Ulysses subscription and managing expectations

Don’t worry, this isn’t another post moaning about one of my favourite apps adopting a subscription model. There are plenty of those all over the internet. It doesn’t really matter which side of the Ulysses subscription argument you’re on because those have been said a million times. What really affected the emotions surrounding the move is the way the announcement was made and their confusing blog posts.

The outcry is exactly the same each time an app moves business model, it happened not long ago with Day One, and will continue indefinitely. The blog posts are exactly the same, the podcasts say the same things but this time there is so much confusion around the pricing that the noise is much louder. In fact Google results for “Ulysses subscription” results in a very mixed bag of questions around the pricing and the business model going forward.

No one should be annoyed that a company altered their business model in order to be more sustainable. Everyone has a tale of an app they paid 99p for and clung to it as long as possible but alas the developer just didn’t update it because it wasn’t worth their time. Granted with Ulysses this wasn’t a few pence, it was a considerable investment, especially if you wanted to write on iOS and macOS. With that said the application is aimed at the professional market, those that value writing and there are plenty of alternatives for those in need of similar features.

Ulysses subscription iOS apps

Thankfully the company made an excellent decision to give those that had previously purchased apps a free period. This was a sliding scale of anything up to 18months depending on how long ago the purchase was made. Not only this but current users would also receive a life time discount of ‘50%’ off the subscription costs. This sounds like a good deal in exchange for regular updates, as well as the knowledge that the application containing all your work wasn’t going to just disappear.

The issue really is that the discount was not all that it seemed, and it wasn’t communicated very well in their blogs posts. The discount was a 50% discount from the monthly Ulysses subscription costs, but only if you paid a year upfront. Working out to be a much smaller saving than previously communicated. Couple this with the fact that the first version of the subscription model based app would nuke your free trial as soon as you took advantage of the limited time 50% discount.

This wouldn’t go as far as to put me off the app entirely, but things like this leave a bad taste in the mouth and may put off a few users that wouldn’t get as much value from a Ulysses subscription. However lets not forget the version already purchased works perfectly fine, and will continue to be updated to a new iOS11 version some time in September. So all is not lost for those types of ‘part time’ users.

The bad feelings were simply not managed very well and others wanting to make the same move can learn a lot from these mistakes. Clear communication and a rock solid understanding of managing expectations is key to keeping users happy, and maintaining your business through the transition. Please don’t let this put you off trying Ulysses for wiring on iOS and macOS – I love it and I know you will too.

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