If you have a breakthrough idea for your business, you’ve probably considered bringing it to life by developing a mobile app. It’s not a bad idea. Mobile apps are extremely popular at the moment, and they’re paving the way for all kinds of new and exciting business ideas. The problem, especially for many of the smaller-sized businesses we work with at Icreon, is trying to figure out the right approach.
Here are five helpful tips that will help any business navigate the treacherous waters of app development -- while avoiding some of the most common mistakes.
1. Failing to make sufficient platform considerations.
iOS, Android, Windows: Where should my app go? While any app developer will find themselves forced to confront this question, often they fail to comprehensively dissect each option at their disposal. Some developers base their platform choice on stereotypes. It’s not uncommon to see someone develop for iOS just because they believe monetization would be easier on the App Store. While this may be true in some cases, it’s not universal. Additionally, there are many other considerations that must go into platform selection.
Related: 4 Types of Apps That Never Succeed
While iOS may be extremely popular in the U.S., Android reigns supreme on a global scale, often in much larger margins than in the U.S. So if you intend on publishing your app in multiple countries, consider Android over iOS. When you make any platform decision, make sure you’re thinking of every possibility and alternative. If you fail to do so, you run the risk of severely limiting your audience.
2. Thinking of the mobile experience as a downsized web experience.
Let’s get this out of the way: A mobile app is fundamentally different from a website. It’s different in size, it’s different in functionality, and it’s different in scope. The difference is so important, in fact, that if Apple disapproves of your app’s design, they may actually reject it. So why do so many miss this important detail? For one, some people think that their app should do all of the same things that their site does, or else it is somehow less valuable. But this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
The reason why mobile apps are valuable is because they’re different from their desktop cousins. They can be accessed on the go, their touch interfaces are more intuitive, they can take advantage of access to device hardware and they’re infinitely customizable. A good mobile app doesn’t fall back on pre-established designs or functionalities -- it uses the available hardware to create a new and delightful experience.
With responsive web design making the desktop browser experience more user-friendly than ever, it takes more to justify the existence of a new app. Before you hop into the fray, do everything you can to pinpoint what makes your product unique, and then bring that to life as a piece of exceptionally-designed software.
3. Dropping the ball on monetization.
The nuances of monetizing an app can be extremely daunting at first. Do you go for a subscription model, or do you implement a freemium approach with in-app purchases? Maybe you ditch both, and just go with in-app advertising to make money. Every possible approach can be mixed and matched in ways that perfectly suit your project, but it can be a monumental task to settle on the best one.
Luckily, you have time to make the right decision. Start thinking about monetization early in the development process, and be pro-active about pursuing the correct path. Sites such as AppAnnie and AppTrace let you organize top apps by genre and popularity. By looking at apps in your genre, you can gain valuable insight into how the most successful apps are monetizing.
4. Thinking your app’s going to sell itself.
No matter how optimistic you are about your launch, when you publish an app, you’re tossing it into a sea of thousands of competitors. If you don’t have a comprehensive plan to increase visibility, you run the risk of having it disappear altogether.
Before you get started with your marketing efforts, it’s important that you define your audience. Are you targeting a small niche, or are you aiming for a broader market? Either way, make sure your app identifies specific issues that affect that market, and then design your app to address those issues. For identifying trends and consumer demand, try using tools like Google Trends and Xyologic.
One goal to set for yourself is to try to make an app that’ll gain featured status on the App Store. While some can make the “Staff Picks” section through quality alone, you can increase your chances by taking advantage of upcoming Apple releases. With the release of iOS 8, for instance, Apple featured many new apps for implementing the new OS’s features in innovative ways.
Even if you don’t develop your app around new hardware technology, it’s always something to keep in mind -- it could give your app the big boost it needs.
5. Trying to be the beta tester for your own app.
“Why have someone else beta test your app when you can do it yourself?”
If you’ve ever asked this question while developing an app, you’ve probably been burned by the outcome. There’s a reason why beta testers are important: They offer valuable outside perspective that will help to catch issues with your app.
It’s not just the bugs that matter, either -- some of these ideas can be crucial for making your app user-friendly. For instance, maybe your in-app purchases aren’t communicated clearly enough, or maybe your use of advertisements is making the entire experience feel a bit jarring. Because you built the app this way, it’s harder for you to be able to pinpoint these high-level flaws.
Use app-analytics tools such as Flurry and Google’s Universal Analytics to see how your testers are using the app. The more people you can have beta test your app outside your own office, the more prepared you’ll be to send your app out into the real world.