How to Make Your App Successful: A Detailed Step-by-Step Guide
Today’s market of mobile applications is highly competitive, but has its treasure. The revenue from top successful apps is expected to reach $190 billion in the year 2020. In order to launch a great app startup, you need to abide by a systematic pattern. Intrigued about how to make a successful app business, despite lots of market pitfalls? Continue reading...
To be brief, you may start your app with an easy step: put your app ideas on paper and be as specific as possible. Tools like Balsamiq, Moqups, Justinmind, Proto.io, and UXpin (most have a free trial), are a great way to create the preliminary prototype with a screen-by-screen view. Once you are sure about your requirements to create a new successful app, IT companies like MLSDev can design a mobile app and develop it.
In general, any software development consists of the following steps, which are also covered in the article:
- Conceptualize the idea
- Create an interface design
- Develop a software prototype (MVP)
- Execute thorough tests
- Deploy the product
- Distribute the product
The complete 10 step process of how to launch an app covers the whole app development process. It is also supplemented by a detailed route with all the tips for how to create a successful app business.
What Makes an App Successful?
What actually makes an app successful?
You would certainly agree that WhatsApp, Instagram, and gaming apps like Angry Birds and Candy Crash are successful examples. Even though they have each had a different success story, all of them have something in common. Each of these had a unique app concept reflected in useful functionality. This core functionality allowed the app to change user behavior and fall into their daily routine.
To sum up the following elements influence and contributes to making an app successful:
- unique app concept
How to Make a Great New App Concept
There are two ingredients for making a successful app. Any startup starts with a great new app idea and offers an alternative solution for a particular situation. Secondly, the project must be well-prepared and well-executed. Candy Crush is an example of a successful game app with a simple but outstanding stone-matching principle. Today, the app is one of the most downloaded and used applications.
In the beginning, all good ideas are mostly unconditional and require some risks. Thus, if you believe your gut with regard to an app concept, there is a particular route to undertake. Be prepared- lots of work is required to determine your app’s success. As a reward, you can secure yourself and receive ROI (return on investment).
Step 1: Conduct the Market Research
Despite how great your app idea may appear, it is necessary to clarify your niche. You may think that you have a good app idea, but there are dozens of apps launched daily. The number of apps appearing in the app stores grows annually. There are over 3 million apps in Google Play and 2 million in the Apple App Store. Other app marketplaces like Windows Store, Amazon Appstore, and BlackBerry World represent around 1.3 billion applications globally
Given these facts a careful examination is required to evaluate a mobile app:
- Understand and define your potential users
- Evaluate and learn from all competitive products
It is possible to market an app in a small niche for a certain group of people and their specific needs (ex. cater attorneys of a particular court) or go broad (application for pregnant women). A micro niche won't have lots of traffic, but will have higher conversions. In the second case, an app can provide a larger pool of potential customers and more fierce competition.
In any direction, uncovering people’s pain points ensures real value and can make an app successful. These users are easily attracted and converted into loyal customers.
The key is to be open, listen, and ask people. Study already existing products, and surf online resources and social media for the information. Note that to ensure an application’s success, it is important to define what inspires or irritates your target audience.
Here is a list of tips for how to make a successful app concept:
- Study forums and questions being asked. One of the more well-known forums is Quora. Usually, questions are based on some specific problems; why are they not being fixed.
- Search for trends with Google. For example, the comparison of iPhone models.
- Gain some insight with the help of Google Keyword Planner. You can find out what people are searching for and the volume of such searches per topic. Further specific keywords can be used for App Store Optimization.
- Attend tech startups, meetups, and hackathons. This can help you understand what kind of ideas are currently interesting to the crowd. Additionally, search Meetup.com for local events.
- Take some time to observe the world around you. What are the issues people encounter daily that are inefficient? As an example, there is an urgent necessity to help restaurants reduce their food waste.
- Conduct polls & questionnaires among potential app users. Receive feedback from your friends about what exactly is valuable for an app to do.
- Ask potential users on social networks and their groups. Search in: Reddit Startup, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
- Speak to business owners about their current, and potential future, pain points.
- Check vendors and organization that provide startup funding, like Y Combinator. Here is a list of the most well-known Seed Accelerators.
