The app market is highly competitive. The App Store alone has over 2 million apps available and is expected to reach 6 million by 2020.
Of course, the proportion of this number which will actually be popular and successful is much lower. It’s tough being one small fish in a vast ocean, so any new apps need to really be on the money in terms of serving a need among users.
You might have what you believe to be a great idea for a new app, but given the time and investment needed to create it, how do you know it’s a good idea? Let’s look at a few steps for researching before you develop:
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You’re going to hear a lot of different thoughts on what makes an app successful from any given founder, but establishing that need initially tends to be a common theme. It makes sense – if you’re building “the Uber for Uber”, it’s just another copy of the same thing, right? What makes you different enough that there is a need for what you offer? Or, if you are creating a similar app, is the market demand big enough for more than one player?
Speaking of Uber, Co-Founder Garrett Camp spoke to Inc. recently on the topic of determining whether your idea is worth pursuing. One of his points was that founders should personally have a passion for the service they are going to build, often derived from a need they’ve experienced. For him, Uber was born out of his own frustration at not being able to get a cab.
“Because you, personally, will want it to exist. You’ll put a lot of care into it. That’s what I did with Uber. I basically created it because I couldn’t get a cab. And now a lot of people use it.”
Arguably, there are plenty of others out there who have built an app not necessarily because they were passionate about it, but because they had done the research, established a need and felt that they could serve that need. You could totally build a successful app as long as you’ve done the market research, although, someone who is passionate about it will possibly take the extra steps necessary to make it a real stand-out service.
The key point is that before you spend any development cash, you should have done some comprehensive research. Know what else is already out there and where your idea will fit in the mix.
The foundation of any successful app is that it delivers for a specific target audience. It’s better to identify who “your people” are early in the process so that you can keep them in mind at all times.
Target audience should be a big part of your research into establishing need. What are the pain points of that audience? Does your app really solve them? How is it doing so better than other solutions that are already available?
The other part of this is to know the potential size of your target audience. If you’re building something very niche and want to make a profit, you’ll have to do some serious number-crunching to work out whether you’re going to make it with the audience you have. On the other hand, if the app is a stepping stone to get that audience onto something more lucrative that you sell, you’re going to need to estimate how well that app will convert for you.
#3. Conduct SWOT analysis
A SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis is a useful framework when it comes to taking a balanced view of your app idea. The idea is that you conduct a thorough exploration of internal and external influences which can impact your app.
The important thing to remember for this kind of analysis is that its purpose is to build you a good overall picture, however, it does have its limitations. For example, SWOT is not a method of making a decision and it doesn’t allocate weighting to the points you make. You will have to decide on a system which prioritizes your points and helps you to decide the best course of action.
Here’s how you can look at a SWOT analysis:
Strengths – Identify the advantages your app has over others, unique selling proposition, any unique resources or experience you can draw on and perhaps even factors such as whether you already have an established audience to market to.
Weaknesses – Are there any improvements you could include with the app? Have you had feedback from testers or any other weaknesses identified?
Opportunities – Look for things like new trends or technology you can use, opportunities to scale your user base, weaknesses of competitors that you can improve upon, or perhaps connections through which you can market your app.
Threats – Again, threats come from both your internal and external environment. For example, having the required funding to see the app through to market, competitors who have well-established audiences, the adaptability of your app for platform updates or any issues with quality standards.
Tip: When assessing what competition you have out there, look for add-ons you could include in your app which would provide a good improvement. Look to their customer reviews and any blog reviews, paying particular attention to what users say they like and dislike.
#4. Decide on essential features
With all of this research under your belt, you should be developing a pretty good picture of the types of features that will be a must-have for your app. Decide which features will be your core attributes and consult with target users where you can.
Sometimes people suggest asking friends and family if they’d buy your app with those features, but we don’t recommend this. The chances are friends and family will always give you positive feedback, but the true test is with a target group of potential users who have no qualms about offending you with honest feedback.
#5. Do some micro-testing
This is not a new idea, in fact, Peter Tanham wrote about this a few years ago now for Income Diary. Micro-testing is a great, low-budget way to gauge whether you might have a winning app idea that will be worth your while developing. You don’t have to have written a single line of code to try it out.
It’s a very simple, 3-step process to test your app idea:
Build a landing page.
Run some paid advertising to that landing page.
Track your results.
Your landing page doesn’t need to be anything complicated – if you use a service such as Leadpages or Launchrock, you don’t even need to put a lot of time into building it. The page should be built as though the app already exists, with a “download” button included (this could easily redirect to a page which asks people to sign up for updates when the app is ready). It should also clearly outline the problem your app solves, the main benefits and perhaps describe some of those features you’ve thought of. To keep it attractive, you might include any professional-looking mock-ups you have made.
Next up, use a paid traffic source to drive traffic to that landing page. This is also where it’s helpful to have a good picture of who your target audience is. Try using channels such as Facebook or other social media where you are able to be very specific about audience targeting.
Lastly, keep an eye on your results. You should be tracking audience behavior and gauging how much traffic is going to your landing page, then how many people click on the “download” button. You only really need to do this for a few days to build a picture of whether there will be demand for your app – it’s at least a better test than people telling you “sure, I’d buy that!”
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