Mobile App Development Blog

Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Building a Mobile App.

Ian Blair

What Makes an Awesome App Awesome

You don’t want to create just another app.

You want to create something that helps your customers, grows your user base, or increases your profits.

The secret to each of these is creating a remarkable app–an app people will literally remark about.

Creating a remarkable app is the secret to designing an app that people use.

Without paying attention to what factors go into making an awesome app, your creation is destined to sit unused on the third page of your users’ smartphone app list.

But of course, that’s easier said than done.

What goes into making an app people will tell their friends about? How can you guarantee your app will be a success from the minute it hits the app store?

It turns out, there are a surprising number of elements the best apps have in common. Master those and your app is destined for greatness.

Let’s dive in!

Craft it specifically for your target audience

You wouldn’t design a building without knowing what it was going to be used for. Yet every day, app developers create software without a clear target audience.

With no insight into what the audience cares about or wants, those apps are destined to fail.

To be successful, you need to understand exactly whos’ going to use your app. Narrow down exactly who, or more specifically which demographic, your app will serve.

That will help make everything else work. Know who will be using your app, and design it for how they are going to use it.

Since mobile and smart device users utilize apps for 90% of the time they spend on their devices, you can’t afford to ignore their opinions.

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Why does it help to know this information? It helps to know so you can design your app to better serve your audience.

Users downloaded nearly 200 billion apps in 2017, and that number is expected to increase by 75% by 2021.

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When smartphones first launched, apps were difficult to create, and only the best companies had the ability to make them succeed.

Today, however, platforms like BuildFire give anyone the ability to create the app of their dreams. That’s great of course, because it means you can create an app quickly and easily.

But the downside is that competition is fiercer than ever. With hundreds of thousands of other apps clamouring for attention, what makes yours stand apart? The only answer is in meeting the needs of your audience.

This becomes particularly important if you’re planning on selling your app. Research shows that customers between the ages of 18-34 are the primary app purchasers in the marketplace.

If you’re targeting a different demographic, especially those in the 55+ age group, be careful about how you market your app. You may need to consider the viability of selling an app to this group, since they are traditionally reluctant to pay.

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It is up to you to discover exactly who is in your app target demographic.

However, don’t ignore that the millennial demographic continues to remain a huge source of revenue for app developers. About one in every five millennials downloads a paid app each month.

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Take this into consideration when understanding who will download, use, and pay for the app you create.

Another feature that many developers overlook is the language of their user base. Carefully consider the primary language of your users, especially if you’re planning on launching in a new country.

It’s worth it to spend money on a quality translation instead of an automated service. Over 72% of app users do not speak English at all or as a native tongue, and revenue increase by 26% when using this language on your app.

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But if you think that understanding the audience before launching your app is enough, you’re mistaken. Every time you push a new update, you’re changing features.

Rather than blindly making changes without input, continually check in with your user base to receive feedback. The easiest way is to read user reviews, of course, but you should go deeper.

The absolute best way to get user feedback isn’t through anonymous surveys or brief reviews hacked out on a miniscule keyboard. For your most valuable feedback, you need to interview actual users.

Talk to them in person or on the phone, and understand what they’re looking for. What are their motivations for using your app? What features do they appreciate most of all?

Include these useful and necessary updates in your app. This ensures your app users will stay interested and engaged.

Oftentimes, the features you think will be most valuable end up discarded or changed. YouTube began as a dating site. You never know where your audience will lead you unless you ask it.

Design your app with bulletproof functionality

This should go without saying, but your app should work. It should function effectively, load quickly, and be free of all major programming bugs and defects.

Your app should provide a seamless experience that doesn’t distract the user with frustrating bugs or glitches.

While Apple’s app review process does a careful job weeding out apps with glaringly obvious issues, your users will give your app much more time and testing than the Apple team. They’ll find errors the professionals missed.

Since you need to produce an app as free from bugs as possible, you’ll need to accept the time sink involved in debugging your app.

While it may seem like a waste of time spending hundreds of hours looking for errors, mistakes, and bugs, it’s time well spent. Those hundreds of hours are the difference between “pretty good” apps and those that change the world.

By some research estimates, it can take app designers well over 900 work hours to create a quality, interfaceable and multifaceted app.

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(BuildFire reduces the time it takes to build your app by providing templates. But even if you use BuildFire, you still need to check for app at the most detailed level possible to ensure it works properly.)