- Check all the top apps and top app categories of your interest. You can check what solutions these apps provide for their users and compare with your idea.
- Check CrunchBase for successful mobile apps succeeding in the seed funding rounds.
- A tool like AppTweak can help you understand whether some competitive apps are in the top charts for downloads. This means they have solid and valid app ideas being ranked at the top.
It is possible to consider several ideas for mobile applications to select the best.
A final recommendation - since the US app market is very hard to approach, consider a less competitive market to launch an app. The volume of installs required to get into the Top 25 in the USA is around 30 times higher than in Mexico. Thus, Latin America and Asia are good alternatives, and CPI (click per install) is cheaper there as well.
Step 2: Finalize a Great New App Idea
Based on market analysis, it is possible to finalize a killer app idea. It is crucial to completely understand the value proposition of the mobile app and clarify the USP (unique selling points).
Before proceeding with a successful app strategy, these questions should be answered:
At this stage, it is important to understand your core feature. As an example, Instagram’s initial feature was to combine your mobile photos into a square. The idea was pretty simple, but this killer feature seed funding worth $500K and further led to tremendous app success.
As well, it is necessary to imagine what the customers will do while using an app. This information can be sketched in a list of user stories.
Based on this, it is possible to create a great app prototype. This prototype is called MVP (Minimum Viable Product), the smallest working version of the product necessary in order to move into the market which:
- consists of a minimum list of features to satisfy the client’s needs
- is used for beta testing in your target group
- is used to present the idea to investors and raise first round funds
There is a tool to create some great app sketches and the flow between the app screens - RealTimeBoard.
More unique features of the MVP and core functionality based on an industry can be found in the article: MVP Mobile Apps: Start Your Business Wisely
Once the MVP is defined, it is also important to take marketing into account. The following marketing aspects can be of great use during the next steps:
Catchy app name
Naming an app can be tricky. Yet, it is important to be catchy and recognizable. As well, it should be SEO friendly. Consider keywords and their search volume in Google.
Conduct keyword research before the app launch. You will then be able to quickly proceed with optimized listings and pages. These keywords should be used in all further marketing materials as well.
Great app previews
The earlier you demonstrate your product to the public visually, the better. Some app screens and visuals can be useful in app pre-launch marketing materials.
Impressive app press kit
This kit will be heavily used when going to the press or sites for listing the future app. The kit should include things like screenshots, demo videos, information about the app, etc.
Step 3: Define a Successful App Strategy
Rushing in the app implementation process can lead to an underperforming product. Building a successful app is like building a unique house; enough time should be spent on its architectural plan.
Attention to detail always pays off.
A successful app strategy lies in a well-thought-out business plan. Business Model Canvas can be rather helpful tool in finalizing all strategic information in a simple format. Every single detail should be considered in the following categories:
1. Goals and Further Plans
It is important to understand what you want to accomplish with this app business. Make these goals as specific as possible. The SMART goal-setting principle can be helpful to ensure that goals are realistic and time-bound. As a reference, nail down the three most critical actions you want users to accomplish in 30 days with your app.
Another important element prior to app development is the content. Imagine what interaction and message you want to achieve with app users. You need to understand the onboarding process and welcome message to engage them successfully. Try to design and write this app content in advance.
2. Technological Preference
It is not only a good mobile app idea that makes the app successful, but the execution of the product being fault-tolerant. You need to understand how technologies can make an app better with regard to performance and collect the expertise to build a successful application. At the same time it is important to define the development approach for an app - being a web app, native (one platform or both iOS/Android), or hybrid.
More information regarding what app development approach to choose read the article: Native App Development vs. Hybrid and Web App Building.
3. Resources & Costs
Logically, you need to understand the budget required for successful app development. The budget required to make the project successful depends on many factors: development contractor, complexity & number of features, etc. This can be compared with the cost of a car or a house. The cone of uncertainty states that the project cost and timeline in the very beginning are hard to define. No two projects have the same requirements, people involved, business context, technologies, and constraints.
