A Guide to Starting A Successful App Business

So you’re a young, up-and-coming entrepreneur who has read about the likes of Chad Mureta, and now you want to get into the mobile app development industry, but you are not sure how to get your feet wet.

Well, there are a few things you should know about before joining the pleiade of app developers struggling to get into the top 5% of app stores.

For your convenience, here are the shortcuts to each section for faster access:

  1. Native vs Cross-Platform Development
  2. Choose Your First Platform Wisely
  3. Designing For Success
  4. Client Retention Secrets
  5. Marketing (Magic) Tricks
  6. Monetization is Tricky Business

Let’s get to it.

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1. Native vs Cross-Platform Development

Competition in the app business today is so fierce that you have to develop no less than the possible best and most fluid app ever to stay in the game. Fact of the matter is every platform has its own unique set of required coding skills.

You’ll want to develop your app in Objective C if you’re looking to develop for iOS, or Java and XML if you’re going for Android development.

Coding it right will allow for high performance and the latest API support. If this is your first time, I would advise you to start small, test it out on a single platform, and then look to SaS sites for multi-platform app development

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2. Choose Your First Platform Wisely

There are only 3 stores to sell your app: Google Play, App Store, or Windows Store. Decide in whose hands you want to put the fate of your app by answering these questions.

1. Want to Get Rich?

The revenue generated at the Apple App Store to Google Play is at a ratio of 8 to 1. Apple does pay more for top developers who build their apps to be sold, not downloaded for free.

The Windows Store is still small in terms of its revenue, but it allows apps to run simultaneously on a PC, tablet, and smartphone – more mediums, and more downloads.

2. Paid or Free (with ads)?

The majority of Android apps from Google Play are free and reliant on monetizing through advertising. You may even make more money than you would from selling your app upfront. As for Windows, there aren’t many ad networks that support Windows 8’s funky ad formats.

So you’ll probably want to sell your app for a fixed price.

3. Want to Play or Get Real Quick?

The Apple App Store does have notoriety as a hard nut to crack, especially for new developers – more reluctant to promote the new guy. If you want to generate a decent amount of downloads in a faster time frame, go for Android.

App Shopping

That said, Google Play is starting to grow at a much faster rate than its archenemy, and is starting to challenge Apple in the overall revenue category. As for Windows 8, developers are not flocking to it, probably due to some intrinsic problems but pioneer developers from every successful app market always reap great benefits.

We’ll see if we can call the Windows 8 Store a ‘successful app market’ in the future.

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3. Designing For Success

It isn’t hard to tackle the designs for an app, here are 6 things you should pay attention to when designing a mobile app:

Less is more

This principle should really be augmented since you’re designing for small screens.

Pixel-perfect graphics

Don’t be lazy just because the screen is smaller and you think you can get away with mistakes.

Big buttons, big fonts, Icon Matter

In comparison to the specific screen size you’re developing for.

Icons matter

Icons are the first thing your customers see. Make the design fit the overall theme of the app.

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Of Flaws and Features

Stay away from the idea of “It’s not a flaw, it’s a feature”. Be professional about it.

Test your design

Test it on every known screen size (ldpi, mdpi, hdpi, xhdpi). It should appear the same all across the board. Design it yourself, get an experienced designer or use standard icons such as those offered by Glyphish then edit them as much as possible.

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4. Client Retention Secrets

Next we open up the black book of Client Retention Secrets:

(Again) Be Professional

Users love to use simple, professional apps. Have the best possible app in your niche.

Balance monetization and annoying your paymasters

Don’t annoy your users with too many ads or in-app purchases when going for free apps with ads. Also, changing your monetization scheme during an update will make you lose users.

Be transparent when using ads

Write about every monetization plan or in-app purchase you’re using on your app’s description page. Users will see from the permissions needed anyway.

Update often, but not without a reason

Constant improvements keep users. Also, start working on an update when the number of users, or ratings, is dropping.

Support and Respond

Support as many devices and device screens. Respond to your user’s feedback via e-mail or comments. If your app requires users to log into an account, use Facebook Login. It’s simpler.

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5. Marketing (Magic) Tricks

At the app store: Presentation is essential. Screenshots for your app make a huge difference. The first three screenshots should highlight your app’s best instances!

Product Description

Write a professional sales letter instead of a dry app description. Make it unique for each app if you have a big portfolio! Videos matter. Make a video for each app and promote it as much as possible. Have it in the app description.

Try to get featured on your store with services such as AppShout! when launching. Burst companies like AppBrain‘s are a great way to reach the top, if you have the money to invest. The CPI (Cost Per Install) model seems to work best, but if you’re not for the CPI model.

Intelligence gathering

Take a look at the apps which are at the top of your niche. Emulate their keywords and descriptions, but keep yours unique. Also, check out this tool: Searchman SEO. Integrate analytics in your app, it’s the only way in which you’ll know how to improve.

Brand Awareness

Social profiles on every major site. Update them often. Offline promotion doesn’t seem to work unless it’s geolocated. If you have the budget, have a hotspot promoting your app inside a high-traffic location such as a mall. Contests and giveaways work in any form, both offline or online, via websites, blogs, or social media.

SEO Pays Off

Have as many backlinks to your app as possible from as many quality sites as possible. Google Play’s app ranking system now takes into consideration how many Google Pluses your app has.

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6. Monetization is Tricky Business

You have only three options, but you can be creative with them:

  • Sell at a fixed price
  • Give it away for free and rent out ad space
  • Sell unique things from inside the app, aka in-app purchases
Mix It Up

You could have a PRO version (no ads, more features) and a FREE version, but with ads. You can use the free version as a catalyst to boost sales. Have it run ads for users to switch to your PRO version, and list clearly all the advantages of having the PRO version. If you are going for this, take a look at these monetization schemes:

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Word of Caution

Lastly, if you want to opt for the third method (in-app purchases), don’t launch the PRO version also. Create a free app, and focus solely on in-app purchases to create revenue. Otherwise, you’ll only confuse the user.

Stay away from in-app purchases + external ads. That will only annoy the user and get your app deleted.