You heard me correctly, I said “meh.”
I’m not talking about the “meh” used to ironically describe something beautiful/awe-inspiring; like when your friend uploads a beautiful sunset to their Instagram story and captions it “meh” (yeah, yeah, we know you are such a jetsetter).
I am talking about the uninspired, bored, indifferent “meh.” The one for when you see something that has been done again and again, just with a different color scheme and branding. The one for when you see someone release an ‘innovative’ product without any regard for what their user-base actually cares about.
As you can see by the title of this piece, in this case I’m talking about your app.
Chances are, your app idea is just meh and you shouldn’t develop it. I believe that the glaring truth is better than beating around the bush. But who am I, this random girl from the marketing world, to tell you this?
Hailing from the mobile app analytics industry, I’ve seen many founders pour tons of hours and thousands of bucks into apps that just don’t perform or deliver a good experience. These founders come to our app analytics platform with questions such as, “Why are my users not signing up to my app?” or “Why are users not utilizing this feature?” Oftentimes we have the answer, but sometimes it’s just the reality that the app is totally meh.
Yet, I don’t want to crush all your hopes and dreams, because there is a chance (a slim one) that your mobile app idea could work. And not just work, but really truly succeed.
In order for you to capitalize on this chance, I’ve composed a list of five mistakes that you should avoid like the plague.
Warning: If you prefer to read a fluffy, starry-eyed piece for how to make your startup a unicorn, the following content is not for you.
Most apps fail because app creators don’t take the time to thoroughly validate their product with actual users. The majority of app owners start building an app along with features and functionalities based on a feeling that it’s what their users want. Oftentimes that feeling comes from a personal experience of their own.
Sound familiar? Okay, so it makes the background story of your app product more ‘inspiring’, but at the end of the day inspiring doesn’t automatically equal active users. Plus, when the idea comes from your own experience, it can make it even more challenging to detach yourself from the concept and look at the app from an objective viewpoint.
Most apps fail because entrepreneurs do not validate their product with enough actual users. If you have an idea, go out and validate it, but validate it the right way.
In order to do this, you must get rid of your ego problem. STOP assuming that there is a need. When you assume, you make an ass out of… you know what I’m going to say! The problem of ego oftentimes leads to what is known as confirmation bias.
Confirmation bias is the tendency to selectively search for and consider information that confirms one’s beliefs. Even if you think you’re being objective about data and results, your human brain is trying to find evidence to prove what you already thought to be true.
In simple terms, it’s when an app founder thinks that his or her solution is excellent and searches for information to prove their point. At the same time, they reject any information that doesn’t support their belief. This can totally skew your assessment of product-market fit.
A perfect example of this is when you purposely seek out friends or potential users who you believe would serve as your ideal user. You interview ten to fifteen people, get the answers you were hoping for and decide well that’s that! Product validated. WRONG. This method of “validation” will also lead to major user research issues down the line, which I’ll touch on a bit later.
Here’s my two cents: even if real data from tests and interviews reveal something negative, something you maybe don’t want to hear about your app idea, wouldn’t you rather know as early as possible? If you know, you can do something about it. As G.I. Joe used to say, “Knowing is half the battle.”
Reality check: you’re not special. The app market is freaking saturated. It’s positively teeming with every type of app possible. Plus, you’ve got 5.8 million apps across Google Play and App Store. The chances are teennsy weensy that you have a “totally unique” idea.
The reality is that not every idea is unique, nor does it have to be. Take a look at the food delivery category for example. In the USA alone, you’ve got GrubHub, DoorDash, Postmates, and UberEats (just to name a few). Their concept is pretty much the same, they just provide different user experiences, restaurant options, branding etc. The difference lies is in the execution.
Even if you are the first one to bring the idea to your geo, execution is everything. I mean everything. One of the worst offenses an appreneur can make is to rush to market and sacrifice performance, testing, and research in the process. You only get one chance to make a good first impression with your users — so make it count. Releasing first means nothing if the app has performance issues and/or doesn’t resonate with users.
I’ve seen my fair share of new apps that launch their first version and are shocked to see the app crashing or behaving in ways that they had never anticipated pre-launch. Friendly tidbit: Don’t skimp on a quality crash monitoring tools for your new app. You’ll pay for the mistake later with lower retention and conversion rates.
Aside from execution, what if there’s competition? There likely is, but it doesn’t mean you should drop your idea. Download the apps, study all their ins and outs, and do it better. Ensure that your build quality not just matches that of the existing apps, but is a notch above each one of them. Capiche?
I’m calling b.s. on that claim. Yeah, so it used to be a thing where analytics were only used by data scientists, analysts, and people who “have a thing for numbers,” but times have changed man.
With the diversifying of users standards and the enhancement of mobile app software, many app analytics companies have adjusted their platforms to make their technology more user friendly and out of the box. I’m talking analytics that predict future trends, provide automatic insights, event tracking and screen tagging, and even supply cool “new” features like session recordings and heatmaps.
It still might require a bit of a learning curve, but as Peter Drucker so perfectly put it, “What gets measured, gets managed.” You need to know how users are actually using your app and be able to confidently make decisions from that data. Without reliable data on your app users, you’ll be conducting complete guesswork when it comes to assessing the traction of your app in the real world. By personally tracking your app’s performance and user behavior, you can determine the next move for your product with a higher level of confidence and understanding.
My tip? Shop around, there are a lot of good tools out there that address different app needs. However, don’t just track to track. Structure the process and set KPIs for yourself.
For more advice, check out my favorite read on how to apply a lean approach to your analytics.
It’s awesome to have a long term goal of expanding to other markets. But that’s just it, it should be a long term goal. When it comes to user acquisition and growth, you’ve got to start small. Keep your eye on the prize, which is first and foremost, your local geo. If you place an emphasis on the future market, you will likely lose sight of the important nuances of your current market.
Utilize your local market to perfect your product and make mistakes there. Learn from those mistakes, iterate, and then come with a more informed, thought out game plan for other cities and countries. Yet bear in mind that after you have tackled your local market, “going global” is not an automatic next step.
Why? Well, the key question here is: how do you eat an elephant? (sorry to all vegans)
Answer: One bite at a time.
The same applies to your mobile app “expansion” plan. You’ve got to adjust your mindset from globalize to localize.
Localization is not simply about the language, it includes comprehensive rethinking of icons, feature layout, user preferences, visual content, and so much more.
And remember, you’re not going to get your app international users from sitting in your office. Pick your tush off your edgy balance ball chair and go out and meet your users. Is your app idea “meh” in other markets? Can you even answer that question confidently? There is nothing better than understanding first-hand their needs and how they experience your mobile app (you better already be doing this with your local market).
There’s no such thing as a ‘final product.’ Releasing a mobile app product is just the beginning of continuous improvement. You always have room for improvement, always.
If you think your product is “done” and that you can wash your hands of optimization, well then your product will really be done — done for.
My ultimate tip is try to be proactive in every sense of the word. Don’t wait for your crash rates to climb or for a few users to write a bad review, in order for you to make an adjustment to your app.
Equip yourself with the best tools, gather qualitative data, track the metrics that matter, run tests, and talk to your users!
Look, at the end of the day, your app idea is likely just meh and isn’t going to last long in the mobile app world. However, there is a glimmer of hope that some apps can become successful. That hope can only be realized by first and foremost avoiding these critical mistakes.
And maybe your app will succeed. Prove me wrong, that would make me happy. After engaging with app startups for a bunch of years, I thought it was time to just throw my personal opinion out there. Take it or put me on your shit list.