6 Years of ORD App

It has been more than six years since I built ORD App. Sadly, it is time to say goodbye.

ORD App will shut down in November 2021.

Since the application holds no user data and it was quite a static application, there is no action required by users. Users are recommended to look for a separate app to countdown to their Operational Ready Date (ORD). There are a few beautiful apps out there on the App Store.

To each one of you (estimated more than 57k users) who have downloaded the app, I thank you for being part of the journey.

Below is the story of why I started the app and also why I decided to kill it. If you would like to contact me, my email address is on my website - https://yanyi.sg/.


Interest

Time flies. I started building the app back when I was in National Service (NS). It started out with creating a design and then it piqued my interest in building my first app. It took a week's effort and the simple app was published to the App Store for the first time. Fun fact: the background image in the app was inspired when I was missing out on sunrise or sunset while I was serving the nation. The background image changes based on the time the app was being used.

That was back in 2014. Back then, a couple of friends and I were excited about startups and building apps. I thought that I would start off by building a simple app and publishing it to the App Store. Thinking, “Yea, I want to become an iOS developer in future.” It was also the start of building side projects for my portfolio.

“Yea, I want to become an iOS developer in future.”

However, things did not materialize. University and life happened right after NS. My friends had their own ideas and career path they wanted to build. Over the years in university, I started thinking about the direction I would like to head towards in the IT field when I step out from the university.

Interestingly, I had an opportunity to help a startup build their first iOS app. I got exposed to working with APIs with iOS app for the first time. That piqued my interest towards backend programming. I picked up Ruby on Rails in one of the vacation breaks after that short stint, thinking that I can build my own APIs to work with an iOS app. Naively thinking that I would be a full-stack developer with iOS frontend skills and hosting my own APIs.

I started loving tinkering with the tool set I have acquired over the past 1.5 years.

Fast forward to April 2019, I was presented an opportunity after a team change. I started with no prior knowledge on backend programming and gained them on-the-job. I started loving tinkering with the tool set I have acquired over the past 1.5 years. I was intrigued by how people wrote their programs and hosted them, and I picked up all the necessary basics.

Prior to work, I only knew about hosting a static web page. SFTP my files up into a web server I had access to. Heroku to host a simple Rails app.

I have learned a lot more since then.

Why I Killed the App

I lost interest.

I built the app back then before Swift came out. I did not migrate the app to Swift. I had ideas of features I wanted to build, but I did not build them due to the lack of interest and motivation.

The app was free and it was costing me $99 every year to keep the app up on the App Store. It was a decision to balance between keeping an app up for my portfolio versus shutting it down. Why were there no advertisements in the first place? I did not like ads. Back then, I thought that the design was minimal and beautiful. I did not want to ruin it with advertisements.

All of them have more features than mine and with designs that are in trend.

Lastly, there are talented NSFs out there building their own ORD apps. All of them have more features than mine and with designs that are in trend. I urge users to download these apps, and wish the future young programmers the best!

Lessons Learnt

On the App

I learned how to design, code and publish the app to the App Store.

I did not market the app, but because the app was in a niche market, the downloads were organic. A question I would ask myself, “But what if I had marketed a little? How would I market it?”

I did not have a proper product backlog. Due to my lack of work experience, I was drawing sketches and writing feature ideas in my notebook. No Figma, no Jira, no Agile. Do I need these? Or was a notebook sufficient?

I did not read Apple's guides and there was an instance I had a submission rejected because it mentioned an upcoming iPhone model. In fact, the only guide I was reading was Human Interface Guidelines due to my interest in having a better experience for the users.

2x and 3x assets were a little confusing for me. I published a version of the app that had some issues with iPhone X when it came out. I published that version without testing on a real device since I did not have access to an iPhone X.

On My Career

I would like to build apps for people. It brings me tremendous joy when I see my app being shared and talked about. Friends were telling me that their friends were using my app. Screenshots of my app were shared on social media when users counted down to their last day before they shouted, “ORD loh!” I want to build things that people would really use. I want to bring joy to others.

Looking back at the code base, I could see that I have improved in my programming skills. Right now, if I am irking at the code I wrote back then, I guess it could mean that I have improved.

Since I am moving towards mostly into web/backend programming, having an iOS app as a side project did not make sense for interviews.

Building side projects are important. For all the job interviews I have been on, none of them asked about this app let alone query about the number of users this app had. Since I am moving towards mostly into web/backend programming, having an iOS app as a side project did not make sense for interviews. After all, the numbers on the app are measly compared to other independent apps out there.

Statistics

I thought I would share some numbers out here. Since I did not put any trackers or analytic tools on the app, I took these from iTunes Connect.

March 2014 till September 2016

Total unique downloads: 15.3k

Unique downloads between March 2014 till September 2016

There were 188 active devices in August 2015. 1489 active devices in August 2016.

October 2016 till October 2017

I did not take any screenshots (that is how I archive the stats instead of Excel sheets) between this period. This period was also the transition of moving the app from a company account to my own personal account.

November 2017 till October 2020

Total unique downloads: 32.2k

Unique downloads between November 2017 till October 2020

Average monthly active devices with at least one session: 3,065

Average monthly active devices between November 2017 till October 2020

It was nice to see the monthly active devices jump from 188 in August 2015 to 1489 in August 2016, and 3470 in August 2020.

Active users in August 2020

Based on the figures I have, there is around 10k downloads each year. Given that we have 15.3k for the first two years and 32.2k for three years, I estimate there are around 50k+ users who have downloaded the app. Close to 60k.


It was sad that I had to make the decision to kill the app. I hope to be able to build another iOS app another time. Who knows if I might just build one in the next year? I have some ideas brewing ☕️ in my head.

If you would like to contact me, my email address is on my website - https://yanyi.sg/.