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4 Key Ingredients to a Successful App Startup

What makes an app startup successful? We outline the four components of successful mobile apps so you can strive for App Store success.

Success comes to those who persevere. It also comes by design and not by chance. Understanding this subtle, yet pivotal difference can set the direction of your efforts on the right path.

If you want to transform your innovative app idea into a sustainable business, there’s no secret method or ‘growth hacking’ technique that guarantees App Store success.

As an app entrepreneur, a well-crafted app development process that addresses market strategy, user experience and product execution provides the building blocks for a successful mobile app.

These are the four key ingredients that constitute those building blocks. An understanding of each component increases the likelihood that your app startup will attract a loyal user base and generate ongoing revenue.

 

Value

The building blocks of a marketing-leading app development process are laid down by identifying the value provided to its intended users. Every successful mobile app offers a solution to a problem that customers are willing to pay for.

Some of the most successful startups were established from problems that the founding entrepreneurs experienced themselves and then solved with an ideal product/market fit.

It’s not just about solving a problem, though. It is about whether iPhone and Android Phone users would be willing purchase your solution or shift from an existing app because you solved an intrinsic problem that no other app could.

Identify the core value the your app intends to provide to its target audience and validate whether there is a need to use the app a second, third and fourth time on a consistent basis.

 

Design

A key element in the success of any mobile app is a user-centric approach to design. The app’s design, experience and usability  should resonate with the target market.

As the late Steve Jobs succinctly put it: “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

Design can be broken down into two main aspects where one leads the other. The first is the functionality and form of the app. Once you’ve selected the first set of features that will comprise the app product, it’s essential that the flow from one screen to another, or from one feature to another, is as simple as possible for the user.

To make the navigation process more intuitive, you should aim to minimise the learning curve for the users. This part of design, commonly referred to as User Experience or UX, is the process of enhancing user satisfaction by improving the usability and accessibility provided by the interaction between the user and the product.

This is followed by the graphic design or User Interface Design (UI), which is the process of understanding of who the customer is – factors such as age, gender and geographical location play an important part in how the app will look.

Furthermore, the colour scheme of an app design is scientifically proven to drive certain emotions in people. This is why you see specific colours used in certain brand logos and product design.

 

Branding & Marketing Colour

Colour Psychology in Marketing and Brand Identity. Source: Visme

When you have an understanding of your target market, design an interface and experience that incites an emotion that you would like your user to feel.

 

Distribution

Distribution can literally determine whether your mobile app is successful or not. Getting your app into the hands of both iPhone and Android users is potentially the biggest hurdle.

There are multiple marketing channels available to spread the word about your app, including Facebook Advertising and Blog Writing. In my experience as a Product Manager across an array of app development projects, you need to start the distribution process by exploiting every market channel at the early stages of promoting your app offering. This is the only way you will discover which channels produce the best results.

Mobile App Marketing

Flipkart distribute their app to Android users that Google a product that is available on Flipkart. Source: Business 2 Community

For our apps, we research and develop a marketing strategy document with a comprehensive execution plan across all channels. We then study the results of our marketing efforts across all the channels over a quarter to half-yearly period. This provides a comprehensive insight into the most effective channel that delivers best user conversion rate and ongoing revenue stream.

Along with a marketing strategy, you should create a compelling story about your app that shows its value proposition clearly. Consider Instagram’s value proposition: “Capture and share the world’s moments.” When it comes to emotionally connecting with potential app users, it doesn’t get more clear and simple than that.

 

Scalability

Scalability is all about how adaptive and flexible you are to your users’ feedback. It’s also about your commitment you are to continuous product iterations, improving the app’s features and enhancing the overall experience it provides over a period of time.

A good way to approach this is to identify a narrow market segment to begin with. This could be within your own social circle or an extended network of people that are potential app users – randomly selecting a user base doesn’t help. Another efficient form of market segmentation is reaching out to customers within your city – similar to how Uber started.

This helps you to understand the behavioural traits of app users in a close and personal manner, while also highlighting the mistakes that need to be rectified more quickly. The faster you learn from your users, the easier it gets to deliver them a better solution.

The moment you are able to satisfy the app needs of this smaller market segment, all you have to do is scale your efforts to distribute your app offering to similar users with the confidence that your app provides an ideal product/market fit. And remember, a loyal advocate of your app startup is worth a million!

Looking to launch your app idea towards startup stardom? Contact us to find out what we can do for you.

The 4 Myths of Mobile App Development

“For an industry that’s built on science, the technology world sure has its share of myths.”

–David Pogue, Founder of Yahoo Tech.

