You can choose to expand your app via in-app purchases, and that makes a lot of sense for Freemium apps or those apps which have a defined functional domain that can be enhanced with specific features. But what if you created a utility app? It does one thing, and it does it well. How do you keep people updating it, and new users downloading?

Apple and Android are both coming out with newer versions of their operating systems multiple times per year. Try refactoring your code so that it takes advantages of newer functions. I did this personally with Wasted Time, when I replaced the Twitter code with the native iOS twitter features. Yes, this may cost you some users that are on older devices (or require you to have more complex code), but given the cycle time of people replacing their devices every two years this shouldn’t be too big of a worry.

Also, try reworking your user interface. Are you taking advantage of newer screen resolutions? Are you correctly handling all device orientations? Are you bored with the cool widget you designed two years ago? Change them!

While the sandwich had a bunch of well cured products – olives, pickles, ham – it was the fresh bread and juicy tomatoes that really stood out in the picture on the side of the truck. And let’s face it, it got my attention…