At some point in time you have to let it go

Software developmentProjects

At some point in time you have to let it go

Minimalistic Text is almost 10 years old. The first commit to the repository happened on 7th of November 2010.

How it began

I did not expect to create something that will reach the number of people Minimalistic Text did. It was basically just a try to create something for my new Smartphone (a Samsung Galaxy S). I was inspired by an application that already existed and was able to show the time as spoken text as a widget.

Recreating that widget and extending it by a first level of customization was basically the starting point. I started a thread over at Xda-Developers and immediately received great feedback. That encouraged me to extend the app step by step till it was a really feature packed text widget creator.

Generating income

At some point users wanted to know how they can contribute and donate some money for the app they use to make their homescreen look nice so I decided to create a donation system (separate app and in-app purchases) and to give the donators some benefit made new features available for the donators first. I also added Google Ads that were not shown for donators.
This generated some income that allowed me to buy a bunch of equipment like laptops or new smartphones. I had to test my app on the latest and greatest phones out there, right? 😉
It was not to a level that I get rich or could quit my day job but it allowed me to have some extra cash that could be invested in tech stuff.

AppStore feature

One day in January 2013 I received an email from Google that they consider featuring my app in the PlayStore. They had some requirements though (only the major ones listed here):

  1. I had to remove any donation hints that are not using Googles system (I had a PayPal link in the app). This was already forbidden by their terms and conditions (didn’t know that)
  2. The user interface felt already outdated and did not match the new Android style so they told me I would have to upgrade the UI to be more modern.
  3. Optional: support a tablet user interface

So I did this. I invested a bunch of hours working every night for ~1 month to basically create the UI from scratch using more modern paradigms.
In the end it really was worth all the effort because I completely underestimated the reach you get when you are featured in the PlayStore.
It started end of March and ran for a week. The amount of emails I got was amazing. Luckily I have been on vacation during that period because doing all the email conversation alone took a couple of hours a day. Not to forget all the problems that appear if more users are using your app. So I was busy responding to emails and doing bugfix releases the whole week.
It makes a huge difference if your user base is mainly coming from mouth propaganda or XDA Developers - so a very tech averse user base - or if your users are random Android users that have seen your app in the Play Store because it got featured.
The amount of money that I got via donations and ads was really impressive and I never expected that. This event will stay in my head forever.

The years after that

I continued to work on features and enhancements coming from the users so that Minimalistic Text got better and better.

There were a bunch of occasions where people tried to buy Minimalistic Text. Sometimes because of its features (seldom) but most of the time for some shady business. Not sure what those people do with an app they buy but I can imagine that the use the permissions the app has to do not very nice things to the users. Minimalistic Text has (by its nature) a whole bunch of permissions and a huge user base which made it a target for those companies.
Of course I did not sell it to those shady people. I considered selling it once (the founders of XDA were creating a launcher and they planned to integrate Minimalistic Text) but I was not able to do that. Minimalistic Text is my baby and it would really not have helped the user base when the app is sold to be integrated into something different.

In the meantime some other widgets creator apps arose that felt much more modern and did not only support text but also other visuals like images. Positioning of the elements was not based on text lines but on a coordinate system.
To catch up with those I basically would have had to create a completely new app as it would have been impossible to migrate the Minimalistic Text widgets to a completely different paradigm.
Minimalistic Text has always been a hobby for me and I basically created it for me. Adding all those features for the users was a bonus but I didn’t feel for creating a completely new app and jump into the shark tank that already contained professional competitors.

Shrinking user base

So the user base got lower and lower and that is OK. I don’t want to force anyone using a niche app from the 2013s (UI wise). The revenue I still got via donations and ads was quite OK and roughly mirrored the effort I had with Minimalistic Text.

Next step

But now we are at a point where I basically have 0 effort and the revenue is even lower so I decided to go the next logical step:

I will publish a new version (5.0.0) that removes all ads from Minimalistic Text. For me the chapter “Minimalistic Text” is closed and removing the ads removes the last piece of commitment I feel to “do something new” for the users.

Of course if there is a critical bug or a user has a question I still will handle that. But I finally remove that silent voice from my head that reminded me at least once a week that I have an obligation for the users that generate money for me via ads or even donate money to me because of that app to do something for them.

This frees up my head for tackling other hobby projects I have (as the currently running post series about my Terminal application)
As already mentioned: The intention to create Minimalistic Text was never to get rich or even earn money with it. This happened by accident. So I also don’t have any other project with the goal to make money from it in the pipeline.

It has been a pleasure, a fun ride and a bag full of learnings. Technical and non-technical ones.

Thanks for all the help, the contributions and all the feedback. It helped a lot.