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Successful Software

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Jonathan Matthews
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BreezeTree Software

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Patrick McKenzie
Bingo Card Creator

Launched 2 months ago: need your advices

Hi all! I need your advices.

My app is a source code formatter (http://style-revisor.com). Now it works on Mac OS X and supports C and Objective-C programming languages.

I launched about 2 months ago. Well, strictly speaking, I launched about 4 months ago, but only since 5 March I offer support of Objective-C programming language, and because it's a primary language for OS X/iOS development, I think that 5 March was a "true" launch date.

I definetly know that:

1. My app solves a real problem. I have 7 years of the programming experience and I really know how boring and slow can be manual formatting of the source code.
2. Market for such app exists, and it's not a crowded market. Moreover, this market not only exists, it also grows.
3. My app is useful, because I already have a satisfied customers.

But, honestly, conversion rate is low... So I have a questions to you:

1. What do you think about my website?
2. What do you think about prospects of my app at the Mac software market?

Any opinions and suggestions are welcome!
Denis Shevchenko Send private email
Monday, April 29, 2013
 
 
The first page should definitely be some sort of graphic that shows what your app does.

At the moment, I am forced to figure it out.

I would suggest a wide graphic that has some horribly formatted code on the left-hand side with an arrow showing nicely formatted code as a result of your app. Further, you may want to have tabs showing the various formats.

Secondly, who cares about this? Managers or team leads. Sell to them.

"Make sure your team follows your coding conventions"

"Ensure codebase consistency"

Etc.

You're not selling it, you're just showing it.
Bring back anon Send private email
Monday, April 29, 2013
 
 
+1 to Bring back anon for good advice.

Not being funny, but is there really a market for this? I'm used to Visual Studio and it formats everything as I type and has done so for many years.
Scorpio Send private email
Monday, April 29, 2013
 
 
> The first page should definitely be some sort
> of graphic that shows what your app does.
> At the moment, I am forced to figure it out.

Sorry, but at the top left corner of website we see: "Source code formatter"...

> I would suggest a wide graphic that has some horribly
> formatted code on the left-hand side with an arrow
> showing nicely formatted code as a result of your app.

I agree, but in the main menu we see "Examples", there's a many real-life examples (based on open-source code) of results of formatting, with different formatting styles.

> Secondly, who cares about this? Managers or team leads.
> Sell to them.

Hm... I agree with you, but my experience tells me that *not only* team leads cares about style of source code... I think there's many programmers who want to buy such tool for himself.

> "Make sure your team follows your coding conventions"
> "Ensure codebase consistency"

Thank you very much. I agree.

> You're not selling it, you're just showing it.
Thank you for your advice.
Denis Shevchenko Send private email
Monday, April 29, 2013
 
 
> I'm used to Visual Studio and it formats everything
> as I type and has done so for many years.

Visual Studio is for Windows developers. I talk about Mac developers.
Denis Shevchenko Send private email
Monday, April 29, 2013
 
 
> Not being funny, but is there really a market for this?

Yes. I discovered this on Stackoverflow.com, and on different forums/blogs.
Denis Shevchenko Send private email
Monday, April 29, 2013
 
 
You have only 30 seconds to catch my attention. I personally looked right at the giant graphic which didn't tell me anything.
Bring back anon Send private email
Monday, April 29, 2013
 
 
By the way, you could also suggest that the formatting be run as pre-commit hook to ensure formatting is correct (i.e., there should be no differences between running your code and the file(s) being checked in). I know some companies that hand-wrote some terrible code to do this.
Bring back anon Send private email
Monday, April 29, 2013
 
 
> I personally looked right at the giant graphic
> which didn't tell me anything.

Didn't tell you anything??? Hm... Honestly, I'm very surprised... All my collegues (software developers with different level of experience) told me that this screenshot is clear at a glance...
Denis Shevchenko Send private email
Monday, April 29, 2013
 
 
Hi Denis,

I would suggest to try a fremium model: something free something not. For example (limit the free model to one style or a single file). Be sure that the free model has "something annoying" in practice.

Sorry, but I would be not so optimistic about the "market" for your product. The fact that you have _one_ satisfied user (how much did she pay?) is not an evidence for the market, neither discussions on stackoverflow or any nerd community. Having satisfied user is not enough. They shall "show you the money"!

