Issue #21: Noir by Jeffrey Kuiken
Today, we're looking at Noir by Jeffrey Kuiken.
Noir is a Safari extension for iOS that automatically adds dark mode support to every website you visit and makes browsing the web at night a breeze.
As soon as you start loading a website, Noir quickly analyzes the page and generates a beautiful tailor-made dark mode for it. You won’t even notice this happening in the background – it's that fast – but you’ll certainly appreciate the end result.
Noir automatically works with any website you visit in Safari and is easy to customize. Plus, it's synced with your device's dark mode, so websites will only go dark when you want them to.
It's also worth mentioning that Noir takes your privacy seriously and doesn’t collect any of your browsing data 🙏 - all of your settings are stored on your device and in your iCloud account.
Each morning, The Sample sends you one article from a random blog or newsletter that matches up with your interests. When you get one you like, you can subscribe to the writer with just a click.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?
My name is Jeffrey, I'm 27 years old and I live in a tiny town right next to Amsterdam in The Netherlands. Like a stereotypical Dutch person, I like going on rides with my bike, enjoying both the workout and the views. I started programming as a hobby at a young age, but I started learning Swift and making iOS apps 5 years or so ago.
Two and a half years ago, I released my first app - ACNH Travel Guide - a companion app for the Animal Crossing game. Last year, I released Noir. And just a few weeks ago, I released another companion app, this time around for Splatoon 3, called Splatlands Travel Guide.
How did you come up with the idea?
Last year, when iOS 15 was announced, I was really excited to learn that one of the new features was support for browser extensions in Safari. I'm an avid dark mode user across all of my devices, and while most apps nowadays usually have support for it, many websites are still lacking on that front. With support for browser extensions, it would finally be possible to "fix" that.
Unlike extensions for other browsers, extensions for Safari are bundled in a "regular" native app. I really wanted to go all-in on that, so I gave Noir a native app that would allow users to change their settings and added support for many built-in system features such as iCloud sync, Shortcuts, and more recently, Focus Filters.
💡 Want to see your app featured?
Submit your app or reach out on Twitter 🐦
How did you market the app as an indie developer?
Before the launch of Noir, I shared a beta version with some websites and YouTube channels that I knew always cover the new iOS release and the new apps that come out for it. This helped get some initial coverage on the day iOS 15 and Noir launched.
I also submitted the app to the App Store editorial team and I was lucky enough to get the app featured on the App Store. That definitely helped more people discover the app which was a great way to get word-of-mouth marketing started and resulted in more press outlets discovering and writing about the app.
Nowadays, whenever I release a major update, I'll usually reach out to some websites and other outlets that have written about Noir before.
While working on the first version of the app, I spent quite some time thinking about how to quickly convey what the app does. I could describe Noir as "a Safari Web Extension that analyzes the existing style of every website you visit to automatically generate a dark mode style for it, if that website does not have one of their own already", but that's not as catchy as "give every site you visit a dark mode" or even "browse better at night".
Having a concise "pitch" really helps market an app, whether you're sharing it on social media, pitching it to tech journalists, or simply adding it to your App Store listing.
What’s your app design and development workflow like?
Whenever I'm starting work on a new feature, I'll make a couple of diagrams and/or UI sketches, which help me visualize the new feature and explore its implementation details. Next, I'll start implementing the new feature in the extension first and then will move on to adding the UI for it in the app. And lastly, of course, a lot of testing and fixing bugs.
Apart from sketching out the UI, I typically don't work out the design of the UI separately since SwiftUI makes it a lot easier to iterate on the UI directly with code.
Any advice on monetizing your app and improving conversions?
I'm not sure whether I'm the best person to give advice about this. Nowadays, most advice you'll find is all about making your app a subscription and optimizing conversions for that.
For Noir, along with my other apps, I decided against that and made the apps a one-time payment instead and it's worked out really well. It's actually a "feature" that I highlight about Noir and something that many users seem to like about it.
It helps that for me, app development is still something I do on the side, so I can allow myself to worry a little bit less about having continued and sustained income from it. And that, in turn, also allows me to focus on improving the app and the extension itself, rather than optimizing things like its paywall screens and upsell copy. That's not to say that subscriptions are bad, because I do think in most cases, for most developers and most apps, subscriptions can be a good payment model.
I guess my advice is simply - "don't rule out paid upfront by default".
What's your favorite tool in your development workflow?
Even though it might be a "boring" answer, I'd say BetterTouchTool - it's my Swiss Army knife. It allows me to set up all kinds of gesture and keyboard based shortcuts to speed up development, from quickly selecting the right target in Xcode to managing windows.
I'd also like to mention Nova here - a code editor by Panic. It's a wonderful app, it's native for macOS, and I really like it. I use Xcode for developing the actual Noir app, but I use Nova for everything else, from the Noir extension to its website.
A quick welcome to the ✨ 5 new people ✨ joining us this week - feel free to reply to this email and say 👋.
If you're enjoying the newsletter, please consider sharing it! Have some feedback you want to share? Drop me a message 📧
If you missed last week's issue, you can read it here:
If you have an interview coming up, check out my book Ace the iOS Interview!
Subscribe or follow me on Twitter for updates!