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How I generate app ideas
Scratching an itch
A good app is one that meets the currently unmet needs of a group of people that you wish to serve. If you plan to make money from your app then you need to deliver value that users are prepared to pay for. Monetisation techniques will be the subject of a future post. In this blog I share three ways to come up with ideas for an app.
Scratch your own itch
One way to ensure that you are addressing a real problem is to develop an app that meets your own unmet needs. Being the target user puts you in the ideal position to understand the needs and test if they are being met by your app. The strong likelihood is that if you have this unmet need then others will too. Before you go to the trouble of developing something new, however, satisfy yourself that nothing is available that currently addresses that need.
I am developing the Nip To app which will show users on a map where the most convenient public amenities can be found, e.g. toilets, bins and benches. This is a need that I have and, I believe, others will too.
Address the needs of a niche
If you wish to get traction with your app then you should aim to delight a handful of people, who become Super Fans, rather than making lots of people slightly happier. Your Super Fans will, like a virus with an r value above 1, spread the word for you. Start with just a few people, make their lives significantly better, and they will become your ambassadors. Soon you will have 100 users then a 1,000. Kevin Kelly talks about how 1000 true fans can support a decent living. If your idea does not initially delight the selected few you intend to serve then evolve it. If that does not work then drop the idea and pick another. Repeat until you have something that does work.
To really understand the needs of a niche, you need to become an insider. Read related blogs and books on the topic, join clubs, go to events, engage in social media platforms such as Facebook Groups, YouTube and Twitter. Engage in discussions and, where possible, informally interview your target users. The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick is an excellent guide on how to ask the right questions to secure valuable insight.
Improve existing apps
Contrary to what many think, it is not necessary to come up with a totally new idea. In fact, by improving upon an existing successful app, you know there is ready made market. You should not copy another developer’s app, but rather undertake research to understand what successful apps are out there, e.g. take a look at the top ranking apps on the AppStore and Google Play, understand what they do and read reviews.
When researching apps, ask yourself: Why are people using them? Can I emulate and improve upon them? What other apps might the user base like? How does the marketing and pricing work? Are there similar apps available? How have the apps ranked over time?
Document your findings and develop a view on your Top 5 ideas. Use the following criteria to assess their suitability:
Intuitive to use
Engaging and, possibly, addictive
Provides significant value
Applicable across different cultures
Great graphics and audio
Potential to go viral
The idea you decide to address should meet at least 5 of these criteria. If not, keep searching. App Empire by Chad Mureta goes into detail on this approach and was the book that first got me interested in app development.
Anything You Want book by Derek Sivers
First, 10 blog by Seth Godin
How To Get Startup Ideas essay by Paul Graham
App Annie app market analysis, including app ranking over time.
Until next Sunday, keep those app ideas coming.