14 Jan 2019
2018 in review
After finally being able to make enough for two small salaries at the end of 2017, this year was about growing enough to make those salaries a little more comfortable and catching up on iOS since I was finally able to work on Hello Code full-time.
This year saw big improvements to Exist for iOS, as I worked hard to bring it in-line with our Android app. Because I'd had a day job and was newer to programming than Josh, our iOS app always lagged behind Android in the past.
First up, I added weekly graphs to the Today screen (now called Today's progress). I followed up with support for syncing some new attributes from Apple Health throughout the year: mindful sessions (meditation minutes), cycling distance, and weight. I also added a 3D touch shortcut to the app icon, so you can quickly jump to reviewing today's mood and tags. Existing users probably won't have noticed, but I also redesigned the welcome screens you see when first logging in, and added a few extra screens to explain how Exist works for users signing up on iOS. The last iOS-specific change was the addition of the Trends screen, which had been in our Android app for a long time already.
On the web, Josh released a major redesign that included some brand new features, such as letting you rate correlations, a search box to help you ask questions about your data, and historical browsing across day, week, and month views. We took the redesign and brought it to both our mobile apps with a brand new summary screen to give you quick snippets of the most interesting information.
Josh also added some new integrations, including Pocket, Garmin, humidity and air pressure from our existing integration with Dark Sky, meditation from Google Fit, and body fat from Fitbit and Withings. He also removed two dead integrations: Moves and Jawbone UP. We've outlived a few other projects that had similar aims to Exist, but it's surprising to be outliving some of our original integrations!
Some other new features and improvements Josh made this year included the ability to turn off single attributes, open-sourcing our API docs, an option to "reset" attributes by deleting all their related data in Exist, and metric and imperial unit options across different categories (eg. distance, weight, food), rather than a single option for your whole account.
Our annual survey came very late this year, as we knew Garmin had been a popular request previously, so we wanted to have that integration released before the survey. We learned that most users appreciated the new features we built this year, saw that our mobile split is less heavy on the iOS side now, and discovered that correlations are still the thing most users want us to focus on in future.
- In 2018 we published 1 post on the Exist blog, compared to 9 in 2017. Ouch.
- In Dec 2017 we had 1,070 paying users. In Dec 2018 we had 1,304. That’s a 22% increase. The previous year we'd grown that number by 78%.
- In 2017 we made $74,498.23 total, for an average of ~$6,208.19 per month. In 2018 we made $107,259.37 total (a 31% increase), averaging ~$8,938.28 per month. The year before we increased our income by 68%.
Side note: when I added up these figures (the financial year in Australia doesn't match the calendar year, so this is the first time we'd seen how much we made in the 2018 calendar year) I was excited to see we made more than $100,000. Although this is an arbitrary figure, it feels big, and it's amazing to think that we built something from nothing that not only makes money, but made this much money in a calendar year. We're not aiming to be rich, but we're yet to find a way to completely opt-out of the capitalist system so far, which leaves us with trying our best to make enough money to live comfortable, meaningful lives by making stuff other people appreciate. It's really cool to see this kind of tangible evidence that we're getting there.
After adding a few select beta testers at the end of last year, this year's focus was on preparing for a more open beta testing period. Josh worked through improving the setup process for new teams, adding a Trello import, and replacing Google login with email. He also added replies in the comments of a task, options for deleting accounts, custom task category options for each team, and drag-and-drop for moving tasks between lists.
The open beta was a bit disappointing, as few teams seemed ready/willing to use Changemap seriously, so we struggled to gather useful feedback. After the initial signup flurry we put Changemap on the backburner to give us time to decide how to move forward.
2018 saw Larder get a dark theme, as well as the ability to create your own custom theme. We finally released an iOS app for Larder, which was another part of my efforts to catch up to Android this year. Larder for iOS is in public beta because Apple won't let us publish it to the store without adding in-app purchase and giving Apple a cut of our extremely meagre sales. Larder is too small to justify the work to implement this, the ongoing work to deal with how it complicates our accounting, and the frustration at letting Apple do what they want because they control the App Store, so we're sticking with public beta for now.
Speaking of Apple, we also had to scramble to update our Safari extension when it stopped working in the latest version of Safari, and in future it sounds like we'll have to rebuild it in native code and publish it to the Mac App Store.
We sent out a Larder user survey for the first time, but the results were disappointing. We're still deciding how to adjust our approach to Larder for 2019.
- In 2018 we published 6 posts on the Larder blog. Last year we published 7.
- In Dec 2017 we had 40 paying users. In Dec 2018, we had 49. That’s a 23% increase, compared to last year's 74% increase.
- In 2018 we made $1,799.21 total. In 2017 we made $1,080.79. That’s a 66% increase. The year before we increased our income by 56%.
Finally, a couple of company-wide stats:
- In 2018 we published 20 Hello Code blog posts, compared to 17 in 2017.
- We released 1 podcast episode in 2018, compared to 3 in 2017.
Looking ahead to 2019
Of all the plans I mentioned in this part of last year's review, the only thing we didn't do was marketing. We were already feeling that marketing had really dropped off this time last year, but we've let it drop even further. Marketing definitely feels like the hardest area for us, as we both find it more comfortable to write code most of the time. We also have strong feelings about a lot of the marketing tactics that work for other people, so it's difficult to find an approach we're comfortable with, that will also help us grow. So that will be a focus for this year.
On the product side, we have some ideas for Larder and Changemap but we're still undecided about their future. We'd also like to find more time this year to work on new ideas, even if they're not money-makers.
For Exist, Josh has some work that was originally slated to be part of the web redesign but didn't make it in, so that'll be a priority this year, along with our plans based on the survey results. I have some more attributes in mind that I'd like to sync from Apple Health, and we'll inevitably look at adding some new integrations throughout the year. We also want to improve the process for reviewing your day, and add more polish to the iOS app.