What makes an app successful? There are many factors that determine the success of an app, but if you study the journey of each of the current crop of big apps, you can draw a few common threads between them.
If your app meets these criteria, chances of your app succeeding are higher in a marketplace where millions of apps are screaming for attention.
1. Solve a problem. Every successful app you see in the app store solves a problem. The app solves it so well that those customers cannot imagine going about their lives doing the same things without the app.
Ask before starting, is this a problem worth solving? Is it really that big a pain point of the customer? What are the other current options available to your user? What is lacking in those solutions?
Answers to these questions will help you make a better app that will resonate with your users.
For example, Whatsapp, which did very little marketing but grew a huge audience (we all know about the $19 billion Facebook deal, unless you live in a cave) by solving such an intrinsic problem that mobile phone users had.
While BlackBerry’s BBM messenger helped BlackBerry users to message each other without having to pay separate messaging charges, Whatsapp allowed those same users now to message their friends and extended network with other phone brands such as Android or iPhone, with the same benefit of no messaging charges.
2. Easy to use. Have you realized how easy it is to navigate the apps that you use on a regular basis? Successful apps are the easiest to use with the simplest of navigation.
The interfaces are not confusing, the app doesn’t require you to go through a tutorial on how to use it and actually simplifies the way you currently do those tasks.
Invest in building a fantastic user experience (UX) that even a two year old can pick up and interact with. Even if the graphics are not world class, as long as you create something that is functional and extremely simple to use, you’ve got a winner.
GolfLogix, potentially the number-one golf app, doesn’t really give you the most beautiful-looking interface (there are better looking golf apps), but it is highly functional and very easy to navigate and use.
3. Not cross platform. I’ve come across many entrepreneurs and businesses wanting to build a cross-platform app, and the underlying reason is cost savings.
My simple response to them, and to you, is, can you name a single successful consumer app that is cross-platform that you use regularly? I can't identify one.
There is a reason why successful apps are completely native and built for that particular platform. That is because it enables them to harness the full power of the platform and the operating system along with the phone features.
You simply cannot deliver a world-class experience by taking shortcuts in developing it.
4. Commitment to iterate/update frequently. No successful app made it big on day one. They also did not look like what they do now. Every successful app started with a set of features and has evolved over time to add, enhance or make changes. Some have completely pivoted.
To give you an example, Instagram was a whole different app (Burbn) and so was Whatsapp (it originally started out as a status update app).
Your app is just not going to be perfect when you first put it up on the app store. As much as you believe it to be, you will get customer feedback and comments or an analysis of their behavior (if you’ve well integrated analytics into the app).
Apps are not a one-time product development. To be successful, you have to stay committed and take feedback from your customers and constantly iterate and continue to offer a better solution.
5. Strong support. “Customer support is the very rare opportunity to connect to your customers on an emotional level. You can’t do that in any other way,” said Leo Widrich, co-founder of Buffer.
Buffer has an incredible response rate, almost within the hour of an issue being reported.
Gary Vaynerchuk has said, “I genuinely believe that any business can create a competitive advantage through giving outstanding customer care.”
6. It is a business. The fundamentals of building an app or a business are the same. In fact, an app is a business -- if you treat it like one, you will go far and wide and make money along the way.