lessons learned through writing a facebook app

a long time ago, when facebook opened its api, i wrote a Quran application for facebook [see my previous post, here]. however, it was a hack, wasn’t fully featured, it didn’t look great, and, most importantly, it wasn’t put on the facebook application directory. sometime later, someone launched a Quranic Verses application - it was much nicer, more feature rich, and, most importantly, it was in the application directory.

feeling a bit competitive, i spent most of my past weekend rewriting, adding viral features suggested by my friends, and polishing the app. after three days of hard work, i finally launched. its been one day now since i launched, and here’s what i learned:

  1. being first to market is a huge competitive edge - i started out with around 40 user, whereas the other app has about 24,000. regaining the lost share of users will be extremely difficult.

  2. on the same note as the above, it seems as though getting to the market first is more important in some ways than what you bring to the market. if your product is the only one out there, people will use it, even if it has problems. once they start using it, the chances that they leave yours and use another one are slim. even if a competitor comes out, you can just improve your app and keep the market share.

  3. features aren’t always what you think they are - some features that you think are critical and awesome won’t be used by anyone at all - other features that you think are useless will be used a lot. its actually pretty odd, the one feature that i thought would be the selling feature of my app has gotten no usage by anyone except me, and the one feature i left out is the only one anyone asked me about.

  4. connections are important - a person who knows how to spread a viral app can do it, and can work wonders for your app and users. a solid and passionate user base can help your app grow, but without it, nagging can only take you so far. also, your connections can give you really good ideas and valuable user feedback that’s hard to get otherwise.

  5. its amazing how much you can get done in such a short period of time when you have a burning desire and passion to get something done.

  6. from a technical stand point, certain things may seem daunting at first, but a solid will to succeed makes these technical hurdles surmountable.

  7. even if something didn’t turn out quite the way one expected, there’s always some benefit to be taken out of it - so take the benefit, learn from the negatives, and move on :)

so yeah… i guess that about covers it… i still have a hope that the unused feature will be used and i can start a wildfire of users adding the app, but at the same time, i am being realistic and sticking to point 7 above by writing this blog post and consciously thinking about these matters.

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