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The best way to climb in the App Store charts? No, it's not lowering the price.

It's innovation and care for details. iA Writer is the first cross plattform integration of iCloud. As pointed out by some users, we're now even ahead of Apple in terms of iCloud integration. Since we launched the new version, our downloads are skyrocketing. And that without being featured yet. Which is extremely rare. On launch day alone, iA Writer for iPad has been downloaded 29,000 times. And given that it's iOS5 only that's a surprising number.

In the chart below you can see the comparison between lowering the Price from 9 to 5 Dollars (7/11) and raising the price back to 9 while upgrading Writer with iCloud (29/11).

While it's easy to get a bump by lowering the price the effect will wear out quickly and you'll make the same revenue for a short period of time and then, as sales even out with previous sales quickly (I wrote about that a couple of days ago) you'll make half of the revenue.

The best way to sell your app is creating something useful that no one has done before and that is hard to copy. In other words, there are no cheap tricks. Sure, innovation in user interface design is is not easy.

- Focus Mode with all its details of how exactly it is supposed to work alone required months of R&D (you can see some iterations on P64 ff in this presentation: http://www.slideshare.net/reichenstein/ia-on-creativity-information-and-innovation)
- Auto markdown was the idea of my great friend +bodhi philpot, and we worked on together formatting issues like auto indent for some time
- The typographic definition of Writer has taken forever; it's been literally driving me nuts. We conducted uncountable tests for the choice of the typeface, hundreds of variations only for line hight and spacing. It looks ridiculously easy now, but it's very hard to do.

It's not easy to innovate in user interface design, yet, all too often, it is very easy to copy these things. The iA Writer look and feel, as introduced by iA Wrier for iPad one year ago, has become the de facto standard of the vast majority of focused writing apps. We take it as a compliment, as long as the copying stays within certain limits.

To stay ahead in the game, you should focus on things that are highly useful and very hard to implement — in our case the blue bold cursor, the combination of auto markdown and auto indent, dynamic titlebar and iCloud.

While it's easy to please some users with a couple of easy features (add this and that mode, import or export filter, this and that markup trick), the cheap feature addition strategy will lead to a loss of focus.

We've been struggling a lot to not allow different font sizes and colors (very easy to do, very hard to resist), and it shows. When you open Writer, still all you can do is write. No settings. This is the guiding principle. And it's been very tough to stick to.

We've had literally hundreds of occasions where a difficult design decision could have been averted by just adding a setting. We tried to solve the underlying problem instead. Sure, it's not perfect for everyone. It's not the ideal feature set for geeks; it's not ideal price for stingy people; it's not good enough for people with really bad eyesight (very sorry about that); but, according to our feedback, it is a dream come true for low tech high end writers like A. Burroughs or Stephen Fry that care about more about the writing experience than being able to use LaTeX or their own favorite font. And that's the user base that what we're after.

At the same time we've chosen the stony path of focusing on hard to spot, expensive details: like a beautiful licensed font, cursor color, auto indent, focus mode, the super super delicate and massively ball breaking dynamic title bar on Lion. Even iCloud can be seen as a detail by those who prefer Dropbox.

No one except type geeks will notice the sublime font choice. But everybody that engages will feel it. That's how typography works. No one except UI freaks will notice the fresh cursor of iA Writer for Mac, but everybody will feel that it's much easier to find your spot than in any other Mac writing environment. Not everyone will use focus mode, but those who have a need for it absolutely love it.

Can user experience be designed? It can't be predetermined, but when you have a unique, strong basic concept, the more you care for details the more people will experience your interface in the way you intended it to be experienced. Designing user experience is just like writing. You never know what people read into your text, but the clearer and the more carefully you express yourself, the higher the chance that people will feel what you meant.

Next stop: iA Writer for iPhone. And after that? Only this much. Be prepared for a big general upgrade that will be conceptually innovative and very tough to copy in its love for details.



iPad: http://itunes.apple.com/app/ia-writer/id392502056?mt=8
Mac: http://itunes.apple.com/app/ia-writer/id439623248?mt=12
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18 comments
 
have not tried out the icloud feature yet.. will this be ported to the Ipad version?
 
As a heavy LaTeX user, I am happy if more people are able to produce beautiful documents with nice typography.
 
Just want to say, I've always been a huge fan. Some of the best money I've ever spent.

Great product. Great team. You guys should be really proud.
 
Been a while since I used Writer. Reading your post makes me think of new subjects, just so I can dive into Writer again. Truly wonderful app!
 
Would love to see that graph over more time - say in another month. At the moment, I'm not sure any strong conclusions can be drawn, other than 'positive changes result in an initial spike'. Of course, I really do hope that brilliant functionality brings better rewards than just lowering the price; iA Writer is an excellent product.
 
probably the most useful, best designed and though through app I have seen in years across all platforms. Well done and keep up the excellent work!
 
It is great Oliver, I find myself using it more and more loving any minute of it I didn't even bother to instal MS word after Lion upgrade. I would like to see that non blinking cursor you once mentioned.
 
I'm curious to see how you iterate each time you add or remove a new feature. I think iterations is one of the keys that determine the success of a product and you obviously work painstakingly each minor version of the app.
 
Great post. Love hearing how you come up with the details, and these latest updates have brought Writer back into my workflow. What's the best protocol to put in the following requests (besides right here)?

* ⌘I and ⌘B to force Markdown when nothing is selected. I keep hitting them to no avail.
* Bracket wrapping, reformat links.
* List completion on return.

These are just for the Mac app. I'm loving iCloud. It's a great implementation of it. I wish there were a way to open my iCloud docs from the keyboard, but in due time I'm sure that will come. Congratulations on an awesome update!
 
"we went through so many iterations, that it feels like explaining a chess game with all the ifs and whats". Yes, this is exactly was I was thinking about.
 
That's great. Congrats on this, and I hope you keep building killer apps.

Didn't mention being featured on App Store's official Twitter account. I saw it yesterday and was surprised with joy.
 
"It doesn't have fifteen fonts. I can't print it out in old gothic banners five feet long, but I sure got that article finished under the deadline."

Jef Raskin on the Canon Cat
(1986, Programmers at Work, p. 239)
 
I love it and use it for any kind of writing. As soon as it comes to sending, publication or collaboration I'm unhappy to copy-paste away from iA Writer. I hope one day it will be a standard text editor on various platforms and content management systems. Are there any thoughts in that direction?
 
Do you know how many of your users are "markdown" users? Just curious :)
 
+Oliver Reichenstein I struggle with how to articulate my own internal definition of "designer". If you walked up to a glass door, with a bar that spanned its width, such that you weren't sure which side to push, I'm almost positive that you would consciously note that usage friction, and recognize it's something to be addressed by design. I'm fairly sure that the majority of product makers who copy the "features" of iA Writer wouldn't consciously note (or be bothered by) the problem with the door. And that's the difference.

And, its encouraging to see that the market continues to respond to and prefer the work of designers.
 
How do you rename a document?
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