Dealing With Negative Feedback. A Story Of ShakeItPhoto 1.3

When products or software change, many people get upset. They want it back “the old way”. Most of the time, they get over it. After a week, you get used to the changes and the world moves forward with a better product and happy customers that realize that the change is for the best.

This was NOT the case with a recent update for my iPhone app ShakeItPhoto.

The Big Update

Version 1.3 was a big, much needed update for ShakeItPhoto. The graphics had to be redone for the Retina Display, we added the ability to process larger photos due the the iPhone 4’s five megapixel camera, and we added sharing features so you can send your photos directly to facebook and email though the app. In the excitement, I decided to also update the look a bit to make it look more like a real instant photo. I’ve always liked the look of ShakeItPhoto, but I felt it was time to update it a bit. It was a subtle change, but one I was excited about.

Well, when version 1.3 finally came out, the customers let us know very quickly that they did not like the new look. At first I thought this may be a good time to relax and give people a week to get used to the new look. I was wrong. After a lot of feedback and questions, I realized that our customers were actually saying that the new look isn’t bad, it’s just not the ShakeItPhoto they know and love. Sure, some people loved the new look. New customers had never seen the “Old Look” and were happy with it. But the overwhelming majority were not happy and they let us know though e-mails, reviews and one star App Store ratings. Our best customers had books, daily photo sites and huge projects all being made with ShakeItPhoto. We changed the core functionality of their favorite app and they were not happy.

Completely Changed the processing style that made ShakeItPhoto a great app without warning in the update notes. Photos now look washed out and low contrast with no option for original processing. Huge Letdown. – ScotScott

Lesson learned – Don’t change the formula of something that people love. We had a “New Coke” moment, and it needed to be changed back.

But this is My app, Not Yours

Here is the hardest part. I build apps that I love to use and want to use. I really enjoyed the new updated look and assumed everyone else would too. This was MY app, MY vision! I’m not gonna let a couple of loud complainers change my app, right? Besides, people can find any excuse to complain about a any new update. Making a decision like this was tough for me. Was the customer really right this time? Thinking though it all, I decided they were. I made a selfish decision that effected most of our most loyal customers and it needed to be changed.

The Aftermath

I quickly decided to go ahead and change it back to what we now refer to as “ShakeItPhoto Classic” in version 1.4. I responded with a video over the weekend to let everyone know our decision and to explain our thoughts about why we did what we did. Video is a great way to show people that it’s just me in a room trying to make the best decisions I can to make great applications. Sometimes for customers, it’s easy to think that a company is a soulless corporation just out to make a buck. By talking candidly on video, without a script, I can really talk directly to your customers in a really cool way that isn’t possible though text.

A Passionate Community

The most valuable part of this entire process was the feedback we got from our community. We listened to the problem, quickly made a decision. and It worked. Did we make everyone happy? Definitely not. But we showed that we are listening and the community responded with great feedback, reviews, articles and tons of praise on how we handled the situation even if they did like the new look.

Having customers act this passionately about our products, even with negative feedback, is the most valuable thing we have as a company. Apps live off of word of mouth. The worst thing that could have happened would be if nobody said a thing.

19 Comments

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  • Hey man, you know I love your stuff. We all hit speed bumps every once in a while. We just gotta settle back in after the jolt and keep on moving forward.

    Your products are great and glad you have the ability to make diplomatic decisions.

  • Any chance the revised look will be added as an option in the future, or is it gone for good?

    I liked both, but not at the expense of losing the original.

  • I am still on the 1.3 version of ShakItPhoto. I was one of the people that loved the new look. I also loved the old look, but think this new look is different, more ‘instant’. More suitable for this app and different from the native colors of the iPhone camera.

    I do liked the way you acted. I saw it happen, negative feedback on twitter, blog posts, etcetera. You did the right thing moving back to the old look. It is your app, but it is also nice making an app that people like, when you get feedback, blogposts or even full blogs deticated to the app. That’s something only you and Hipstamatic app have made happened. That’s great! By changing back to the old look, you showed us you care about us.

    What I like to know is, what version are you using?

    • Thanks for the comment, Robert. I use the current version. I’m looking at ways to get the new look out there without adding a bunch of unnecessary options.

  • Nick, I love your work and I believe your decision should be the model approach to dealing with negative feedback on photography app updates. Thank you for putting customer choice first.

    The bad news is that I am not a shakeitphoto user as I don’t like pseudo borders. The good news is if you were able to make this optional in future I would love to use the app more.

    Thanks
    Oggsie

  • Yeah I was one of the people that really liked the new look too. I was really surprised by the negative backlash 1.3 received. But if the 1.3 update is the worst thing to happen to your company, I think you’re going to do just fine making apps 🙂

  • I didn’t mind the new look, but why could we have both? Some shots looked better with the new, some with the old.

  • Interesting article Nick, nice to hear you really care about your customers. I am about to release my own iPhone app and reading this article gives great insight into what could potentially happen.

    Best wishes,
    Brett

  • I’m a casual ShakeItPhoto user, I have some friends that are passionate about it. I like how you handled this, tho I disagree that adding an option would be a bad thing. You already have an Options screen, one more line there wouldn’t exactly be a huge leap in the clutter department.

    I’m surprised that you haven’t received a ton of feedback asking for a square viewfinder.

  • Please, it’s too late to “keep it simple”. I bought ShakeIt when 1.3 came out and loved it. Now I’m screwed with 1.4 and others are screwed if it goes back to 1.3. Please just add the option to select the kind of look you want. By making a mistake and changing the look the app was made more complex and I think the only way to make this right for all users is to add an option to choose the look. Thanks Nick, I love all that you do!

  • Hi Nick, I’ve been using shakeitphoto since December 2009 on a daily basis and posting on flickr just about every day. I love this app and in fact I have 4 pics in an upcoming exhibition entitled ‘Nicosia JeTaime’…
    So now to the point: yesterday I decided to update to the new version, especially since I wanted my pics to have the ‘original’ polaroid border. Download off itunes went off ok, took a pic and everything went ok until the image was processed. Then it crashed! The screen on my 3GS iphone went blank and the pic was nowhere to be found! Even though I had selected the option of ‘keep original’ in wasn’t in my camera roll, pre or post-processing wise. So I deleted the app and re-installed (4 times so far) but still nothing… I tried using an existing pic from my camera roll but the same thing happened. I’m really upset about this – I posted on the flickr group site and sent an email via your website. This morning I received an email from Alexia telling me that she had passed my email onto you. So here’s my plea: stop eating easter eggs for a minute and see what you can do, please!! Thank You and happy Easter anyway…

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