Ray Wenderlich's interview with Marco Arment →
"What are some of the biggest mistakes to avoid as an indie developer?""
By far, the biggest mistake I see indies make is having unrealistic expectations of how much the market will value what they’re making, assuming they can indulge themselves in months or years of fancy construction and consumers will pay for it.
It’s easy to look at successful, painstakingly crafted, impeccably designed apps from well-known developers like Panic or Omni and attribute their success to their craftsmanship, design, and delightful details. Far too many developers believe that if they polish an app to a similar level, they’ll be successful, too. And then they pour months or years of effort into an app that, more often than not, never takes off and can’t sustain that level of effort.
The craftsmanship and design were indulgent luxuries that their successful market fits enabled them to do, not the other way around. Most people buy these apps because they’re useful and necessary, not because they’re pretty.
It’s not enough to make something fancy — it needs to have sufficient value to the market first, which can then fund the fancy design and technical extravagance you want to do if it takes off.
Although Marco's wording and examples are a bit loose here - "design" is also about focusing on the right problem, which isn't really an indulgence, and janky-feeling apps don't inspire much loyalty (see: Meerkat) - his point still stands. Despite knowing this for many years, getting caught up in the details is still something that I struggle with.