It is critical to select a capable development team. You may consider these options:
- local developers
- project outsourcing model (for example, to Ukraine)
- freelance or partner platforms like UpWork or Freelancer.com
Local US developers cost far more than offshore employees or an employing freelance platform. Good applications developed by large software companies are rather costly - around $500k-$1m. Whereas, smaller US agencies can cost somewhere between $150k-$450k. Other even smaller app development shops price their service around $50k to $100k.
Is close proximity to a development team important to you, or is cost-efficiency your preference? In the latter case, our team recommends that you try the benefits of outsourcing mobile app development. This is the best fit for both quality and monetary resources. On average, the development costs for MVP start at $30k - $50k.
The timeline of app development is influenced by the same factors: number features, app requirements, technical approach, and priorities. In general, the process varies from 3 to 5 months. Of course, the first app version can be built faster for beta testing. If the project is more sophisticated, 5 months or more may be required.
4. Marketing & Rewards Evaluation
The initial purpose of any business is to earn money. In a successful app business, these rewards are obvious; it is either a percentage of traffic turned into sales or reduced operational costs in dollars per transaction. However, please note that profit occurs later on in the process, whereas costs occur at one single point. A budget should include the money required to implement an app marketing plan plus the product development.
It is worth mentioning that it is important to understand how the defined functionality and chosen monetization model resonate with potential users. There are different ways to monetize your application successfully for future product versions and your app developer should advise you on the best model:
- free apps
- freemium model (with premium features purchased additionally), e.g. Dropbox
- paid apps ( with in-app purchases or subscription model, employing virtual inside currency or goods), e.g Pokemon Go with PokeCoins, AngryBirds
- in-app advertisements,e.g Instagram, Facebook
- apps paid per download
- cross-selling of apps (e-commerce transactions), e.g Evernote with sales via Evernote market
- sponsor and partnership monetization
The graph represents the accountancy of the app for each chosen revenue model.
It requires a lot of effort to conduct market research, finalize a successful app concept, and build an app launch strategy.
Request consultation with business analyst
We offer consultations with our business analyst who can offer advice with regard to how to evaluate a mobile app concept effectively.
To book a free 1-hour consultation, submit a brief explanation of your future app’s idea via the contact form.
How to Make a Successful App, Technically
Every detail is important to make a good app- starting from functional specification documentation, design, and coding. Everything should not only correspond with guidelines and unique operational system aspects, but also provide value with each detail.
Step 4: Designing a Catchy App
UX/UI design is another significant element that makes for a good app. Here are the top tips on how to design a mobile app successfully:
1. Follow the design guidelines
2. Responsive design, as an alternative
Given the high expenses at the very start, it is possible to lower costs with the help of responsive design. This allows for the creation of a design that corresponds to all operating systems. The code can then render differently on laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Responsive design is an efficient way to optimize the user experience across all these platforms.
3. Polished design
This may differentiate your product from competitive ones. Details really matter. The inclusion of some tasteful graphics, animations, interactions, and sound effects can change the picture dramatically. Take web and mobile app design trends into consideration. As an example, the Candy Crush Saga - every time a user proceeds to the next level, the game has unique sounds to match the theme.
4. Logical and simple design elements
The KISS (keep it simple stupid) principle is a great one to apply. However, each element should add value and have a specific role. Based on the idea for the mobile app and budget constraints, the design can consist of different elements that you may choose from: low fidelity UX, high fidelity UX, UI mockups, illustration and animations, and what best corresponds with product goals. Check this info here: How Much Does Your App Design Cost.
Check information about design types and their cost in the article:How Much Does Your App Design Cost.
5. The 2-tap, 5-point,and 98% rule recommendation
Developed by a Yahoo Weather and Flickr designer, Marissa Mayer, the following help to evaluate a successful app design.
The 2-tap rule tests how easy is it to work with an app. Does it take 2 taps to do what you want with the app? The 5-point rule counts a point for each different font, color, and size of an element on a page/screen. If the number of elements is more than 5, you need to redesign it. The 98% rule states that every product should be designed in a way that can be used 98% of the time.
6. Branding is also important
A great logo will make your app stand out and be memorable. The principles of effective logo creation, like the delivered message, composition, color combination, and adaptability can help you with this task.
Feel free to visit our web-page dedicated to the UI/UX design. Our team can advise you on the best approach for finalizing your successful app design and its other deliverables.
