Justin James discusses what Wodify learned when they scaled their app from zero to 100k users

It’s time IT meets their mobile users where they’re at – and give them what they need. At OutSystems, we are continually working to make that easier for you, that is why Justin James’ presentation at NextStep 2014 rang so true. Justin shared lessons he and his team learned from scaling their app to 100K mobile users and I wanted to share them.

Wodify is a SaaS offering for CrossFit “box” (or gym) owners and their athletes. (WOD meaning workout of the day.) The all-in-one software gives owners the tools to run their business and athletes the ability to log their fitness results, monitor their progress, and stay more connected with their chosen box. Wodify was created on OutSystems Platform, and as the user base grew from zero to 100,000 users in less than two years, some valuable mobile scaling lessons were learned.

Lesson 1: Your Users Are Mobile -- Even If You Aren't

Illustration of a man with six arms each holding a mobile device

It’s not unusual for a company to be lagging behind its users in terms of mobile maturity. Perhaps a focus on desktop applications has resulted in mobile falling by the wayside. Or the company simply hasn’t had the resources to build a mobile app development skillset. Meanwhile, mobile becomes a focal point of users’ lives, and the challenge of addressing users’ demands grows … and grows.

This was the case for Wodify. The company had focused on building out a desktop web app for box owners, only to find that this population represented a small portion of its users. The majority of users were their customers’ customers – the athletes who were using Wodify on their mobile devices.

As a result, the mobile app was not delivering the experience or functionality users expected. Wodify was missing a huge opportunity to further engage users and grow its business - but not for long!

Lesson 2: If Your App Isn't in the App Store, It Doesn't Exist

Wodify provided a link to download its web app on the Wodify home page and within the desktop web app itself, but that wasn’t enough. Time and again the software company heard users ask, “Can’t I just download it from the App Store?”

App Stores hang out and wait for Windows to catch up

Consumers expect to find you in the App Store and won’t look elsewhere – even if you tell them exactly where to go. Wodify learned that because its app wasn’t in Google Play and Apple’s App Store, it simply didn’t exist. However, something incredible happened once it was in the App Stores. Before Wodify made a single announcement about the app’s availability, it had been downloaded 41,000 times.

Lesson 3: Create Great Experiences from the Beginning

In the desktop world, users tend to be more patient and tolerant of weaknesses in the apps they use. The mobile mindset is different. Users want to complete a task quickly and easily. They want apps to be user friendly and work flawlessly. If an app takes too long to load, doesn’t offer the right functionality or acts “buggy,” users don’t hesitate to write a negative review. Unfortunately, these negative reviews can have a lasting impact on downloads – long after the problems are addressed.

An illustrated man loves the app he's using

Wodify learned the hard way that it is much easier to create a great customer experience from the get-go than it is to undo a negative review in the App Stores. This means dedicating the resources to building the mobile app your users want right from the start. Don’t make your mobile app an afterthought and promise to throw resources at it as they become available.

Creating a great user experience also means building in mechanisms for proactively addressing user problems. Wodify now responds to every user who posts a bad review. They get insights on what’s occurring on users’ phones and perform a one-to-one fix. Not only does the mobile app improve from these efforts, but Wodify is building a name for itself as a company that delivers superior customer service.

Lesson 4: Go Hybrid

The above three lessons point to one underlying lesson: build a hybrid app. A hybrid app, as opposed to a purely native or web app, enables you to give users the experience and native functionality they desire. It also enables you to make your app available in the App Stores, while embracing the speed-to-change benefits that mobile web apps bring.

Four lessons learned in mobile scaling -- illustrated

Wodify built its hybrid mobile app by using PhoneGap. If you’re not familiar with PhoneGap, it is an open source framework that enables developers to quickly build cross-platform mobile apps using HTML5, JavaScript and CSS. Wodify used PhoneGap in a manual fashion to extend the application built with OutSystems Platform.

The Wodify project verified what we at OutSystems already knew: it’s not enough to have a web-based mobile presence. Organizations need hybrid apps, and they need to be easy to build. PhoneGap helps companies get there, but OutSystems is making it even easier. With the recently released Platform 9, hybrid comes ‘out of the box’ with your OutSystems app, using open source Cordova for the native requirements,taking the pain out of creating a hybrid app. One of our many goals is to help you meet mobile users where they are.

And this is just one of the many ways we are doing that. How does your organization handle mobile scaling?