Anyone who’s decided to start their own business remembers the moment when lightening struck. Like love at first sight, time stood still as your “aha” moment came to you clear as day, and nothing could deter you from realizing the product or service of your dreams. Yet somehow in the process of actually forming the business, you notice that your idea that was once so simple and clear is starting to get a lot more complicated. You start piling on advanced features, and “improvements” in hopes that your product will provide even more value to your customers, however things still don’t take off the way you expected and you’re not exactly sure why. As we’ve noted before in The Essential Guide to Developing Successful Mobile Apps, choosing to develop your own mobile app is the same as deciding to start your own business. If you’re an app entrepreneur who is new to the scene, we urge you to familiarize yourself with these three tips before a single line of code is written.
1. Research competing apps
Chances are if you’ve come up with an app idea, someone else has thought of the same general concept. The best thing you can do when you’ve thought of an app idea is to search the App Store and Google Play for similar—preferably profitable—apps that already exist. Search for general terms related to your idea and analyze the results. Some initial questions you should ask are:
- How long have these apps been published?
- How do these apps appear to be making money?
- What is their app rating and (most importantly) what are people saying in the reviews?
The third point may provide you with the best source of quality information to help refine your app idea. What do app customers love or hate about the app? What are the deficiencies of your competitors, and can you overcome those deficiencies in a cost-effective manner with the first version of your application? Doing some initial, diligent research in the App Store and Google Play can provide you with a wellspring of knowledge prior to investing in the development of your project. Other companies have already spent a lot of time, money, and resources to figure out what works and what doesn’t. It’s up to you to learn from their experience so you can avoid similar pitfalls and maximize your profit potential.
2. Ask open-ended questions to as many potential customers as possible
Many people have the notion that they should be extremely protective of their idea, when in reality you should be shopping your idea around to as many relevant customers as possible. You don’t have to expose any potentially proprietary information or specifics about your idea, but having honest conversations about the general concept of your idea is necessary to develop a successful product. Your goal is to build something that people will want to buy, so understanding your customers’ pain points early on is crucial to making sure you are on the right development track.
How do you get to a point of understanding these pain points? First, you need to assess whether the potential customers you’re speaking with are actually the appropriate customers in your target audience. Don’t just ask your close friends and family what they think of your idea, their opinion is far too biased based on their preconceived knowledge of who you are, along with their interest in seeing you succeed. Friends and family can be supportive as you go through the business-building process, but their interviews likely won’t help you build a great product or service.
Once you have narrowed down a specific set of people who you believe may eventually buy your product or service, you’ll want to ask questions that will generate as honest a response as possible. Try to frame your questions in an open-ended way that can’t be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response. Instead of asking “would you use an app to book a barber appointment anywhere in the world”, ask “what is the most frustrating part of finding a barber in an unfamiliar area?” The former leads the interviewee to align with your preconceived notion that they need an app to book a barber appointment, whereas the latter attempts to gather more information to determine the pain points someone goes through when trying to book a barber appointment in an unfamiliar area. Only when you ascertain that you have found a common, recurring problem can you proceed with confidence in your proposed solution. You can learn more about this process in The Essential Guide to Developing Successful Mobile Apps.
3. Limit your features, and choose them wisely
By and large, startups are considered to be an extremely risky investment. You want to try to eliminate as much uncertainty as possible by only including important features that you know people want (with evidence to back it up), rather than just including features that you think people want. Determining an appropriate feature set is one of the most important and challenging parts of developing an app, and should be under constant assessment and readily adaptable to fit the needs and desires of your customers as you understand them.
When you’re first starting out, it’s common to want to cram as many features as possible to make a superb first impression for your users. After all, people are used to getting extremely high-quality technology services the first time they use something. However, these same people are usually discovering this technology after months (usually years) of testing and refinement. Success doesn’t happen overnight, and for some it may never come at all. Our firm believes that success starts with taking a well-researched approach to developing an app with as little bias as possible. We heavily emphasize monetization strategy early in the development phase because it is necessary to build not only a sustainable business, but a profitable one as well.