Blog Post: Hurry Up and Wait In Line!

There are some amazing pieces of software hitting the iOS app store every day. Some allow you to manage your work effectively, others integrate social media easier, while others help the seconds tick by faster. There is an altogether new category of apps, however, users are getting to know.

Apps that make you wait just to try them out.

Mailbox is an amazingly beautiful interface for helping sort through your Gmail and achieve the joy of an empty inbox. I have tried it, and while limited it is really fun to use. Can’t think of a mail app I have described with that word before. Of course, there are nearly a million people currently waiting just to test it out.

Tempo is a beautiful interface for linking email accounts and the corresponding calendars to more enjoyably access the events of your day. Users were so into the idea they flooded the app’s servers, which are hosted by AWS. You currently aren’t allowed to sign up for an account once you download it. Go figure.

As someone who speaks to developers on a daily basis, I get it. There are many reasons why it’s better to be up front with users about the issue and try to resolve the issue as best as possible. As a product manager, however, what gives?

It stands to reason that apps that don’t generate revenue from users (Tempo and Mailbox apps are both free, and aim to stay that way), can’t just afford to scale up at the rate they desire to. As a company, certainly someone asked the question of how they handle user traffic. 

Mailbox got a ton of e-ink prior to launching, I know I checked the app store on an almost daily basis checking to see if the app had finally launched. After going live, I spend a good hour interacting with other people on Twitter waiting for access. More attention comes from the negative, as we all know, but in the end it probably led to even more potential users.

Beyond that thought process, here’s the real issue surrounding scalability: once you wait all that time for access, is it even an app you want to use? After I migrated my Gmail in Mailbox, and played with the beautiful UI, I was frustrated to learn that I couldn’t use my work email (still on Exchange). I don’t want to have to check both accounts in separate apps, so my user experience lasted a couple of days and that was it. 

So, hats off to startups that manage to create some buzz for their product. I don’t know if I have a product in mind that would attract a waiting line of a million people, so hats off to them. It is an important lesson, however, to keep in mind in mobile product development.

With the right strategy, you can get them in line. Can you keep them once they log in is the question.

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