Once you know your app works flawlessly, you’ll want to adjust it so that you can engage users with its most unique and valuable features.

Even if it works well, your app has a strong likelihood of dying a slow death on the user’s smartphone. It has been shown that as many as 26% of all apps are never used again after the first use, for whatever reason.

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Want to avoid this trap?

Engage users by making the features useful every day. If your app includes fresh content (and it should), you can re-engage users with push notifications.

The average American app user has about 36 apps downloaded on their mobile smart devices. Up to a quarter of those apps are used daily by such users.

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To be in that top quarter of apps, you need to show your app has valuable features your user needs every day.

But it’s not just the features you have–an awesome app also depends on what you’ve carefully avoided. Let’s talk about that next.

Conquer the uninstall button

Every app owner is faced with the option to uninstall every day. Deleting the app you’ve worked so hard for is just a brief click away.

So, how do the best app developers ensure their apps don’t end up in the digital dustbin?

Simple. They look to the biggest factors that cause users to uninstall the apps, and actively work to prevent those problems from popping up.

Speed it up

Just like visitors are more likely to leave your web page if it takes too long to load, app users aren’t willing to spend time on hold while you app opens up.

Even fractions of a second play a role in how users engage with and continue to check your app.

Your app must work and react as fast as functionally possible when in operation. We live in an age of multitasking, and consumers expect online app interfacing to occur in almost real-time.

The poor load speeds of apps are a virtual bane of consumers who expect apps to load in 4 seconds or less.

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If your app can’t load in four seconds or less, you need to trim down the components until the open speed rivals the other apps at the users’ disposal.

Eliminate every bug you can find

We mentioned debugging earlier, but it’s worth another look.

As many as 62% of consumers will uninstall your app if it crashes, freezes or is filled with errors. Are you willing to stake over half your user base on the performance of your app?

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If you’re not, you need to keep fixing and improving.

You need rigorous and exacting operational testing of your app to make sure that it works optimally and without crashing or freezing.

Provide updates for your app regularly to ensure it works smoothly.

Trim down the storage space

Despite the innovations of cloud technology in the past few years, apps still need at least some amount of data on the smartphone itself.

But this data can often be cumbersome, leading to bloated storage space and slowed performance. The result? Your users will delete your app to make room for their photos and music.

Design your app so it takes up as little storage space on devices as possible, while still maintaining peak functionality.

Recent surveys have shown that 50.6% of consumers who uninstalled an app did so because it took up too much storage on their device.

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Don’t let this happen to you. Keep the storage as lean as possible.

Use push notifications only when necessary

We wholeheartedly recommend re-engaging a user, and push notifications can be a great way to do that.

But when overused, push notifications inflict more damage than they alleviate. Push notifications and other irrelevant app messages tend to frustrate users, and they’re more likely to ignore the app and move on.

Take care when designing voluntary and involuntary visual features like push notifications. A surprising 71% of app users will uninstall an app just because push notifications appear too frequently or don’t relate to the user’s needs.

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Optimize your interruptions to improve the user experience, not to squeeze out every interaction possible. Such a short-sighted approach, while well-intentioned, may lead to a disastrous wave of uninstalls.

Keep privacy top of mind

Another key to creating an awesome app is always being hyper-aware that consumers are concerned with online security and hacking threats.

Almost 30% of consumers uninstall apps they deem to have security or information privacy threats.

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There are two components to this. First, you need to be sure that your users understand exactly what the privacy policy is with your app.

You don’t need to disrupt the user experience with intruding messages about privacy, but make it clear what you will and won’t share, and what protections you have in place with user’s data.

The security policies for your app must be understandable and easily available to the user. Don’t scare off consumers by requesting too much personal information.

The second component is ensuring your app is safe from vulnerabilities. Make sure that the security measures that you install in your app are more than adequate, meet or surpass current standards and are updated as needed.

You also need to keep a finger on the pulse of new hacks and threats, and issue an update to the app whenever this occurs. To keep consumers informed, write the details of the patch in the update description.

Aim for a beautiful, simplistic look

It’s tempting to include every feature up front on your app. But resist the temptation to make your app home screen an advertisement for every feature you can create.

The fewer options you present to the user, the easier your app will be to use. Complicated menus, buttons, and options only end up confusing the user. Instead, keep the design to the point.

