How to Build an App Empire: Can You Create The Next Instagram?

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Chad Mureta runs his seven-figure app business from his iPhone. (Photo: Jorge Quinteros).

I first met Chad Mureta in Napa Valley in 2011.

Two years prior, he had been in a horrible car accident. He’d lost control of his truck in at attempt to avoid a deer, hit a median, and flipped four times, nearly destroying his dominant arm in the wreckage.

While in the hospital for a lengthy recovery, a friend gave him an article about the app market. Shortly thereafter, Chad began designing and developing apps. His results?

“In just over two years, I’ve created and sold three app companies that have generated millions in revenue. Two months after launching my first company, one of my apps averaged $30,000 a month in profit. In December of 2010, the company’s monthly income had reached $120,000. In all, I’ve developed more than 40 apps and have had more than 35 million app downloads across the globe. Over 90 percent of my apps were successful and made money.”

After finishing rehab, Chad was able to leave his real estate company, where he’d been working 70 hours a week, to run his app business from his iPhone… in less than 5 hours per week.

“Apps” are the new, new thing, thanks to major successes like Draw Something (bought by Zynga for $210 million) and Instagram (bought by Facebook for $1 billion), among others. But for all the hype and promise, few people actually know how to create something that gets traction.

In this post, Chad will discuss his step-by-step formula for rapid app development and sales optimization. It covers real-world case studies and the details you usually don’t see: early prototype sketches, screenshots, how to code if you don’t know how to code, and much more.

Last but not least, don’t miss the competition at the end. If you’ve ever thought “I should make an app that…,” this one is for you…

Enter Chad Mureta

When you are on your deathbed, will you be able to say you lived a fulfilled life?

I nearly couldn’t.

I started my app business from a hospital bed, wondering if I even wanted to live. I had barely survived a terrible car accident that shattered my left arm. I had gone through two groundbreaking operations, and spent 18 months in painful rehabilitation.

With limited insurance, I had racked up $100,000 in medical bills. Even though I survived, I had no clue how to get out of the deep hole I felt trapped in. I was moved to a physical rehabilitation center and worked on reconstructing my body, my mind, and ultimately my life. While I was there, I read two books that made a huge impact: Unlimited Power strengthened my thought processes, and The 4-Hour Workweek inspired me to pursue lifestyle freedom.

During that time, a good friend gave me an article about “appreneurs” and told me I should consider getting into the business. I learned that most appreneurs were one- or two-person teams with low costs, and the successful ones were bringing in millions in profits. Still in my hospital bed, in a state of semi-coherence from the pain medication, I began drawing up ideas for apps.

Three weeks after my final surgery, desperate, broke, and grasping at straws, I borrowed $1,800 from my stepdad and jumped into the app business. Fortunately, taking that leap was the best decision I’ve ever made…

These days, my life is about doing what I love while earning easy income. I run my business from my iPhone, working in a virtual world while earning real dollars. I am part of a growing community of “appreneurs,” entrepreneurs who make money from applications that are used on iPhones, iPads, iPods, Droids, and Blackberries. As of this writing, the world’s youngest appreneur is nine years old, and the oldest is 80!

Appreneurs earn money while creating lifestyles of great freedom. Two of my appreneur friends spend several months of the year doing nonprofit work in Vietnam, while their businesses are generating seven-figure incomes. Another is taking his kids to see the Seven Wonders of the World, creating priceless memories with his family. Still another friend goes backpacking throughout Europe with his wife for most of the year. As for me, I’ve hiked in the Australian Outback, trekked with Aborigines across the desert, climbed in the Rocky Mountains, got certified in solo skydiving, heli-skied in Canada, walked on fire, and most important of all, learned not to take life so seriously.

No matter what your dream lifestyle is, you can have it as an appreneur.

The Opportunity for Appreneurs

There are currently more than 4.6 billion cell phones being used worldwide, enough for two-thirds of the people on Earth. The app market is literally the fastest growing industry in history, with no signs of slowing down. Now is the perfect time to jump into the mobile game.

