What happens when a simple weekend project gets hundreds of thousands of downloads overnight?

In 2015 I was reading a book when I encountered a quote that curiously caught my attention.

Knowing that visuals—photos or videos—outperform plain text online, I wanted to be able to very quickly snap a picture of the quote in the book, highlight the relevant text, then post it to my blog. But searching the App Store for apps to highlight photos turned up empty.

The concept of a photo highlighting app was simple enough, and the quote in the book that I wanted to highlight was all the motivation I needed to see if I could build it. The quote I wanted to capture and share—highlighted here using the app's final version—came from the book Creative Confidence by David M. Kelley and Tom Kelley.

I spent about an hour creating the app and just a few more hours testing it, creating marketing collateral, and then submitted to the App Store. The app solved my problem and might be helpful to others, I figured. My intention wasn't to create a hit app. I had a problem, I made something to help me solve it, and that was that. I had done no user testing on the app, no market research, and nothing that would signal what happened next.

The morning after Snaplight was successfully accepted in the App Store, Apple featured it prominently on the main page of the store. Within a few hours, the app climbed to the top 20 apps in the Lifestyle category and the top 200 apps overall. Almost overnight, 255,000 people had downloaded the app, and the downloads showed no sign of slowing down. Eventually, Starbucks picked the app as a Pick of the Week, featuring it in their app and physical stores (back when they did that, believe it or not).

I had created a product to solve my problem, and in doing so, uncovered that the problem was one for many other people too. Thanks to App Store feedback and in-person user testing, I made minor improvements to the app. Today the app is primarily unsupported, though it still receives attention and remains a go-to in my own life whenever I need to snap, highlight, and share something quickly.

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