Sunset at DoubleM Systems (, Del Mar, California

Thursday, May 30, 2019

On the surprising lightness of being completely free...

Free Calvin And Hobbes GIF

We started out to build an app that would help people
get their thinking to support a successful life and business.

Although the app was not intended to be a money making adventure;
the idea was to see if maybe it could support itself enough
to cover the costs of upkeep
(programming, website hosting, bug fixes, etc).

For the last couple of years ToBeWise™ 
came in two versions: Free and Pro.
The Free version was advertising supported.
The Pro had some extra features. was ad-free, at a price of $2.99, 

It was this pricing scheme that positioned the app as a business.
A way to get a user's money, either by paying for it, 
or subjecting them to advertising in the app.

The disconnect with a business model for a free gift
kept me from doing much with it.
I was uncomfortable selling an app for 2 or 3 bucks,
first of all because it was supposed to be a gift,
and also because I didn't need the
And I was uncomfortable giving an app away that
used advertising to convert users' attention into money.
Additionally, there was the option to get Free users to upgrade to Pro for money.

From the users' perspective, I could imagine them
feeling cheap by getting the Free version,
or feeling wary of buying the Pro version, even for only a couple of dollars.
And the ambivalence probably led to abandoning the decision completely.

The solution was most interesting:
Remove the Free version and make the Pro version Free with no ads.
(Thanks, Steve!)

At first I just couldn't understand the suggestion.
After all, we already had a Free version,
so why make the Pro free, and eliminate the Free version.
In the end, you still have a Free version...

It was only after doing it that it became clear.
The simplicity of only one version,
and the complete detachment from any profit motive
gave me a totally different perspective,
and it energized me.

If there was never any intention to make money on the app,
then why did we charge anything at all?
We got started down the wrong path, 
using an app model that was designed for profit making businesses.

Having only one version:
1. reduces user confusion and anxiety at the point of downloading,
2. eliminates the discomfort with being sold something,
3. possibly increases the likelihood that it will be downloaded.
4. eliminates buyer remorse if the app is disappointing, or not used.
5. increases likelihood that it will be recommended to others.

More importantly, 
I feel a lot more positive about recommending the app now,
since there is no way I can profit from sharing it.
It's truly a gift.

And then share it with a friend...