App Dev 2: Finding A Killer App Idea And Defining Guidelines

May 5, 2013 in App Development

iPhone App DevelopmentNow that I’ve officially started the process of creating my first iPhone app, it’s time to start brainstorming ideas. This is one aspect of creating apps that could mean stellar sales or no sales at all.

One thing I want to say right off the top, at this time, I’m not revealing the niche or name of the app I’m going to build. This may change later but this is my first time around and I’m still pondering whether I want to reveal all that info. I apologize for that but like building niche sites, it may not be wise for me to introduce competitors for my app. Although it’s possible that when I finish my app, I will be so excited about it that I won’t be able to keep it a secret anymore!

Finding A Great App Idea

Ok, back to the topic of this post. I’ve been doing some research into different types of apps I want to build and to help you understand the process I’m going through, here’s where I’m getting my ideas from:

  • Personal interests
  • My favorite apps
  • The iTunes Store
  • Friends and acquaintances

A lot of this process is similar to the steps I take when I build niche sites… although I’m not very successful at it. But let’s look at each step a little closer.

Personal Interests – By drawing upon what my interests and hobbies are, this can help me start a list of general categories and topics that could be turned into an app. Some ideas are probably not feasible as apps or might be too expensive to build. But that doesn’t matter. I will be writing down everything that comes to mind so I have a starting point.

My Favorite Apps – I don’t download a ton of apps but the ones I do download are ones I like. This is a good source of ideas where you can see the actual execution of an app. I play around with these apps and think through the steps it might take to build a similar app. If it’s graphics intensive, then I know the design part of it will be more costly. I also keep in mind how I would explain to a developer how I want to recreate a certain feature of an app I like.

iTunes Store – I am also using the iTunes store and browsing the Top 200 apps in all the different categories. This is what I use to see what’s hot and whether or not there are multiple apps with the same theme. I also read all the reviews of the apps I believe might be a potential for me to emulate. I pay more attention to the negative reviews because those are the reviews that contain the best information about what those top selling apps are missing.

In the words of Spencer Costanzo from Malibu Apps, you need “emulate success”. And this is key to finding a good idea. It doesn’t matter if someone has already created the app you want to build. You just have to differentiate or build it better. This is the philosophy I’m following.

Friends and Acquaintances – I don’t necessarily ask people for app ideas but it’s amazing the type of ideas you can get from friends. At times I’ll mention that I’m going to start creating iPhone apps and tell them my ideas. What almost always happens is that the person I’m talking to starts rambling off app ideas they think are good. This is where I take note and add those ideas to my general list for later research.

Guidelines For My First App

Now there are many different types of apps I can build. The type of app I will not be tackling for my first time around (and maybe the next several) are games. To me, games are way too complicated and expensive to execute in order to be successful. There are too many factors involved that I don’t want to have to figure out.

Here’s the main criteria for my first app:

  • It has to be simple to execute
  • I will create the graphics
  • Outsource┬áprogramming for under $500
  • The app structure/template needs to be reusable
  • Uploaded to iTunes by November 2013

I think defining the parameters for development will help me stay on track and keep on budget. This way, I don’t go building something bigger than necessary to get started. Here’s a deeper explanation of my development criteria:

Simple to Execute – I’m not looking for a lot of bells and whistles for my app. I have seen successful apps that are so simple that I can’t believe they are in the app store! This app is only going to have a few screens and buttons to make it work. There will be no fancy animation or anything like that.

Create My Own Graphics – I am a daily user of Photoshop and After Effects so I will be creating the graphics for my first app. This could be good or bad. While I consider myself an expert at using these programs, I don’t consider myself an expert designer. Doing my own design work will definitely help me save on development costs. For now, I will plan to build my own graphics but that might change later down the line.

$500 Budget – At this point, I don’t really know how much it will cost to develop an app. But I’ve heard of apps being built for under $500 so that’s the budget I’m going for. I will be outsourcing a programmer because I do not know how to code. I’ll most likely be using Elance to find my programmer because that’s the service I have experience with. Keeping my app really simple will allow me to to keep my costs down. But without any quotes, I don’t know if my budget is realistic.

Reusable App Structure/Template – This is a really important factor for the future of my app business. Let me explain what I mean by reusable app template. If you’ve read some of my other projects here at Freelance Doodle, you’ll know I’m a huge believer of re-purposing content. That is demonstrated by me re-using my ebook content on multiple platforms and different mediums like print, audio and video.

I am going to use the same philosophy only this time, I’m not re-purposing content, I’m re-purposing the framework of this first app so I can use it as a starting point for future apps. I’m hoping that this will save money when I develop future apps because the main programming is already done.

So when I go to develop my next apps, all I will have to do is re-skin the app and give the developer new content. I hope this makes sense. This is only possible by me keeping my apps super simple. I know this won’t work for all the apps I will be developing but I have an idea for my first app where this app template method will benefit me in the future.

Upload to iTunes By November 2013 – November is roughly six months from now. It’s actually scary to think how far into the year it is already. I set a goal back in January to have an app developed this year and time is moving too fast! I’m now on the fast-track to “just do it”! That’s the only way I’m going to get this accomplished. This first app is going to be the most difficult to make because of all the other things I need to set up. So I’m getting started now and not looking back!

The other reason why I set this deadline is that I want an app in the iTunes store for this holiday season. From all I’ve read, the holidays bring on a huge spike in app downloads when people get their Apple devices for Christmas. I want to take advantage of that instead of waiting another year for this prime app purchasing period!

One last note: I’m only developing for the iTunes store for now. But if you know how much I like to re-purpose stuff, this app will probably be ported to other devices as well in the future once I get the hang of all this development stuff!

My Current Progress

This is where I’m at in my app development journey. I have narrowed down my ideas to maybe 2 that fit my guidelines. In the next week, I will be taking a closer look at those ideas and doing more research on the iTunes store.

I’ve also been listening to several podcasts and reading various websites dedicated to app development. One of the big things I’m starting to get an understanding of is App Store Optimization or ASO. This is like SEO but geared towards ranking in the app store. This is vital to having my app be discovered by customers. This is still an emerging field but it’s good to know there are people out there leading flow of information on the internet.

That’s it for now. I’ll be sure to update my progress in my next post. Be sure to leave a comment if you think there are other places to find good app ideas!

You can follow all the posts related to the development of my first app by clicking here.