Screenshot? Ugh, you’re doing it wrong!

A proper sharing feature has been part of iOS for years. It has a consistent, system-level UI that’s available from most any app with anything worth sharing and yet no one seems to use it. Well, no one but us geeks, right? Everyone else just takes screenshots—which require mastering an unintuitive multi-button press and a fair amount of dexterity.

I moaned when people started posting screenshots of highlighted selections from articles to beat the 140 character limit on Twitter because they just shared a picture of text that I can’t copy, reformat, enlarge, etc. I’ve been that guy when friends send a screenshot of a product rather than a link. Sharing properly is a very type-A process that I dutifully complete out of ease for my friends and respect for the content!

That’s why my inner pedant was delighted when Instagram noticed I had taken a screenshot and gently nudged me to use the proper share features.

Use the hardware buttons to make a screenshot and Instagram is all, “Oh silly luddite, please send people a functional link.” Tapping the Share banner in the second screenshot corrects your bad form and helps you share a URL.

It’s a really nice solution that gently guides the user to the correct way to share. I’ll admit this is probably the solution I’d have designed, too. The built-in Share feature should be easier and yet friends and relatives who can barely download an app find screenshotting to be second nature.

That’s why I was delighted to see Amazon’s take on the same problem. Where Instagram’s design is a gentle scolding, Ahem! I see you have no idea what you’re doing, Amazon’s much scrappier version says, Oh you made a screenshot? Cool, lemme help you with that.

“I got you, bro.”

Amazon shows a similar, though more obvious, banner after you make a screenshot but it does things a little differently after that. For one, it uses the system’s Share Sheet which is familiar and provides a lot more options than Instagram’s custom one.

More important than that, however, is the payload. Amazon shares my screenshot and then adds a URL to it. It’s a subtle difference but Amazon’s version makes me feel better. Where Instagram gets my intent and tries to help me do the right thing, it replaced my content. Amazon’s design let’s me do what I intended but helps me do it better. In the screenshots above a major difference is posting to Twitter. Instagram’s post wouldn’t include an image, Amazon’s would.

As a designer I love being surprised by solutions I wouldn’t have come up with. I can absolutely see how Instagram arrived at their solution. Part of UI design is guiding users back when they go off track. Designers want to change the world by making things easier, more understandable, more enjoyable—more ideal. That completely resonates but I can’t help but admire the audacity of Amazon’s designers who have accepted the world as it is and humbly offered a helping hand. Kudos!

A Leap of Faith

Every button in your app requires a little curiosity and a leap of faith. Here’s how I discovered a new feature on my Twitter app just by being curious.

My colleague Jason Zimdars sent a goof tweet my way…

Then my other colleague Jonas Downey stepped in…

I recall seeing a GIF of Eddy Cue doing a “dad dance” at one of the Apple Events a few years ago. I wanted to reply with that GIF. Normally I’d search Google or Imgur then copy the link, paste it in the Tweet, etc. Then I saw this GIF button along the bottom of the Reply feature.

I was curious. Would it have “Eddy Cue Dad Dancing” GIFs? Was this only for mainstream GIFs? Was Eddy Cue too obscure? It turns out that it did in fact have an Eddy Cue section with the exact GIF I was looking for. I even misspelled his name and it still knew what I meant.

This, of course, is a frivolous use case. However goofy as it may be, it serves as a reminder as we add new features (and buttons) to the Basecamp 3 Android app. I was perfectly happy to do the copy and paste dance to find that perfect GIF. Had I not been curious, I wouldn’t have been delighted and surprised by that GIF button in the Twitter app.

As we add new features we can’t assume everyone will discover or use them immediately. It requires a bit of curiosity on the part of the customer—a leap of faith—to make that feature whole.

We’ve been working really hard to make the all-new Basecamp 3 and its companion Android app as great as they can be. Check ’em out!

If you have any feedback, I’d love to hear it! Email me or hit me up on Twitter and let’s chat.

Why I don’t worry about our app’s negative reviews

Illustration by Nate Otto.

Our happiest customers are most likely our quietest customers

Like any app developer, the Android team at Basecamp cares about our app’s reviews. We look at them regularly because they can be a valuable source of feedback and a way for us to talk to our customers.

