Everyone thinks they’re capable of creating the next big million dollar idea and turning it into a reality.
The difference between confidence — bragging an app that cleans your toilet while out with your friends at the bar — and actualization (creating said app and having it clean your toilet while your out at said bar) is execution and presentation. Of course, there’s also the reason why we all try our hands at developing any business proposals or creative concepts: monetization.
But, before you can get to the money-making stages, there’s a lot that needs to get done in the execution phase. When it comes to putting a plan for an app into effect, you need to be organized from the beginning — who will be using it, when will it launch, where can it be downloaded, how will it look like to the consumer, and what purpose will it serve. This is Strategizing 101. If you can’t answer these questions, then, well you’re probably out at some bar just talking the talk and not walking the walk.
Here are five things you should know about what it will take to launch an app and get it out to the public:
Your app will only go as far the people who use it. And pure usage — say one or two million downloads in the first two years — is not even enough of an indicator of success as we reach the tail end of the 21st Century’s second decade. What app creators need is a service that a majority of consumers will come to need and rely on — something that they will come back to again and again in the face of adversity. That’s the best way to determining the value: of your idea before you start hiring people to develop and market it: Is this something that consumers will come to depend on? Think what Waze does for directions or Venmo does for immediate financial transactions.
These are services that solve problems for people but more importantly they meet the needs of a large target audience. While silly, the above example of an app that cleans your toilet is actually pretty practical when you think about it: Everybody has a toilet. Just like everyone has a friend who owes them rent money or how drivers need to know where they’re going when they’re in a new city.
If it doesn’t solve a universal problem or need, there’s a chance that your app will only serve a limited demographic. If that’s the case, it’s existence will probably fade away soon after launch. It’s important early on to study people — get feedback from consumers on what they’re looking for and ask them how they’d like to see it presented back to them. Everyone might want an app that cleans out the toilet for them, but if you still have to do the flushing manually then what good having the app on your phone?
Like any other industry, mobile apps are a business predicated on user demand. You will only go as far as your audience will allow you to go.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that timing is everything. A business pitch that sounds like a billion dollar idea today might be useless tomorrow based on market conditions. A good example of this is in college when I thought it would be a brilliant idea to get rid of college textbooks altogether and make them all digital in hopes it would save some money. I was irate at the sheer cost of having to pickup books every semester and never really using them in the classroom. Of course, with the advent of iPads and e-readers, more and more textbooks have gone digital and this “brilliant idea” is just the norm on campuses across our country. (And no, freshman aren’t saving any money from it). Almost 10 years later, I wouldn’t be able to sell this idea to any app development company because every single textbook publisher has adapted to the trend and made it part of their business model going forward.
I digress though. With timing an app’s development, it’s all about choosing the the right company — the one that can execute your idea and get it on the market when consumers need it the most. So for school textbooks, if you have a model how to make the system more effect and less costly, you’d likely want to spend a year developing it and launch it in July or August when people are getting ready to go back to school.
In an ideal world, your app will serve users across a multitude of platforms. But when you’re in the beginning phase, targeting a single platform for your application will make things a lot simpler. Choosing between iOS or Android or Windows might seem like an unimportant decision but really your app’s success hinges on it. That’s because difference platforms influence specifics in the app design and coding process that can’t be undone easily if you have a change of heart mid-way to your targeted launch date. Think about it like a football team’s offensive starters playing defense for a drive. It’s not what they’re utilized to do, and they won’t be able to adapt to their new role as they’re not designed to be playing that position. An app that’s set to run in iOS just can’t be thrown onto the field and told to run as Android. It’s not how things work.
Looks are everything in this world, and when it comes to developing apps that truth is also inescapable. You can have an app that serves every person in the world but if its design is ugly — or its functionality slow — it might not be used by anyone. There’s a graveyard of useful apps that never stuck their landing because the developer eschewed aesthetics in favor of utility. While important, market research will show any developer that you win or lose against your competitors based on sheer appearance alone. Think that’s an exaggeration? Look at an app like SleepBot that tracks your sleep cycle and provides analysis. Have you heard of them? No that’s because FitBit and AutoSleep Tracker on your iPhone watch provide this function for you — in a much more palatable, consumer-friendly way. The easiest of why design conquers all is Waze. The app just looks better and is easier to navigate than its rival GoogleMaps. It’s a non competition these days and it’s strictly because one app places an emphasis on having an appealing design.
The “purpose” of your app will change 20 different times in marketing and advertising meetings but the real key to engagement is the network effect — meaning spreading what your app does for consumers through word of mouth. It also doesn’t hurt to have strong, user-generated reviews. All of this falls under the umbrella of engagement: How to get users talking about your app and giving you the feedback you need to keep improving it for later software updates. The best ideas sometimes fall flat because they don’t reach that critical mass of people. While some might deem this lucky, that momentum is earned in the development stages — both through strategy but also through presentation. You must know how — and where — you want consumers to engage with your app. See, marketing does have a purpose after all! It goes beyond creating the perception that your app is fun and engaging though. Rather, it’s ease of use — does this app execute the task I need it to accomplish in a reasonable amount of time — that will get people talking. You think Venmo was the champion of some advertising department or the bi-product of insane word of mouth? Hint: It was the later.
The bottom line is that in the ever-increasing environment of start-ups and apps there will always be competition. How to rise past similar products is engaging your user base. It can be done through adding new features or offering bonuses for unlocking various achievements. Think of it like having an airline credit card: You want customers to be rewarded for all their frequent flier miles. Offer them the best deals and amenities possible and they will be flying with you around the globe; offer them the same old song and dance and they’re more prone to look elsewhere. Advertising will only get you a foot on the ladder. You must leverage word-of-mouth networking — and all that comes with it — to climb up it.