FilterFresh: The Back Story

This week, with as much media “blitz” as an indie shop can muster, we announced our latest app, FilterFresh, along with our completely revamped website. FilterFresh is free and solves a simple problem: It reminds you when to change or clean your filters. (Think: HVAC or water or any other kind of filter you have.) As a bonus, you can order your replacement filter from within the app.

FilterFreshYou might think this isn’t terribly useful. But really, it is! Other solutions usually involve paper and pencil, or if you are really clever, an electronic calendar reminder. These suffer from a variety of faults: paper and pencil require that you write down when you last changed a filter and that you remember to look at the paper in 3 months or whatever interval is appropriate. A calendar reminder is better, but at best, you get one chance to see the alert, and then do something to take care of the maintenance.

FilterFresh solves all these problems. Simply enter information about each of your filters, including when you installed (or last cleaned) it, and how long the interval is before you have to change or clean it again. Exit the app. Two weeks ahead of the next time you have to maintain the filter (assuming a long interval) you’ll get a reminder that your filter needs maintenance. Then one week before. Then a few days before, and so on, until you take care of the maintenance and mark the filter as having been replaced or cleaned. At that point, the last maintenance date and reminders all reset for the next time. Simple!

The convenience doesn’t stop there. Remembering to care for a filter is not necessarily the problem. It’s not finding a suitable replacement filter that stymies some and ultimately prevents the maintenance from happening at all. Fear not, dear reader! FilterFresh lets you search for and purchase replacement filters, all from within the app. Even better, if your old filter has a bar code, you can scan it from within the app and search for that exact item immediately.

Really, it couldn’t be easier: True set-and-forget reminders, and in-app search and purchase of replacement filters, delivered to your door. All you actually have to do is replace the filter! (Search and purchase not available in all geographies.)

We’re really excited to have launched this app, and we’re doing our best to get the word out. You can help! Please let your friends and neighbors know about this app. It’s free, so why not? It’s useful, easy to use, and, we think, beautifully made.

The Back Story

This app has been in development since December 2013. We launched April 8, 2014. Along the way, I took the opportunity to share some of the development experience here, here, and here.

The app is free, but does include advertising. I knew when I decided to write it, it would be free, with ads. Although not a game, I have high hopes that lots of people will download it because a) it’s free, and b) it’s actually useful if you have filters that need regular maintenance.

I wanted to do more to try to monetize the app, however, and I decided there was a potential opportunity to somehow allow users to locate and purchase replacement filters. My first thought was Amazon. Surprisingly, they do not actually have an API intended for mobile use “at this time.” (I emailed them. That was their response!) So I went searching. I found and considered several affiliate offerings from large big-box retailers, but ultimately decided to partner with the eBay Commerce Network (ECN). This is the network that powers Shopping.com. As a publisher, FilterFresh has access to all of ECN’s merchant offerings which includes eBay offers along with many third-party merchants too. The selection is pretty good, as it turns out, and the pricing is good.

I wanted to take advantage of another third-party service I’ve used in another app to provide first class in-app customer support. The app uses the Helpshift SDK to provide an elegant interface for users to find answers to common questions as well as interact directly with us. Helpshift can take advantage of Apple Push Notifications to let user’s who ask a question know that an answer is available, and FilterFresh takes advantage of this capability. To keep the annoyance factor low, FilterFresh only acquires a Push Notification token (with the accompanying iOS popup) only if the user uses the Helpshift interface. That is to say, we only ask the user for permission to send them Push Notifications if they are using an app feature that requires it.

Finally, we still believe that positive reviews are important to an app’s success. But we have also begun to subscribe to the idea that annoying “Rate me” pop-ups only provide a bad user experience. So here’s what we did instead.

Additional UIAfter a few launches, a subtle bit of UI is exposed, indicated with  an unusual badge on the hamburger icon. (This is where a Helpshift badge would appear normally if the user had interacted with us from the app, and we had replied.) So what’s it mean?

Typically, tapping the hamburger brings up an information view. The additional UI exposed there is the “How are we doing?” section you see below on the left, which leads to the view on the right when tapped.

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FilterFresh Info Page+ FilterFresh How are we doing? page

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The point of this, of course, is not to annoy the user. Rather, the idea is to ask the user gently for some feedback. We passively lead the user to the Information view, and draw their attention to the new item, which asks a simple question. When selected, the user is presented with three options. The goal is to have happy users leave a nice review, and unhappy users contact us directly without leaving a bad App Store review. (The Helpshift UIs come into play for the second and third options.)

I spent a good bit of time thinking about this after I read a blog post (I can’t for the life of me find it now…) that talked about how user feedback was solicited in a controlled manner similar to this and produced great results. I think the take away is to remember that the user  and their experience should always be of the utmost importance, even when it comes to asking for feedback, good or bad.

Postscript

It’s too early to tell anything about the launch or its success. 🙂 I will say that building this app has been a lot of fun, largely because it is completely different from other apps we’ve worked on. It incorporates some interesting UI and UX that was fun to build and is unique and pleasant to experience. It is the first new app released by Hawk iMedia in quite some time, which feels great!

The revenue streams (advertising and ECN) will be interesting to watch. The model and theory is that lots of people download free apps, and many eyeballs on ads means ad revenue. We’ll see. The ECN connection should also be interesting. Given the nature of the app, ECN revenue could very well be delayed 3 months or more, since folks downloading the app now may not have a filter to replace for 3 months or more. Again, we’ll see.

The community’s support will help a lot, and I am grateful if you tell only one person about FilterFresh.

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