You can’t afford to ignore how your app (and your app icon) look. A full 21% of millennials have deleted an app in the last year because they didn’t like how it looked on their home screen.

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An attractive app is also likely to bring you more usage.

Take care with app design, animation, visuals and how users will interface with the end product.

Focus on the main features of your app, and leave the rest for discreet menus for advanced users. There are thousands of things you can do with the Facebook app, but it doesn’t make them apparent at once. The interface is streamlined and focused around friends’ updates.

The same should be said for your app.

It’s the attention to the small details make an app appear polished and look professional. Otherwise it will look sloppy, unprofessional and make your users think that you don’t care about their experience or their data.

Be sure to consider the entire user experience from graphic quality, sound design as well as animation. Create an enrapturing app user experience that will keep them coming back for more.

The best apps focus on the essentials and eliminate or hide everything else.

A good rule of thumb is that every feature of your device should be two taps away. The interface should make this obvious to a new user, so that he or she can quickly find your best features.

A helpful metric for deciding where to focus your efforts can be found by deciding on the category you’re planning on using.

While there’s the potential for hitting multiple categories with one app, think of the primary category your app would be considered to be in by your users.

Once you have this in mind, think about the features the user will expect. If you’re not sure, consider whether your app falls into the most-used categories of entertainment and communications.

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Once you have this in mind, consider which features, icons, or layouts your users will be familiar with. What will they expect to see when they open the app? Use the menu?

Use this as a baseline to determine the user flow as you design the app.

Give the app a crystal clear purpose

Sure, you know what your app does. But does your ideal user?

The truth is that the real selling point behind many apps are hidden in the midst of dozens of features. Your features may be great, but the end user really wants an app that does one thing well.

When you look at the apps that top the “must-have” list for millennials, they all focus on one critical element, like shopping, email, or social networking.

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Instead of marketing all the features you’ve set up with your app, focus on the one or two that mean the most to your target market. Focus on making these features as powerful as they can possibly be.

A great example of an app that does something identifiably and singularly well is the Slack app.

Slack is a trendsetting app (for web, desktop, and mobile) that allows telecommuting workers and online businesses to conduct work in a productive, orderly and accountable way.

But perhaps most powerful is what Slack isn’t. It isn’t full-scale productivity management software. It isn’t a calling app, and it doesn’t heavily market its video call feature.

Instead, Slack focuses on what it does best: keeping business communications organized.

Slack’s popularity as an app has been so successful, it has been noted as the fastest company to reach a valuation of $1 billion and $2 billion.

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App consumers know exactly what the Slack app does. There is ambiguity about what Slack can do, and as a result, the company has exploded.

Can the same be said for your app?

Focus on your one thing, and do it well. The sub-functions of your awesome app should support its main feature. Don’t clutter it with too many functions, commands and options that will only muddy what your app does so well.

How to make an awesome app that blows away the competition

At the end of the day, a “great app” is subjective. The features one app might leverage for a billion-dollar valuation are ultimately lost on another app.

But the importance isn’t what features are universally right or wrong in app development. The secret is using core principles to make a difference in how your app functions.

In this article, you’ve learned the core principles that ensure your app does the best it can at engaging users and including features they appreciate.

To win in the competitive world of app creation, you need to decide on a specific target audience. Look to this audience to give you feedback on the design of the app, how it functions, and what features they prefer.

Continually make changes on what they prefer and grow the market for your app based on their feedback.

You’ll need to test and retest your app before bringing it to market. Your app should do everything promised without hassles or glitches. You’ll need to conquer the most common reasons for uninstalls by making your app safe and fast.

The app that you ultimately design must look as aesthetically pleasing as possible. It should look simple and clear, driving users to the most important features quickly. You must take great design care in the quality of graphics, sound design and animation in your app.

Finally, you need to build your app around a singular purpose. Create a signature and incomparable user experience that will keep users coming back for more.

Decide what it is that your app offers that unquestionably differentiates itself from competitors. Single out and focus on what it does well as a service to your users, and ignore the functions you don’t prioritize.

Every app can see improvement. By making your app awesome, you can skyrocket success, engagement, and profits.

How will you make your app awesome?

Ian Blair

BuildFire Co-Founder. I'm a digital marketer by trade and an entrepreneur at heart. I'm here to help businesses go mobile and build apps more efficiently than before.