Step 5: Successful Mobile App Development
Once your designs are complete, the development stage comes into force. The following are app development tips for building high-performing and stable product:
1. Focus on the app’s core functionality
Based on research and a defined strategy, the app should focus on a specific problem, and include a specific core functionality that solves it. Moreover, according to a bit of Standish Group research, only 20% of app’s functions are used often. Therefore, all the development efforts should be allocated toward these features, especially in the first product version.
2. Simple intuitive registration
Today users can be quite impatient. The simpler the registration process is, the better. For example, you may offer registration with the help of a social network, which usually takes only 2 taps.
3. Ensure that even your MVP is secure
Security is of high importance, especially given a recent Facebook scandal and resulting GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). Keeping user information safe and encrypted is the best way to develop an app. As well, make sure that the system uses secure HTTPS protocols.
4. Offer relevant notifications and define tags
This part heavily interacts with content app strategy, per the case defined prior. Over 70% of users are looking for a personalized experience with the brands with which they interact. Thus, it is vital to collect profile data from user history in order to deliver useful content. The tagging structure can help you to notify your users with useful information.
Sending these pre-planned automated messages can result in better user engagement. Targeting the right user with the right information, at the right time, and with the proper message means you care for them. This can lead to higher user retention and ongoing success of the app.
5. Build communication channels with the app users
Research indicates that only 42% of users will respond to notifications. Hence, there is a necessity to build different communication channels with users. Some solutions are in-app messaging and an in-app message center. Ideally, the app should include both from the beginning. A message center is an inbox within the app that allows for engagement with users. Similarly, an in-app messaging allows users to send messages to others who are active in the app.
6. Develop for both iOS and Android
How do you develop an app natively or using cross-functional solution? First, take your budget into account - but in order for the app to become successful, it is vital to cover both the iOS and Android platforms. The third approach would be to cover the web, iOS, and Android by building the responsive web application and making it adaptive to mobile screens. With this approach, you do not have to build separate apps for different operating systems.
7. Provide offline functionality
The majority of apps offer functionality via an Internet connection. On the other hand, users do not always to have access to the internet. Thus, equipping your application with an offline feature is a great advantage.
8. Sustain high performance
An apps performance is a key factor in defining whether or not it is good. Dimensional Research indicates that users will attempt to use an app a maximum of three times if they are experiencing any issues. It is critical to eliminate all possible bugs and provide efficient speed when it is time to launch the app. Successful apps respond quickly and do not crash.
9. Offer it for free
10. There is a huge difference between $0.00 and $0.99 for a user. Thus, offering the possibility to test the application could bring success. Once users like the app and it becomes something of value to them, they become more willing to pay. Further monetization depends on your strategy and product type.
10. Integrate social share within an app
This last app development tip can assist you with a further app promotion. Once they have discovered the application, users can share their in-app content, screens, etc, with others. This results in increased app visibility and a community to make your app successful.
It is possible you become overwhelmed with so much information and so many options to choose from. MLSDev has 10 years of experience making successful apps and is ready to provide a consultation.
You may turn to our expertise in mobile app development and especially when looking to build an MVP. Check out our MVP Development process.
Step 6: Launch an App Successfully
Once a great app is designed and developed, the next step is its deployment. This requires a meticulous plan, schedule, and control. The main objective is to integrate all the processes on a production level and conduct proper app testing before the release. Some preliminary work is required:
Integrate analytics tools
Ideally, there is a need to connect corresponding analytical services. This gives an in-depth picture of target users. These are: Google Analytics, Flurry, Localytics, Mixpanel, Fabric, Appsee, etc.
This also ideal in order to complete your MVP and determine your app’s success. Conducting beta testing is the first opportunity to receive real feedback and consists of 3 essential elements:
- Defining the target users. Identification of the right target testers can help eliminate risks and improve app performance. As well, with the Android app, it is possible to test different features before the launch.
- Elimination of as many bugs as possible. For the beta-testing, you need to test all the functionalities on all product platforms.
- Analysis of the strategy and initial goals. Beta-testing can help to redefine your initial strategy and allow you to make a pivot in the product development.
