With millions of apps in the app store, only 0.01% of apps are in the top 10, and only 0.1% make it into the top 100. Even for large app developers, the odds are against you.
People approach me almost daily with app ideas they want to develop. Most have met a single criteria: a generally identified need. But to be successful, they need to solve real problems, and be compelling enough for people to change their routines.
What separates a best-selling app from average, forgettable-amongst-millions apps is the creator’s ability to ideate the app beyond its first concept.
I’ll use one of my own apps as an example. Over40 has sold half a million units in the App Store and has been in the top 10 grossing utility apps. It’s a simple app that combines a flashlight with a magnifying glass. It produced a significant return on investment.
The market need for the app is found in its name. (Finding the right name for your app is another reason to fully ideate the concept.) As human eyes age, the pupils become less responsive to changes in light. Eyes over 40 need more light to focus.
In addition, eyes over 40 develop presbyopia – farsightedness – that results from a hardening of the eye lens. The correction is reading (or magnifying) glasses.
Combining two features – flashlight and magnifying glass – into a single app may have been enough to make Over40 succeed. But when we fully ideated the concept, we recognized that the occasion when most people will feel the need for this app is when they try to read restaurant menus.
Most “fine dining” restaurants dim their lights at night. It’s more romantic. But lighting that makes the person sitting across from you look sexier can make the menu indecipherable. And asking the server for a large-print menu is distinctly unromantic.
Having recognized that Over40 would be used most often in restaurants, we added a tip calculator, because it’s also unsexy to ask your date what 15 percent of $84.75 is. (Especially if your date thinks you should tip at least 20 percent.) And, recognizing that many dinner dates are between friends and not romantic partners, we added a feature that splits the tip.
That might sound like a small change, but the impact was dramatic: Over40 went from yet-another-flashlight-app to “the tool I use in restaurants.” Its purpose was transformed from mechanical (light + magnification) to solving a persistent problem in its users’ lives.
Apple’s interfaces also are designed for users’ lifestyles. That’s why Over40 became a featured app in the App Store, which led to its sales success.
Having established your need to fully ideate your app, we’ll next outline how to do so.