I’m an avid fan of ‘The Apprentice’ on the BBC, and it was great to see the grumpy and all-knowing Lord Sugar (wonder what he eats for breakfast? pink slips? (no pun intended!)) dish out a digital task for the wannabe apprentices for a change: design, develop and market a winning app that would be an overnight success. This got me thinking is there is any coherent philosophy that we can subscribe to, to help us make better, more successful apps?
Having been around the block with startup entrepreneurs, MBAs, digital gurus, social media ninjas and advertising junkies looking to target this rather competitive space, I thought I’d share the views of a ‘creative social technologist’ with you, and look at some of the challenges that people are facing in this space.
Top of the list of things to consider – is the market size and the monetization model for the business case. Both very valid points, but – yada yada – let’s save that one for later. Innovators are so driven by the single-minded passion and the blue-sky vision they rarely get this granular in their thinking at the embryonic stages. Here is where it may be super-helpful for them to be able to easily identify the sources of competitive (dis)advantage to pivot their successes around. Think of this as the designer’s appeal to the businessman, moderated by a technologist. (What are the chances of that ever happening?! Midem tried something similar with interesting results!)
So, here’s a couple of considerations for you – (each will have different implications for you depending on the your business)
1. Consider the lifetime value of an app
If you are going to be competing in this space, it will help you to know that unless you have solid traction with your product/service in the digital realm already, you are probably going to be a one-hit wonder in the billboard charts (app stores – most popular), and the critically acclaimed (NME/Pitchfork etc – and the digital equivalent would be Wired/Techcrunch etc.)
For example, if you want to launch a game app – have more games and spin off ideas in your head, before you launch the first. Few companies have managed to remain competitive through spin offs – Rovios Angry birds (Halloween, Christmas, etc) and outfit 7’s talking tomcat (Dinosaur, Dog, Santa and Bacteria) followed. Turnaround times and volume are absolutely key to success.
Launch “everywhere” capability – this is something very few mobile applications development firms have managed to get right. Apmi App developer (the famous girl’s Venture team that escaped the talons of Lord Sugar) Grapple Mobile, apparently invested $9 Million and 4 Years in R&D to gain this capability. As Wired has put it (if you don’t believe me!) Android is almost certainly going to be the mass market mobile platform in emerging economies – so roll up your sleeves iPhone developers, if you’re not the best in class, you’re better off learning to build apps on the Android SDK right away.
2. User experience will win (competitive pricing will also win)
The first will help you establish a foothold, the second will be the weapon that your competitor will use against you to wipe you out – unless you protect your home-territory. How do you go about understanding user experience? First think about how many ways a person can interact with a connected, handheld, touch-screen device, that has an inbuilt accelerometer and a gyroscope and knows your location?
The number of permutations that arise from any number of the above-mentioned dimensions is tremendous and can spawn hundreds of plausible ideas. For example, being able to tilt a car (in a game), as opposed to say, using a trackball, gives you a wide blue ocean of opportunities to address. Think of how these things can be used with your product/service – to change the game completely.
In the spirit of starting a discussion, I thought it would be great to get your ideas on twitter – #Appyness, and I’ll try to respond to your thoughts!