As you embark on your adventure to create an application for the iPhone, you may be thinking that there are one, maybe two things that will determine your application’s success: whether it will hit the “New and Noteworthy” list on the App Store, generate conversation or coverage around the internet or in social networks, attract traffic to your app store page, and ultimately generate the downloads you’re looking (hoping?) for.
As a first time iPhone application publisher, you may think, or may have read somewhere, that you need to focus on namely two things:
- Your idea (making sure it’s a good one), and
The problem with this reasoning is that as you begin to create your iPhone application, you may be forsaking many other important factors that play a big role in the success or failure of your app, both at launch and over time. After all, you are aiming to create a sustainable business that helps people, and brings in revenue well into the future (you are, right?).
Rather than the result of any one thing, app success “happens” once you’ve identified, tackled and resolved multiple challenges, across varied disciplines and on many fronts.
There are exceptions to this statement, of course. But don’t count on your iPhone application being one of them! Some of these challenges and elements are under your control, and others are not. But certainly, you can (must!) participate and influence them. Take the bull by the horns, so to speak.
As the title states, this is an exploration. My intention is to give you insight you can act on, as well as a good sense of what topics your can expect here at Appeando going forward. So, as you begin to create an application for the iPhone, consider some of these thoughts on what it takes to create a successful app…
… It takes a problem
Often times, the idea for new app comes from our own problems. Our own frustrations with the tools that already exist. What is out there, but doesn’t quite work for us.
A key to the success of your iPhone application will be to differentiate your problems from those of your possible users. And ultimately align your app idea with a painful problem a lot of people experience.
As I write this, the team at Summify (go Vancouver!) have released an infographic that speaks volumes of an increasingly common problem: that we are exposed to too much information. Our attention is being stretched thin, and our ability to focus is compromised.
They’ve identified a painful problem. One that most of us who spend time on Social Media are very aware of and are seeking a remedy for. Summify wants to handle this problem for you so you don’t have to. Which brings me to my next point…
… It takes a creative solution
And creative doesn’t mean complicated! More times than not, great solutions tend to be simple, and often overlooked by most people.
An effective solution comes from understanding precisely where your users’ pain is. It comes from having the curiosity to ask some simple questions with big implications:
- What are your users trying to achieve?
- Why are the current tools failing to empower this desired result?
- What mechanisms or functionality can you implement to ease this pain?
… It takes a thoughtful plan
You obviously have a plan for how you’re going to develop your iPhone application. If you’re a programmer, maybe you can do it yourself. If you’re not, perhaps you’ve found a co-founder with the skills to compliment yours. Or maybe you’re simply outsourcing the development.
Whichever way you go in terms of development, keep these things in mind. Because I’ve seen many “good ideas” completely forsake these:
- Your business or monetization model: Is your app going to be a paid app? Free with Ads? No Ads? Will it offer in-app purchase options? Basically, how is your app going to create revenue? And beyond just the “money issue”, your choice here may also influence your app’s UI (user interface), as ads obviously require screen real estate.
- Your app’s integration needs: Do your users need their data to be backed up in the cloud? Will your app integrate with other apps’ API’s? Try to think of these things ahead of time, I’ve seen apps caught off guard, and get negative reviews because they overlooked functionality that should have been at the core.
- Your IT resources: Does your app need to exchange data with external servers? Assess how scalable your data hosting provider is. What are the costs? Can your IT resources handle success? You want to avoid the #failwhale if it’s at all in your hands.
- Security and privacy: BIG issue. One that could cost you tons of money if overlooked. Take a look at how secure your users’ data will be. What are your risks? Does your app have the potential to cause privacy concerns? Remember, other parts of the world value, cherish and enforce privacy differently than us in the U.S. of A.
… It takes the skills of many
Graphic design, user interface design, programming, development, web design, internet marketing, content marketing, PR, SEO, copywriting…
Chances are that unless you’ve attracted Venture Capital and hired a rockstar team you’ll be doing a lot of these things yourself.
If you’re a “solopreneur” like myself (for now, at least) you’ll have to choose what to outsource and what to tackle on your own. Many things will influence your decisions at this stage: your budget and current skills for example. But you will have to learn new skills and get your hands dirty.
… It takes great execution
Chances are there are other people out there tackling the same problem you are. Their approach or solution may be slightly, or even extremely different. But many times (in fact, always!) your execution is what will set your iPhone application apart, even if it’s for the wrong reasons!
Let me rephrase: your level of execution will either cause your app to be propelled forward in popularity, be “just another app”, or to be infamous for it’s failures in usability. And this is not necessarily about the “big features” that you thought you’d nailed.
I was recently testing an app with a very innovative feature set, but I simply could not set the time for an event… I would set the hour using its “hour wheel”, and when I set the minutes, the other one would skip to another time! I tried again, and again. I thought I must have been doing something wrong here. Nope! Turns out other users had already blasted the iTunes store with negative reviews, precisely because of this issue. I bet the developer at that point thought: WTF?!?
Let me break this one down a bit further… The app had every feature I needed to “ease my pain”. It made one of the Top Lists in the App Store. The graphics were stunning. But failing at the basic stuff meant it failed at solving the big problem. And in the end nobody is happy, nobody is pain-free. Not the user, and not the app publisher.
I quit the app. That was a week ago and I haven’t tried it since. I’ve got no time, or toleration for app wonkiness (you can quote me on that one!). And your users could care less about your app’s revolutionary features when they can’t effectively do “the little things” within your app.
… It takes a thriving community
At the risk of spilling some more esoteric B.S. about Social Media, let me tell you why I think building and nourishing an active community for your app is extremely important if you want your iPhone app to succeed:
- You want to help your users beyond the app!
- You want your users to know you’re listening to them.
- You need your community’s input so your app can evolve and become even more effective.
- Some members of your community will turn into brand advocates and/or evangelists who are actively looking out for you and spreading the word about your fantastic iPhone app.
- Social Media is one of the most time and cost effective customer service vehicles I can think of! A simple tweet can solve many, many problems.
- And lastly, all the above will contribute to generate more traffic to your App Store page, more and better ratings, and yes, more downloads.
Whether you’re participating or not, your app’s community is out there. To me, the above are pretty compelling reasons to get involved in Social Media, and yet, there’s one more…
… It takes a happy customer
Or “user,” for our purposes. And as you may know from your own experience and behavior, users are a fickle bunch!
More iPhone applications are being developed and launched than ever before. Although I list user satisfaction as the last point in this blog post I believe it should be mission #1 for all application creators and developers.
Keeping your users happy entails many things. Among them:
- Regularly updating your app with new or improved features
- Setting up and maintaining the proper feedback and customer support mechanisms
- Helping your users beyond the context of your app (as I stated in the community section above)
It may even mean surrendering your most closely held ideas about the future of your app, and instead focusing on your users’ most desired features (it’s their app now!). Because sometimes your ideas will not match the needs of your users. And your users should always take priority!
… what will it take for you?
The above are the areas and disciplines I will focus on as I create my first application for the iPhone. What about you though? What do you think determines an app’s success? What areas do you feel you dominate? What areas do you feel the weakest in? Let me know in the comments!