But the fremium model has worked with developers. It demands time but can create a large amount of adopters. Be prepared since 100:1 ratio is typical (adopters : payers).

Good luck!
Franco Graziosi Send private email
Monday, April 29, 2013
 
 
I agree that there should be a big graphic on the home page that shows what this does. Relying on following multiple links to examples is no use, as you need to tell the story right away, in the most obvious way possible (which is totally a big graphic, with before and after views).

I find it hard to believe that Mac development tools are so rudimentary as to not have this built in (like VS). Of course, I only use VS, so I could be wrong on that.

I remain unconvinced that there is a market for this tool, but I wish you well in your endeavours.
Scorpio Send private email
Monday, April 29, 2013
 
 
> The fact that you have _one_ satisfied user...
Everything starts with _one_ satisfied user, isn't it? ;-)

> ... is not an evidence for the market, neither
> discussions on stackoverflow or any nerd community.
Sorry, Franco, I disagree. Nerd communities *are* my customers. And their words are important to me.
Denis Shevchenko Send private email
Monday, April 29, 2013
 
 
> I find it hard to believe that Mac development tools
> are so rudimentary as to not have this built in (like VS).
> Of course, I only use VS, so I could be wrong on that.

One of the main tools for Mac developers is Xcode IDE. It just contains simple re-indent mechanism.

> I remain unconvinced that there is a market for this tool,
> but I wish you well in your endeavours.

Thank you very much!
Denis Shevchenko Send private email
Monday, April 29, 2013
 
 
I do think there's perhaps a market there. I often go through classes of my own and reformat them, just because my style has changed in the last 10 years and I find them difficult to read now.

When inheriting a project from someone else this problem is magnified as you don't have any knowledge of how the code works to help you see through the fog of alien formatting.

My IDE (Eclipse) can help with this but I never found it's -auto- formatting to be great, but that could be a question of finding and change the settings.

Anyhow, I can see some people will have a need but I don't think you're doing the best job of selling it on the home page.

I would try rewriting to emphasize the removal of your customers pain (studies show people respond to the removal of pain better than the adding of pleasure).

I'd try something like showing two panes of code next to each other (screenshots?); the left one has horrible poor formatting, the right one has great formatting.

Above the left pain write: "Imaging the time and frustration you could save if you could go from this..."

Above the right pain write: "... to this in one click".

Then I'd write underneath them both: "That's what we do. Simple Formatter turns an unmaintainable, ugly mess into beautiful code you'll love working with. Tell Simple Formatter how you want it to look, and it does the rest".

Maybe further down the page I'd give another example of a simple case where seeing a bug in some code is really hard when the formatting is poor, then really easy when it's fixed.
Jonathan Matthews Send private email
Monday, April 29, 2013
 
 
Thank you for your advices, Jonathan!
Denis Shevchenko Send private email
Monday, April 29, 2013
 
 
No problem. One thing I just noticed: Looking at the screenshots it seems you can do reformatting as a batch operation. Is that a big selling point? I don't know but I suspect it might be.

You need to bring that out in the sales copy really quickly, it shouldn't be necessary to figure it out from the screenshots.
Jonathan Matthews Send private email
Monday, April 29, 2013
 
 
Source code formatting tool? That's like saying Word document formatting tool, I simply don't see the market. If you cannot format your code while you write it, you are useless as developer.

If you inherit code from someone else and you want to re-format it, then you have way too much time on your hands...

Sorry Denis, I don't see the market for this. But good luck, I'd love to be proven wrong.
Blocky Send private email
Monday, April 29, 2013
 
 
> If you cannot format your code while you
> write it, you are useless as developer.

I thought so too. Of course, every developer *does some formatting* while he writes code. But in the team, source code (slow and silently) accumulates "formatting garbage", and there comes such moment when code became ugly... I saw such situation many times...

Yes, every team has some formatting rules. In theory... In reality almost no one follows these rules. I saw this in different companies.

Automatic formatting will help developers don't waste their time on tedious and monotonous work. And their code always will be clean.

> If you inherit code from someone else and you
> want to re-format it, then you have way too
> much time on your hands...

Heh... If that were true...

