Bret W. Lester

Bugs & How They Kill App Adoption

The latest episode of The Rework Podcast got me thinking about the topic of bugs. This post covers some points they didn't get to in the episode. Nonetheless, I'd recommend giving it a listen as I mostly agree with their perspective.


It’s important to consider how the typical user reacts when they encounter a bug in your app.

A large subset of people will hit the bug and give up immediately and never open your app again.

A smaller number will persevere and find a workaround and possibly continue using your app.

An even smaller subset of people will reach out and let you know about the bug, so you can fix it.

So when someone brings a bug to your attention, there’s a high likelihood that it’s a major bug affecting a lot of people, making your app look bad and should be fixed immediately. That’s kind of obvious but another thing this highlights is the importance of critical mass.

An app with little to no users is vulnerable to what I’ll call “bug rot”. Bug rot is when an app goes for long periods of time with major bugs, and the developer is oblivious to them. When there are very few users, the odds of someone notifying the dev about the bug are exceedingly low, therefor bug rot festers. An app with a critical mass of users, on the other hand, is less likely to succumb to bug rot.

Acquiring enough users to achieve critical mass can be a very slow, gradual process. Bug rot will, without question, prevent an app from taking off. Users are fickle. Most of them will disappear forever upon encountering the slightest bit of friction.

But don’t despair, you don’t necessarily need a lot of users to prevent bug rot. You can mitigate it by being your own customer. Make apps for yourself, and use them regularly. When you run into issues, fix them immediately. You may or may not know this is referred to as “dogfooding”. Dogfooding is an excellent way to prevent bug rot.


By the way, I posted a video about Dogfooding a while back. It's my second-most popular video on YouTube.


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