Friday, August 31, 2012

What makes a successful app? The ‘duh’ tip (tie in to social media)

When you are considering your audience, the multiplier effect, and marketing opportunities, you MUST be thinking of Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter and all social media trends. They don’t guarantee success, but they can help. It’s a statistical conclusion and a gut reaction from experience. However, if you do tie in to social media, be sure it makes sense and is easy and fruitful for users to do.

So, the second thing we asked ourselves when thinking about our new app idea was: 

Should we (and how would we logically) integrate our new app with other apps and tools for social networking?

We think the answer is "yes" for our project, but every app and every business is different.

We think we have the right social media tie-in ideas and know what exactly we want to gain from tying in to Twitter or Facebook, but we continue to test our ideas and fine-tune. It's important to walk through multiple scenarios and keep asking questions.
  • How should my app interface with Twitter (for example)? Should Tweets be sent automatically when users do something or should users be able to choose when to Tweet from your app?
  • Does it need to be an iPhone app tied to Facebook or a separate Facebook app and iPhone app? (Or Android, etc.)
  • Does LinkedIn make more sense for us? Are there any barriers to entry at LinkedIn?

If you have a good idea for how to tie a serious business solution into social media, go for it! Even a more serious business app can benefit from the network of social media (think jobhunting tools or marketing experts). 

For example, you may want to develop a personal finance app with which users track their spending and receive a gold star whenever they stay within a weekly budget. A big danger alert flashes on the user's screen when they get close to the spending limit before the end of the week. Users may NOT want this app to push these achievements and failures to Facebook. Although..., if it was optional, maybe that would be okay so that any users who respond to peer pressure can involve their friends.
If you are developing a photo app, maybe you want to automatically post images to Flickr or tie into Dropbox. That's a tie-in that boosts visibility and provides a useful service to your customers.

We'll fill you in on the details of our new app when it's ready to share and maybe you can tell us about your ideas in the comments.
Here's an example of how we use Twitter in our existing app, SoDunked! It gives this complaints an audience of 11,000 followers and that might just make this SoDunked! user feel a little better.
It may not be a serious app, but overcoming insomnia is another story. Is there an app for that?
While you brainstorm your own ideas, come on over to our page at the app store and try SoDunked! or gift it to a friend. There must be someone you want to dunk.

Friday, August 24, 2012

What makes a successful app? Solve a problem

For our new app, we decided we need a new checklist to evaluate the viability of our idea. We developed this checklist by studying successful apps and identifying the qualities that they all share. Each of these Friday tips will be about one question to ask yourself when you are developing an app or even just coming up with an idea.

Our first question for the checklist is:  

Does this product/service solve a common problem?

(In fact, if you don't have an app idea yet, looking for a problem to solve is a good first step!) Most of the successful apps we see solve a problem.

In our case, we think the answer is yes, our app solves a problem (sorry we can't divulge yet what the app is about).

During the planning for SoDunked!, we were thinking “fun” and “games”. At the time, there were at least 3 apps in the top 100 that were just about passing gas (pooting, futzing—my mother couldn't say the word aloud and I can't write it) and there were also several about lobbing nasal secretions.

Needs no caption!
Just one of many
I bring these up only to say that at the time we decided to build SoDunked!, simple entertainment and novelty apps were very popular and seemed like a good choice with which to enter the app market.

Today, things are different. The age of the novelty app has passed (did you know that Apple even states in its submission guidelines that developers really need not submit any more gas-passing apps?). Statistics say that game apps are declining in popularity as well. So, Lyle and I (and lots of more expert folks) think that the age of the useful app has begun in earnest. (I've seen more expense reporting and productivity apps than I can wade through—fyi, some reviews at,, and

For evaluating your app ideas, here are some suggestions:
  1. You could run your app idea through this variation on the "Does this solve a problem?" question: Does my [photo app idea] do it better or differently than the several hundred that are already at the app store? Or, do I have something that no other [expense report] apps have that will make it stand out and garner enough attention to earn revenue or generate buzz. 
  2. Lyle chimes in, from his perch behind an iPad across the room, that "Does this solve a problem?" is a question you should ask at many decision points throughout your app and business development process, not just about the general function of the app and not just during the idea and planning phases. When you are considering spending another chunk of time or money to add a new feature, change the layout, add more artwork, or to involve more people as investors or owners, and so forth, ask yourself whether doing this is solving a problem—is it helping me get to my goal or is it just bells and whistles or something my kid—or a vocal investor—is begging we roll into the app.
  3. In fact, Lyle and I both say aloud at the same time, "don't just ask yourself—ask a few other people for their expert opinions" on the decisions you face. They can help you get perspective on whether that next step will solve a problem or divert you from your purpose. Then review those opinions and your own analysis to decide what to do. If you don't know anyone with the experience you need, you can usually get free advice from networking, cold calls, or reading an expert's blog.
  4. Be sure you know your market—search on your app idea both in iTunes (or other app stores) and on the web. Again, ask someone if you can find someone to ask. Remember that sometimes it's worth it to go to your nearest public or institutional library—a reference librarian can help with this sort of question, even in the digital age. (We are big fans of real live librarians.)
So, that’s our Business 101 tip—make sure your app or business is solving a problem. No one needs another fart app (oops, I wrote it); however, a "how to prevent [or distract from] them during business meetings" app might just be viable. There’ll be another tip for the checklist next Friday, so stay tuned.

And, when you need to let off steam as you watch someone release their app that looks a lot like the one you've been working on for months but haven't yet released, go dunk ‘em with SoDunked!

Monday, August 20, 2012

We have another app brewing

Wow, we’ve been busy! We have another app brewing, or should I say “marinating”?

Lyle and I have been making chicken wings a lot lately for a picky eater and I am learning how to adjust the marinade so that it isn’t too sweet or too hot or too salty or just too much. Likewise, for the new app,we need to find that “just right” balance—it needs to be simple, yet complex enough to be useful and interesting for our particular audience.

Analogies aside, what do successful apps have? As we embark on the next leg of our journey to an app, we are identifying the key things to consider and we will write about each over the next few weeks in a series of Friday Tips entries.

Tune in soon to hear about the first one: Business 101. In the meantime, keep telling friends and family about SoDunked!