The app market continues to evolve as developers and users explore the possibilities of mobile technology. In 2015, the number of mobile-only internet users surpassed that of desktop-only, with people now spending at least 54% of their digital media time interacting with mobile apps.

As the top digital disruptor in business today, it comes as no surprise that everyone, from first-time entrepreneurs to multinational corporations, is sensing the urgency to break into mobile in a big way.

However, there are so many misconceptions around mobile app development that a lot of entrepreneurs and businesses end up squandering time and money they simply can’t afford. In my experience at the helm for numerous app development projects, I’ve been able to observe what works and what doesn’t when it comes to creating a best-in-class app product.

If you’re looking to create an app that innovates rather than regulates, here are the top 4 myths that you need to bust to do mobile right.

 

MYTH #1: Developing apps natively per platform is a waste of time and money.

REALITY: 

If you want a five-star app, build natively. Period.

The benefits of building a cross-platform app seam clear. You only have to code some once and you can push it out to everyone using any device. Sounds simple. Logical. Facebook thought so initially, as did LinkedIn. But the ease was countered by some pretty dramatic downsides. How dramatic you ask? Well, Mark Zuckerberg called Facebook’s over-reliance on HTML5 as opposed to native as “the biggest mistake we made as a company”.

In comparison to native apps, a cross-platform app is worse across every important metric: functionality, performance, UI etc. When entrepreneurs and business go the easy route of app development, they don’t realise that all they’re doing is creating a crappy experience for everyone everywhere.

But cross-platform approaches still lure startups that don’t want to invest more time and money developing separately for iOS and Android Operating Systems. Instead, they rely on HTML5, hybrid applications and cross-platform toolkits, but none of these work well enough to build the high-end mobile experiences users expect. They will eventually, but they don’t right now.

Each of these solutions come with their own set of drawbacks:

  • HTML5: Cross-browser compatibility issues are difficult to resolve, which means that you end up needing to optimise for each platform anyway.
  • Hybrid Apps: There’s a leaky abstraction layer (E.g. “Is that a URL bar refreshing in the app?… Seriously??”) and the communication layer between the app and web view is complex and littered with errors.
  • Cross-Platform Toolkits: Require large amounts of custom code per platform, making it easier and faster to write native code for each.

The takeaway: Instead of going broad and writing something once, spend the time and go deeper on your most popular platform first. Then expand from there. You want to pick the platform that resonates most with your users — whether it be iOS, Android or both. It all depends on what you want the app to do and the audience it’s designed to reach.

Figuring out your optimal platform means you need to dig into the demographics of your user base. In a previous post about validating your app idea, I discussed how researching the size and shape of your market is a critical step in influencing the direction of your app concept. You need to see firsthand that different users’ habits are largely driven by the platforms they use. Android users look for functionality in different places than iOS users, and so on. From both a speed and quality perspective this is the only way to go.

 

MYTH #2: My backend server is ready to support mobile apps.

REALITY:

You will need to change, upgrade, or completely rebuild your backend to create the best mobile experience.

Most companies still aren’t used to building the type of backend server that creates top mobile apps. Without the right API design and implementation, an app will perform poorly in the real world. Some companies see increases in mobile traffic that are 200% higher — or more — than their website. Take banks as an example: Whereas customers can now check their account 10 times a day on their smartphone. Your server needs to be able to handle that kind of workload.

To avoid crash issues due to increased mobile traffic, here’s a checklist to consider when integrating a mobile app with your web server:

  • Maximum Payload Size: In mobile, the best experiences are the ones where the minimum amount of data is sent. A good API for mobile should allow the client to specify the maximum payload size returned from the server (4 KB is usually enough).
  • Retry rather than Redo: Given the flakiness of network connectivity, users should be allowed to send the same API call to the server multiple times for certainty. Retrying the same API call should not mean two calls on the same server end (E.g. Posting the same Facebook status message twice).
  • Low Latency: Bandwidth isn’t the only networking issue when dealing with mobile devices. The lower the latency on each API call, the snappier your app will feel.
  • Single API Call per Screen: This requires tighter coupling between the mobile device and the server, but can make for a very compelling mobile experience. Ideally, every screen on mobile would make at most one API call to the backend. To loosen the coupling, the API could be designed to allow variable return data, with much of the heavy lifting done on the server side.

 

MYTH #3: You can develop your mobile app internally as fast as an outside company.

REALITY:

Developing your app yourself will take 3x longer.

Throughout my time helping entrepreneurs and business embrace mobile innovation, lots of folks have asked how long their app will take to make. I may assess that an app would take three months to develop for one platform. Sometimes they’d come back with the decision to develop the app internally. Keeping tabs on these app projects, it comes as no surprise to see them finally launch almost a year later in the App Store.

