My desktop app's Year in Review

Hi all,

I’ve been developing a cross-platform file manager for the past 23 months and decided to write a Year in Review post: Maybe some of you will find some of my learnings interesting!




A nice read, and it is interesting to see some numbers revealed.

fman is doing way less in sales than I’d have expected. Based on my experience and that of friends and acquaintances, I’m pretty sure you’d be able to get your sales way up by the end of 2018 with some savvy marketing. What are your marketing plans for the coming months?

Thanks Steve. My main goal is to fix the problem with retention. Because of that, I don’t plan on doing any marketing beyond what I normally do (blog posts/newsletters/forums). Doing marketing now would be like strapping a rocket engine to a horse carriage, I think.

Which begs the question: how do you plan to fix retention problem?

Here’s one idea: make the go to input box always visible at the top.

The “go to” is, at the moment, the big feature and while you promote it on the landing page, people don’t read and it’s not discoverable.

Eventually you could add an option to hide it, to recover the space, but it should be visible by default (and options can always wait).


Also, comments regarding

1. Don’t ask people to contact you via twitter. That’s not a place for a meaningful conversation. You don’t want to be interrupted in the mi

2. Put a fully linked e-mail and not this nonsense “[my first name] @ [my last name - double r, double n].io”

I get that you think you’re avoiding spam but leave that job to gmail. I’ve had my e-mail on my blog for years, spam is not a problem.

3. Make a better pitch for why do you want people to contact you. Be specific about what kind of feedback you want and encourage them to contact you.

I use:

I love getting feedback, bug reports etc. about my software. Send me an email…

It’s more inviting than

If you have feedback…

Remove unimportant fluff, like:

Thank you for your interest in fman! My name is Michael Herrmann, I am its creator.

4. Add a way to just send you a message via form (which emails it to you).

5. Bigger font. There’s very little content there, you can afford to be generous with font size.

6. Bonus: add discourse-based forum for users of your software.

For a concrete example of doing all of the above:


Thank you for the suggestions @kjk. I don’t yet know how to fix the retention problem. What I want to do is ask users who left and never came back why, and then improve from there. Your suggestion regarding GoTo is a good idea; I don’t want to make it always visible. But I could make it so it opens when people click on one of the two location bars in fman. Having said that, there is an interactive tutorial that greets you the first time you start fman. Most people take this tutorial. It explains GoTo. So I hope that what you said (people not knowing about GoTo) is actually not that much of an issue.

Re /contact: I’m focused on other things right now but will keep what you said in mind when I get to rework the contact page. Thanks.

One thing I found the most interesting is that you track daily users for your desktop software. Would you mind sharing, how exactly are you tracking daily users?

fman gathers anonymous usage statistics. There’s information about this in the documentation. Does that answer your question?

I’m a seasoned bootstrapper and we used to share the following trick back in the days: calculate the conversion rates for 2 different parts of your funnel.

Let’s start with download conversion rate. Calculating (Number of Downloads per Month * 100 / Number of Website Visitors per Month) will give you a rough percentage of download conversion.

Depending on a product niche and website quality, the expected conversion rates for downloads lay between 10% and 50% (where 50% is the best download conversion rate I ever heard of for a commercial product).

The second important metric is Download to Purchase conversions. It is calculated as (Number of Purchases per Month * 100 / Number of Downloads per month). A typical purchase conversion rate ranges from 0.1% to 2%. 1% means your product is doing well, everything higher than 2% means you have an exceptionally good conversion rate. A purchase conversion rate below 0.7% signals that the product does not meet customers’ expectations to the fullest possible degree and needs more work.

The trick is that by calculating those two metrics you know which part of your funnel needs more grind.

Retention is not the most useful metrics for desktop applications. What you need here is conversions.

On a side note, I would suggest to remove “Issues” section from your main menu. First of all, it casts the wrong impression upon potential customers. See, if the product is paid, they don’t expect to have any issues. What you can do here is to change it to “Support”. I also noted that currently “Issues” link drives your visitors away to GitHub. Avoid that at all costs. For example, consider creating a “Support” page that gives user an option: to contact you directly via email or by submitting an issue to GitHub. Most customers adore direct contacts and you’ll be able to generate a lot of highly-convertible leads.

The contact page was discussed before by @kjk and you’ve already got some good advises. If you want to know my strongest impression upon visiting a contact page, here it is: Twitter goes before email. Twitter, really? It looks a bit disrespectful and may deter some kinds of people.

In general, all the little details have a long-term accumulative effect on conversions, so your website and product build something like karma.

There are some other things here and there. Not sure it’s worth to share them as they can be overwhelming.


Those are very interesting tips @DiSchwarz. Thank you very much for sharing your insights.

Excluding visits to some blog posts that are very general and not directly related to fman itself, the download conversion rate is approximately 25%. The download to purchase conversion rate is 1.7%. Given the ranges you mentioned, it appears to me that fman is actually doing okay with regards to these numbers(?)

Why do you think retention isn’t the most useful metric for desktop apps? Isn’t it a very good indicator of the quality of my product, and in particular a good indicator for future growth? (Better product -> happier and more users -> more revenue.)

Your thoughts about having a “Support” page instead of an “Issues” link are very good. I already incorporated them: What do you (and @kjk) think?

@DiSchwarz, you mentioned that there were “other things”. If you can spare the time, I would be extremely interested to hear them! You seem to know a lot about these things.

I really appreciate it. Thanks!

Great to see a non-web cross-platform app!

I would suggest renaming “Issue tracking” into “Feature requests” because:

  1. I think that bugs are better kept private, especially during early stages when you have a lot of them.
  2. GitHub’s concept of “issues” may be unfamiliar for non-developers.

I also think that there’s an SEO problem with the 2nd-page results for searches with good volume like “mac file explorer”, “mac file manager”, “file commander windows”.

Well done @mherrmann, support page spreads a good vibe now.

Regarding conversion rates, your are doing pretty well. The good news there is a room for improvement. For example, by increasing download to purchase conversion rate from 1.7% to 5% you will triple your sales.

Regarding “other things”: once you receive payments from other people, you can improve your conversion rates by providing Terms of Use and Privacy Policy pages on your website. Some people are eagerly looking for them.

Surprisingly, but providing minimal installation/uninstallation instructions at Download page increases visitor to download conversion rate as well.

I hope these little tips are helpful.

@ivm: My target audience are developers. I tried to apply your suggestions but “Feature requests” is too much text for the button and does not convey that I want people to also submit bugs on the issue tracker (rather than emailing me). I understand your suggestion, but after playing around with it a little, I think I’ll leave it as is for now. I did slightly improve the wording in the main body on the page to mention “feature requests” before “bug reports” though. Thanks. I’ll also deal with SEO a little later. Thank you for your tips.

@DiSchwarz: Especially the installation instructions sound like a good idea. I’m finishing a big feature I’ve been working on right now; Then I’ll conduct something like exit interviews. Installation instructions are likely to be a great way to increase conversions. I had not thought of “Terms of Use” / “Privacy Policy” in a very strict legal sense before. I have a EULA page and a page on the collection of anonymous usage statistics. I’ll keep what you said in mind. Thank you!