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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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