So you want to create a mobile app, but you don’t know where to start. Finding that innovative app idea is one of the biggest obstacles that keeps many “would-be” app creators on the sidelines. Just brainstorming an app can be overwhelming. The idea is the most important feature of your app. It doesn’t matter how fast your app is or well it’s designed; if you don’t have a unique and useful app, it won’t matter.
So how do you come up with an idea? It starts with a problem (or problems). After you have determined the problem, then it’s time to brainstorm for solutions.
Next, think of people who have the same problem and ask them if your solutions would work for them. Finally, prioritize. Prioritize what’s going to be important and where you’ll need help (you’re probably going to need help).
Let’s get started.
Brainstorming is the breakfast of developing an app; if you skip it, you’re starting out on the wrong foot. While you may be excited about one particular idea you can’t shake from your head, it could be unrealistic or unwanted. Imagine putting in hours and hours of work into your app, only to hit a wall where you find yourself needing an advanced programmer that you don’t have budget for.
Brainstorming will force you to think abstractly of the many alternatives. You’ll have many different ideas to pivot to if things don’t work out right. Even some of the most brilliant apps have had to pivot at least once. Brainstorming is a process, and you shouldn’t rush it all in one day. Find a problem, let it simmer, think of solutions.
Finding the Problem
For many failed apps, finding the problem was the problem (is there an app for finding problems for apps?). What’s currently inconvenient for you or your business? Are you struggling to remember birthdays? Or are you and your coworkers having difficulties collaborating on projects?
The more you look at your day, the more you’ll find these small problems that we all somehow put up with. Whatever your problem is, there are probably more people out there struggling with the same issues.
When you find a problem you like (or hate), think of more issues that can relate to it. Think about the other people who are silently struggling along with you. Who are they and what other issues do they have? Thinking of other people will force you to think more objectively and abstractly.
You can often find a root problem and smaller branch problems. Once you have a problem, think of how you can scale it up or down. It’s important to not miss the forest for the trees; if you have a real niche idea, think of the bigger picture. If you have a big problem, think of different avenues you can explore.
Let’s go back to that birthday reminder idea. What other problems are those people having? They could be struggling to keep up with other personal relationships in their life. Maybe you can use your app to send periodic reminders to check in with uncle Jim from Houston. You just used your target audience to expand your vision. You can explore this idea, and determine whether this is something that is worth expanding into. If you broaden your idea, you can find more apps like it on the market that you can review for research.
Now let’s go back to that collaboration problem. What specifically are you and your coworkers struggling to collaborate on? Are files not being updated to the right location? Or is it too difficult to manage tasks across multiple platforms? Now, you’re using your target audience to narrow in on specific problems. Specific problems are helpful because they are more easily acted on. For a big problem, you can probably think of a few problems that could contribute to it.
You’ve thought of your target audience, you have a firm grasp of your original problem and even considered the alternative problems. You can now think of solutions. In this stage, you are going to want to do a lot of research. You want to identify similar apps that are tackling a similar issue and what solutions unrelated apps have thought of as well. Next, you want to start using your research to guide your own solutions. Finally, prioritize what solutions will be most important for your app.
You shouldn’t rush through the research phase. Since you have an understanding of your problem, start searching for apps that are already on the market that try to solve that problem. Don’t get discouraged if you find something that was exactly what you were thinking of.
After all, apps borrow from each other all the time, just look at Uber and Lyft. You’ll want to pay attention to the competition’s features, look and feel, and reviews. How have other apps made their user’s lives easier? How do the other app’s interfaces look? What are people saying in their reviews?
Reviews are a goldmine for competitive research. You can easily find your audience’s pain points and if that app is doing a good job of solving those problems. Next, you’ll want to look at other popular apps on the market. What features do they have? Can you apply what they’re doing to what you want to do? Some of the best ideas are combinations from across industries. Make a spreadsheet with at least each app’s features, and any common customer complaints and compliments. It will pay dividends down the road.
Now it’s time to hit the drawing board. Using what you know, start thinking of ideas from mild to wild. Don’t think of the cost yet; you can think of that later. Begin making your list of all the possible features you can include. When you feel like you’ve made an exhaustive list, write one more idea.
Finally, begin to curate your ideas. Which features would work well with one another? Which ideas would take a long time to produce? Begin to rank what features are essential and which ones can be left out. You can always return to your list when you’ve launched your app for updates or pivots. With the ideas you do have, think of a nice thirty-second pitch. You now have your app’s idea figured out and you’re ready for the next step, validation!
You made it! You have your app’s big idea all figured out. Now you can think of this time as a pre-testing time. Go to your friends and family first. Tell them to be as honest and straightforward as possible. The app industry is tough, so you want to have a firm understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. Show them your other ideas, and get their opinion if there’s anything on your list they’d like to see.
Next, find your target audience. One of the easiest ways to find your audience is through online communities. You can easily go to places like Reddit or Twitter to get opinions on your idea. People online may not be shy to tell you if they see a flaw, or they could not respond at all. Take feedback in stride and use it to improve your app’s idea.
Now you should have a complete understanding of your app’s direction. You can now work out the order of what you want to tackle first. Make a list of priorities. Your main job from here on out will be to keeping your list of priorities in check.
Finding your idea for your mobile app can be tricky. It takes a lot of work and a lot of critical thinking to get that breakthrough idea. Once you have your idea, you’ll have to think about what needs to be done and where your weaknesses are for creating your app.