Mobile app development is great as a career option – only if you know what you are doing. Success stories of popular apps are splashed about in the media, but there is no dearth of startup companies which go bust within a few quarters. According to a Fueled report, only 1 out of every 4 iOS app developers have a monthly earning figure in excess of $5000. The stats are even more damning on the Android platform, where a mere 16% of all developers manage to hit the same monthly income mark. In this week’s edition of AppBoard Tuesday (ABT), we will do a round-up of some day-to-day habits of successful app entrepreneurs. We follow these, and we hope they will be of use to you too:
- Start simple – It’s always great to land big app projects, and it’s a wonderful achievement to do a good job on them (trust me, I’d know!). However, to kickstart things – mobile app entrepreneurs need to focus on relatively small, simple apps, which can be completed in 6 to 8 weeks flat. This strategy helps in building a decent portfolio within a short span of time, and puts an app agency in a good position to take up more challenging projects later on.
- Managing remote teams – For app development agencies with overseas branches, this is vital. The onus is on the CEO or the entrepreneur of a mobile app company to keep a tab on the day-to-day operations at the other branches/chapters of his/her organization. It has to be ensured that the teams at the different branches are working in sync, and the entire organization is progressing as a result of their efforts.
- Learn to let go of ideas – Well…ideas are the stepping stones for making mobile apps, so this might seem just a tad strange. The fact, however, remains that top mobile app entrepreneurs are always aware that all of their ideas will not be viable – and neither are they naive enough to still cling on to, and waste money, time and effort on, these ideas. Always study the competition and analyze whether it would be worth trying to transform your idea to an actual application (for instance, with the zillions of chat apps in the stores, making ‘just another’ IM app won’t make much sense). At times, you will have to let go of some ideas you are passionate about…for the greater good.
- Study the app store everyday – Without proper research and analysis, mobile app development (like any other field of activity, for that matter) is akin to running into a blind lane. App entrepreneurs who wish to make a mark invariably keep some time aside everyday to study the iTunes store as well as the Google Play Store (let’s not bring in the Blackberry and Windows platforms in the discussion here). Apart from monitoring the download count of their own apps, an eye has to be kept on the app reviews that users leave. These give a fair idea about how people feel about the applications, and whether they have any particular grievances or advice. In addition, the trends in the ‘top free apps’ and the ‘top paid apps’ lists have to be tracked regularly. This helps senior developers take an informed decision on the type of apps their company should concentrate on making in the foreseeable future.
- Build for the non-geeks – You are a mobile app developer…and absolute programming wizard. So, brimming with confidence, you and your team make a complex, highly advanced application (with all sorts of Objective-C and/or Swift codes) – an app that has many features. Will it be a hit among users? 9 out of 10 times, the answer will be ‘NO’ – simply because the poor souls – being non-software experts like yourself – won’t have any idea what your app is all about, how it should be used, and what its advantages are. At the end of the day, you are making apps for general users – and it’s their preferences that have to be given prerogative.
- Flop apps make for good case studies – Remember the time when we had talked about the so-called ‘zombie apps’ – the ones that have zero visibility and languish at the bottom of the charts? Experienced mobile app entrepreneurs advise not to ignore such flop applications altogether. Ideally, app-makers should study such unsuccessful applications closely, jot down the mistakes/bugs/user-problems they have, and make sure that these are not replicated in their own apps. There’s a lot to learn from apps that fail too!
- Design matters – On this blog, we have repeated time and again that developers should never try to double up as mobile app designers as well. It’s up to the CEOs of app companies to appreciate the fact that graphic designing is a specialized field of work – and to be successful, they need to recruit separate teams of such creative experts (graphic artists, animators, etc.). Neat, flat, uncomplicated designs work on two counts – a) they make a good first impression on users who download the apps, and b) they enhance the chances of the apps getting featured at the stores. If you are trying to get the coding and the designing done by the same group of people (in a bid to cut costs), you are barking up the wrong tree.
- The importance of documentation - Underrated, but very, very important. The top experts from the fields of iOS and Android app development generally have the habit of maintaining journals, where they jot down everything – right from app ideas and rough wireframe sketches, to app marketing strategies and corporate roadmaps. Regular documentation serves as a self-addressed memos to entrepreneurs – and, if and when required, the facts written down can be arranged in the form of presentations as well.
- Underpromise. Overdeliver – A time-tested, surefire way to make clients go ‘wow’. A nuanced mobile app entrepreneur would never commit the folly of making false promises to the clients – promises that they will not be able to live up to. Assess how long an app project is going to take, the approximate expenses that would be involved, and the quality of the app your team will be able to make (given the time-frame and the funds). Mark down a deadline for the completion of the project, and finish off the job about a week early (whenever possible) – without, of course, compromising the project in any way. Prompt, quality service is always lauded…empty promises reek of unprofessionalism.
- Know all that there is to know about app store optimization - All the hard work of your app developers can go down the drain, if your ASO (app store optimization) techniques are not good enough. Before submitting an app at the store, make sure that the name, logo and screenshots have been chosen and presented well, and the app descriptions are well-written and optimized with relevant keywords. Simply making a ‘good app’ no longer cuts it – you need to market it well.
- Stay in touch with users – Ask yourself something – when you face a problem with your mobile, would you like to approach a ‘faceless’ support team for help, or an actual individual? The answer is a no-brainer, and that’s precisely why CEOs of leading mobile app companies across the world constantly endeavour to maintain a connection with the users of their apps. Personally replying to support emails and phone calls doubles up as a ‘delight factor’ for people as well - after all, they do not always expect the CEO him/herself to respond to their queries.
- Get started, be confident and brush off failures – Even the best mobile app agency in the world cannot boast of a 100% success record. Nor is it possible for a startup to make big money on the first set of applications it releases. The key here is to not procrastinate too much and get started with the development process as quickly as possible (create and release minimum-viable-products (MVPs)). Believe in what you are doing, stay clear-sighted, and be prepared to face roadblocks – in the form of app failures. Learn from your mistakes, and move on. The top app entrepreneurs have one quality in common – they are very, very persistent with what they do.
- Stay inspired. Inspire others – One of the most important duties of an entrepreneur is to motivate and inspire his/her team of app-makers to perform at the best of their abilities. For this, (s)he himself has to constantly inspire him/herself – and there is no better way to do that, than attending workshops, listening to lectures, reading motivational books (not necessarily on mobile app development) and the like. Share your learnings with your co-workers. It will do them a world of good.
- Be honest – The corporate world has more than its fair share of sham companies and fraudsters, out to make quick bucks. It is only natural that a client will be wary of discussing an app idea with a third-party mobile app developer company. This is where the business transparency and code of ethics followed by an app entrepreneur comes into the picture. Make sure that the free app quote you provide is detailed and properly customized, be prepared to sign non-disclosure agreements (if required), respect the intellectual property rights of your clients, and make the app just the way they want. Earn your fees…don’t just look to make money.
Following the release of an iPhone/Android app, it is on the entrepreneur to monitor the app analytics and the initial reviews coming in. Constant testing of mobile apps, on new platforms, is also essential. To stay in the news, you also have to release updated versions of your app (apart from bug-fixes, if needed) at regular intervals. An app that remains static for too long is an app that fails.
This brings us to the conclusion of yet another edition of AppBoard Tuesday. Let us know if you have any other tip or suggestion for aspiring mobile app entrepreneurs. We love to constantly learn, and learning from our readers is something we really look forward too.
AppBoard Tuesday will return next week, with another issue related to making mobile apps. Till that time then…love thy apps!
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