What happened during the early days of the Internet, with the creation of websites like Google and eBay, is exactly what’s happening today with apps and mobile technology. The only difference is that we have experienced the rise of the Internet and are conditioned to react more quickly to the app revolution. This means that the app world is running light years ahead of the Internet, when it was at the same development stage. Developing apps is your chance to jump ahead of the masses and not be left behind, saying years from now, “I wish I had…”

Common Objections

“I’m not a tech person. I have no experience in this market.”
I was in the same spot, and I still don’t know how to write code. But I found successful people to learn from, emulated their models, and hired programmers and designers who could execute my ideas. If you can draw your idea on a piece of paper, you can successfully build an app.

“The app market has too much competition. I don’t stand a chance.”
This industry is just getting started– it’s less than four years old! What makes the app business unique is that the big players are on the same playing field as everyone else. They have the same questions and challenges as you and I will have.

“I don’t have the money.”
You don’t need a lot of money to start. It costs anywhere from $500 to $5,000 to develop simple apps. As soon as you launch your app (depending on your sales), you could see money hit your bank account within two months.

“It’s difficult… I don’t understand it… I’m not smart enough.”
Just like everything you’ve learned in life, you have to start somewhere. Fortunately, running an app business is far easier than almost every other type of business. Apple and Google handle all of the distribution, so you can spend your time creating apps and marketing them. And you don’t have to come up with new, innovative ideas. If you can improve on existing app ideas, you can make money.

Many people are joining the app gold rush with a get-rich-quick mentality and unrealistic expectations. Maintaining an optimistic perspective is important, but so is understanding that you will have to put in work. My goal in this post is to help you think like a business owner, and show you the map I’ve used to find “the gold.” This is not a one-time app lottery, and you can’t treat it as such. If you think of this endeavor as a long-term business, it will grow and become a sustainable source of income.

Still interested? Then let’s get started!

Step 1: Get a Feel for the Market

As with any business, your success will be directly related to your understanding of the marketplace. The App Store is the marketplace of the app business, so in order to understand the market, we have to study the App Store. This seems rather obvious, but you wouldn’t believe how many developers I meet that don’t understand this concept. They don’t watch the market, follow the most successful apps, or try to figure out why those apps are successful.

In order to become a great app supplier, you must first become an app addict. That means spending at least 2-4 weeks researching the market while downloading and playing with tons of apps (give yourself an app budget of $100 to start). This training period is an investment in your expertise, which will become the lifeblood of your success. The more hours you rack up playing around and studying successful apps, the better you’ll be able to understand their common traits and what users desire.

So, how do you keep pace with the market? The best way is to study Apple’s cheat sheet constantly. The App Store displays the top paid, top free, and top-grossing apps (the apps that make the most money, including free apps), almost in real-time. Apple provides the same lists in the individual app categories.

These charts are golden because they tell us volumes about the market. The best part is this information is freely accessible to anyone, at any moment (unlike the market info for basically every other industry).

Review these charts frequently, and keep a notebook of potential trends you spot. Doing this repeatedly will educate you on successful app design, marketing, and various pricing models. The research you’re doing is simple, costs nothing, and it’s actually fun!

Here are some questions to ask while you’re researching successful apps in the market:

  1. Why is this app successful?
  2. What is its rank and has it been consistent?
  3. Why do people want this app? (Look at the reviews.)
  4. Has this app made the customer a raving fan?
  5. Does this app provoke an impulse buy?
  6. Does this app meet any of my needs?
  7. Did I become a raving fan after trying it?
  8. Will the customer use it again?
  9. How are they marketing to their customers? (Check out the screen shots, icon design, and descriptions.)
  10. What is the competitive advantage of this app?
  11. What does this app cost? Are there in-app purchases? Advertisements?

Most developers will build an app and expect tons of people to find and download it right away. That rarely happens. You have to figure out what people are interested in and the kinds of apps they’re downloading first, then you build your app based on that insight.

Once you’ve put in the necessary 2-4 weeks of research and feel you have a decent grasp on the market, it will be time to look back on the trends you discovered and explore some ideas for potential apps you can develop.