> Sorry Denis, I don't see the market for this.
> But good luck, I'd love to be proven wrong.

Thank you. I hope I'll prove you. ;-)
Denis Shevchenko Send private email
Monday, April 29, 2013
 
 
>> The first page should definitely be some sort
>> of graphic that shows what your app does.
>> At the moment, I am forced to figure it out.

> Sorry, but at the top left corner of website we see:
> "Source code formatter"...

Bring back anon makes a good point, though. When people visit a page, their eyes are drawn to the headline.

I think there is a market for developers who work with style guidelines that they don't like. I knew a contractor that, whenever he started a new gig, always wrote scripts to transform the style to his preferences. In other words:

Checkout > run style script > code > run script to revert style > check in.
Nicholas Hebb Send private email
Monday, April 29, 2013
 
 
Those of you who doubt that there is a market, you are wrong. There definitely *is* a market but I don't think it's a large enough market.

The only way this guy can hope to make any money off of this is:

1. Sell it to companies, not individual developers
2. Add some enterprisey features, for example, integration with Visual Studio, popular version control systems, etc.

I could see you selling it for $899/pop if you could properly create the value. You could use the freemium model to entice individual developers to download it.

TL;DR it's the framing of the product, not the product itself, in this case specifically that will make it or break it.
Bring back anon Send private email
Monday, April 29, 2013
 
 
There is always at least one customer for anything under the sun :-)
Blocky Send private email
Monday, April 29, 2013
 
 
> There definitely *is* a market but
> I don't think it's a large enough market.

Of course it's not large market. That was my goal. All books about microISV tells me: choose one small market, one small niche - and go there.

> 1. Sell it to companies, not individual developers

Well, maybe you'r right. But I know there's many individual developers who would pay for such tool with their own credit card.

For example, I've tried to find source code formatter for me. Personally for me. And when I couldn't find one that I really like, I decided to create my own. And then I thought: hey, it's cannot be that such a tool is *only* for me.

And I saw the questions in the developers communities, questions about good formatter. And such tools are exists, both commercial and free. But my tool is not a "me too" tool, it's a unique (in some aspects).
Denis Shevchenko Send private email
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
 
 
> There is always at least one customer
> for anything under the sun :-)

Not one... Already two... And it's cannot be that these two developers are the only people in the IT-world who need this tool. I don't believe in it.
Denis Shevchenko Send private email
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
 
 
> I think there is a market for developers who
> work with style guidelines that they don't like.

You're right, but *not only* for such developers. Even if I like some guideline, it's boring to follow it manually. This is my personal experience, and this is experience of my collegues.
Denis Shevchenko Send private email
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
 
 
Create free online version. Promote it in stackoverflow.
Maksym Sherbinin Send private email
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
 
 
Well, you've had our input. The rest is up to you. It's hard to change course but in this situation, I think you have to.
Bring back anon Send private email
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
 
 
> Create free online version.

I thought about it, Maksym. But what for? I think that online formatter is *not* a good solution. Main (but not a single) reason - confidentiality. Many developers never let to upload their source code in the Internet.
Denis Shevchenko Send private email
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
 
 
> Well, you've had our input.

Thank you all! I'm very grateful for all suggestions and advices.

Sincerely, Denis.
Denis Shevchenko Send private email
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
 
 
I'm not talking about fully-functional, code-uploading, batch-formatting online version. Simple copy->paste->format.  Something like (with better interface):

http://www.dpriver.com/pp/sqlformat.htm

http://www.prettyprinter.de/index.php

Whoever is in your target group will be able to instantly format code without downloading anything. You will get a much needed traffic and, if test works out,  sale.
Maksym Sherbinin Send private email
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
 
 
Freemium mostly works when you are selling in huge volume to consumers. Even then it often doesn't succeed.  This is a product in a limited market aimed at professionals. Let them have a free trial (limited duration or crippled) then charge them a decent price if they want to use it. Have volume licensing in place if someone wants to buy it for a department.
Andy Brice Send private email
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
 
 
Andy's right. No need to go full freemium. A free trial is sufficient.
Bring back anon Send private email
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
 
 
I'd consider a trial something like:

- Format up to 30 files in trial
- Max 5 per batch (once the batch is done tell the user you didn't finish the job because it's a trial but make sure it's easy for them to check what a good job you did with the first x).

