Even without coding experience, anyone with the ambition can build an app. But it takes more than a great app building tool to create a successful app. Creating the actual app, when done right, is a process of preparation, research, testing, designing, and redesigning.
Why a great app is not enough
In 2008 when the iOS App Store launched, we could pick from 500 apps. Today, 1.85 million different apps are available for users to download. A number that is growing by the day. Hour, even. You’re simply outnumbered.
Apps were initially fun things on our phone: games and social media, or the sound of a razor — for whatever reason we found that funny. But nowadays, they are tools that help us organize and improve our day-to-day life. They help our health, or working life and social life.
Let’s take a look at what it takes to build an app that people will love and will stand out in the app stores. We recommend some great and easy-to-use tools that help you along the way.
App Store Optimization
Copywriting is important for anything that happens online, even apps. When thinking of building an app, UX copywriting might cross your mind. In the most awesome of apps, you will see that there’s high attention to detail for every word on every small button.
But another copywriting aspect that might not cross your mind when building an app, is SEO. That’s right, Search Engine Optimization even applies to applications.
The App Store and Google Play are in their own way Search Engines too, just like Google. So, when creating your app, you want to make sure people will actually find it when they look for something relevant in the app store.
You could use plain logic to find the right words to include, to optimize your app for the stores. But consumers think and type in various ways, so it often pays off to dive a little deeper.
Tools you can use to find the keywords that are relevant to your app are ahrefs, kwfinder and keyword planner — although there are dozens more on the market, paid and free.
When your app is done and ready for download, this is one of the main ways to stand out with: simply by making sure it shows up in the search results.
Collect feedback and do market research
To make an app that is useful, you need to get to know the users. Conducting market research before you start designing and building, and collecting feedback on your prototypes are crucial steps to building a great app.
Tools for market research
As for market research, look at trends in the app industry. What kind of apps are rising stars, and which ones are losing their shine? Google Keywords Tool is a classic to find out how popular certain keywords and subjects are.
Also, take a look at the recent statistics around apps in general. What kinds are popular? What trends can you spot? For instance, games became more popular in 2020 than the year before — something that is probably related to COVID-19 and people sitting at home, looking for distractions.
Sometimes it’s micro trends that are relevant and impact your app idea, but following global trends and huge events also gives you a good indication of what kind of apps people want right now.
Tools for online surveys
Then, your target group. Your idea for an app should revolve around what they are looking for in an app, what features they love and if there’s even a demand for an app like yours. User feedback is like gold for app builders.
Take the popular Foursquare for instance. They collect user feedback for each update or addition. Now that’s dedication.
Online surveys are a great way to quickly collect a lot of data and convert this into useful reports. Manually processing data? Nobody’s got time for that.
With tools like Google Forms and Typeform you can create beautiful and easily accessible online surveys. You can share them on your socials, in emails, practically any place on the web where your target group hangs out.
Responses are automatically converted to graphs and reports that show you trends and help you draw conclusions and build an app that people will love.
Don’t just build an app, build a brand
Nobody will magically stumble upon your app and realize this is what was missing from their life. You’ll need to work on your marketing. Just standing out in the app store isn’t enough: you’ll need to be present on social media, too. Luckily, there are some tools to help you do that, even if you’re not a born marketer or content creator.
Build that brand recognition
The key aspect here is that you’ll want your app, much like a brand, to be recognized — with positive associations, of course. What’s the definition of brand recognition? It seems like an abstract concept, but you can actually measure it. That’s right, there are tools for that.
You can measure brand recognition with tools like Attest. In short, brand recognition is the sum of the ways people can recognize your brand or app. By being consistent with your logo the use of colors, tone of voice, and message you build this. Think Coca-Cola or McDonald’s: they’re instantly recognizable, even without their names displayed.
Aim for that level of consistency. That means you’ll have to put out enough content to be seen and recognized. Luckily, there are some useful tools for that out there as well.
Designing an app is not the same as designing visuals for Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and the likes. But you’ll need content and visuals that stand out. In come tools like Canva, that allow you to easily create consistent content based on templates.
You pick a template that matches your style and make it completely yours by changing the colors and adding or erasing certain elements in the design. With tools like this, you can easily create content in bulk and keep your socials and marketing up to date.
Consistency also lies in how frequently you post and engage with your followers. This might be tricky: you’re focused on your app, and social media is quite a hassle.
Luckily, there are tools like Later that easily lets you plan ahead, for instance on Instagram. Instead of having to dedicate a few minutes every day to posting, you can upload and plan content in bulk. It will automatically appear online, while you focus on other aspects of your business.
Fill up your app with dummy data
It’s fully recommendable to have actual users test out your app pre-launch, but you’ll also want to see what your app does when a lot of users sign up. Especially if you connect it to email marketing tools and the likes.
You don’t have to wait and see what happens, but can easily test out if everything is set up correctly by filling up your app with dummy data. Basically, you create ‘fake’ profiles with all their data and run the app and everything around it.
Fake Data does the job: it lets you create random, fake profiles filled with names, email addresses and much more to test your app. Mockaroo is another great example of a data generator that allows you to create no less than 1,000 rows of realistic test data in CSV, JSON, SQL, and Excel formats.
Design well done
The design of an app is not just about looks. First and foremost, it has to support the usability of the app and give your users a great experience.
To find out if and how your users find their way in the app, you can map out all possible user journeys — Before letting real people test the app. This will help you spot any flows and unlogical steps in the possible journey.
Xmind is a popular tool for mapping out customer journeys. It’s open-sourced and easy to use, not to mention free. You can endlessly play around with possible scenarios and perfect the logic of your app before you get to the next testing phase.
Ready for launch?
Exciting! Keep in mind that creating a successful app is an ongoing process. Keep talking to your users, even after launch. Keep track of how well your updates or additional features actually work. Last but not least: keep putting out that consistent and cool content!