A Silly Little App
By Tyler Hillsman
October 2020

All developers have random little side projects. (Well, I assume so. I certainly have my share.) Ways to figure out the latest and greatest features, things that you think up and dive in and don't have a great plan for, well-meaning projects that get shelved for lack of time... there's plenty of reasons a thing you make never makes it to the App Store. But sometimes you have some momentum, you decide you won't really be satisfied until you're able to point at the store listing and say "ok, I made that".

This is where I was last weekend. I had an idea for a silly little app that was an experiment with what was possible for the new iOS 14 widget system. Could I create a widget-only interface for an app? Something that provided the user with a blank slate, where tapping on it launched a single-purpose app view, and where completing their task closed the app and put them right back where they were? Sure. I had it whipped up in a night or two (and then spent a couple nights banging on a bug/system limitation before coming up with a workaround). I called it Sticky Widgets. As always, the goal's to get it in the store, so I submitted it, got rejected for limited functionality (which I knew was a very likely outcome), added a bit more, and was approved.

Great. Mission accomplished. I'd tweet about it and turn my attention back to my substantial post-iOS 14 launch Pennant to-do list, so I did. But then something happened. People... liked it? It was more than a novelty and it was useful? Of course the goal is to always make a useful app and I did see the potential in it, but the primary goal was playing with the new widget technology and doing something with the single-serve interface I hadn't really seen done before. But the retweets and likes and replies kept coming and before I knew it, I had a substantial userbase, essentially from one Twitter thread. It was covered in articles from places that I love like MacStories, 9to5Mac, and The Loop. It was discussed on Connected (which is still a little surreal). Rene Ritchie retweeted it.

I was in shock. This wasn't an app launch. I didn't have a website or a dedicated Twitter account or a press kit or an App Store promotion form submission. This was me throwing up my fun experiment to show some friends. But once the train leaves the station, you've just got to hold on.

So that's what I did. In the first version, I didn't have an in-app purchase, planning on adding that eventually. Well, "eventually" was later on Monday. Also, when you have users, you get feedback. So I spent the week adding features, fixing bugs, and improving things. As of tonight, Sunday night, I've shipped seven update builds. My cadence will slow down as I add bigger things, but what was a toy hobby app, has graduated quite rapidly, even surpassing Pennant - my seven year-old "primary" side app.

I'm extremely aware that widgets are hot right now and this is going to be a fad. I'm sure my highest-download day is already behind me, but I'm trying to make this peak as high and as long as I can.

With any normal app launch, I would have written this blog post when I released it. But this week has been anything but normal.

If you haven't already, check out Sticky Widgets on the App Store. Questions or comments? Tweet to @StickyWidgets.