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How to
Create an App

Chapter 2

Set Up your
Masterplan and goals
Plan your project carefully and with the right team, it could well become that huge success that you were hoping for. into building instead of thinking about building.
- Samuel Harrison -
Creator of Padel Tennis Pro

So, you have your idea and your gut is telling you this is going to work, I just know it! Or maybe you have a few ideas, none of them fully developed, but each of them with some potential.

Either way, your idea is likely to need refinement and development. When creating an app, you don’t have the luxury of working with a blank canvas. There are certain things you need to consider – such as the nature of the platforms you want to sell on, how your app will solve a problem, make lives better or be an addictive game, how much demand there will be for your app, how will you monetise it, what technical limitations could affect it etc..

Refining your idea doesn’t necessarily mean compromising on it. It just means turning it from a pipedream

into something that’s actually going to work. To help you along the refinement process, which is vital after the ideation stage, we’ve listed a few crucial considerations for any aspiring app creator. But let’s start with a great example of a niche market app: Wag!

Wag! Case Study: Niche Market AppSuccess

Wag! is an app for dog owners. The app allows you to find a dog walker just 30 minutes before you want to exercise your pet. Or, to create a more regular arrangement with a particular walker. The app keeps dog owners happy by providing them with a “report card” after each walk. This contains a photo of their dog, a map of the walk, and a “pee-poop” status update. Though currently only available in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City, Wag! has a five stars rating on Apple’s App Store and recently raised $2.5 million in seed funding.

— define your goals —

What is the intended outcome of developing your app?
Are you aiming to make money?
Support an existing brand or service?
Help users educate or otherwise better themselves?
Or is it a charitable endeavour?

Missions are exciting; not apps. Everything you do should be fuelled by some aspiration, mission, story or purpose. Technologies change and when they do, all that’s left are people, passions and ideas. Your vision and story will help orientate both you as a founder and your decision-making.
- Dhrupad Karwa -
Founder/CEO of HaikuJAM

Whatever your reason for developing an app, you need to have a clearly defined objective. If you don’t, you may create something that doesn’t achieve what you want. You must define this and keep this front-of-mind throughout the development process. Ask yourself continually: Will my app achieve
what I want it to achieve?
In his excellent post, “How to Validate your App Ideas”, David Janner, Editor of MAKE APP Magazine, suggests that those struggling to define their goals may benefit from speaking to business owners, influencers,

bloggers, or any other relevant third-parties in order to find out what apps they’re likely to get excited about. This is a great way to start thinking about what your ambition is for your app.

Goals really do define success, as this 1979 Harvard Study shows: it asked students whether they had goals and whether they wrote them down. Only three per cent of students had written their goals down and those that did were, on average, earning ten times as much ten years later than the other 97 percent of the class combined! »

— Figure out What Your App Will Do —

You need to know exactly what your app will do. Apps are generally used for one or a handful of purposes. So it’s important that your app doesn’t try to do too much. A simple idea that is well executed must be your aim. Or as Marty sums this up perfectly:

Position yourself to capitalize on the next frontier. Information is certain to grow faster than anything else generated by humans, and the Internet of Things (IoT) is a huge contributor. Apps are adept at collecting information and condensing it, whether it be for healthcare, home control, or gaming. Be there intentionally rather than randomly.
- Marty Zwilling -
CEO & Founder of Startup Professional Musing,
and Advisory Board Member for multiple startups

When deciding your app’s purpose, it’s important that you understand how it will make its users’ lives better. Whether that is by improving productivity or memory, relieving boredom, adding competition or a challenge, helping health, fitness and wellness, or solving financial budgeting, if your idea doesn’t significantly improve its users’ lives, it’s unlikely to be successful. For example, ad blocker app Peace shot straight to the top of

the iTunes Paid App charts just hours after its release on September 17, 2015. »

This is because Peace promised to do something that people were very excited about: block adverts on their mobile devices. People realised that Peace could positively affect their lives in a very real way, and the developers reaped the rewards.

— Assess the Competition —

Does an app similar to your idea already exist? To find out, search all of the biggest apps stores with any relevant terms. And don’t make your terms too narrow. For example, imagine you’re creating a bowling game. You search terms such as “bowling”, “ten pin”, “strike”, etc., and are delighted to see that nothing comes up. But, unbeknownst to you, there exists an incredibly popular skittles game that doesn’t mention the words “bowling”, “ten pin”, and “strike” at all.
If a similar app does exist, this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to throw in the towel. Perhaps the rival app is poor quality with lots of bugs. Perhaps it’s badly marketed. Perhaps it only does some of what you want yours to do. Perhaps it is offering too many features

so that they are all watered-down, or weaker in some areas than others. If any of these things are true, then you need to ensure you don’t make the same mistakes as your competitor. Download the app, have a good look at it,
and see what you can do to improve it.
However, if your idea is very similar to an existing and popular app, you may have to go back to the drawing board unless you have some significant improvements up your sleeve. If this is the case, think about ways to differentiate your app and make it better than the competition.

At the peak of the Flappy Bird craze, over 60 Flappy Bird clones hit the Apple App Store every day. Most of these were too similar to the original to attain any real level of success. However, modifying and bettering a good idea isn’t the same as cloning. If you have direct competitors, you need to make sure your app goes the extra mile.

