Your App Idea Most Likely Falls Into One Of Three Categories
During my years of mobile development, I have heard the phrase “I have an idea for an app!” hundreds, if not thousands of times. Sometimes it would be from family members, sometimes my dentist during a cleaning, and sometimes from a naked dude standing in the sauna at the gym. Everyone pitches app ideas to me.
What I have learned from hearing so many pitches is this: apps really fall into one of three (sometimes four) categories. Allow me to elaborate.
1. The app has been done before
This is the most common category of app idea I hear. Usually, these are along the lines of, “It’s like Instagram, but for finger painters…”, etc… where the user takes an already proven idea and tries to tweak it in some way that they feel makes it new. Most of the time, these people have not even done any research to check as to whether or not a solution already exists.
The biggest hurdle in developing an app that has been done before is visibility; How are they going to get people to find the app and why should they choose it over the competition?
2. The app idea is too niche
Every now and again, I will hear a truly unique idea. Keep in mind, unique does not necessarily mean good. For example, I might hear, “I want an app that you can take photo of your cat, put it on a weather balloon, and send the balloon to space. ‘Catz In Spaze!’”. While this is unique, and technically feasible, one would be hard-pressed to make a real business out of it as it would be hard to get enough users on board to make it profitable.
3. There is a reason the app does not already exist
“I want an app to map out all of the grocery stores layouts in the world, so husbands can finally shop efficiently!” This is a great idea. It really is. So great, that I have literally heard it no less than ten times from various people over the years. Often times, I can predict when someone is about to pitch this particular idea, just by the setup: “You know how, like, shopping is hard, and like, you can’t find stuff…”.
There are some real technical hurdles surrounding this problem. While there are a few apps that have tried to solve it, no app will really accomplish the goal unless they have all of the following: total store participation, a large enough group for crowdsourced data, faster and more reliable GPS to know exactly where you are in the store, stores stop changing layouts, etc… You get the idea. There are a lot of reasons a solid solution for this does not exist.
There are other countless examples of app ideas falling into this category. Another fun one I get pitched is a killer app that converts any photo into a (caricature) [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caricature]. I’m sure someone will link one in the comments, but they are all mediocre at best.
Bonus #4: The app is used to augment their existing business
This is actually my favorite type of app to work with. The user has an existing business and wants to build something that benefits their business in the mobile space. I see ideas from evaluation tools for employees to apps that allow users to order products directly from the business.
I like these because the success of the business does not depend entirely on an app. Also, there is generally an audience built right in at launch time so everyone is happy.
I am not writing this post because I’m jaded and sick of hearing app ideas. Quite the contrary. I love hearing app ideas and would love to hear examples challenging the stereotypes that I have created here.
I give this spiel to clients from time to time and wanted a place that I could point them to, so feel free to send your clients to this post the next time you get the grocery store mapper pitch.