TIP #1 — Don’t do it.
Based on the statistics, the best advice I can give you is not to develop an app. As the director of an app development company it pains me to say it, but with only 1 in 10 apps making a financial return and only a fraction of them striking it rich, the odds are against you. Of course the payoff can be huge if yours is one of the successful apps.
The top apps have been known to bring in up to $1 million per day but make no mistake, they are the exception to the rule
TIP #2 — Cut the crap.
Your app doesn’t need to do everything. Better to have an app that does one thing really well than to have an app that tries to do everything and fails. Keep it simple and spend your money on great design and quality development, rather than on tons of features.
TIP #3 — Assume everyone is stupid.
You are highly intelligent but don’t assume all of your users will be. Design your app for the lowest common denominator. The worst thing that can happen is your intelligent users find your app really easy to use.
TIP #4 — Make sure your idea doesn’t suck.
Of course your mum loves your idea but is she your target market? Bounce your idea off as many people as possible and learn from your findings. Better yet, develop a prototype and put it in their hands for feedback before you commit to spending tens or hundreds of thousands on development.
TIP #5 — Give up your day job.
This one is probably impractical I know, but launching an app is a time-consuming, hands-on business. Make sure you can dedicate lots of time to planning and promoting your app or find people to help you with it.
TIP #6 — Befriend a celebrity.
Celebrity endorsements are gold. A simple tweet by a well known sportsperson, musician, actor or reality TV star can lift an app out of obscurity. If you don’t know one, see if any of your friends do. You never know who your network may have access to.
TIP #7 — Don’t forget about your app.
This may seem obvious but you’d be surprised how many first time app entreprenuers launch an app then forget about it. Monitoring your app’s analytics after launch and updating it accordingly is the key to improving user engagement and sales conversion.
TIP #8 — Don’t choose a developer Tinder-style.
Your relationship with your app developer is crucial to the success of your app. Swiping right on a developer because they have a nice profile pic or smooth banter is a surefire way to pick the wrong one and end up wasting thousands of dollars. Ask lots of questions, challenge their claims and make sure you are comfortable with the team before starting a relationship.
TIP #9 — Don’t act on hunches.
Use Google Analytics, Mixpanel, user feedback and usability testing to make informed, data-driven decisions. Never do extensive development work based on a hunch or gut feeling, unless you have money to burn.
TIP #10 — Good apps have good icons.
People judge books by their covers and they judge apps by their icons. Get your icon designed professionally, even if your uncle Dave is really good at Corel Draw. When your icon is great, people will assume your app is too.
TIP #11 — Gamify boring apps.
Users are more likely to perform boring, repetitive tasks in your app if it is gamified. Give users points, show them animations and play rewarding sound effects to get them through the monotony.
TIP #12 — Use & abuse completion bias.
Completion bias is the human tendency to want to finish something you start. You can take advantage of this little human hangup by breaking your app down into step-by-step processes. Users will not feel completely satisfied until they have completed all of the steps and finished the task.
TIP #13 — It’s all about challenge & reward
Use challenge and reward mechanisms to keep users engaged. No matter what the purpose of the app, if you can give the user a challenge then reward them for achieving it, you will keep them engaged.
TIP #14 — Don’t sell lemons.
There are no second chances for apps that don’t work. Users will delete them and never look back. Do extensive testing on your launch candidate (app ready for release) before putting it on the App Stores. Seems simple but releasing lemons is more common than you think.
TIP #15 — Define success before you fail.
App entrepreneurs commonly focus on all the wrong things and waste money on features that won’t help them succeed. The first step in mitigating this issue is defining what success looks like.
For example, if your aim is to build a large user base, focus your efforts on achieving that goal successfully, not on creating a multi-tiered subscription model.
That can come later once you’ve achieved your first goal and validated your product.
TIP #16 — Shake hands with your developer.
If you never get to meet the programmer working on your app in person, you really have no idea who is building it. When you (or your development company) outsource to offshore developers, you have no way of knowing if the actual programmer/s working on your app are talented or experienced. Meet your programmer in person, ask them about the apps they have personally worked on in the past and shake their hand.
TIP #17 — Don’t argue with numbers.
Numbers don’t lie, so don’t try to argue with them. Numbers represent raw and sometimes confronting facts, without opinion or agenda. Pay attention to the numbers and try to understand and act on them. App Store conversions, signup completions, user retention, time spent in app, time spent on task, goal conversions, in-app purchase revenue etc. etc.
Let go of what you think you know and master the numbers
TIP #18 — Never set & forget.
Building an app is never a matter of set and forget. Apps require maintenance or they will be removed from the App Store. It can be a frustrating concept to come to terms with, but due to the rapid evolution of mobile devices and operating systems, developers are required to keep up if they want their apps to work on the latest phones.
TIP #19 — Don’t waste our time.
People are busy. Time is a scarce commodity. If your app requires a big time investment from the user, you’ll need to steal that time away from another app they use or activity they spend time on. To do this your app needs to provide significant value to them. The more time your app takes up the higher the value to the user it needs to be.
TIP #20 — Why, why, why?
My last tip for new app entrepreneurs is a tip that can be applied to any new business venture. Ask yourself why and ask it often. Why would people want this app? Why would users want this feature? Why would the media report on my launch? Why do I need Facebook login and Google login? Why would someone spend $2.99 on my in-app purchase? etc. If you don’t have meaningful answers and evidence to back them up, take a step back and re-evaluate.