If you want to develop an app, you can’t make the mistake of thinking just because you have HTML, CSS and JavaScript capabilities that mobile will be plug-and-play for you. Unless you have a dedicated, built-out mobile team, this will probably not be the case. And very few entrepreneurs and startups have this luxury. When they decide to go internal, they’re essentially choosing to pay with time instead of money.

Why does it take startups so much longer to do it on their own? They don’t anticipate their most critical need: Hiring.

If you are planning to build internally, you want to be confident that you already have the people and skill sets you need to execute. This isn’t just about coding talent either. You need to have people with mobile product experience, mobile Quality Assurance (QA) testers, and mobile UI/UX Designers. You need all of these people working together to put out a great product. Otherwise your developers may head down one road only to discover they had the wrong product vision, or they hadn’t even thought of QA.

When you bring in a development company, you are provided with experts in all of these areas who can work in parallel to iterate quickly and deploy internally. Having a Mobile Product Manager keeps you focused on the three to five (maximum!) core functionalities an app should have.

Speed isn’t just important for its own sake either. The sooner you get your app into the App Store or on Google Play, the sooner you get to see people’s reactions to it. The faster you can gather that feedback, the closer you are to your next release.

There’s also the chance that you’ll realise halfway through that your company simply doesn’t have the people or resources to finish an app it’s started. Then you have to call in a company for what we like to call “a rescue.” It doesn’t sound good — because it isn’t.

This doesn’t mean that working with any outside developer will do. When choosing an app development company, you’re really choosing a partner. To make sure you end up working with the right partner, we suggest asking every company a series of probing questions:

  • How do they learn as they develop new mobile capabilities?
  • How do they capture and leverage the data from their previous projects and experiences? What have they learned from working with other clients?
  • Do they offer the ability to co-innovate (pairing their own staff with the client’s to develop, design, and test)?
  • Do they follow agile methodologies (test driven development, quick iterations, constant communication)?

For all of these questions, the ‘right’ answer is not a one-size-fits-all, but the one that best suits your business. At agile development companies, internal knowledge sharing is accomplished through a combination of human and technical means: lunch and learns, demos, company-wide standups, an internal project management site, and rotating staff across projects to expose them to a wide range of experiences. You want answers that make it clear that it’s easy and encouraged for you to participate.

 

MYTH #4: If I outsource to a mobile development company, I won’t have to do any work.

REALITY:

For the best outcomes, clients need to be heavily involved with the company they’ve contracted.

Sometimes we have clients who just say “Hey, pretend to be me and make the decisions you think I would make”. In other words, they just want to hand the whole project over. At Launchpad, what we’ve found is that to do the best work, we need as much information as we can get as fast as we can get it, and that requires client participation.

In my experience as a Product Manager across a wide variety of app development projects, the greatest apps I’ve been involved with resulted from the client working very closely with the design, coding and QA teams. Ideally, they have the opportunity to collaborate with the client to see what everyone wants and envisions.

The best case scenario is actually having our client sit with us to work toward building a solution — not just trading emails or checking in every so often over Skype. We call this co-innovation, as it allows the key stakeholders to build together.

When you work side by side with someone, trust forms so much faster. It’s so much easier to make decisions and work through issues. Simply put, the ability to be co-located with someone and to co-invent is a key factor for app development success.

Ultimately, busting all of these myths depends on finding the right partner. You want someone who gets you, gets your app, and is just as invested in your success as their own especially if you’re at a smaller startup or a company that is only beginning to invest in mobile. Given the increasing importance of these platforms, finding this exact fit could not only make or break your mobile strategy, but your entire business.

Do you have any questions about mobile app development? Feel free to ask in the comments section below.

5 Reasons an App Startup Is the Shortest Route to Financial Freedom

The top 1 percent of wealthiest people in the world didn’t become rich trading time for money. And in light of this, it’s fairly logical to assume trading time for money won’t work for you either.

Financial freedom is only possible with a strategy and business model that is scalable. “How do I do that?” I hear you ask – welcome to the world of digital business.

Digital businesses have created a new economy that is accessible to everybody. They can be websites but at the bleeding edge of this global technological disruption trend are apps. Apps provide a vastly improved user experience in comparison to mobile websites. Coupled with the ability to take full advantage of smartphone functionality like GPS and push notifications, mobile websites don’t even stand a chance.

It’s the sheer size and explosive growth that has already changed our perception of the traditional way of doing business. Uber, Instagram, Airbnb and numerous other tech companies have completely redefined their respective industries and have practically overthrown their traditional brick-and-mortar counterparts.

