(continuation of “my.SXSW: How NOT to make a Conference App for iPhone”)
First, just how bad *is* my.SXSW? Is this just a bunch of whiners, as the my.SXSW developer seemed to think?
App Store Ratings
Currently 2 stars, out of 5.
This is a conference app for SXSW … it ought to be work of simple beauty, a crafted piece of design with great usability – an easy 4.5 stars. As one commenter noted, there’s hundreds of designers and developers who live in Austin who’d gladly have contributed to make it so, if they’d been given the chance. They weren’t (apparently).
…and here I want to chip-in with something from the post-mortem. Chris Bucchere (I think) pointed out that the conference organizers have had recurring problems with the “polish” part of their online/digital presentation for years. Where some tech conferences these days already have highly tested and robust tech architectures, it sounds like SXSW’s tech is still new and rapidly evolving. So, that would make any developer’s job much harder.
I sympathise with a developer who takes on a project too big for them. It hurts. But if you can’t/won’t take steps to fix it, and it means the end product sucks, then I’m afraid you have to live with that, and admit your failure.
App Store Comments
Let’s look at the comments… (NB: you can switch to different countries via the dropdown on the linked page)
- “So horrible I took the time to wrote this.”
- “Extremely buggy, slow & unstable … I can’t believe this is the best sxsw can do.”
- “This app is a piece of s*%#! Thanks for nothing, it’s easier to grab a chronicle and go through it by hand.”
- “Oh the irony- you guys are supposed to be on the cutting edge of tech, right? FIX IT.”
- “I’m dying to use this app but I HATE DUB right now. ”
- “Forms won’t submit when you hit search. Can’t find “Williams” or “Casey” keynotes!”
- “Use mobile website. It’s way faster. ”
- “App constantly crashes and is very buggy. ”
- “For me the deal breaker is the fact that search does not work. The UI is also non intuitive. Too bad b/c this would have been really helpful if better executed as prctically everybody here at sxsw has an iX device.”
- “Sweet idea, very useful for sorting through tons of events….when it works. Crashes at some point every time I use it.”
- “For what’s supposed to be a time saver, phenominally slow and hard to use. ”
- “App is a thrown together waste of time.”
- ” Crashes immediately on 3gs iPhone.”
- “Give me an option to sign up for dub and then mandate it? Crash with every other launch? Don’t remember which track I selected causing me to waste ten seconds with this slow app each time I launch it? Nice job. Wish there was a Sched app.”
- [ ... and many more in a similar vein]
Developer scrambles to fix it, right? … Right?
Wrong. I went to the post-mortem during the conference. The developer feels that “9 out of 10 people complaining are just blowing off steam”. They apparently don’t understand what’s wrong with the app, and they’ve been welcoming people to explain in more simple terms what needs changing.
I am grateful for the insights they shared (although a lot of it was basic low-level professionalism – I mean, seriously, they “forgot” to test the app before pushing an update? Yikes). However … personally, I think they shouldn’t have given the talk.
They should have spent that hour fixing the app and rushing through an update with Apple as fast as possible. It might have been only a small improvement, but from this starting point, anything would have been better than nothing.
Honest, transparency, and … fake reviews?
This is dangerous ground; professional iphone developers are well aware that this behaviour can get your apps pulled from the App Store. (google it for examples if you’ve not seen any yourself).
It also makes the consumer in me pretty angry – I don’t like being lied to. If you write a crap product, admit it and suck it down. Don’t react by assuming that your consumers are all stupid, and have your employees or PR agency go online and “pretend” to be a happy customer. Congrats, “megab” (suspiciously close to a schill for Dub?):
NB: I have no evidence of who megab is / is not – I’m merely pointing out the suspicious nature. I leave it up to you to decide. Read the comments for yourself:
This user only reviewed three apps. Two of those are for the same company (Dub), and are 5 star, the third is for an arguably-rival company (Bump) and is 1 star.
Oh, and by the way – this is against Apple’s terms and conditions. Decent companies don’t do this.
Out of all the reviews, every single one panned the app, except this and one other. And the other listed a bunch of problems. This reivew almost sounded like it came from a different app entirely .
In summary … this is a really bad iPhone app. I haven’t seen a mainstream app that was this bad for a long time – I can’t remember anything within the last 12 months.
But I’d like to add that I’m impressed by the openness and tolerance of the developer – especially Chris Bucchere. Faced with such an avalanche of criticism and outright hatred, he’s doing well at remaining civil. From what I’ve seen, he’s genuinely trying to engage with the people providing complaints.
Part 3: what should you do?
EDIT: I didn’t intend to tweet this post – I forgot that auto-tweeting was setup on this blog – so I’m still writing the final part (concrete suggestions for conference app design). I’ll post it ASAP and edit-in the link here!