In our earlier article we talked about how we validated app ideas, but we didn't say how we actually come up with those ideas. In this article we step back and see how we generate ideas, and how that connects to validation of the idea.
Before we create ideas, it is important to cover four key topics:
- The scope of mobile (This part)
- How you can acquire customer (Part 2)
- Show me the money (Part 3)
- Finding app ideas (Part 4)
Once you have a clear understanding of these points they provide a lens though which you can come up with new ideas and assess existing ones.
The scope of mobile
At Teazel we have been working on mobile app development since 2002, and in that time we have built up a mantra of "Why an app, rather than a website". This was based on the early devices (WAP/J2ME) being very limited (Nokia Series 40 for example) and not ones first choice for anything except a call or text. The situation has completely changed with the arrival of iPads/tablets and larger phones. Gone are the days when the mobile was a second class device in the home. Now it is common for people to have no other browsers. However before we 'throw out the baby with the bath water it is worth still considering what mobile typically means.
When users are 'mobile' they normally have:
- limited attention
- limited time
- limited screen space
- limited data entry (however tablets are getting really rather good)
- potentially limited connectivity / bandwidth
But they do have: camera, internet, storage, location, voice recording, SMS, contact lists, Bluetooth, accelerometers and compass. A mobile device is a excellent interface to this rich feature set with minimal low level development effort.
Using this set of strengths and weaknesses we can start to assess whether given apps/tasks better suit a website, desktop app, or mobile client. Rather than seeing the weaknesses as limitations perhaps it is better to consider them as liberators that allow you to produce something that is focused on just doing one thing well, or whiling away a few minutes (Flappy Birds) - sort of "good enough" development. Games can often being very successful with only a fraction of the depth of the Console/PC equivalents.
Mobile also gives you another key advantage over web - with apps there is an obvious path to discovery. For all its flaws, if you publish an app on iOS or Android you have some degree of certainty that people will be able to discover it (badly, slowly awkwardly but it will be there). Even in a world with millions of live apps the competition is still far less than websites 1+ billion currently
By focusing on what mobile/portable devices do well and trying to tailor for that, you can find app opportunities , and start to see a world of possibilities. Once we are in the mindset of what properties our development needs, we can explore ideas with a bit more purpose.
- Know the limitations/strengths of mobile devices over other mediums
- Try and home in on ideas that really benefit from being mobile. Some apps can make really nice use of the hardware and produce truly fun results (Strava would be a good example of great blend of device + GPS + data, creating something very accessible) - for us having Crosswords on your phone makes a lot of sense - they are great to drop in and out of and they are also ideal for tablets since you don't have to buy a newspaper or fire up the PC to play.
- Give some thought to discovery of your app - the app name, icon, description and whether people are going to organically search for your app, or whether you need to reach out. If it is the latter, think about how you are going to get to those people (it may have to be outside of mobile channels)