The mobile phone applications market tripled in revenues from $5 billion in 2010 to $15 billion in 2011. The 4 billion mobile phones in use around the world, with an increasing percentage of them becoming smart phones seem to have an insatiable appetite for new apps.
The Apple App Store already has over 500,000 apps, Google’s Android Market has over 225,000 and there are growing numbers of apps in the Microsoft, Nokia and RIM app stores.
Every developer is looking to replicate the enormous success of the Angry Birds gaming app that has earned the developer over $100 million in revenues for an incurred cost of only $140,000. For one such success story, there are millions of disappointed app developers.
Apple has estimated that the average revenue earned from its vast store of apps is only $600 per year when the average cost of development of each app is over $10,000. There are some common mistakes that app developers make and avoiding those could improve chances for your own success.
1. Define your Goal in Developing the App
App developers can be driven by various motives. It could simply be recognition from peers or critical acclaim. Most people would, in addition, like to earn money from the app. That could take the form of paid usage or paid downloads or ad revenue.
The common practice in app development is to make a free app with basic features with a paid upgrade for advanced features. If you plan on earning revenue through paid ads, give some thought to the kind of products or services that would rhyme well with your app. Plan to build in an on-line purchasing option for the product or service if appropriate.
2. Select a Target Market
The mobile is so widely used that it is necessary to define your target market. An app intended for the young college student would be different from one intended for a business professional. A mistake developers often make is to try to target too many customer segments at one time, making the app too diverse and unfocused.
3. Serve a Real Need or Solve a Real Problem
This may sound obvious but if you check the apps available, many are trivial or of limited use. A successful app need not necessarily be complex. For example an app named “Who is it PRO” for the Blackberry simply assigns different LED colors to 20 frequent contacts so that you are able to instantly identify the caller.
There are a very large number of apps labeled GTD (for Get Things Done) that can be used to make lists of things to do that day, that week or on that trip. Developing one more such app would add no value unless your app delivers a vastly superior process or a much better user experience.
4. Check to See if a Similar App Already Exists
Before you commit your time and money to develop an app, check to see if one already exists by checking through the Apple and Android stores and checking blog sites.
This precaution could also avoid future problems relating to copyright violation of existing apps that could land you in legal trouble, when you attempt to launch your app.
5. Choose a Platform
It is best to select one platform for app development. This reduces development costs and complexity and reduces chances of errors that could kill a promising new application. Once established on one platform, it is possible to port them to other platforms. This choice can be tricky as the Apple iOS would appear to have the largest user base. If the app you plan to develop is aimed at a business user, it could make sense to target the Blackberry user. Outside the US, the Android platform may have more takers.
6. Test and Re-test the App Before Launch
Mobile apps are often accessed by users when they are in transit and often have only limited time. Frequently, they are also multi-tasking between using the mobile phone and doing other things. They rarely have the time or inclination to read through instruction manuals or see installation videos.
Most users will trust to their instincts and download or access an app and if that experience is unsatisfactory, may not give you a second chance. The icons you use should be appealing, color choices attractive and text and instructions easy to read and understand. Your app should also be “idiot proof” in the sense that the app should not hang even if the user presses a wrong set of buttons.
A related problem is that mobile users are quick to go on-line and trash any app that has given them an unsatisfactory experience. Such negative publicity is difficult to live down in the cyber world. Such criticism is especially severe in the case of paid apps. It is useful to get a peer group to test and retest apps before launch.
7. Don’t Give up too Early
You are bound to experience problems and disappointment in any app development exercise. Most successful app developers counsel patience to stay with the development and not to give up too early.
The app could take several weeks or months to gain recognition and that could happen suddenly as one group of enthusiasts get vocal on the cyber media or one reputed journalist praises the app.