60% of the app developer’s make less than $500 per month on the app store. This is often referred to as the App Poverty Line. Also, only 10% developers make more than $10,000 per month.
What do these app developers do differently? These are the ninjas of the app store. They have gathered enough experience after releasing multiple apps and have perfected the app development process.
If you want to build a killer app – an app that people love and monetizes well – you need to follow this process. In fact, the power of this roadmap is such that it can be used for building a startup in any field.
Complete App Building Roadmap for a Killer App
It might appear to you like common sense, but you would be surprised how many developers miss one or more steps and end up with just another app on the app store. Each step is crucial in this flow and builds upon the previous one.
This is the blueprint that gives rise to the ninja hacks that you must know before developing your first mobile app.
Let’s dive in.
8 Ninja Tips For Developing Your First Mobile App
1. Share your idea openly
When you are starting, you are overprotective with your app idea. You don’t want to share it with anyone, else someone might steal it. I used to think in this manner until someone told me, ‘An app idea is just 2% of your app journey.’ Be open about your idea, and talk to as many people about it as possible. It will help refine your idea, and weed out stupid ones. For more on idea, read How to come up with an awesome app idea.
2. Target a narrow market
Paul Graham, YCombinator Founder, says ‘Focus on a deliberately narrow market. It’s like keeping a fire contained at first to get it really hot before adding more logs.’ Don’t target a million users for your first app. Use the Blue Ocean strategy. As Kevin Kelly, founding editor Wired magazine, says ‘Work had to build a product for 1000 true fans. If you can find that many people who love what you create, you can go from there.’
3. Validate, validate, validate
Ideally, you should validate your idea even before building an MVP. Rob Caraway spent 6 months building an app that nobody wanted. Then he developed a great strategy to validate his app GifShare that eventually made him $240k on the app store.
4. Design an MVP
When you are starting with your 1st app, you want to make it perfect. You want to cram as many features in it as possible and then some more. That increases your development cycle to 12 months without any user feedback. Instead, the best way is to design a prototype as a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) with just 2–3 main features. As per Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn Founder, ‘If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.’
5. Keep development cycle short
A detailed prototype makes the job simpler for developers especially when you are outsourcing. But there will be changes in your design during development. It’s important to make sure that your development cycle doesn’t exceed 6 weeks. If you have to cut down features, cut it. If it looks ugly, so be it. It’s better to release it into the world, take real user feedback and then tweak it. Read how Stuart Hall developed an app in 6 hours that went to get 2.3 million downloads.
6. Spend 80% of your time in marketing
I can’t emphasize this enough! In fact, marketing should begin at design phase and continue even after publishing. 20% of your time should be spent developing your product, and 80% marketing it. As per Peter Thiel, co-founder Paypal, ‘The conventional thinking is that great products sell themselves; if you have a great product, it will inevitably reach consumers. But nothing is further from the truth.’ For marketing tips, read The Ultimate Guide to App Marketing for Free [Including Pro Tips]
7. Always be measuring
‘What’s not measured, cannot be improved.’ Analytics shouldn’t be an afterthought. It should be built within an app (can use Flurry SDK for the same). The most important thing to track is retention – what makes a user keep coming back to your app/ what else do they need to keep using it? Most popular app ideas weren’t successful at first. They measured and improved based on user feedback. Instagram started as a FourSquare alternative for check-ins, Netflix started as a movie-rental-by-mail business, Whatsapp started as just a status-update app.
8. Ideate, Build, Test, Repeat
Persistence is the key to success. Don’t bet the world on your first release. You would have to keep following the cycle of ideate, build, test then repeat depending on what’s actually working. You keep getting new insights from users which you would have never focused upon.
Now you have the ninja tricks to go from idea to app store and avoid the mistakes that 90% of the first-time developers make.
It’s not that this information is a secret and revealed to only the pros. It’s out there but the difference is how many people execute on it.
But you are an app disciple. You not only research the best there is for developing your apps but also bring it into action. Remember, just following these steps would put you ahead of the crowd.
So, go ahead and use these hacks to kill it on app store. If you are stuck in ideation phase read How to come up with an awesome app idea.