Fly Birdie was almost identical to Flappy Bird, and made no attempt to improve on the original. As such, it received a frosty reception and plenty of negative reviews. 2048, however, was very similar to Threes, in which players slide blocks to complete a number puzzle. But 2048 had better playability, music, and design, earning it over four million visitors in a week. »

If you are thinking about cloning the latest game craze, put that idea to the side for a second. There is nothing wrong with using existing source code, if you can improve on what is out there. But many times, clones end up looking way too similar.
- Hugh Kimura -
Formerly Head of Content at Sensor Tower
— Critique the Possibility of Your Idea —

Your idea may be fantastic. But if there’s no realistic way to realise it, then you need to figure that out as soon as possible. Dhru, again, accurately defines what this means with some great advice too – think about this a little:

Observe the solutions that people currently resort to because yours does not exist. Then understand whether or not your product would truly offer more value. Your time is really valuable, so building something new just for the sake of building something new is not a good idea. Also, often the best solution isn’t always a mobile app – sometimes, a mobile-optimised site, widget or even offline physical experience is a more appropriate response to the problem. Furthermore, definitely consider your product’s intended frequency of use; mobile app’s take up valuable screen real estate… If a person would only need to use your app once or twice a year, would they really keep it sitting there taking up precious screen space and consuming phone memory?
- Dhrupad Karwa -
Founder/CEO of HaikuJAM

If you’re a developer, you should have a good idea about what’s possible or what isn’t. If you’re less technically-minded, you need to sit down with someone whose expertise will tell you the opportunities and challenges the idea may come up against.

As developer Milan van den Bovenkamp, founder of Making Technology Come Alive!, puts it:

And bear in mind, even though something may be possible, do you have the budget and resources to make it happen? After all, you have only a very small window of opportunity to make a great initial impression: according to research conducted by Eran Yaniv’s company,, customers will try something else after just two bad experiences with an app.

— See What Category Will
Your App Belong To? —

Most app stores divide the apps into categories.
The Apple App Store’s categories include:

Look at the store(s) you intend to distribute your app on and see what category best suits your app. Some categories have more free apps than paid ones, and vice versa. See how the land lies in your category. This will help you determine whether your app is more likely to be popular if free, freemium or paid. In chapter nine we

go into more detail about monetisation models – so feel free to jump ahead if that’s of interest, but be sure to come back and pick up where you left off so you don’t miss anything that could mean the difference between success and failure! Just remember to check the most popular categories as part of your research.

For example, the most popular five Apple App Store categories
in September 2015 were:

— If You Are Developing a Paid App,
Think About Monetisation —

There are various models for monetising apps. One will likely be best suited to your app idea. Therefore do your research because it’s important that you pick the right one – this one decision can be the difference between success and failure.

Some popular monetisation models include:

  • Paid download – users pay a one-off fee to download your app.
  • In-App Advertising – third-parties pay to present their advert to users of your app.
  • Freemium – users download the app for free, but pay to get additional services or features, which often includes the app becoming ad-free.
  • In-App Purchases – users pay for physical/virtual goods through your app.
  • Paywalls – popular with publishers, users are able to view a certain amount of content or use a certain portion of the app for free, but must pay a subscription to get more.
  • Sponsorship – advertisers pay to provide users with rewards for completing certain in-app functions.

And remember, none of these models are mutually
exclusive. You’re free to combine two or more in order to
find the model that best suits you.

Our Advice:
Target Niche Markets

When deciding on the details of your app, you should strongly consider developing an app for a niche market.

A niche market is a subset of the market on which a specific product is focused. These could include less popular sports and hobbies markets, language-specific markets, geographically-specific markets, lifestyle-specific markets, etc..

By their very nature, apps specifically designed for niche markets are less likely to have been created, meaning that the market is often unsaturated or even empty. However, there is often a high enough level of demand to support a particular product, and, since it won’t be available elsewhere, those who provide it can often charge a premium.

Choosing to target a niche market immediately differentiates your app from the rest, it reduces the amount of competition you face, and gives you a clearly defined target market.

In the next chapter, we look in detail at how to conduct niche market research. If you’ve already decided not to target a niche market you can skip this chapter. However, some of the research advice may still be applicable to you.

Windfinder Case Study:
Niche Market App Success

Windfinder is an app for anyone with an interest in the wind, waves, weather, and tides – kitesurfers, windsurfers, sailors, paragliders, and more. It provides forecasts from over 40,000 spots, collects observations from over 18,000 weather stations, and allows for configurable favourites and measuring units. The app has a 4.5 star rating from over 11,000 users and has been installed on over 1,000,000 devices. Windfinder shows how targeting the right niche market with a unique idea can be an excellent decision.

— in summary —

Staying true to your vision is important. Being flexible on how you actually realise your vision is vital. Therefore it is critical that you spend time at the beginning clearly outlining your objective, and then keep this as your central focus. Don’t shirk the all-important research, and certainly do not be afraid to ask questions of others – whether friends and family, or analysts and

app developers – and do some research to ensure that your idea has merit, or to ensure that you tweak your concept before it is too late. And constantly question yourself – be honest about what you want your app to do and what is possible. Then figure out how
you want to monetise it.

— key takeaways —
Be flexible: refining your idea does not necessarily mean compromising on it; it’s about adapting early to ensure later ongoing success.
Define your goal, validate it, and write it down. Why not put it on a post-it on your monitor to remind yourself every single minute of every day that you’re working on it?
When establishing what you want your app to do, be sure to ascertain what challenge or problem it will solve for the user. This, in itself, will create the need for it and thus the market demand.
Know your enemy. The competition are not to be feared; they should be seen as your springboard – asses what they do, how they do it, what overlaps exist with yours, what differences there are, how they succeeded, and why they failed. Learn from them, and improve on their offerings.
Do your research – niche markets are ripe for exploiting with a killer idea, as they typically do not have many (if any) existing apps. So identify your sweet spot.

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