2021 in review
19 Dec 2021
This time last year I wrote a post about how I made my workout-tracking app Personal Best and my goals for the coming year. Now we’re approaching the end of 2021, here’s a reflection on how things have gone.
Let’s start with sharing some numbers on Personal Best’s growth.
In 2021, Personal Best was downloaded around 21,000 times, compared to around 7,400 downloads in 2020.
This is a really big increase, but 17,000 of these downloads came from listing Personal Best in Apps Gone Free, when I made Personal Best Pro (an in-app purchase to unlock more features) free for a day. The downloads from places like Apps Gone Free tend to be less valuable than organic downloads as many people will download an app just because it’s free and then often delete it shortly after.
However, I don’t regret doing this. I didn’t really lose anything by making it free for a day, and as a complete novice when it comes to marketing it was a valuable learning opportunity.
Removing the 17,000 downloads from Apps Gone Free leaves around 4,000 downloads, a significant reduction from 2020.
In 2021, Personal Best made around $1,500 in sales, compared to approximately $1,700 in 2020. A sale is defined as either somebody paying for Personal Best Pro or dropping some money in the tip jar.
This might seem strange at first glance – it had almost half as many organic downloads as last year, but sales were only down slightly. I’m not entirely sure why this, but I think it’s a combination of me putting the price up partway through the year and doing a better job of upselling people.
In 2020 I didn’t have any way of tracking active users, but in June 2021 I added TelemetryDeck. Amongst other things, this lets me see how many daily active users Personal Best has.
Personal Best’s daily active users has grown slowly but steadily since June, from around 500 at the beginning of June to around 1,300 in December. This is a really great increase which I’m very pleasantly surprised with. It honestly blows my mind that over 1,000 people use my little app every single day.
Personal Best gained quite a few new features in 2021. The highlights are:
- Sharing: Turn workouts into customisable images to share on social media or elsewhere. I made this because I thought it would be cool, with half an eye on it leading to some social media interest as people see the ‘Shared with Personal Best’ stamp on the image.
- A redesign: To make data more useful, easier to access, and better looking.
- Support for splits: See which parts of your workout were the fastest.
- SiriKit and Shortcuts support: For the automation crowd. About 70% of the reason I added this was to try and get on @viticci’s radar 🙈
- App Clip: To make it easier to try Personal Best without having to download it.
- Achievements: To gamify things more and give people some goals to aim for.
I’m fairly pleased with how much new stuff I added in 2021. There were also tonnes of bug fixes and other tweaks to make things better and smoother, too.
Alongside this I also split Personal Best from codakuma.com and gave it its own website – getpersonalbest.com, which launched in July. It’s a simple, static website featuring dark mode support, a press kit and a support page.
In 2020 in review I called out marketing as something I struggle with and must improve. I still suck at it, but I did at least attempt to do some things this year to varying degrees of success:
- I hired a professional writer to write the App Store description for Personal Best. He did a far better job than I ever could.
- I managed to get Personal Best featured in an article for iMore, and an issue of Club MacStories weekly newsletter.
- I got featured on the App Store in several European countries for a week. Thanks App Store editors ❤️
There’s one big challenge I haven’t mentioned at all. In July, I left Skyscanner and joined Duffel, a travel startup. My new job is great, but it’s also a huge ramp up from my previous job. It takes much more out of me, and at the end of the day I usually need a break from my computer and don’t feel like doing more work.
As a result, in the second half of this year I really, really struggled to find time to work on Personal Best, and development slowed down a lot. In 2022 I want to address this and find a healthy balance where I can still be good at my job but also have time to work on Personal Best.
Last year I listed four goals for 2021, and I mostly achieved all of them!
Get featured in the App Store in at least one region
Status: Achieved ✅
Over the Summer, Personal Best was featured in nine(!) regions for around a week. In the UK and Ireland, it was part of the App Store’s ‘New and Noteworthy’ list, and in a group of mainland European countries it was included in ‘Big Apps From Small Teams’.
Get a review of Personal Best into a big tech blog
Status: Achieved ✅
Thanks to reaching out to some journalists and bloggers, I got into iMore and Club MacStories (see links above).
Do more marketing
Status: Achieved, mostly ⚖️
I definitely did a bit more of this than in 2020, but like many New Year’s resolutions it skewed heavily towards the beginning of the year and then tailed off sharply.
Be ready for iOS 15 on day one
Status: Achieved ✅
There were no big-ticket features that made sense for Personal Best in iOS 15, so beyond a few small bug fixes, I didn’t need to do anything here. On the one hand this was convenient as I started my new job in the Summer and was very busy, but on the other hand it means I missed the opportunity for some press coverage by launching a big new feature, like I had with widgets in iOS 14.
For 2022, I’m going to set some similar goals. It’s tempting to set very ambitious goals, but in light of my struggling to balance my day job with Personal Best, I think it’s best to be realistic.
- Be featured in the App Store again.
- Get Personal Best into another tech blog (The iMore article was in January 2021, so it’s been a long time).
- Find a healthy balance between my day job and Personal Best.
- Make Personal Best really, really solid. Right now it’s decent but there are still a few quirks and frame drops. If I want to be a best-in-class app, I need to nail this and achieve a good level of polish.
- Deliver at least five major new features or improvements.
Here’s to next year. I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling ‘22..
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