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20 Easy Tips to Help You Create a Killer App

May 6, 2010

Killer Mobile App

If you are about to build a mobile application, here are a few ideas you might find useful:

  1. Discuss your app concept with several close friends who match the profile of a target customer. Listen carefully to what they say, especially to their critics and concerns.
  2. Spend some time to check at app stores about similar apps. And I don’t mean same concept or same technology, I mean apps that target the same customer need/problem.
  3. Check popularity of similar apps. Could give you an idea what to expect in terms of user interest. Some app stores don’t provide download statistics. Look at the number of ratings and reviews and do some approximation. You could assume an average download-to-rating ratio of about 100:1. Note how pricing affects popularity.
  4. Know thy enemy: Download all similar apps, try them out, see what’s good and what’s not from end-user perspective. Generate some new ideas and concepts of how things could be easier, nicer, sleeker. Don’t hesitate to spend some money on competitors’ products ;)
  5. Decide on the initial scope – version 1.0. Try to limit yourself to the minimal right set of features – that is, those features that bring the major benefits without complicating the product’s usage. Don’t try to satisfy all potential users, risking to loose focus from the needs of your core target customers.
  6. Unless you’re pretty confident you’ve got the sure killer app concept, start with one mobile platform. Better save some money and energy for getting the word out. And one popular platform is enough to test the market. Be prepared to rapidly deliver the app on all major platforms, if things work out well.
  7. Start with the right platform. What OS are your target customers using? What’s the distribution channel for the specific platform? What are the platform popularity trends amongst your customers? Any major changes expected in the next year? There is plenty of free market data on the net.
  8. Instead of writing long specification papers, make a detailed UI sketches of all app screens. This is an excellent way to rethink the user experience at early stage. Provide a few initial notes under each screen and then evolve/extend them gradually. Pen and paper are perfectly legitimate tools if your are not into UI prototyping software. And if you are, you could check out these mobile app mockup tools.
  9. Best, develop the application yourself/in-house if you have the skills and time resource. Alternatively be very picky about the vendor. Look at references, talk to existing customers, dig into previous successes. An NDA won’t hurt anyone.
  10. Make sure to address potential tech complexities and risks at early stage. Use proof-of-concepts – quick and dirty small programs demonstrating how a technology works. If developing for iPhone, make sure your technology complies with Apple’s requirements and you will pass the approval process. Otherwise you won’t be able to take advantage of your major distribution channel.
  11. Setup a schedule and do your best to stick to it. Don’t expect to make up delays later. It only gets worse.
  12. Build a prototype with all screens, forms, buttons, design elements, and flows between screens. Just like the real app, but with no logic what so ever behind the screens.
  13. Stay involved. Ask your team/vendor for progress demos every 2 weeks or so. Participate in reviews, provide early feedback, test everything yourself. Could save you a lot of frustration.
  14. (Can’t stress this more) Focus on the app user experience throughout the whole process.
  15. When you think all is ready, give the app to friends and ask them to use it for a week and then be brutally honest with you. Take their comments back and decide if you need to rework parts of the app. Not all feedback needs to be incorporated – in version 1.0 or ever. It’s your decision. Keep in mind time-to-market is usual crucial.
  16. Set the right price, if any. If you go for a paid app, consider launching a limited entry free edition as well. It will help people try the app first and see if they like it before paying for the full functionality. This will save you the negative reviews. Consider carefully what goes for free, as you do not want to cannibalize your full edition.
  17. Set the right app description and keywords in app stores. Make sure the description attracts the right users first. If they really really like it, things will go big without much promotion from your side. Make sure your keywords make it easy for users to find your app. (Here are some keyword tips for Apple App Store.)
  18. Ask your friends to be the first to download, rate and write reviews about the app.
  19. Spent time on online promotion. Upload a video of the app on Youtube, write in blogs and forums you expect your target customers read, get your mobile application in the spotlight.
  20. Listen carefully to your customers, read all customer reviews. Unless it’s a pretty simple app, version 1.0 is just the beginning. It all starts here and it’s all about where you and your customers take it.
  21. All tips aside, just do it! :)

Would love to hear/read your thoughts and experiences…

Author: Kostadin Jordanov

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