We’ve all seen the thousands of apps that pop up whenever we search “fitness” or “food” or “mental health,” and it’s impossible to know which app is going to provide exactly what you need or want and what features you might miss out on by arbitrarily choosing one of many.
Worse yet, if you’ve got a brilliant app idea, you might do a preliminary search to figure out if something similar exists, thousands of apps might show up, and you have no real, immediate way of knowing if any of those provide something your app does or doesn’t.
Thus, one of the first steps of building your app (behind wireframing, working with user stories, determining your minimum viable product features/functions, and figuring out metrics and how you’ll want to retain and engage users from the get-go) is to validate your app idea through preliminary competition and app research.
Figure Out What Your App Even Is
The first step in developing an app is determining what problem you’re wanting to solve, and figuring out where in the market your app is going to fit. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it, and don’t reinvent the wheel: you may have a slight improvement on hundreds of apps out there, but it’s unlikely you’ll get properly picked up. Make sure there’s a significant gap in what you want to do and what’s offered.
Then, work on developing a specific set of keywords and phrases that would detail the functions and features your app. Write down at least ten. Look into apps through the AppStore on Apple or Google Play (depending on if you want to go the Apple or Android route – or both), and determine what else exists out there. Focus on the reviews, how they market and sell their app ideas (pictures, icons, descriptions, and so on).
Next, and this may be a little too obvious for comfort, but use Google! Google AdWords can help you figure out what exists out there and display results that might not otherwise show up in the app store. Mobile Action is also a great tool!
Face to Face Time
Next, interview your friends and family, close acquaintances, employees, your neighbors, your grandma’s bingo buddies – whatever, and figure out if your app is something they’d use. Ask them the following questions (or whatever you might want to ask them – the important thing is to get their strong and honest opinion, with extra stress on honest here).
Does this sound like something you’d need?
Do you use anything similar?
What other functions or features do you think are missing?
Have you heard of anything like this?
What sounds bad or faulty about this app? Why would you end up not using this? Why might you use it for a little while and then decide to stop using it?
Minimum Viable Product
We’ve written previously about developing a minimum viable product, which is a process through which an organization can determine if their software is something that will be used and will solve a problem. You can check out our blog post for more information, but using an MVP is effectively the way to figure out immediately the most basic functions and features your app is going to need, and getting your product out to market fast. The easiest MVP? A landing page, of course!
This is a quick and easy way to get information about your app out into the world, get sign-ups, keep track of first users to offer them premium services or rewards for signing up early, and gauge initial interest.
A landing page can be your actual best friend in figuring out if this is something people will want to use. Ask for email address for updates; the amount of sign-ups can help you figure out how many people want to use your app.
Follow it up with a marketing campaign metrics tracking system, like AdWords or through Facebook. Set up your landing page on every possible site you might need.
What should you focus on in your landing page?
- Mock-ups, screenshots, previews of what they’ll see: Utilize any wireframing you’ve developed to present the user with what they’re likely to see whenever they pull up the app. A strong visual presence can pull in a lot of appeal. We like Piktochart for quick and easy
- Pitches: If you’ve successfully used user stories to work on developing how to sell your message, or you’ve worked on developing your brand and company culture, then you know what your message likely is. Keep it short, sweet, and to the point
- A Way to Collect Email Sign-Ups: If a lot of people sign-up, then you’ve got something really special on your hands. If not a lot of people do, don’t get discouraged! It’s possible that simply not a lot of people have actually seen your landing page, rather than that they’re disinterested in your app as is. Unbounce is a great, extremely user-friendly resource for landing page creation.
The most important thing to remember is that if you’ve got the time and energy to develop an app people will use, then you have the time and energy required to invest in figuring out if it’s something people will actually use. You don’t want to rush a finished product you’ve spent hours and hours and hours developing only to find that people don’t ultimately want it all. Work hard on doing your preliminary research – any preliminary research – before diving into the development. It’ll save you time, effort, and, potentially, thousands of dollars or more!