Brisbane startup Hash scores 50,000 downloads in two weeks and tops the App Store: Four lessons from co-founder Jessica Huddart

After raising $1 million to launch news app Hash, Brisbane design studio Josephmark has enjoyed rapid and worldwide success.

News catch-up platform Hash has been downloaded nearly 50,000 times in the past couple of weeks, Hash co-founder and Josephmark chief executive Jessica Huddart says.

It has also been featured by the Apple App Stores in the US, Australia and more recently India, surpassing CNN, Fox News, Flipboard and NY Times to become one of the top five news platforms.

“Being featured on the app store is great kudos in our industry, that’s something you never expect to get even though you take these measures,” Huddart tells StartupSmart.

“It’s a very allusive process and there’s certainly no guarantee you can pay for.”

But there are certain steps founders can take to ensure their app gets the best chance of success, she says.

1. Focus on the user experience

“It’s about having a product that is user-centric, that people find useful but also delightful to use,” Huddart says.

“Prioritise how people use the app first and foremost.”

The sign-up stage is generally when most apps see a large drop-off so to curb this Huddart says Hash interacts with users on a first-name basis, in human-chat format and with localised content.

“The way we’ve approached this is to create a very welcoming and friendly style,” she says.

2. Test and validate

Hash’s high volume of downloads follows a long period of testing and validating.

Version one of Hash was rolled out in November 2014, before its official launch last month.

The launch saw no marketing spend and just a tiny bit of PR to drive traffic.

During this time, Huddart and her team tested Hash, figuring out what people like, what they don’t and what they want before releasing version two.

This helped them better personify content, create a desktop version and launch new features, she says.

“We introduced a daily roundup that integrates video and audio and aggregates up to five stories seamlessly,” Huddart says.

“We’ve also made some improvements to the interface, to the way that content is aggregated and found, and we’ve added some other ways that you can access it.”

3. Step out of the lab and into the market

At Josephmark, Huddart says the team takes a design-led research approach, starting with a hypothesis which can be tested quickly on a small section of the target market to get meaningful feedback.

“Part of it is researching what else is out there and having a heavy focus on research with customers,” she says.

“But it’s also having the confidence with what you’re trying to achieve. You’re not going to get validation until you have a wider audience.

“Often, it’s not enough to ask people what they want because we don’t always know what we want or we don’t know what we could have.

“Show people that what can be in terms of creating a delightful user-experience overall and really focusing in on things that most people may think is not important or forget.”

4. Give people a reason to notice you

Taking pride in how the product looks online and in the app store is critical, Huddart says and this can be done with a high quality video or images that quickly and effectively communicate the value proposition.

“Treat that screen space like gold,” she says.

And while there’s no easy way of knowing apps will feature on the app store, Huddart says that the spike in downloads after Hash was exposed on Product Hunt did help.

“Product Hunt essentially showcases new products everyday and we’re in direct communication with someone on their team,” she says.

She adds that respecting app store guidelines when building the app will reduce the likelihood of it getting rejected.

“Dot your Is and cross your Ts,” she says.

“And it does come back to catering to the suite of products and new versions of iOs. They’re looking for content as well as content that showcases what they’re releasing.”

Finally, Huddart recommends having a retention strategy with friendly push notifications, multiple user touch points and ongoing marketing to ensure users don’t disappear.

“It’s making people feel they want to continue using it,” she says.

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