The exact numbers are arguable, but I'd go with number of files instead of time limiting & I can't see watermarking working here.
Jonathan Matthews Send private email
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
 
 
So your target audience is developers. Well, developers are cheap and don't want to pay for their tools. Developers have no problem with using complicated open source solutions.

And that's why I say: http://astyle.sourceforge.net

Selling dev tools is a particularly shitty market.
Jeremy Morassi Send private email
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
 
 
> Well, developers are cheap and
> don't want to pay for their tools.

You're wrong. We can see maaaaany commercial dev tools, and developers are buying these tools.

> Developers have no problem with using
> complicated open source solutions.

You're right, *some* developers use complicated open source solutions. Some, but not all.

I'm a "zealot Linux-user" at the past. And I never bought any dev tool, even for $1. But two years ago I've changed my mind...

> And that's why I say: http://astyle.sourceforge.net

AStyle doesn't support Objective-C. And this is *not* a single reason why Style Revisor is better.

> Selling dev tools is a particularly shitty market.

15 years ago it was. But not now.

For example: http://mac.appstorm.net/roundups/productivity-roundups/30-great-apps-for-developers/

And this is smaaaall part...
Denis Shevchenko Send private email
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
 
 
Fellow software development tool vendor here.

Your product ought to be turned into a plugin for popular IDEs and programmer-oriented text editors such as Sublime Text.

On the front page, I'd make a smooth animation showing how code formatting gets changed from style to style. Extremely smooth, with flying braces and such. I would not perhaps include in it poorly formatted code, though it would be interesting to check your tool against some snippets from http://ioccc.org/

The online version should only enable visitors to try your product on a small sample before downloading. I'd limit it to processing a screen or two of source code at a time, or process all but display a random fifty lines excerpt and an invite to download the trial.
Dmitry Leskov Send private email
Wednesday, May 01, 2013
 
 
Although the language is Objective-C and the screenshots are from a Mac, the site's branding is not especially oriented toward Mac and iOS devs. The look of the site is rather generic, as is the name of the product (Style Revisor). Is this a Mac-only product? Then get some Apple-related branding on there. Register with Apple to use their download images. And get this app in the Mac App Store! That's where most of the action is these days with the Mac market.
Kevin Walzer Send private email
Wednesday, May 01, 2013
 
 
I agree that it would work better as an IDE or SCM plugin. There is a market indeed, I manage three developers and it's hard to keep them using a standard.

I think it would be better to sell to business, for developer teams. As an aide for source review. You could partner with Atlassian and other code review/SCM vendors to sell your tool for the right market.

I don't know of Objective C, but in the windows world there is a lot of discussion about Tabs/Double spacing, Variable naming conventions, the use or not of hungarian notation. Heck, I'd love if it blocks the creation of one char lenght variables, letting only a pre-defined few like I, X, Y and Z for counters.
Mauricio Macedo Send private email
Wednesday, May 01, 2013
 
 
> Is this a Mac-only product?

No. I plan to add suport of Linux in the nearest future. About support of Windows - I haven't decided yet...

> And get this app in the Mac App Store!

I thought about this for a long time, believe me... And I read about pros and cons of MAS, from many Mac-developers... After long thoughts I've decided not work with MAS. At least, for now. In the future... Maybe...
Denis Shevchenko Send private email
Wednesday, May 01, 2013
 
 
> I think it would be better to sell to business,
> for developer teams.

Better? Hm... For now Style Revisor is a B2C *and* B2B app. For a single user I offer two prices: for commercial use and for noncommercial use. And for companies I offer discounts for a volume license.
Denis Shevchenko Send private email
Wednesday, May 01, 2013
 
 
I mean to focus on selling to business. This changes your marketing strategy, content "tone" and even product naming.  For example I'd drop the "simple formatter", focus on the benefits for code review and keeping an even coding standard for the product source, like less time to train new coders.

Then I'd have three pricing packages, Hobbyst, Small Team and Enterprise.

Such things were what I meant when talking about marketing the product for business. You use the small guys to drive knowledge about your solution, and sell to the big guys.
Mauricio Macedo Send private email
Wednesday, May 01, 2013
 
 
> I mean to focus on selling to business.

