I’m : a programmer, writer, podcaster, geek, and coffee enthusiast.

You don’t need every customer

Every well-read site gets comments. (For people like me who don’t let others publish comments directly on our articles, we still get plenty of commentary — just in other places such as email, Twitter, and Hacker News.)

Every app with a nontrivial number of downloads is likely to have comments, too, in the form of App Store reviews. This goes far beyond the app market these days, with stores like Amazon allowing anyone to review products and media, and sites such as Yelp that will publish anyone’s review of any restaurant, doctor, or church.

If you put yourself out there at all by offering a product or service, you’re going to get comments, usually anonymously and outside of your control, potentially inaccurate, malicious, or not credible, yet available for all future prospective customers to read.

Now, think of something you saw recently that had a lot of comments or reviews. They’re not all going to be positive. What could its creator have done to please all of the negative commenters?

Go ahead, this isn’t a trick question. You know the answer.


No matter what you make or how much you charge, some people will find things to complain about. If you drop your app’s price all the way down to free, people will still complain — just not about the price. They’ll move on to the features, the implementation, the design, the updates, the way you look, or what kind of dog you have. They’ll complain about every facet of your app, and then they’ll complain about unrelated topics just to pile on. They’ll say they use your app every day and love it, then give it a two-star rating until you add their pet feature. They’ll drop you from five stars to one star after an update that broke their edge case, then never come back to update that review after you fix it. They’ll complain that your productivity app isn’t a very fun game. They’ll scream at the world that your app is “useless” because they don’t like something about it. They’ll jailbreak and install a bunch of hacks that make your app crash, then leave you a one-star telling everyone that your app crashes constantly without mentioning their hacks.

You will never please everyone. You will never win that battle.

When evaluating complaints, we need to consider whether the complainer is credible, whether they have reasonable expectations, and whether a significant number of others have made similar complaints or are likely to have experienced similar problems. For many complaints, a reasonable outcome isn’t possible or pragmatic, and the best solution is to ignore them.

Developers are usually able to maintain a healthy balance of knowing which feature- or design-related complaints are worth paying attention to and which aren’t. So why is it that we lend so much credence to every person who complains that our $3 app is too expensive?

Someone saying they won’t buy at your price is just one data point. Each sale of your app is another data point. If you sell 100 copies of your app and get 3 comments on Twitter from people saying it’s too expensive and they won’t buy it, I’d say you’re doing great.

It’s impossible to get every customer. Fortunately, you don’t need every customer. If you sell a 99-cent app to just 1% of the people who bought new iOS devices in the 2012 holiday quarter alone, you’ll clear about $519,750. Not a bad quarter.

The most important input for your pricing is quite simple: are enough people buying it at its current price? If not, you might have a pricing problem, but not necessarily. If enough people are buying it, you face the interesting question: can you charge more?