Crossing 1,000 signups to the waitlist. Pricing experiments. Highlights. Alfread December’20 Update

Fedor Shkliarau
5 min readJan 4, 2021

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Alfread is an iOS app that helps actually read saved articles. Or skip them.

Progress

  1. Alfread has crossed 1,000 signups to the waitlist!

Reaching 1,000 has been a goal for quite some time and we are really excited to see so many people interested in the space and the little thing we are building.

I wish it took less time to reach that number though. It took 7 months to achieve 1,000. Now it sounds less impressive, doesn’t it?

Looking back, I can see that the more effort we’ve been putting into the app and the landing page, the better it was doing.

Here’s how the landing page evolved in the last 7 months:

Version 1.0. May’20
Version 1.2. June’20
Current version 2.0. September’20

Most of the advice on validating product ideas says to spend the least effort on the first version of the website. Just explain it in a few sentences, add the email signup form and it’s ready to go.

The opposite of such an approach worked better for us. Even though, we started very leanly, the current version of the website brought us the most signups.

A well explained, nice looking landing page helped attract the attention of Alfread’s target audience: designers, developers, and managers.

2. Highlights and dark mode

Dark mode

It’s hard to imagine an app without dark mode these days. Even though it became a thing only in 2019 with iOS 13.

Adding dark mode to Alfread isn’t a tribute to the latest trends. Our mission is to help people read more and sometimes reading also happens at night.

We want to share what we learn as we go. So Tim, Alfread’s developer, wrote an article on how to implement the dark mode quickly and easily.

Another big addition was highlighting.

Reading more doesn’t make sense without capturing what you learn along the way. Also, supporting Instapaper and Pocket means that their users are used to highlighting.

Here’s a demo:

3. Adding pricing to the website

You don’t see pricing on app websites often. However, I find it a great place to experiment with it. Especially, pre-launch.

Pricing is also one of the most intimidating things to figure out. Just like with discussing salaries and money, there’s a certain stigma around it.

Early founders try to avoid showing (or even thinking about) pricing as it can limit user growth (in their minds).

Adding pricing to the website also meant having to figure it out vs. procrastinating on it.

Questions to figure out were:

  1. Is it a subscription or a one-time fee?
  2. If it’s a subscription, is anything free?
  3. What are the premium features?

Here’s the first attempt to answer them:

Alfread’s pricing 1.0

Learnings

  1. Feature requests: people, not just numbers

Since the first private beta release, we were receiving feedback on what was missing from the app. I made the mistake of just noting down the features and the number of people requesting them.

Instead, I should have also been writing down who were the people that made the requests and their email addresses. If a missing feature stopped them from using the app, chances are low they’d be following the updates themselves until we would add it.

In December I started writing down this information and plan to reach out to the people personally once (and if) we add what they asked for.

2. Conversion drop

After adding pricing to the main page and editing the copy, conversion dropped significantly. The website was getting around the same views as before, but the number of signups was quite low. In fact, there were no signups for 3–4 days after adding the pricing.

I moved it to a separate page and added a link to it in the footer.

It made conversion go up again but maybe I should have stuck with the experiment for longer to see what happens.

Challenges

Asking for feedback

Feedback is the most important currency for early products after the time being spent on them. We’ve been receiving feedback through TestFlight and also by emailing invited users shortly after inviting them.

The conversion rate into a reply wasn’t that great though: just 1–2% of the people send their feedback via email after being asked for it.

Few reasons for that that I can imagine:

  1. Timing isn’t right (email comes too soon after the invitation);
  2. Too many questions in the email (there are five currently, so might need too much time to answer them);
  3. Email isn’t the right medium to ask for app feedback.

Here’s what I did instead: I emailed people who were about to receive the invitation to Alfread a day before asking them what made them sign up. Interestingly, I got many more replies to that. It got them excited, kicked off our relationship, and some of them sent their feedback right after installing without me having to do anything.

New Year’s resolution

Sums it up nicely:

P.S. Do you have any questions or just want to say hi? Let me know in a reply here :)

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Fedor Shkliarau

I help businesses design high quality digital products. Ex @ajsmartdesign @pandadoc. Working on something that gets people to actually read saved articles.