Collect the metrics
The final step in how to conduct a successful app launch is to actually collect app metrics. With the gradual growth of users, more accurate data collection should be recorded. Here are some mobile app measurements to refer to:
Sales funnel tracking - understand the reasons behind failed in-app purchases or ad clicks
Social sharing - evaluate the attention the product is generating among the target users
User data correlation - connect user behavior with user demographic indicators
Other insights - measurements for specific times and locations of app usage
How to Market an App Successfully
Step 7: Succeed in the App Stores
As it has been mentioned, app stores are known as the main app distribution channel. Therefore, let's discover Google play and the App Store to better understand how to market applications.
John Dinsmore, a mobile app market researcher, explains that many developers believe only in app quality. This means that if the app brings value and works well, it will naturally attain healthy growth and move to the top.
However, just 10% of the most successful applications are installed by the vast majority of users. Does this mean that the other 90% are that bad? Not really. The chances are that only a few people have discovered and installed them. There are three primary ways to reveal an app:
1) Top charts. These are dominated by the most successful apps with the largest paid media campaigns
2) 2) Selected (curated) content (e.g. what is within the current trends)
3) Search within the app store by category, keywords
Note: check out how current apps are revealed in the refreshed App Store.
I suppose this should give you a clue - at most, 2 apps can be viewed at the top of the screen. The point being, whatever great idea you might have, without a proper app marketing plan, your chances of making a successful app account to zero.
App Store Optimization
ASO is a general way to ensure your app is discovered by target users. This is a diligent task with keywords, descriptions, and titles to overtake your competitors. It could take years of continuous optimization, including regular app updates to get to the top 10 in your category. As an example, it took considerable effort and time for the iBirth App to become the top spot for Pregnancy & Nutrition category.
It is worth mentioning that app ranking is based on install velocity in the App Store; meaning the more installs are made in a short amount of time, the higher the app is placed. This indication is hard to achieve without the help of PR or Advertising agencies, but it is still possible. On the other hand, being in the top does not always guarantee real success.
Step 8: Promoting an App Successfully
Real app success can be evaluated by the efforts made and whether or not mobile app campaigns are successful. It is necessary to define how to market an app before launch and what channels to use for successful app delivery to the target user.
1. Social media promotion (e.g. Camera+)
One of the easiest things to do in the pre-launch period is to utilize all social channels like: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Make use of those social networks that are potentially used by your prospective users. From another perspective, join groups in LinkedIn and FB to spread the word about the app. These posts should be regular and should encourage people to download the app once ready. As well, you can start blogging or creating podcasts related to the product.
The founders of Camera+ chose to build up some buzz on most social networks. They positioned the app to have a sharing feature considered the best among all similar apps. As well, they included a contest with a prize - a camera worth $10k. This resulted in a mailing list of 70,000 subscribers.
2. Get press attention (e.g. Evernote)
Getting press attention also results in the word being spread around. For instance, when TechCrunch wrote about Evernote, it resulted in a couple of thousand sign-ups for its beta-product. Therefore, reaching out to different news portals can be a great means support in promoting an app. As a piece of advice, you should prepare your PR kit to consist of at least some of the following:
- app summary guide
- app screenshots
- design materials (icons, logo, banners)
- video (walkthroughs, intro video)
- founder(s) biography & picture
Another possibility is to be featured on successful mobile app review sites. Beforehand, you need to send out a pitch to convince a platform to place your great app idea on the website. You may try out this 100+list of such websites.
3. Reach out to influencers (e.g. Instagram)
Addressing top bloggers and online personas would be a great way to generate interest among potential users. Instagram’s founder Kevin Systrom, let influential blogger on Twitter try the beta-product before the official Instagram release. This resulted in 24,000 users within 24 hours, and as many as 300,000 by the third week. Thus, developing authentic and mutually beneficial relationships with influencers will go a long way toward promoting your app successfully. You may also try Crunchbase, BuzzSumo, and LinkedIn to find these influencers.
4. Develop a landing page
The sooner you start building a mailing list of interested app users, the better. Therefore, the landing page can be of great use either on a website (if you have one) or with the help of some ready-made solutions (Leadpages, LaunchRock). This page should be promoted via Google advertisements, social media, or shares by influencers. The message needs to offer information regarding the key benefits of the app, including features, sample screens, demo video, etc. This preview section should be followed by a simple news sign-up form. Once the app is released, include the app download links.
