“How do you build an app?” is a common question heard throughout the startup community, but before diving into the technicalities of developing an app here’s some food for thought.
Since Apple announced the App Store 8 years ago we’ve downloaded a hell of a lot of apps, 130 billion times apparently. Some have stayed, some have died, solving the problems we face in our day-to-day lives but now the app boom is said to be over, is now the right time to create an app? With 4.2 million apps available across iOS and Android, most baloney app ideas have been made and most of the time poorly executed by a guy called Malcolm who learnt Swift in Starbucks 5 days ago. Yet that’s the beauty of any app store, it gives anybody a platform to create, solve and share. Developing an app can result in thousands or millions of people using your app, impacting their everyday lives….and it’s quite an empowering feeling.
At Code and Wander we focus around building digital products for startups, brands and ourselves. In 2014 we created our own award-winning music discovery app called Choosic, it’s purpose was to help people discover new music in moments of being bored of their playlists (because listening to Rihanna 50 times a day can drive a man insane). Currently the app boasts over 45,000 registered users and people have discovered over 1.6 million songs they love.
So here’s 5 tips you need to consider before creating an app:
1. Creating an App Isn’t The Perfect Solution For Everything
Likelihood is that no one really cares about your app. Genuinely think about how many apps you use, you’ve probably lost count of the amount of apps installed and you only use 5-7 on a daily basis. There should be an app for that!”…really? I mean if there isn’t already an app to solve that specific problem then there are three likely things present:
- The market isn’t big enough.
- Competing apps are a pile of trash.
- An app isn’t the right medium.
Do your research though…you could be sitting on a gold mine. Read our post about How To Gather Market Research if you need help getting started.
2. Download Every Competitor You Can Find
This point slightly reflects on the previous. After analysing and playing with competing apps use them in an organic way as you would for any other app. Using existing apps helps you identify whether the problem you’re looking to solve is worth solving and whether it can be improved. Some of the most simplest and most successful business ideas are built around taking an existing product or service and improving it. MySpace to Facebook being a great example that springs to mind.
3. Don’t Force Feed It Features
It’s easy to get carried away with features, especially when you’re trying to integrate it with a growth and business strategy. Don’t let it become the clunky feature-eating behemoth it wants to be, especially not from the start. Every distinguished app in the market to date focused on the one thing they done extremely well and slowly introduced new features. One of the arguments being that users will instantly feel feature-mind-f*cked due to their own unfamiliarity with your product or service.
4. Focus On Lovers, Not Haters
A lot of startups focus on learning why users drop off, but I honestly think this metric is worth focusing on at a later stage in the product roadmap. Your app is still a baby and it’s learning to walk, focus your efforts on learning about your regular and returning users. Invest your time improving their experience because it will help your product develop towards that specific demographic, because there’s bound to be thousands of other just like them.
5. “It’s A Free App”…But Seriously How You Gonna Make $$$ Bro
The last yet most important point. Creating and running an app based business isn’t cheap, even if you’re a developer. There’s membership fees, domains, server and hosting costs, and trust me they really stack up as you grow your user base. Our server costs alone for Choosic average at around $400/month, ask yourself is this financially possible if your app unexpectedly gained 100,000 downloads? Will you have this income available at your disposal? Always keep in mind the potential commercial avenues your app can take from the get-go.
“bu..but our plan is to grow to millions of users, then we make money…like Facebook did”. Don’t fall into this Silicon Valley Fairyland full of majestic unicorns, because the odds are that you’re not a unicorn. As much as I would like to say that anything other than revenue is king, unfortunately it’s not. Revenue is king. Get to grips with it.
Chris Underdown is the creative director of Code & Wander, a digital agency based in London. He has been awarded and recognised for young entrepreneurship by the National Business Awards, UCL and London South Bank University.
This article was first featured on Style Your Lifestyle.