9 lessons learned going from 10k to 150k users

It’s been a while since I’ve sat down to write an update about AirCare. 2019 has been a really amazing and crazy year for me personally and for AirCare as a product. If you want to learn more about all the cool things we did, read on!

For those of you who don’t know, AirCare is a mobile app that visualizes air pollution data. It uses open data from over 30 different sources in the Balkans and is the leading app with over 150.000 downloads.

9 new countries

At the start of the year, AirCare was only available in one country: 🇲🇰 Macedonia. We were working on expanding in other markets but didn’t expect to go to anything big.

Looking back at the end of 2019, we had nine new countries added: 🇷🇸Serbia, 🇭🇷 Croatia, 🇸🇮 Slovenia, 🇲🇪 Montenegro, 🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina, 🇦🇱 Albania, 🇽🇰 Kosovo, 🇬🇷 Greece, and 🇷🇴 Romania.

With the help of NGOs, AirCare became a serious competitor of AirVisual in Serbia, taking over with over 30.000 users in less than a year. Having the app localized in Serbian, using multiple data sources, and cooperating with people on the ground led to this impact.

Lesson learned:

  • When expanding your app to another country, make the necessary friends in advance that can help you understand the market and target it correctly.
  • Don’t rush into expanding in 10 places at once, take your time. I expanded to one country per month, in order to make sure that everything is working correctly.
  • Localization is key: People need to feel like the product is their own. The fact that AirCare is available in Serbian, made the launch smoother for all audiences, and people trusted the app much more. It was no longer one of the tens of air quality apps, it was their app.

A new design and features

With the growing amount of users (10k a week at the time of writing) came the need for a fresh design and some new features to make the app even better than at the start of the year.

Notice the difference between having a designer and not having one?

Thanks to Elena Andreeva, a talented designer from Macedonia, AirCare got a much-needed facelift, transforming it into a truly beautiful app. Now we were ready to head out into the new world. But it wasn’t just the design that we added.

Multiple new features came to play, like the child mode from our one and only Dreadpen, the active fires map using NASA satellite data, and the crowdsourced map of no-smoking venues in Macedonia.

Lesson learned:

  • If you are a programmer, don’t pretend you are a designer. Get someone who knows what they are doing to help you make a beautiful app.
  • New features need 2 things: Marketing and Testing. If people are used to one main feature of your app, all the little subfeatures are easy to miss, so market them well, and test if they are needed in the market or will people not used them.

Profitability

As the users grew, so did the interest from potential advertisers. I made one promise to myself and my users: Ads will never be intrusive, will always be well designed, and will always be relevant to the topic at hand. But how do you do that if you can’t just simply use Google Ads?

Well, for me, that was contacting all relevant companies that work with air quality products. Making deals with all of them, one by one. And I didn’t allow companies to have control over the design in order to make sure that it fit the full design of the app.

Lesson learned:

  • Treat your advertisers as friends, make sure that they know they are respected. I sent them a custom christmas email, and they loved it! (Thanks Tea)
  • Always communicate changes with your clients upfront, and be honest. If new competitors are going to advertise, give your current clients a heads up, so they don’t feel cheated on.
  • Make ads relevant, and that will keep users happy. No pop-up, full screen, sound making crap.
  • People will share screenshots of your app, and if an ad is visible on that screenshot, this is an extra avenue for your advertisers. This is something I learned completely by accident. Take a look at all the screenshots above, and you’ll see the an ad included.

New me

It’s been five years since I started AirCare, five years of learning, failing, and succeeding. But after five years, it came time to ditch my day job and really started focusing full time on AirCare — because saving the world can also be a job!

What’s next? Well, stay tuned and see 😉

Now go and download AirCare and find out what you breathe: https://getaircare.com.

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