I read an interesting post on the Red Sweater Blog earlier today, titled: It Should Be Free?
It which got me thinking about the price of software and all the factors involved in deciding how much or even if you should charge for a piece of software that you have developed.
Should you charge?
This choice of pricing is always going to be up to the individual developer or their employer but here are some of my thoughts on it:
Complexity - I would never feel right charging for something that only took a couple hours to put together, the more time you put into something the more it’s worth.
Competition - If there is no real alternative or competitor to your piece of software then I would definitely charge for it. If you’ve found a gap in the market and there is demand you deserve it.
If there is a lot of competition in the market providing it for free could be very disruptive, even if you only have a half the feature set of the leading competitor.
Quality over quantity - The core offering is important but just as important is the level of polish and the quality of your software. Have you smoothed off all the sharp corners, got rid of any annoying UI bugs and made it simple, effective and enjoyable to use?
If so customers are going to be much happier to pay for your product than a buggy, painful one, even if it has more features (just look at the iPod)
How much can you get for it? - At the end of the day, charge what you can for your software. If you think it’s worth £50 and you’ll get enough sales then go for it, if the only people who will use it wouldn’t pay a penny for it then maybe you should make it free and work out another way to make money from it.
Supply and demand are big drivers in any industry, especially software, ignore it at your peril!
Other reasons for free
I often give away a lot of my work for free, or at least I don’t try and monetize them with adverts and the like. I use these free bits of software as learning exercises, to build my portfolio and to help anyone with the same itches that the software I build usually scratches (very geeky itches).
I’ll be releasing Feeddit’s source code under the MIT license in a few weeks for the same reasons, with the added bonus that the collaborative nature of open source software will help evolve it and grow beyond what I can do with it alone.
How do I charge for software?
The only time I charge for software (as in web sites) has been when I’m making something with someone else specifically asked for.
Everything else that I’ve made has either been to scratch my own it, so I give it away for free since I made for myself and it’s done so why not, or has been something I’ve made for a friend.
But if your trade is as a software developer then you have to earn a living somehow, I earn my money by providing a service, using my knowledge and skills to creating software for other people or business on a per hourly basis, or a salary in the case of my day job.
No of course not you morons, now get back to letting Facebook spank you with a paddle!
This post isn’t aimed at any tech blog(ger) in particular, more the whole sector and its inability not to wet themselves at the sight of a slightly useful and/or successful web app
Last week Feeddit reached a pretty big milestone, 3,000,000+ hits on the main feed after 6 months of providing a free, bigger and direct linked rss feed for Digg.
To be honest I had completely forgot about the little rails app that could after it’s launch, it worked so well and asked for so little in return, ever day providing me with direct links to the stories on digg front page. It’s just sat there working away for the past 6 months, I simply forgot that other people use it too.
I don’t think I could ever go back to living without it!
Other People Love it too
Feeddit has received quite a lot of blog love, from other hardcore diggers too, here are some places I’ve noticed it posted:
And the pure feedy goodness of it has made it quite a utility as well people are using it together with other services like this:
If you see anywhere else that has blogged about it, mashed it up or you blog about it yourself let me know and I’ll add you to the list.
Since it’s doing so well maybe it could do with a bit more love, I might add some support for categories soon.
The other thing I’m thinking about doing is releasing the source code under an open source license, taking suggestions, patches and features on the open source branch (prolly hosted with google code) and rolling the best bits back into Feeddit.com.
I can’t really see a downside to doing it so once I get some free time to clean up the code I’ll get on it.
Show some Feeddit love
Taking on too many projects is the bane of my life at the moment
I have three invite codes to Moshi Monsters, the new cyberpet game thing from Mind Candy, which I’m going to give away to you lucky lucky people! But there’s a catch, it’s not first come, first served today.
If you want one, you’re going to have to get creative! Post a comment with the name you would call your newly adopted monster. The best three names win the codes..
So Get Naming!
The first week of the new job is drawing to a close, and I think I made a really good choice to move and where to go.
I like a challenge
So far it’s been really hard work, but that’s great, I love to be challenged and when your under pressure to perform you become more creative to solve your problems in smarter ways. It pushes you forwards.
I’ve been getting my head around the existing code base, meeting up a lot of really smart people and getting to grips with what I’ll be doing in the future.
One of the main reasons for my move is that I wanted to learn more, and gain a wider breadth of experience so I can move forward in my career and I’m positive that I’ll do that in this new position
Worst member of the band
This article on the ‘Software Craftmanship’ site by Oreilly is a great summary of how best to do that, by being the worst member of your team.
I’m not saying I’m rubbish (or arguing about who is the worst in a team) but that I’m not as good as the guys I’m working with, but that’s great. It means they drag me up to their level, challenging me with smart code and new concepts that I would not have seen otherwise.
And working at Econsultancy also means I’m surrounded by a huge bank of knowledge in all kinds areas of the internet. Usability, SEO and SEM, Best Practises and Internet Marketing, I’m interested in all these fields but I don’t have anywhere near the level of knowledge that these guys do.
I used to be the go-to guy about news on the internet at my previous two jobs, but now I find out news and breaking stories from my colleagues instead.
Of course it’s not a one-way thing, one of my ‘unique selling points’ or skills as a rails developer is that I’m great at html and css plus I know how to write good rails code, when it comes to MVC I’m all about the V. I bring my own views on how best to put together awesome ruby code and beautiful page designs whilst making them accessible and usable.
E-consultancy is located on Clerkenwell road, right in the heart of the digital media scene in London, we are just across the road from a number of Rails shops and surrounded by a very rich variety of shops and cafes.
It’s easy to get to and the choices of where to go for lunch are almost endless! I think where you work is pretty important, getting there should be hassle free and having such a variety of businesses around you really helps to make the area feel switched on and interesting.
It’s a bit of a culture shock from working in the city where everyone is in suits and lives on their crackberrys, but it’s a good one.
So far I’m loving all of it, met loads of interesting people, got a new Multi-Touch MacBook Pro, which is the fastest computer I’ve ever used. I can see this move being really good for me.