Everyone is creating apps these days, but for all their hype and moneymaking potential, the sad truth is that many apps fizzle out without ever catching fire. While there’s certainly no magic formula that will guarantee success, there are a few key components that go a long way in helping an app’s chances in the market.
Start off on the right foot
Don’t create an app just because everyone else is doing it. Instead, sit down and examine your business. Think about your customers and/or potential customers. What do they need, what are they looking for and what would be useful to them? The idea behind your app should fill a gap in the market or exist in a space that is not already crowded with competition.
Make a good first impression
Just like when meeting new people, users will judge an app based on their first impressions. After downloading an app, a user should be able to open it up and immediately know what it’s for and what it is capable of. The opening screen needs to be a balance of clean design and useful content. A cluttered screen and information overload is an immediate turn off to mobile users.
This image is taken from the opening screen of the consumer-banking app offered by Chase to its customers. Chase is not known for being a particularly innovative company, but they have an app that is useful and makes a good first impression. The first screen gives users a good indication of what the app is about, and does so in a clean, straightforward manner.
Don’t design apps in reference to desktop software
While it’s true that mobile devices are essentially tiny computers, steer clear from thinking of them that way when designing your app.
If you’re like me and are on the wrong side of 25, then you grew up with traditional desktops and laptops. With these devices we pointed, clicked, and furiously tapped away at spring-loaded buttons to our hearts’ content. Now that we have handheld smartphones and tablets with touch screens, we interact with our technology much differently.
More and more, app design is reflecting how users physically hold, touch, and use their devices.
Take Tinder for example. This devilishly simple app has taken the world by storm. Not surprisingly, you won’t find a lot or form fields and dropdowns if you download Tinder. One of the reasons why it’s become so popular is that its user interface is fun and specifically designed for how we use smartphones – swipe right if you like someone, swipe left if you don’t.
Have a marketing strategy
In today’s mobile market you cannot rely on the “if you build it, they will come” philosophy. If you want your app to be successful, you need to consider a marketing strategy – but don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be expensive.
There are a lot of possibilities when it comes to marketing, but whatever you do, be genuine and remain diligent.
When releasing an app, companies oftentimes do little more than throw money around and go through the motions. What they end up with is a handful of press releases and a Twitter account that barely has a pulse. As a blogger, I get half-baked press releases about the ‘latest and the greatest’ apps all the time. They typically have a shelf life of about one day before they’re unceremoniously deleted from my inbox.
Bloggers, users, and the media can see through uninspired marketing campaigns. If you don’t have a big budget focus on a grass roots approach and keep at it. Do the research and make personal connections with influential people to help get your app of the ground.
Keep users happy
So you’ve done your due diligence, released a well-designed app that fills a gap in the market, and are plotting away at an innovative marketing campaign. That about wraps things up, right? Wrong.
As all of us who have toiled away in the software industry know, the work doesn’t end once you release to production. Software (including apps) are like living creatures; they need tending to. At a bare minimum your app will need to be maintained and updated in response to the changing device market (think security, compatibility). You’ll also want to keep your eyes peeled for user complaints and bugs. Mobile users are impatient when it comes to lingering issues and bugs, so respond to them quickly. Check comments on your app in its mobile app stores and respond to them accordingly. A simple “we know this is an issue and are working on a fix for our next update” can go a long way in keeping users happy.