We are pleased to announce we’ve received our golden ticket. I will be representing Streamside Software at Apple’s WWDC 2015. We are overjoyed at this opportunity. This conference, to an iOS developer, is like drinking from a firehose. I cannot wait to meet fellow developers, share ideas, and hear about Apple’s new projects. To learn more about my journey, check out my blog on rogerpingleton.com.
As promised, I will get into some of the nitty gritty details of creating a successful app in this post, but as you can imagine, I won’t be able to cover everything.
However, I will complete this series of posts as quickly as possible and give you as many resources as possible to turn to.
I realize we haven’t even scratched the surface of what exactly it takes to create an app, such as what language to use, what design tools to use, etc., etc.
I assure you I will get to those, but I need to continue to give you a broader overview first.
Let’s start with an exercise.
Many people approach the idea of creating an app with the following belief, “If I create an app and price it at one dollar, if 1,000,000 people buy it, I’ll be a millionaire.”
And that’s a great thought. I like it. I mean, who wouldn’t buy a great little app for $1, right?
First of all, the app store usually gives you a 70/30 split, which means for every dollar you earn, you get 70 cents, and they keep 30 cents. It’s not a bad deal for you really, since you are essentially building a treehouse in their tree. They take care of so many of the business aspects freeing you up to just create apps.
But also consider the standard tier one price is 99 cents, not a dollar, and those million extra pennies you don’t receive add up to $10,000, so you will have to sell even more.
So what are the numbers to make a million dollars with a 99 cent app? Pardon my geekiness, but I believe the number of apps you would need to sell is 1,443,002 in order to make $1,000,000.
Then the IRS comes and…
Okay, so this is getting depressing, but I’m going somewhere with this. At this point many people fall into three camps with three different ways of thinking:
- I’d be happy with substantially less
- I’ll sell more apps
- I’ll raise the price
If you’re in number one’s camp, you’re golden. No arguments from me. But why not shoot higher?
If you’re in number two or three’s camps, I admire your spirit, because, again, it takes a lot to make it in the app business, and this sort of thinking will take you far in your business education.
First let me say that idea number three (raising the price) is right out for most popular apps. If your model is to write an app for the masses, I can tell you that 99 cents is an amazing price point.
The Magic of 99 Cents
The 99 cent app is not dead, though to paraphrase a popular misquotation of Mark Twain, “reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated.”
There is a new model sweeping the app world which I’m sure you’ve heard of. It’s called “freemium,” and it’s a very viable model. Shoot, even South Park spoofed this business model in the episode Freemium Isn’t Free.*
Essentially you give your app away for free and monetize it through advertisements or some other add-ons (referred to as in-app purchases, or more popularly IAP).
It’s a great model. It works. It works well. Many, many, many people will download free apps, however unless your app truly engages people or hooks into an addictive behavior, you will likely not see any more revenue from this model.
Here’s why I like the 99 cent model. It’s kind of a magic number. For many people, it’s an “automatic.” It’s like putting a coin in a slot machine. In their minds they think, “it’s only 99 cents; I’ll take a gamble on it.”
If it pays out, they believe they’ve bought a bargain (which they have). If it doesn’t, they don’t feel that bad, since they probably spent many times that amount at Starbucks.
Our first app, Spirit Story Box*, is a 99 cent app with some additional 99 cent IAP’s. I’ve had great success with that price point. I will price future apps developed by us at that price point.
That said, we will also try the freemium model in the future.
I hate to be a tease, but we will get into the idea of selling more in later posts. It’s a big topic, and I want to do it justice.
Three Basic Rules of Design
As promised, I will need to turn back to the idea of designing your app.
The first rule of app development is this:
1. Your app must be awesome, so learn what awesome is.
There’s no way around it. There are those who make money off of junk apps which provide little if any value to their customers. These apps have short lives, and if the developers have deceived their customers, they are permanently banned from selling in the app store.
The only sure way to success is to create a quality product, not junk. Think of the quality brands you admire. What sets them apart? Most successful brands pay attention to the littlest of details.
Tilley is one of those brands who has perfected their design. I believe in that company and wholeheartedly endorse them. What an inspiring brand!
Someone close to me once had the opportunity to resell some designer brand merchandise. These were brands with storefronts on Rodeo Boulevard. I was struck by the quality of the products and their packaging. Both were head and shoulders above the competition.
Say what you will about expensive brands, but there’s a reason why they are successful. Until you develop an eye for quality, you will never create a quality product.
2. Play by the rules, and heed the design guidelines
Do not create a business model that is deceptive. Play close to attention to the design guidelines provided by the owner of the app store (Apple, Google, etc.). Since we are iOS app developers, this means our apps must be approved for sale by Apple.
Apple has design guidelines we are expected to follow. We ignore these at our own risk, since doing so may likely get our app rejected.
Those design guidelines are meant to assure that we are creating a quality product, and if taken seriously, can actually guide us toward creating a quality product.
When you pay the money to become a developer, you will be given links to a variety of design resources including these guidelines.
3. Don’t give into “good enough.”
When people create an app, they have a vision of what it can be. Sometimes it meets or even exceeds that vision, but often it falls short.
Why? What factors led them to believe their app was the best it could be?
I will get into these in a later article, but often it just comes down to the fact that they felt it was, “good enough.”
Don’t be one of those developers. You may want to hurry to bring your app to market but remember this one thing:
A late app is only late until it’s finished. A bad app is bad forever.
That’s all I have for now. Continue with me on this journey as I get into the details of how to go about creating your own successful app.
