Ever had the urge to make an app? You’re not alone. Because of the well proliferated stories of overnight riches, many daydream of staking out their own piece of digital real estate for public consumption. The opportunity will always be there because now half the world perceives life through a mobile device. It should be understood, however, that making a profitable app is not as easy as it used to be. Back in the days when iPhones first came out, developers had quick success because they were filling a vacuum. Now whether your app is for iOS or Android, it is tough to get anyone to see your app much less download it because of the stiff competition.
I myself have made a few apps late in the game but have managed to be successful despite the huge obstacles. One of the reasons is that I focused on the NEW genre of apps and ditched the old. What works nowadays is not a silly game that competes with millions of other games. Rather, you need to focus on functionality apps that make life easier for people. Better yet, focus on professional niches so that you can contact key opinion leaders asking them to download your app. For example, an email might read:
Hello Dr. Johnson,
I understand that you are a highly regarded vascular surgeon at Saint Luke’s Hospital and would like to invite you to try our new app. It detects the presence of Cryoglobulinemia related proteins in a patient’s blood which makes diagnosis of this disorder extremely cost-effective. One drop of blood on your saran wrap protected iPhone sensor is all that is needed for a cursory analysis.
“Why make an app which hinges on doing direct marketing yourself?”, you might ask. Well, the real truth is that the app stores won’t do it for you anymore. And the only time you can gain a better ranking is when the stores notice activity with your app based on the traffic you’ve provided. I’ve actually never read this anywhere. It’s just something that I’ve learned myself by going into the fray and getting my hands dirty… saturated would be a better word.
So unless you are a rock star programmer that can make a trendy game in a couple of days, stay away from making games. Seriously consider doing what I have said and in a years time, you will have your apps on thousands of mobile devices. Not so with addictive games because after a few days they aren’t so addictive anymore… and then the inevitable UNINSTALL! Apps that address the needs of professionals typically last much longer. And if your app is at the caliber that it needs to be, it will become part of a professional’s daily routine. Just think about a house appraiser that is walking on a roof. He needs to know how thick the modified bitumen is below him or how many layers of foam there are. You have made an app that he downloaded which uses a phone’s sensor to show every layer of a roof on the screen. By making his life easier you have won over a fan as well as all of the people in his appraisal office. He probably downloaded your app for free because people rarely pay for apps anymore. But as your app becomes an essential part of his life, he will be willing to pay for extra features. Professionals do that because they have money!
Now I’d like to talk about my favorite testimony of someone who created a speech therapy app in this professional functionality genre. At the time he developed it, his coding skills weren’t top notch but they were after he completed it. The motivation for taking a project like this on was definitely an unlikely one. One day he was visiting a friend whose son had autism and the boy had to speak into an unwieldy box to help him communicate. Seeing the need, this developer took on the challenge of making something better using the iOS platform. Immediately after the app was finished and uploaded, sales started to come in but it was just a trickle. So he contacted all of the speech therapists state by state and provided them with links to his app. This marketing step bolstered his success significantly. But he found that if he stopped his emailing campaign, the sales of his app would fall to the same trickle that he had first experienced. What’s interesting is that during these slow periods there would be unexpected spikes. For example, one day he was sitting in a hospital waiting room as his wife was giving birth to his first child. He whipped out his computer just out of habit and found that he had just made $4,000. It turns out that a school had just purchased a lot of iPads and loaded them with the app for use with their autistic students. That kind of passive income is what developers dream about and it can happen whenever or wherever.
To wrap this success story up, that developer of the app lost interest over the years and just let the app ride on its own. The iTunes store is now full of speech therapy apps and so his app is definitely passed its heyday. This brings us to two important points that need to be discussed. The first is that the developer used his new found coding skills to develop a large online following and then created an ebook that teaches how to make apps. It’s selling like hotcakes and he has made quite a name for himself because of it. The other point is that his app is now effectively dead because of his lack of interest in the field of speech therapy which ultimately let his competition win. You should be aware of the negative effect that time has on an app and that it probably won’t have a long life span if you don’t actively update it.
You may be looking at the three examples above and saying, “App ideas that work are just too complicated and over my head.” Well, let’s look at some alternatives.
This website actually went viral when its creator submitted it to a few magazine authors. The simple way of dealing with loneliness is so appealing that people love to send it to their friends as a novelty item. Notice the Adsense banner on the bottom which provides the developer with steady income. With a little know-how, this website can be turned into an app VERY quickly. Now look at this next idea by the same creator.
Here we have another website that can be easily converted into and app. The creator was sneaky in that he used cute pet videos from Youtube to be the content of his app. There are various categories representing different ways you could sooth yourself. The last example is the legendary Calming Manatee website (with the previous two examples accessible in the menu). Just press “Summon another manatee” and a new picture comes up to calm your soul.
In this chapter I’ve shown you two successful niches if you are adventurous enough to take on building apps. Be sure to read the next chapter which goes into depth about coding.