5 Critical Considerations for a Successful Mobile App
Author: Dr Gavin Scruby
So you’ve got a great idea for an app. Everyone will want to use it and you’ll take over the world. Well, you’ve got the same idea as the other 20,000 people publishing new apps to the App Store every month. That’s great, but unless you’re really careful, all that effort could be for nothing – think how many new apps you actually use consistently each month. We can’t promise that these tips will make your app a success but you need to have considered all of these points before you even start looking at building something.
Okay, so you have an app idea and you think it’s a good one. There are many things that will affect how well it does, and most of them depend on the execution, design, responsiveness, or even whether it just happens to catch the Zeitgeist or media imagination (think Flappy Bird). There are some more fundamental questions that you need to answer before anything is built though, and this will decide whether it’s even worth taking the idea to business case. Let’s have a look at them.
Why would a user download your app?
This will not be as obvious to a potential user as it is to you. If you can’t get the essential idea over to someone in about 20 words, it’s too convoluted. Additionally, a slightly prettier news reader might be just the new sensation you’re looking for, but is that also the case for everyone else? Think of things like:
Write your “20 word pitch” – if you can’t get it across in 20 words your users will struggle to see the point within their attention span.
Does the app do something useful and new that isn’t just a rehash of existing products?
What marketing and channels can you use to make your app stand out?
Why would a person stay in the app once it is open (its stickiness)?
Once a user opens your app, how long does your user stay in it? One of the key value indicators for advertisers/acquirers/investors is how long average sessions are. Ask yourself:
How are features designed such that they will keep the user doing something?
How does the app lead the user from one part to the next for as long as possible without losing interest?
What new things can happen while the user is in the app that makes them do something else?
Why would a user re-open the app once they’ve closed it?
This is something that’s often neglected. There are many apps that are opened once and then just clutter the phone’s home screen, never to be used again. The number of return sessions is another key metric for investors. You have to have a strategy for getting the user back in to the app after the first use. If new content appears and the user isn’t told, what is there to nudge re-engagement? Consider things such as:
Is there a reason for the user to check the app each day?
What can happen in the app that then notifies the user?
Can email be used to drive the user back into look at new content?
What drives user growth?
This is related to the question “Why would a user download your app?” but here we mean how do users introduce new users?
What would make a user want to tell others about the app?
Can they share an invite (think of SMS, email, Facebook etc.)?
Can they send a teaser to other users in some way?
Do they get anything for doing this?
How does the app make money?
This is more complicated than saying 59p/download and assuming development costs and profit will be covered. Many people will not want to pay for something before seeing some value. Some users will just hate adverts – it depends on the type of app and how adverts are integrated. You need some back of the envelope calculations to be certain the numbers stack up, at least roughly. Make sure you think about:
Is the app a one off that depends on downloads or can you have a subscription model? How much can you realistically charge for this?
Do you need a free and paid version to tease your idea? Will people even download a paid versions from the outset or are free-paid conversions a better bet?
For games, freemium is popular but it doesn’t usually work outside of this area – can you create a tiered pricing structure or recurring revenue if the app is not a game?
As well as development, how much ongoing support is needed?
How much do you need to spend on third party services (hosting, subscription data feeds etc.)?
Even if you have good answers to all of these questions, that doesn’t mean you’ll be successful. So much depends on the execution and luck, but having these answers in place will at least give you the start of a business plan or make it obvious that your great idea is not great enough… yet. Good luck!