Joe Dawson

Joe is the director of Creative.onl and oversees all of the design and technical work that we produce. Find him on Twitter.

There are plenty of tales of exciting new apps that suddenly appear out of nowhere. Something was developed in a backroom by someone who has never coded before and suddenly it goes viral and makes them a huge stash of money. There’s no doubt this can be a lucrative business if you have the right building blocks in place

  • App revenue went up 35% in 2017 to $60 billion.
  • According to Statista, the global revenue for mobile apps is set to reach $188.9 by 2020.
  • In July 2008 there were around 800 apps on the iOS App Store. By March 2018, there were 2,100,000.

If you want to create a great app that is designed to be used by many people, you need to have a great idea.

The truth is that what sounded brilliant when you were in the pub last night may not be quite so formidable when you wake up in the cold light of day.

That shouldn’t put you off, however.

How to come up with a good app idea

Gaming aside, most successful apps look at a specific issue and provide something to solve that problem. In other words, your app idea needs to be useful if it’s going to be seriously considered by large numbers of people and downloaded onto their phones.

Take a look at an app like MyFitnessPal. The problem identified here is that it can be pretty hard work keeping track of all that exercise and your health regime if you are trying to get fit. The solution the app provides is that it brings all that information together with one, easy to use interface – your calorie intake, the energy you burn, the weight you’ve lost and so on.

In other words, MyFitnessPal identifies a need and delivers on expectations. It has everything the dedicated fitness fan or someone looking to use weight needs to monitor their progress.

It’s important to take some time to trawl through the apps already on the market and look at what kinds of problems these are solving. It will give you an insight into what is currently popular, what may have been done to death and what might just have some potential.

Of course, problems can take many forms. Airbnb solves the everyday issue of finding a place to stay on your holiday as well as what to do with that spare room. Evernote makes sure you don’t forget all those great ideas. Uber helps you find a cab when you want to get home. Our advice is to try to find something that matches your own interests, goals and desires.

Validating your app idea

Once you finally come up with a great app idea, the next step is to validate it. But what does that actually mean?

Firstly, it entails drilling down a lot deeper than you would normally to ensure that this really is a good idea. Not only that, it looks at whether you have the ability to develop the app and get it to market in the first place.

1. Check other, similar apps

There’s a very high chance that your app idea is not original. Someone has already thought of the problem and provided their own solution. Don’t let this put you off either. What it does give you is the opportunity to take a closer look at how they went about getting their app into the store.

This kind of research can reveal where they got their funding, how they’re fairing in the download charts and what areas you can do better on. You can even check on social media like LinkedIn to find out how many people they employ. Find out as much as you can.

One useful tool to find out about start-ups and apps is Crunchbase which provides corporate outlines, including funding and revenue.

2. What are your keywords?

While we often associate keywords with websites, looking at those associated with your app idea can give an insight into how many monthly searches there are. For example, if you are thinking about a productivity app, you could search for keyword terms like ‘improve workplace productivity’ or ‘where do I find a good productivity app’.

3. Just ask

One thing that many app developers tend to forget is to actually ask the general public. Your friends and family might be unreliable sources as they’re more likely to say nice things than be critical about your idea. But, if you have a social media account, you can ask your fans and followers. You can also run polls on Twitter nowadays, for example, or look for feedback on a forum like Reddit. The more market research you can do, the better.

Does your app fit the market?

Now that you’ve decided it’s actually a good idea, the next thing you need to do is look at the market fit. If you’re simply just replicating an already existing and successful app, you’re not going to get very far. For a start, the competition is already up and running with its users.

You need to have something different that sets you apart.

Are users going to choose your app over product X, Y or Z? List your selling points and what you are delivering for them and compare this to similar products on the market. An excel sheet with about 4 or 5 comparable points should do the job.

The other big question, of course, is how you are going to monetise your app (unless you’re a not for profit organisation):

  • Are you going to ask users to pay for the download?
  • Are you going to make it free and just hope to benefit from ad revenue?
  • Do you have a product to sell to support the app?
  • Are you going to include in-app purchases?

Of course, you will need to generate a big enough user base to make revenue from one or other of these methods viable and that’s going to require a good marketing campaign.

How are you going to build your app and then market it?

If you’ve reached this stage, you’ve probably done more than most app developer wannabes. The truth is the major hard work is still ahead of you. It costs a significant amount of money to develop an app, particularly a good one. That means, unless you have them already, you’ll need to raise the funds.

This is a lot easier than it used to be with sites like Kickstarter. You can also call on the generosity of friends and family, of course, or look at finding angel investors or try building partnerships with companies or business owners who are interested in your idea.

You will also need to market your app once it is ready to download from the store. That means you require additional funding for this area of development – it’s no use creating a standout app if no one actually knows about it.

Finally, develop a clear roadmap for the development of your app going to be vital to its success or failure. The first step is about being honest about what that route actually looks like and whether you can get to the final destination. But, if you have a good idea, and understand what it takes to implement, you’re giving yourself a much better chance of success.

If you’d like to discuss your app idea with us, please contact us.

Latest insight articles

Got questions?

Talk to Joe

We love meeting new people. Get in touch to talk about how we can help you.

hello@creative.onl

+44 (0)116 318 0488

Insights direct to your inbox

Stay in the loop by signing up to receive our email updates on design, technology and business.

Sign up →
 
View previous editions