Do you have an idea for the next big app?
As of June 2016, there were an overwhelming 4.2 million apps available on both the Google Play and Apple App Store. If you’re an app developer, this makes it difficult for people to discover your app in a crowded market.
So, how can you cut through the noise?
Here are five best practices for any aspiring app inventor.
1. Know your audience
One of the first questions app inventors should ask themselves is, “Who will be using my app, and what will they accomplish with it?” If your app aims to solve a real-world problem, chances are there is a whole market of people who would love to get their hands on it.
Figuring out who these people are, as well as what problem they want to solve with your app, is the first step to launching a successful product.
In addition to the practical needs of the user, you should also consider how a consumer’s aesthetic taste changes based on what platform they are using.
For example, iOS apps typically have a minimalistic design: flat, text-heavy and featuring outlined icons. Android apps conform to “Material Design”, featuring pastel colors and a layered paper look (similar to those construction paper cut outs we all used to do as children).
It’s good form to design the different versions of your app in ways that cater to each respective market, so that your app can appeal to as many people as possible.
2. Validate before you build
Once you have an idea for an app, there is important work to do before you even start the development process.
First, it’s best to go through exercises such as researching the competitive market, asking potential customers questions about how they would like the problem you’re addressing solved, and drawing user flows.
Once you’ve done this, you should have a professional designer make designs of your app and make a clickable prototype with tools such as inVision, Axure, Omnigraffle, Sketch, or POP.
Next, take this prototype back to potential users for feedback, and ask if they would use it, and how much they would pay for it. If these potential customers aren’t excited, go back to the drawing board!
3. Develop marketing and user acquisition plans
If you build it, they will come, right? Wrong! If you are thinking of building an app, but haven’t thought about how it’s going to get into the user’s’ hands, pump the breaks. This is one of the most common mistakes made when creating an app.
First, make sure your app has viral components, such as social sharing and push notifications. Secondly, create a marketing strategy supported with strong tactics.
There are great options to get the process started: Facebook and Twitter app install ads, guerilla marketing, posters, events—and all these tactics cost money, so make sure you devise a general plan and budget for both building and marketing your app, or your beautiful app could go to waste.
Sure, you might go viral on TechCrunch or you could also win the lottery, but that shouldn’t be the plan.
4. Make a positive first impression
Positive first impressions are key to acquiring and retaining app users. When submitting your app to the app store, start with a well-designed and memorable app icon, along with a short and engaging description.
First impressions also have an impact on how consistently users engage with your app. On average, 77% of users who install your app will stop using it after three days. A few ways you can reduce churn rates is to make sure your app is fast, intuitive and allows anonymous usage. The latter feature allows users to explore your app’s primary features without having to commit to a registration or signup.
5. Easier is always better
Even if seemingly tailored to one type of clientele, users include people from every age group and social background, so it’s best to keep your app simple and accessible to everyone. The primary elements that determine how people use your app are the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX).
In basic terms, the UI consists of the visual elements that people interact with in your app, and the UX is the experience people have during the interaction. There are many resources available online to help you get started in UI and UX.
You can take classes at General Assembly (they have online classes if there isn’t one in your area); read books and watch TED Talks by Don Norman; look through profiles on useronboard.com; or even check out UXArchive.com.
6. Consistency is key
Your app should look and feel cohesive. Color plays a crucial role in attracting new users, as well as in subliminally influencing their first impressions of your product.
Employing a unique, unified color scheme makes your app easy to read and navigate, and creates an identity for your brand. Typography should also be consistent. The best way to achieve this is to get a talented interactive designer.
Finally, you should make sure your app takes advantage of the unique features and norms of each mobile platform, but still coordinates with your website. While cosmetically, your app may differ between platforms, they should all function in a similar manner. This is where using consistent imagery, coloring and typography can help guide users through the various versions of your app.
Building an app requires time, patience, and trial and error. A successful app is one that solves a problem in the simplest and most intuitive way – keep this in mind when developing your app. Focus on just a few simple user needs, and learn from your users before and after launch.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Dima Rakovitsky is CEO and Founder of ROKO Labs, a New York-based mobile platform that allows you to get, understand and keep users. Dima has over 20 years of entrepreneurial and operations experience in the mobile, web and financial services industries. Connect with @rokolabs on Twitter.