If you would like to consult with us about app development, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Understandably, this site depends on referral links to help us keep the business going.
So you wanna make a mobile app? Excellent! Welcome to the exciting world of app development!
There are a lot of great reasons to create your own app. Perhaps you have a killer idea or a need which no one has created an app to fulfill.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the large sums of money independent developers have earned in just months, with just a few employees.
Incredible Success Stories
The 13 employees at Instagram shared a $100 million stake when Instagram was bought by Facebook.
Crossy Road developers made over $10 million in just 90 days with just a few employees.
There is money to be made in app development, if you have the right product. In the book The End of Big: How the Digital Revolution Makes David the New Goliath* Nicco Mele explores the many ways small organizations have turned the tables on the larger organizations.
Simply put, you don’t need to be big to succeed in app development.
Streamside Software was started with about $300 and a computer which was given to us in exchange for creating a logo. That’s $100 to join Apple’s development program, and $206 to incorporate the LCC. That’s it. Becoming an app developer takes surprisingly little capital, especially compared to other businesses.
Streamside had a hit with an app called Spirit Story Box for the Apple iPhone, which has produced a steady stream of monthly income and continues to chart well in the app store. (As of the week this post was published, the app climbed as high as 53 in the entertainment category.)
Recently I left the security of a University development position to pursue the dream of developing apps full time.
The Flip Side
The flip side is that there are 1.2 million apps in the Apple App Store at this time and thousands more being created every day.
Notice how I say, “flip side” instead of, “down side?” I don’t see competing with that many apps as an obstacle, and that’s not just optimism.
When you consider the fact that 6.76% (at the time of this publication) of those 1.2 million apps are entertainment apps, that means our Spirit Story Box app was 53rd out of 81,120. So I don’t just believe a business can succeed with that many competitors, I know it can.
In fact Spirit Story Box has charted in the top 100 overall.
So, What’s The Secret? A Killer Idea?
Obviously a great app starts with a great/novel idea or fulfills a common need. Hopefully you have a killer idea to start with, because creating an app doesn’t happen overnight, and you truly need to believe in your idea from the very beginning.
We meet a lot of people who believe they have the perfect app idea. Generally I can gauge their level of tech savviness by how original their idea is. Often times their idea is a great idea, but was already implemented a long time ago.
That’s not to say the execution of their idea couldn’t be done better, but generally the execution needs to be at least 10 times better to be successful. For instance, Apple didn’t create the MP3 player, but their execution in introducing the iPod and iTunes was at least 10 times better.
Someone Will Steal My Idea
We also meet a lot of people who refuse to share their ideas for fear someone will steal them. While I appreciate this, and I am very secretive about my own projects, what you must realize is:
- Usually those ideas aren’t that ground-breaking
- If the idea is amazing, usually these people never bring their app to market
- An idea alone isn’t the most important factor to success
We’ve already discussed point number one. Let’s discuss the others.
Why don’t people bring their ideas to market?
- They don’t have the know-how.
- They can’t ever give their idea to someone with experience.
- They think they can sell their idea by itself.
Let me tell you the truth about that last obstacle: selling an idea. Do not think that you can copyright, trademark or patent an idea. You cannot. Only the implementation is protected by intellectual property laws.
What you can do is protect your idea with non-disclosure/non-competing agreements. This means that by signing an agreement, the potential developer cannot pass along your idea to someone else, nor will they create a similar idea themselves.
Some developers will sign such an agreement. Some will not. Those who will not sign such agreements don’t necessarily have nefarious intentions, since such an agreement can be a “poison pill.” What if you reveal the exact same idea they had? Suddenly they would have to pay you for an idea they were already working on.
My advice is to research the potential developer. If you don’t trust them, use someone else, or develop the idea yourself.
Execution and the Three Kisses Of Death
So if the idea isn’t the most important factor of success, what is?
There is a saying in the business/real estate world that rings true time and time again: location, location, location. This obviously means that location is the top factor for success. In fact Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s, claimed he wasn’t in the restaurant business; he was in the real estate business.
In the world of app development, where there is no storefront and thus no location, I have a different saying: execution, execution, execution!
You app must be professional. It must not even have even a hint of amateurish design. Amateur design is the first kiss of death to an app.
Artwork/graphics must be solid. When you look at the art for Spirit Story Box, you will see what I mean. Fortunately for our tiny company, I spent years as a graphics coordinator before turning to programming and was able to create the art myself.
If you don’t have the art skills, I’d suggest you hire a competent artist. I will discuss how to go about this in other posts.
The second kiss of death is an interface that makes your app hard to use. Your interface must be intuitive. If it isn’t easy to use, people won’t use it.
The third kiss of death is bugginess. Who wants to use an app that crashes? Unless you are as big as Facebook, no one will. I am proud to say Spirit Story Box has never received a crash report.
Coming Up in Part Two
This brings us to the end of part one. In part two I will delve deeper into the nitty-gritty details of how to design an app and how to create a monetization model that maximizes your app’s earning potential.
If you are interested in hiring Streamside Software, LLC to bring your app to market, please contact us at email@example.com.
*This page provides affiliate links to help supplement the cost of doing business
We’re incredibly busy working to bring our newest iOS app to market. We’re somewhat stingy with details at this time, but I can tell you four exciting details about this project:
- It’s a game for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.
- It features a beloved H. P. Lovecraft character.
- It will be translated into several languages.
- We are working hard to support the Apple Watch!
Personally, point number 4 excites me the most. We hope to have the game ready in time for the launch of the Apple Watch.