Whilst it has never been easier to launch your own mobile application, it has never been harder to make it a success.
For every article you read on astronomical mobile growth, you will see another which showcases the struggle that the majority of developers face in their quest for success.Most recently, Developer Economics published their 2015 Q1 report which stated that a staggering 35% of developers make less than $100 per month.
As with launching any type of business, there are a number of steps you can take during the planning stages of your venture in order to limit your risk of failure. In this article, we are going to look at 4 key questions which developers should answer before they write a single line of code.
1. Product Market Fit: Is there a need for my app to exist?
Launching a well executed application does not guarantee success on mobile. Of course, user experience and functionality are vitally important, but above all you need to establish whether there is market demand for your application in the first place.
This is not an easy question to answer, and only hours upon hours of research will help you to paint a clearer picture of whether there is genuine interest in the product you are building.
Firstly, start with the basics. Ask yourself: who am I building it for? This is key, as it will help you to shape what other questions to ask during your research, and will also have a significant impact on how you design your user experience.
Secondly, establish what problem you are solving for your target audience. Some of the best apps on the market came out of the developers’ idea of a tool that they wanted and needed. A great example of this is the Israeli start-up, Moovit. Moovit was born when a couple of guys got together and built an app to make it easier for them to navigate the Israeli transport system.
Moovit identified a problem first hand, and were easily able to see that millions of people experience the same problem as themselves. By focusing on users’ needs first and foremost, you have a better chance of building a product that people would love.
Speaking to Dom Bracher, CMO at direct deals marketplace Tapdaq, it’s interesting to hear that many developers overlook the issue of product market fit. “In our community at Tapdaq, we definitely see a large number of developers attempt to build a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist, or a solution which didn’t need to exist.”
“Our advice to developers is to listen to both their potential and current customers in order to build the best products. With so much choice available on the App Store, you have got to ensure you add extra value to your target audience – how better to do that then to deliver on their collective requests.”
2. How Am I Going To Monetise?
The issue of monetisation comes down to one key decision. Do you push the risk to consumers by charging for the install? Or do you make your app free to download?
Without a doubt, the most popular monetisation model is freemium. Whilst the chart below is a little over 12 months old, you can see just how much freemium dominates when compared to other monetisation models across the key mobile territories. On top of this, at the time of writing, 97% of apps in the US top 100 grossing chart are in fact free – which is a fairly staggering statistic.
With the above said, it certainly doesn’t mean that the paid model should be discounted. Many regard launching a paid app to be “easier” in the sense that you don’t have to worry about creating and optimising a viable in-app purchasing model, something that can be a costly process. Also, you don’t have to think about splitting your product features into “light” and “premium” versions, or figure out a savvy way of packaging them.
One example of a developer that has conquered the paid app market is Sport.com, who over the last 2 years have had over 45 million paid installs. Speaking with Itamar Benedy, VP of Marketing at Sport.com & Yoga.com, you soon get an understanding of what needs to be considered in order to make a paid model work.
“If you do ask users to pay for an app up front, then you have got to provide significant value to your users. The opportunity for paid distribution varies from category to category, so you need to factor this in when making a decision on which monetisation model to go for.”
3. Which platform, iOS or Android?
There are many positives and negatives to each platform, and which you choose to develop on first depends on your goals.
If you want to build fast, Android is probably a better platform for you. Firstly, deploying an app on Android takes much less time than on iOS, as there is no review process. During the testing phases of your product, this means you are able to fix bugs and iterate quickly. To be able to move at speed on iOS, you would need to start looking at A/B testing solutions which enable server side changes, and bypass the app review process.
Android also offers open source development, but this poses further challenges for developers. With all the different devices that need to be tested, QA time on Android typically takes twice as long to complete when compared to iOS. Couple this alongside sporadic adoption rates of Android OS versions, and there is a chance that you can lose a proportion of the time saved during deployment.
If you are looking to prove a revenue model on mobile, then iOS may be a better place to launch the first version of your application. Whilst Google Play has actually overtaken iOS when it comes to install volume, iOS is still the leader in terms of revenue.
Ultimately, there’s no definitive answer to what the winning platform is, as each platform does carry genuine benefits and weaknesses. You’ll need to carefully evaluate your target market and business objectives in order to determine which platform is the right one for you.
4. What Assumptions Am I Making?
Assumptions are what stimulate innovation. However, with assumptions comes risk, particularly if you fail to identify when you’re making an assumption in the first place. If you are able to test your assumptions prior to launching your product, then this limits your risk. We live in a digital world where it is possible collect data on every event that occurs within your product, and it is essential that you use this data to make decisions.
Whilst you will never validate all of your assumptions during testing, with TestFlight now built into iTunes Connect it has never been easier to distribute pre launch beta versions of your application. With the option to test with up to 1,000 users, you’re able to collect significant pools of data on your product assumptions, which is invaluable.
You should also curate your list of beta users. Whilst discussing this process with Itamar Benedy, he explained how Sport.com are vigilant when it comes to testing. “We will never use the same beta users within the same year, and will always look to have at least 30 users in each of our target audiences. We also look to compare the behaviour of users who are already familiar with an app, and A/B test their actions against a group of ‘new’ users.”
When asked what advice he’d provide other developers, Benedy said, “It’s much more important to focus on bringing new beta users into your testing process than focussing on hitting your max limit of 1,000 users. Also, try to test multiple iterations of your beta build prior to release, as this will ensure your product is as stable as possible. We typically aim for 2 to 3 versions. Finally, if you can, identify and test your applications with your ‘whales’, as their feedback on your app is vitally important for monetisation.”
Finally, you should always gather your own data – don’t make assumptions on how other products are performing. The apps you think of as highly successful on the market may not be profitable at all. The apps that you think of as downright ridiculous may have their niche audience that is willing to pay the buck, and pay it big.
Whilst it’s hugely exciting to start working on a new application, it is vitally important that you ask yourself these 4 questions before you launch your app. The mobile ecosystem is extremely fast paced, but I can’t stress enough how valuable it is to take a step back and analyse your plans.
Businesses fail because they never find a true ‘product market fit’, but what’s more alarming than this is that some entrepreneurs have never even heard of the term in the first place.
Yes, we all learn from the mistakes we make, but small mistakes definitely compound over time. By spending time planning your product strategy and asking smart questions, you can definitely limit the number of issues you run into further down the line.