What does this mean for you? Well, the advent of App Stores that allow third-party entrepreneurs to create new software experiences has in many ways levelled the playing field for entrepreneurs to compete with major corporations.

This is because apps have the unique ability to grow exponentially. They present endless possibilities to scale with a lot smaller investment then traditional business models of the past. Of course, creating the next revolutionary app isn’t going to be easy but it also doesn’t happen by chance. Check out our 5 Top Strategies to Get More App Downloads blog for a better understanding of what’s involved in getting downloads and creating a successful app business.

Moving on, here are the top 5 reasons why taking your energy to the App Store will help immeasurably grow your business (and wealth) and regain your long lost freedom.

1. Scalability and exponential growth

Regardless of what type of business or industry you are in, scalability is an essential for growing your business. Establishing a business model that includes an app is the shortest route to truly exponential growth and it’s possible with a shoe-string marketing budget. The most successful businesses today are rooted in highly scalable app business models – Uber, Google, Facebook, Snapchat – the list goes on.

An app startup provides all of the essential ingredients to create the perfect scalability formula. Some of the main ingredients that app development provides, among countless others, include:

  • Instant access to more than 2 billion potential customers (roughly one-third of consumers worldwide).
  • Low costs to build a world-class app in comparison to starting a traditional business.
  • Robust integration capabilities with social media and free access to the most sophisticated and user-friendly marketing platforms.
  • Overnight proof of concept with real time customer-feedback.
  • Drastic reduction in costs for all aspects of running your business.

Success and scalability are intertwined. Taking your business to the App Store lets you achieve the scalability necessary for your business to thrive by maximising output while minimising costs and time.

 

2. Time over money

App Startups are not in some parallel universe that is exempt from the laws of reality. This is quickly discovered by many self-proclaimed entrepreneurs that hire the cheapest freelancer to develop their app. Your app concept will not simply reach a million- or billion-dollar valuation just by being on the App Store.

However, building an app startup does provide certain shortcuts to those who leverage its benefits. By understanding and mastering these benefits, you will be able to drastically increase your business’ growth while scaling back the amount of time you spend in your business.

Once you design and launch your app, little additional time is required to run it because of the efficiencies and automation tools provided online. Virtual assistants have reduced your time commitments even further and for next-to-nothing prices. This gives you more time to focus on big-picture projects that take your app startup to the next level. It also allows you to live life on your terms, and focus on the things that keep you motivated and engaged.

 

3. Create raving fans and loyal advocates

The goal of business is to create raving fans and loyal advocates. They go out of their way to promote your product to anyone and everyone, not because you asked them but because they want to. This is the Holy Grail of marketing that you cannot put a price on. Creating a mobile app to attract these zealous supporters is paramount, and the quickest, surefire way to achieve exponential growth.

An app gives you the best opportunity to prove your credibility and authenticity. By showing your customers that you can consistently provide them value and deliver on your business’s promises, you can earn their support. Creating a personalised app experience allows you to shift your customer’s perspective from a one-time user to a lifelong raving fan and loyal advocate.

iPhone-6-Eaton-Centre

Apple’s loyal fanbase will (literally!) wait in line for their latest smartphones and tablets. Source: Mac Rumors

 

4. Maximise, not minimise, your time

It’s not about working hard, or working smarter, it’s about working right. App development has paved the way for this principle that has taken the entrepreneurial world by storm. In less than 24 hours you, as an entrepreneur, can think of an idea, create a minimum viable product or service, list the app product for sale online with a global customer base, receive instantaneous user-feedback, then modify and adjust your app startup based on that feedback! Efficiency at its finest.

Validating that your app idea works by attracting users and generating revenue is priority number one. Remember, your customers are marketing geniuses. They know exactly what they want and it is your job to find that out. Too many entrepreneurs begin with an idea for a app product that they think people want. They spend months, sometimes years, making sure the product and business are perfected without ever testing or even showing it to potential users! App development has given you the perfect platform to do just that.

 

5. Now is the perfect time

What are you waiting for? There will never be a perfect time to take action and develop an app. If you’re waiting for the right time, regret is guaranteed. Forget the naysayers and be decisive. I am telling you from experience that now is always the perfect time to chase your biggest ambitions. 

Your only one call away from a confidential discussion to evaluate your app idea. To find out how we can help you launch your app startup, give us a call on 1300 277 434 if you’re in Australia or email me at dane@launchpadapps.com.au if you’d prefer.

How many apps do you need to download before you create your own? Stop being a mobile consumer, and switch teams to be a producer first, and a consumer second. Those focused on building something bigger than themselves are the ones that produce results – they are changing the world, not just consuming it.