Creating software is a risky business in general. You spend hundreds and thousands of hours developing your application, and then you have to keep your fingers crossed, hoping against hope that it will produce the buzz and excitement that you expect. Successful mobile app projects are even harder to pull than traditional software. Mobile devices are more limited in memory and real estate in comparison to other computing devices, and you have to have a good reason to convince users to install and keep using your app.
A lot of it hinges on the idea behind your app. Is it something that hasn’t been done before (like Pokemon Go)? Is it a personalized version of a famous tool (like the Facebook app)? Why should users choose your app over the millions of others that are available out there?
But contrary to popular belief, great ideas are not the product of divine intervention or the minds of the gifted few who can foresee the future and decide an impeccable course of action. Successful app ideas are the result of meticulous, step by step action which can identify problems and find solutions to those problems.
In this piece, I will share a few recommendations that can aid you in defining the path of your app idea generation process, whether you’re a novice or a seasoned developer.
start by examining yourself
A lot of what ideas will work for your brand and company will depend on your company’s style of business, its resources and its strengths and weaknesses. For instance, brick-and-mortar companies are usually focused on meeting the needs of a local audience and benefit from the advantage of meeting their clients face-to-face. Personal relationships help pick up cues that can never be captured online.
On the other hand, virtual companies have the advantage of having access to a global market and reach out to their customers through blog posts, social media, websites and video. Virtual companies usually keep their customer relationships active through large email lists.
Aside from your company’s business model, you need to know your employees, the people who will actually be building the app. Their characteristics, behavior and preferences will have a major impact on the app development process. Each employee has a different perspective on app creation and by involving them in the inception process, you can tap into an endless sea of resources and possibilities that can tilt you toward better ideas. Your app should be the result of a company-wide effort, not the speculation of a single mind. Knowing your developers will also help you determine what you can and can’t do, what are the strengths you can invest on and what are the weaknesses that you possibly have to overcome by outsourcing parts of your project.
Finally, you have to determine what is it exactly that your current resources aren’t accomplishing. If you have a website (which you should by the way) and an active array of social media networks (also a must), what more can an app add to your services, or rather how can an app revolutionize and ease your services? For instance, Ikea created an augmented-reality-powered app to offer something that none of its channels previously had: a preview of furniture in your home.
Logistics, deliveries and customer support are ideal areas to explore for creating apps.
Get inspiration from the big boys: How top brands are using mobile apps to promote their services
examine your customers
Your customers are just as important as yourself -- if not more important -- in the app idea generation process. After all, you have to create something that fits the needs of the people who are going to use it. You have to keep yourself aligned with their needs, preferences and complaints.
Learning about your customers takes a lot of listening and observing. Examine how customers interact with your brand, products, websites, etc. Figure out the paths they use for navigation, what their problems are. Initiate conversations, send questionnaires, ask users what more they wish to accomplish.
All of these interactions can help you to formulate the right idea for your app and to create something that will generate customer satisfaction.
It is strongly advised to avoid creating an app that duplicates your website’s interface and flow. But do keep in mind that you should always include the base features for the sake of customer convenience and preference. Some people will continue to prefer accessing your services through a web interface while others will opt for a more personalized app with added benefits, such as receiving push notifications for critical and timely information and offers.
examine your business plan
Having a clear view of what your short- and long-term goals are will have a decisive effect in defining what your priorities should be when developing your app. You should create a list of goals, determine which of them are being accomplished with current technologies being used by your business, and how mobile apps can help you accomplish new things or amplify aspects of your business.
A well-designed mobile app can incorporate many of the facets of your business and enable your customers to access your services and communicate their grievances to you on the go.
create a comparative sheet
After having collected all of the above information from the apps you’ve selected, compile everything into a spreadsheet that can help you compare and make decisions. The information for each app should be laid out in a row.
Looking at the figures can help you find the patterns for success and also help you find out what each of the apps are doing wrong and obtain clues on how you can get ahead of them.
examine your marketing strategy
Building a successful app requires a well-planned marketing strategy. But the app itself can turn into a very effective marketing tool for your brand and company. A careful investigation of your company’s current marketing process will turn up some of the gaps that need to be filled, which can in turn affect your app’s features and development process.
Look for sectors where you’re allocating the largest budgets, and try to figure out how your app can either ease the process or help cut expenses. For instance, catalogue prints and loyalty cards can easily be ported to apps, which will decrease the amount of money you spend on print material.
Transitioning your marketing efforts to mobile apps can also expand your reach to a much wider audience and also help you in using mobile technology to advertise your brand in ways that weren’t possible before. For instance, Nivea managed to associate its name with child protection through its app “Protege,” which helps parents track children when going on vacation.
EXAMINE YOUR competitors
Competitors are one of the best sources to seek for ideas. Undoubtedly, your peers will also be leading efforts to outshine others (including you) in the industry and draw customers to their brands. By examining their efforts in integrating apps and mobile technology into their services, you can obtain ideas on what’s being done right.
Reverse engineering your competitors’ strategies can help you define the distinct components that constitute their efforts and get a general idea of how you should craft your own masterpiece. But by all means, the point is not to copy their style and methods. You also have to be on the lookout for things that haven’t been done before, ideas that haven’t been tried, and designs that can make your app unique.
Instead of diving blindly into the app development process, you should have a clear view of what you’re doing. These guidelines will help you orient yourself toward app ideas that will actually help grow your business. However, the list is far from complete.
I would love to hear about your experience. Share your idea generation tips in the comments section.