Thank you very much, Mauricio! But I have one thought...

> You use the small guys to drive knowledge
> about your solution, and sell to the big guys.

Yes, it's cool "to sell to the big guys", but I'm a microISV, solo entrepreneur. And I'm not sure that "big guys" will want to deal with me...
Denis Shevchenko Send private email
Wednesday, May 01, 2013
 
 
That's why you must change your business tone. Always using a "we" instead of "I", including a support subscription. Only tell that you are a one-person company if asked. You'd be surprised of how many sites that look like have a big company beside them are in fact a small business' job, they just don't advertise it.

Remember that big companies must start somewhere, go read Jason Cohen's blog on http://blog.asmartbear.com/ abou how he created Smart Bear. Even our host, Joel, started very small with his business, selling to other business.

I'm on this boat, Denis. I'm building my software yet, with B2B focus. Will it work? I don't know, but I've seen it working to other people.

Even the famous 37Signals is a small company by most people's standards. So what matters most is to have a good strategy and properly execute on it, IMO.
Mauricio Macedo Send private email
Wednesday, May 01, 2013
 
 
Ok, Mauricio, thank you. I'll think about it.
Denis Shevchenko Send private email
Thursday, May 02, 2013
 
 
Re selling to the big guys, they won't care whether you a re a one-man show as long as your product solves a real pain *and* is not mission-critical.

We have quite a few big names on our customer list while being a small company operating, if you look at the map, from the middle of nowhere.
Dmitry Leskov Send private email
Thursday, May 02, 2013
 
 
I suppose this is mostly aimed at people who don't use a full-blown IDE? Friends of emacs and vim, etc.

For your information, IDEs from JetBrains all have very good formatting functionality that covers normal code, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript too.

Good luck! You should probably work on some other ideas too, though.
Bonita Applebum Send private email
Saturday, May 04, 2013
 
 
> I suppose this is mostly aimed at people
> who don't use a full-blown IDE?
> Friends of emacs and vim, etc.

Yes, Bonita, but *not only* for those people. In fact, many developers (who work with IDE) use standalone dev apps, even if there are similar plugins...

> For your information, IDEs from JetBrains
> all have very good formatting functionality
> that covers normal code, HTML, CSS,
> and JavaScript too.

Yes, I know it. I've tried to use their AppCode. It has *not bad* formatting functionality for Objective-C, but Style Revisor is more flexible and muuuch easier to use.

> Good luck! You should probably work
> on some other ideas too, though.

Thank you! I'm sure I'll find other ideas too, and I'm sure Style Revisor will find its customers.
Denis Shevchenko Send private email
Monday, May 06, 2013
 
 
Hi Denis, congrats on launching!

Although you have strongly resisted what some folks here have said, I think you should re-haul your site. Here are a few things you could do:

-Explain clearly the core benefit of your product in your headline title. "Uncompromising simplicity. In everything." really doesn't say anything.
-Sounds like the main benefit is time savings - how much time can a team expect to save using this tool?
-You said you were selling to devs and team leads. Pick one to target with your messaging, because they have different pain points you should be highlighting in your marketing.
-You mentioned Objective-C & Mac developers multiple times as a Unique selling point in this thread, but I don't see that called out anywhere on the main site. If that is your target, focus on it.

Good luck! One paying customer is a start, but doesn't make a growing business. It's further than most people have gone, so you are off to a great start!
Charlie B Send private email
Friday, May 10, 2013
 
 
Thank you very much, Charlie! I'll think about it.
Denis Shevchenko Send private email
Monday, May 13, 2013
 
 
Thank you all!

Yes, I was wrong... I'll change my app, change it policy, it positioning and it website.
Denis Shevchenko Send private email
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
 
 
@Bring back anon

30 seconds?  Generous.  IIRC the average visitor gives 5 seconds.

@OP

I'm not sure this is an easy product to sell.  The suggestions to sell to corporate B2B however make good sense.  Again - not sure if it'd be viable (I've not done any market research - and you *need* to) but maybe adding PHP and some of the web dev languages would add appeal?

Anyway - best wishes for your product and congrat's on a launch!
Scott Kane Send private email
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
 
 

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