50 Billion Apps: Where’s Yours?

As of 2013, Apple celebrated their 50 billionth app download. That’s approximately 800 apps every second

, within just 5 years of business. It’s impressive and clear that app development is big business. There is clearly money to be made but who is taking the lions share?

With app being a buzzword, it makes it difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff when it comes to developers. That said, choosing someone who offers the service for peanuts begs the question of whether their standards are up to scratch!

“It is important to get good quality, credible independent advice before undertaking any development, which can be costly even if it is according to plan and following the correct development approach.” – Angus Phillipson, Managing Director, Byte9 www.thebyte9.com

For every success story there are thousands of failures. Only 20% of apps get downloaded over 1000 times. Conceptually it sounds straightforward enough but developing a ‘user- centred’ app is a complex process from conception to testing, launching followed by more testing and marketing.

What makes a “user-centred” mobile app?

Studies suggest that approximately 60% of Apple apps have never been downloaded so why is this? The app idea is not so much the issue, rather the execution of the idea. This is the difference between an app with little or no sales and a consistently strong app – in the top sellers list.

There are a few basic rules to apply your app build to.

1. Approach

Angus who helps startups enter the world of apps states :

The primary question is whether to approach the development as a ‘native’ application, or a ‘hybrid’ development, that relies more on established web technology, using an application ‘wrapper’ to make a predominantly web technology based tool available as an ‘app’. A ‘native’ application is device specific and the development tools are unique to the iOS or Android (etc) development environment. This means they require the skills of more specialist developers, which is more costly and requires ongoing support as the underlying operating environment changes, ongoing. This will have very significant impact on; the cost of development and ongoing maintenance, the cost of building or maintaining in-house support and the reach of the application (which devices you are targeting and the breadth of the user base.)”

2. Observe the market.

Identify the top 20 best selling apps and try to identify what makes them so successful and unique. Look for consistent characteristics that are working and how can you change unfavourable elements without affecting those characteristics that do work? How does your app compare now? Now get outside and speak to customers and get their feedback.

Take a look at their design and assess what it is that attracts customers. What does your app icon say about your product? Does it clearly reflect what you’re selling?

Keep an eye on fluctuations and trends in games, business, utility and entertainment apps; this will help you to decide upon what app you want to create. Currently games are top sellers, as apps are about interactivity and engagement and it’s easier for games to capture this.

3. Marketing strategy

Last year, there were 1.2 billion worldwide app users which have been predicted to double to 4.4 billion by 2017. This means, your app has a lot of potential users but how to reach them?

Firstly a user centred approach is all about knowing your users. What are their characteristics, preferences and attitudes. If your app solves problems, what problems have your found your target market have after you’ve interviewed them? Where do they spend their time online? How do they purchase apps? What apps are they inclined to use for play or problem solving and why?

Finding out what users want and giving it to them is user centred design. Talk to your users to find out what it is they like, dislike or would change about your app. Staying in touch with your customer base is a good way of assessing their needs and collecting future market research. Scale and invest in marketing only when you have proven your concept with a small group of users.

4. Investing time and money

Finding a credible designer is time consuming and can be expensive therefore working out a realistic budget beforehand should be a main priority. Developing and / or designing the app yourself is a good money saver but putting your time into more important tasks may be a better option.

If you are hiring, then it’s wise to check their portfolio and skills to see if they’re qualified to take on your project. Then when the right freelancer has been decided upon, a contract or agreement of expectations, standard, quality, deadlines and delivery should be all taken into consideration and agreed upon. Make sure you have prepared mock-ups and content in advance as these often stall a project if the developer is unable to provide them.

Don’t just go with the first freelancer that you discuss specifics with. Instead, treat it as though you’re hiring an employee in terms of the interviewing process. The time spent on building the relationship with a developer or two, will help to ensure that the project goes to plan after you pay the deposit.

5. What makes an app stand out from the crowd of code?

Ndemic Creations, CEO and founder, James Vaughan, is one of the mobile app industries success stories. He founded the company to develop his top seller “Plague Inc”, which was a significant mobile headliners in 2012.

Vaughan’s hit game and best-seller literally spread via word-of-mouth, racking up over 1m downloads and held the number one paid app spot in the US. The app received over 25k five star reviews and over 8 million games played to date.

Vaughan offers his advice through way of experience:

“Make a game that you want to play but doesn’t already exist. This ensures that you will be passionate about the game and that there is a niche for your game – hopefully lots of other people will want similar games to you!” A big pitfall for mobile development is not thinking enough about things – how are players going to interact with this part of the game? What are players going to think when they see this? How are we going to make enough money to keep making games?

Be realistic when making your first app – you should do it because you feel passionate about it, not because you are expecting to make huge amounts of money (that should be a bonus). Relentlessly pursue perfection – this is not enough to get your game noticed but it is a minimum requirement. Have fun and set realistic criteria for success. For me – success was actually releasing a game – glorious success was making the costs of development back”

Monetary gains alone may not be the key to success. Focus on the user first – this is the key.

Vaughan’s advice to first-time developers trying to get their app noticed in the app store is :

“You don’t just need to make a great game; you need to make a better game. Engage with the players, respond to every email, every Tweet, every Facebook message.”

Many apps fail because there has not been enough thought put into the concept, aesthetics, functionality, and testing.

The whole point of a ‘user centred’ approach is so that the the user can use it effectively and conveniently. This all comes out during the testing stages and so it’s vital that it’s tested countless of times Many a times, version of apps are updated to keep ahead of users needs and it can take many versions before it’s completely ready. Some would argue that as technology progresses, apps will never be entirely user ready.

As more apps are developed each day, competition in the English speaking app market intensifies placing more emphasis on innovative design and marketing approaches.

Great products have to be followed up by even greater marketing and whilst the designing and the building of an app is complex – the real challenge comes when users start downloading it.