And like any app developer, we see our fair share of negative reviews. As a small team who takes feedback seriously, it’s a bummer when someone doesn’t like our app.

A negative review of Basecamp 3 for Android. 😭

Of course not all negative reviews are thoughtfully written, and much has already been made of how broken ratings and reviews are. Still, it’s hard not to take some of it to heart and let it weigh you down.

But over time, I’ve learned one really important thing…

No matter how many negatives reviews we get, there are a lot of people who really like our app — they just don’t write many reviews. It’s important to remember those happy, quiet customers and not get too hung up on negative reviews.

Leaving reviews just isn’t a priority for many people

Here’s the thing — as much as you want them to, there’s really no strong incentive for someone to leave you a positive review.

For many people, your app is doing its job dutifully and everything is working great. It’s not changing their lives or revolutionizing their world, but it’s helping them get something done. They’re thankful it exists.

But for them writing a review is never going to be a priority. Even if they love your app and are raving to their friends and co-workers about it, giving you written, positive feedback is never going to compete against the hundred other things they’ve got going on in their lives.

You may have even experienced this yourself — do you have any apps installed that you like but have never left a positive review for? I certainly do.

Sure, there are ways to boost your ratings and reviews, and you should take whatever opportunities you can to help your app. But no matter what you do, there will always be a subset of users who are very quiet, but very happy.

Listen to your negative reviews, but keep your quiet, happy customers in mind too

While negative reviews aren’t always useful (particularly one-star reviews with the word “useless” written in it), some can be genuinely helpful.

What’s most important is that you listen to the reviews that have constructive criticism and feedback.

Great feedback from a customer, and an A+ response by our designer, Jamie Dihiansan. He listens, responds thoughtfully, and leaves the door open for a conversation.

Respond if you can, and encourage them to email you directly with more details. Feedback and direct interactions with customers are valuable and show that you’re listening. Consider their ideas, prioritize, and start making your app better for those customers.

But at the same time it’s very, very important to know that there are a lot of people using your app that are perfectly happy with it.

You’ve already done a great job to get to where you are. Don’t lose sight of that.

Be sure to give everything five minutes so that the squeaky wheels don’t cloud your judgement. Continue to trust yourself and your team to make sound decisions based on considerate thought, not knee jerk reactions. And really think about all your customers, not just the vocal ones.

Sometimes our happiest customers do write reviews. 😀

Believe me, the positive reviews and happy customers are out there. You just can’t hear them all.🤘

We’ve been working really hard to make the all-new Basecamp 3 and its companion Android app as great as they can be. Check ’em out!

If you have any feedback, I’d love to hear it! Email me or hit me up on Twitter and let’s chat.

Don’t base your business on a paid app

The App and Play stores have turned out to be exceptionally poor places to run a software product business for most developers. They’re great distribution channels for service makers, like Facebook or Lyft or Basecamp, but they’re terrible places to try to make a living (or better) selling software products.

At a buck or few per app, how could it be otherwise? That type of pricing will work for Angry Birds and a handful of other games, but very poorly for most other types of software products. The scale you need, the sustained influx of new customers, well, it’s a place for mega stars, and people who think they can beat the odds at becoming just that.

That’s why I’ve been discouraging people from chasing dreams of a successful, sustainable software product business by pursuing paid apps. Far better be your odds at succeeding with a service where the app is simply a gateway, not the destination.

Watching users of Tweetbot heckle the team for daring to charge $5 for a 8-month upgrade only reaffirms that belief. It’s a sad sight of entitlement, but at this point also entirely predictable.

Apple and Google both benefit from having apps be as cheap as possible. For Apple, that means people will buy an iPhone more readily when the cost to fill it with software is near nil. For Google, it means app makers have to shove ads into products to make them pay. Win-win-lose.

What’s good for platform makers is often not good for those who build upon it. That’s where the whole picking up pennies in front of a steamroller comes from. Yes, a few may be quick enough to pickup enough pennies to fill a jar, but for most, it’s not a wise trade of risk vs reward.

Forget the paid app.

Check out what we’re up to at