5. Post on PreApps
PreApps is another type of site used to generate interest for the app in its early stages, as it is a community consisting of early adopters. Actually, they can even be used as your beta-testers and eventual subscribers. All you need to do is provide the following information:
- App name
- App description
- Expected release date
- App icon
- App screenshots
6. Consider alternative app stores
You can launch an app not only in the App Store and Google Play, but also in various other app marketplaces:
- Opera Mobile Store
- Amazon Appstore
7. Search Engine Optimization
Once you have your app URL, you can consider SEO as well. Small analysis can define the best magnet keywords to rank for better results. The following tools can assist with this task:
How to Make an App Run Successfully
In order to make an app successful in a short period of time, it is vital to measure, learn, and react in a rapidly changing environment. For this purpose, you need to understand your app’s value and performance aligned with knowing app KPIs (key performance indicators). First, it is necessary to define the KPIs that matter most and directly relate to the marketing plan. Then, based on these collected metrics, successful app adjustments can be made.
Step 9: Check the Mobile App Metrics Regularly
In general, the useful mobile metrics can be divided into 4 categories: user engagement, customer satisfaction, customer acquisition, and app performance. The are lots of metrics and those that should be followed depend on the app marketing plan. The table shows the most essential mobile app KPIs, starting from retention metrics.
|Retention Rate||measures the number of users who return to the app after the first visit||
num. of users during the current period of time / num. of users in a previous period of time
E.g. 400 people from the March new user group continued using your app in April / 2,000 users in April = 0.2- 20% is your retention rate
|Churn Rate||opposite of app retention; measures how many users dropped the app after the first visit||1 - Retention rate = Churn Rate|
|Daily Active Users||measures daily activity referring to each individual user||can be defined by a specific day or averaged over time
DAU = num. of individual users who used an app in a day
|Monthly Active Users||similar to DAU; measures the unique num. of people, but within a specific timeline (month)||MAU = num. of users who opened the app in a given month|
|Daily Sessions per DAU||measures everyday user activity; shows if users are returning to the app regularly||DS = num. of sessions per day (or averaged daily sessions over timeline) / num. of new active users (or DAU averaged within a timeline)|
|Stickiness||measures the percentage of times users return to the app. The higher the %, the better the app stickiness||Stickiness = DAU / MAU|
|Cost per Acquisition (CPA)||measures how much it costs to acquire new app users (connected with your marketing campaigns)||CPA = costs of the campaign / num. of acquisitions or conversions|
|Lifetime Value (LTV)||measures the match between the app value and what it brings back to you. It is directed to show the expected revenue from your average customer||For the equation you need to understand
- how often users make transactions
- monetary value of these transactions
- how long your customers stay loyal
Projected LTV = average value of conversions x average num. of conversions in a specific timeline x average customer lifetime
E.g. An average in-app purchase is $15 and, in general, a user makes 10 such transactions; the average user stays with your product for 5 years ---> $750 is the LTV
|Average Revenue per User & per Paying User||measures the current LTV of the app achieved starting from its launch||Current LTV = total revenue from the app / num. of total users in the app|
|Return on Investment (ROI)||measures the return on the efforts of your marketing or other campaign. For this, you should specifically define the cost associated with the app campaign||ROI = (profit from investment - cost of investment) / cost of investment|
Step 10: Ongoing App Engagement and Support
Ongoing support and regular updates based on user feedback make an app successful over time. Therefore, l would continue with:
- Development of new features (functionality growth + further product development)
- Quality assurance (stability control + reducing the risk of errors)
- Business model review and constant competitor analysis (ensuring your business strategy and competitor analysis are up-to-date)
Embedded analytics and collected metrics help to not only fix bugs, but to understand what features to innovate. Moreover, take into consideration new guidelines for a good app from operating systems and always comply with them in your product. As a reward, include further monetization options.
Want assistance in creating a successful mobile app?
Our team has been developing lots of app projects starting from MVP. One of them is Gopuff, online ordering and fast delivery system which operates in 20+ US cities.
Feel free to reach out to us to help your app succeed.