Alfread's email account got banned. Why waitlists don't convert. November'20 Update

Alfread is an iOS app that helps actually read saved articles. Or skip them.


1. App update

On November 3rd, we've made the biggest app update. Helping people to read is a tough task. In this release, we added more tools to make finding things to read much easier. Read more about it here:

For this update, we've invited 154 people more from the waitlist.

A whole new tab for searching and browsing through saved articles

2. Feedback

I've also sent out an email asking people who have installed the app for feedback, here're the questions from it:

1. What did you like about the app?
2. What you didn’t like or found confusing?
3. Is there anything missing for you?
4. Do you think Alfread can help you read more?

Receiving feedback is one of the coolest things when working on something new (before it can make any revenue). Also, it helped spot some issues that would be harder to catch otherwise. It was the first time asking for feedback proactively in a batch, so it was good to receive all different kinds of feedback at the same time.

Here're some quotes:

The UI and experience is well designed, and I really like the concept of swiping stories left/right to show (non-)interest in them. Makes it easier to manage my huge “to read” list.

I really like this new way of consuming content "read later". You have a fan in me.

But of course, it also brought a lot of feedback on what we are still missing.

3. Blog

I started a blog for Alfread. It's a long shot, hoping to see something come out of it over the next 6-12 months.

The first article of the blog. Hope, more will come

The first article is a comparison of Instapaper and Pocket, two apps that Alfread supports and relies on for saving and importing links. I've used both apps for a few years and noticed that people find it hard to spot the difference and choose what's right for them.


1. Email account getting blocked

I was using SendGrid for all the emails I've sent to out to Alfread users previously but it seemed like it added an extra step. When requesting new users for feedback, I've decided just to use the standard email app and bcc everyone who installed the app. Well, that was a rookie mistake.

After everything working fine for a few days, I received an email from my email hosting service saying that their IP address got blocked because of my "mail bombarding" dozens of emails. Ooops! Because of that, they blocked Alfread's email address for all the outgoing emails.

I apologized and luckily got unblocked very quickly, learning my lesson.

2. Waitlists grow old

This isn't news but makes me think about it every time we sent out a batch of invites. The last time was no different.

Around the same time, I came across this article about Product Fundamentals for Go-To-Market, which echoed my learning.

Alfread's waitlist is now around 6 months old and the conversion rate on the last few invite rounds was around 25-40%. Not great, not terrible.

Among potential reasons for such low conversion for TestFlight invites are:
• loss of interest;
• invite coming from a developer, whose name they haven't seen before;
• Android users;
• email address is not an Apple ID one/can't accept the invite.

On a side note, I've noticed that users who had to do more than just submitting their email address to get invited were much more engaged. I did an experiment for the app update tweet: skip the line for a retweet. It worked semi-well receiving 12 retweets. But then when I emailed people asking for feedback, those who retweeted were the first to reply.

As another experiment, it might help to change the way people apply for early access on [Alfread's landing page.]( Instead of just submitting their email address, users would have to fill out a form a send an email to us. It's nothing new: other products have done it and I guess I know why.


1. Growing the waitlist

It's a two-edged sword: we need to grow the userbase, but also waitlists tend to grow old as we've learned. It's a tough one.

So far, posting Alfread's landing page to One Page Love and Designer News has worked best for us.

2. Joining a maker community

Do you know an indie maker community that you enjoy being a part of? I'd love to join one, especially with makers in an early stage for their apps and similar challenges. Let me know if you know anything!

P.S. Do you have any questions or just want to say hi? Let me know in a reply here :)