1.3 billion people actively use WhatsApp every month. As the world’s most successful and widely used messenger app, WhatsApp surely sits as a gold standard to compare success against. Mobile apps as a whole are expected to raise 189 billion dollars in revenue by the year 2020 making the app business a very tempting prospect. The fact is, however, that the Apple App store has just over 2 million apps available while the Google Play store has nearly 3 million. Faced with competition this stiff any new app must be perfect and not do anything to sabotage itself. What are the main reasons that apps fail and what is the best way to ensure success?
Is There A Market?
Every week on Dragons’ Den or The Shark Pit the judges bring up the same point again and again – “how big is the market?” While they do make mistakes and, in the case of apps, the unexpected can create a new market, this is absolutely the best starting point. The best built, shiniest and cleverest app is still a failure if the only people who need it are those who built it. Market research is a very powerful tool and it is virtually impossible to envision success without it. It is very important to note here that it is one thing to do the research but it is quite another to do it properly. Without asking the right questions your research can be damaging to your business.
How Will That Market Use It?
This is the killer question before you start work. Anyone can take an idea for an app to focus groups and the general public, and get a positive response. Humans are, by their nature, neophiles, we love new things and react well to them. This positive response is not the same as engagement. When looking to see if an app is worth developing you need to ask “how would you use this?” or “how would this fit into your life?” Before a single line of code has been written you absolutely have to know when, where and how your idea would be used.
Does it need to be optimized for low light so that it can be used in bed? Do you need a one handed mode for people who are walking, what about handsfree for drivers? Will it suit landscape or portrait? What other apps will the users have open at the same time, can you capitalize on this? You may think you’ve got the next Zomato but your focus groups may discover you’ve actually invented a new social media concept based around restaurants. You won’t know the potential of your idea until you’ve listened to those who would use it.
How Will It Earn Money?
This is a trick question. Less than 0.01% of apps are successful in making their developers money. The question is even worse than that – Very few of the big software ideas were started with a focus on how they’d make money. Google, Facebook, YouTube and WhatsApp were all set up with a focus on the experience, the concept rather than making money. As it is they have earned their creators billions. The real question is “how will my app be popular?” This has been answered in part already, you need to listen to the users before you even begin, but that isn’t the whole story.
The Basics Matter
Faced with a huge market to compete in, a growing trend to offer apps for free, and short attention spans, you need to make every detail count. Start with the basics – spell check everything. Is everything legible (even for those who are colorblind), and does it all fit? Is it obvious how to navigate it – not to YOU, who have been developing this for months, but for a member of the public. Don’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to menus and buttons, familiarity helps the user experience.
How quickly does the app load? Is it obvious what to do from the start? Does the Apple version have a back button and can you use the native back button in Android? Any tiny detail that makes your app difficult to read, navigate, boot up or use will mean failure. Imagine you’ve downloaded three new social media apps, one hurts your eyes to look at, the other takes a minute to load and crashes afterwards, but the third… its look is not winning design awards but it loads quickly and you just seem to get how to use it from the start… which one will succeed?
Marketing, Marketing, Marketing
Word of mouth is very powerful, but the world is now very big and very noisy. The most successful App companies get to stay that way by investing very heavily in marketing. The research you have done into your potential users will have told you the other apps they use already. Do these apps have adverts? Can you target specific markets via those adverts? Some of the most successful app companies even build AI software to track usage of apps like Facebook to produce targeted campaigns that hit the right people at the right time.
Raise The Funds To Start
Marketing and market research are not cheap. The old adage about having to speculate to accumulate is very true. It may be necessary to raise funds before starting your new venture. This can be as simple as asking for a loan from the bank. This isn’t so easy to do if you’ve got bad credit but you can take easy steps to improve your score. Alternatively a good way to kill two birds with one stone is to take a crowdfunding option. This can help with marketing and market research while getting you the funds necessary to do so more professionally later.
App building is technically complex but for experienced coders the actual process can be relatively simple. Building a successful app is also very simple but unfortunately it means following some basic rules, and most developers don’t like to do that. Originality is great but familiarity means engagement. The best idea in the world is useless if no one can access it. A great concept can be ruined if the execution doesn’t bear in mind what the user wants. Everything about being successful comes back to that simple point – the user and their experience. Keep that in mind when designing, coding and marketing and you will be a success.