7 Essential Traits Your App Can’t Survive Without

May 1, 2014

3:00 pm

I’m going to start off by throwing some big numbers around. (That always seems to make the point clear, a lot quicker!)

  • According to Gartner Research, the total number of apps downloaded annually is set to zoom to 310 billion by 2016.
  • As per a Nielsen Cross Platform Survey 2013, smartphone owners spend 86 percent of their time using apps vs. the mobile web (14 percent).
  • Globally, more people own a mobile phone than a toothbrush (source: Mobile Marketing Association Asia).

Now that we have digested those giant numbers, let’s get to the point: people love apps. Trouble is there’s a million different apps out there all screaming for attention. If your app has to stand any kind of chance at all, it needs to gear up and hit the gym, NOW!

Does that mean creating a popular app is impossible? In the immortal advertising schmaltz of Adidas, “Impossible is Nothing!” Here are some pointers on building (or bettering) that smash hit app you’ve always wanted.

1. Grab eyeballs with a unique concept, stay true to it.

Apps are dime a dozen on the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store alike. What really sets the winners apart from the also-rans, is a unique and interesting concept.

Think WhatsApp, Angry Birds, Instagram, SnapChat. What do all of them have in common? A great unique idea that captured users’ imagination and catapulted them into the mobile app hall of fame. Even more important, they focused on their great idea and kept making it better instead of branching out and offering every possible thing under the sun in one app. This unnecessarily confuses the customer and dilutes the basic premise of the app. After all, who would really trust a recipes app to give them accurate traffic information?

If you have an idea, check whether it already exists in the prominent app stores. If it does, either tweak it substantially enough to make it stand apart from competition or, if that’s not an option, think of something new! Ideas are free, remember?

2. Engage the customer, don’t frustrate them.

Why are gaming apps the most popular on both the Play Store and the App Store? Simple. Because they’re the most engaging of the lot.

Create engagement in the form of usage options, personalization, and interesting transitions within the app environment. Make it responsive – respond to user commands instantly and eliminate any lag in performance. Think it’s too much effort to custom-make experiences that are already available in the market? Integrate interesting services into your app with a single click using custom-made codes like Appwrapper and save yourself the trouble of developing features from scratch.

However, don’t go overboard with the interactions. Everything in moderation and the world is a good place. Customers who are given too many choices get frustrated or confused and drop out of the app. You definitely don’t want that happening.

3. Make a difference in the customer’s life, fill a gap that exists.

While this is true of any new product or brand being launched, it is even more so in the case of mobile apps. With the immense competition out there, your app better be useful to even merit a user’s attention.

The most successful apps address problems that users face in their daily lives and fix them elegantly. Instagram realized that mobile phone cameras were becoming more and more sophisticated, and the resulting pictures were pretty awesome. They identified the need for users to share these great pictures (that mobile phones now enabled them to create) with their friends and family, and Instagram was born.

So, think how you can make your users’ lives easier, more interesting, or just more fun. And then go right ahead with your masterpiece.

4. Pick a catchy name relevant to your app concept.

Aside from the obvious benefits of being easy to remember or unique, a catchy name helps in making your app viral. Imagine trying to tell your friend about that great app you found called ‘Self-destructing Pics on Chat’. Isn’t ‘Snapchat’ so much better?

The name of your app should ideally convey what the app actually does. Most users search for apps based on specific uses in mind. An app name that says nothing about how it can be used has very little chance of being clicked on.

5. Make it pretty, that’s now a threshold expectation.

With the advances in design and deeper understanding app designers have about user preferences, it is almost criminal to have a poorly designed or bad-looking app.

Make the most of templates, design guidelines, and easy-to-use design tools to give your app an extra polish. If you think you need a full-fledged designer to give their input, by all means get one to do so.

6. Addiction is a good thing in the app world.

Who among us has not received invites to Candy Crush or FarmVille or the latest gaming craze in the app or social media world? We may hate apps that force you to invite others to move on to the next level, but we are not going to change the behavior of the inviters anytime soon. That is because addictions are hard to break.

Aim at making your app not just interesting or different. You objective: Make it addictive. Think of the various things that people are addicted to – food, drink, shopping, movies, games, sex and so on. Every app that has become truly popular has tapped into one of these vices and made a place for themselves in users’ minds.

Want to make the next winning app? It better come with a rehab plan!

7. Go freemium wherever possible.

This is a trick similar to sampling exercises that we see in grocery stores.

You may have built a good app, even a great app. But no app can be a success without users at least trying it out once. Keep all other factors listed above in plain sight and allow customers a taste of your masterpiece before giving them a free version. If your app is half as good as you think it is, you’ll soon have customers paying you for the full version.

Great code may often go unnoticed (as in the case of the thousands of apps that fail), but smart coding that keeps the customer as the focus of your app, is a surefire winner. So, while your app can have the best technology behind it, even the most advanced app won’t taste success without these basic traits backing it. Don’t take my word for it. Try making a go of it without these seven essential traits, and you’ll agree I was right after all!

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Tracy Vides is an independent researcher and content strategist, who blogs about things as diverse as tech, fashion, cars, and finance. You can follow her on Twitter @TracyVides or catch all her posts on Google+.

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