by Gary Pretty, Technical Strategist at Mando

I'm a big fan of both Windows 8 and Windows Phone and I’ve developed apps for both platforms.

It’s almost the holiday season again and back when I started developing for Windows Phone, the first app I wrote was Christmas Presents, a seasonal app that allows the user to manage their holiday gift shopping and budget.  Then when Windows 8 was released last year I released Christmas Presents for Windows 8.
Over the last couple of years people are often surprised that I’ve gone to the effort of building apps that are basically not wanted for most of the year. So why did I choose to make seasonal apps and would I recommend it to other developers? 

If I’m honest it was initially because I wanted to set myself apart from the other apps that were starting to appear in the Windows Phone marketplace.  As it was only August when I developed the app, not many other developers had Christmas on their mind and so when the holidays rolled around, there were not many seasonal related apps to be found.  This seasonal relevance for the apps obviously helped in the first year, but continues to do so year on year.  Yes, there are more seasonal apps, but there are also more users of the platform.

Due to this smaller number of apps in the marketplace, it can also be easier to promote your seasonal app too.  My Christmas apps have both been featured apps on their respective platforms, giving me a welcome sales boost and have also received their share of coverage in blog posts and articles.

What about sales, is it worth the development effort? My Windows Phone app took me about a week of on and off development around my main job at Mando and porting that app to Windows 8 was even quicker thanks to me taking advantage of code reuse between the platforms. The apps both sold a few hundred copies each in their first year and continue to improve on their performance year on year and Christmas related apps are always likely to be wanted, every year.  Sure, you might need to update the apps when new versions of the platform are released, but other than that it’s a continuous source of income from sales every year. We’re not talking about the next Angry Birds, but it’s still a very nice Christmas bonus for apps that took under a week to build

It’s also worth thinking about the fact that a Christmas related app doesn’t just sell in December.  In fact, consistently I have seen app sales for both platforms pick up as early as late September.  That’s a quarter of the year for an app ultimately targeted at one day of it!

Plus it doesn’t need to just be about Christmas once you’ve created your app as your development efforts on seasonal apps can also be reused for other topics if you can come up with the right angle.  For example, I’ve re-purposed both of the apps on each platform to create apps focused on birthday presents.  Yes, some changes were needed to app logic and obviously some for the branding but these changes will usually take much less time than your original development.

All in all I think seasonal apps are a great idea for any developer.  Ok, you might not be setting any app sales records, but the return on investment is certainly positive and worthwhile. I’d encourage you to get your creative head on and make one of your own!