Step 2: Align Your Ideas with Successful Apps

How do you know if the market wants your app? Again, you’ll need to look at the Top Apps chart. Are apps like the one you want to create listed there? If yes, you’ve got a potential winner. If not, keep looking. It’s that simple.

Don’t hate; Emulate! When you follow in the footsteps of successful apps, you will have a better chance of succeeding because these apps have proven demand and an existing user base. This takes the guesswork out of creating great app ideas.

I can’t stress the importance of emulating existing apps enough. It’s easy for people to fall in love with their own idea, even if the market doesn’t show an appetite for it. But this is one of the costliest errors you can make.

Unfortunately, developers make this mistake all the time. They focus on generating original ideas and spend a lot of time and effort creating those apps. When it doesn’t work out, they go to the next untested idea, instead of learning from the market. Often times, they repeat this cycle until they run out of money and dismiss the app game. This doesn’t have to be your experience.

A personal example of how to successfully emulate competitors is my Emoji app. First, I took a close look at what the market offered and downloaded all the major emoticon apps. I liked what I saw, but noticed that there was a lack of variety and limited functionality.

Screenshots from a competing Emoji app. The app (left) is opened once to provide the user with instructions on how to enable the Emoji keyboard (right).

I wondered how I could improve upon these existing apps, given that the Emoji keyboard had a limited number of emoticons that couldn’t be increased. I was also curious how profitable these apps could be if they were only being used once.

I kept brainstorming until it hit me. I couldn’t add more emoticons to the Emoji keyboard, but I could include unlimited emoticons within my app that people could send as images via text message or email.

I created an app that not only enabled the Emoji keyboard, but also contained an additional 450 emoticons within the app itself, which could be shared via SMS, e-mail, Facebook, and so on. The app was used constantly since users had to return to the app to send an emoticon.


Screenshots of my Emoji app.

The Emoji app was developed in two weeks. It followed the freemium model, meaning free with an in-app purchase option. The app hit the number one spot in the App Store’s productivity category and the number 12 spot in the top free overall category within six days, raking in nearly $500 per day. Bingo.

Whenever you decide to look into emulating an app, ask yourself these six questions:

  1. Why are people purchasing this?
  2. Can I do something to emulate this idea and take it to another level?
  3. What other ideas would this app’s demographic like?
  4. How many other similar apps are in the market? (Visit TopAppCharts.com to find out.)
  5. How successful and consistent have they been?
  6. How does their marketing and pricing model work?

Step 3: Design Your App’s Experience

You’ve studied the market, you see an opportunity, and you have an idea that could be profitable. Great! Now it’s time to turn those thoughts into something tangible.

To convey your idea properly, you can simply draw it on a piece of paper. Maybe it will look like a 3-year old’s artwork, but it will still convey what you’re trying to do. Some people like putting this together in digital form, using Photoshop or Draft. Whatever you’re most comfortable with, and whatever will give the programmers the details they need, is the way to go.

For your viewing pleasure, here are the rudimentary drawings (a.k.a. wireframes) for my first app, Finger Print Security Pro. As you can see, it doesn’t have to be pretty!

And here’s how the app’s final design turned out:

To make the design process easier, I look at certain apps in the App Store and reference them to show my programmers what I’m looking for. For example, I’ll say, “Download the XYZ app. I want the ABC functionality to work like theirs. Take a look at the screenshots from this other app, and change this.” I take certain components of apps that I’d like to emulate, and give them to the programmer so that we are as clear as possible.

Highlight menu vs. Facebook menu
Notice any similarities? Highlight’s menu (left) emulated the style of Facebook’s menu (right).

The clearer you are, the fewer misunderstandings and problems you will have once it’s time to hand off your drawings to a programmer. The idea is to convey what the app will look like, where everything will be placed, and what happens if certain buttons are selected. This helps the programmer know what you want and will be a useful blueprint when designing your app. Do not be vague or ambiguous. You should know what every part of your app will do. If you don’t, you need to develop your idea more thoroughly.

You have to consider your design to be final before you can begin the coding phase. Inevitably, you will have ideas for additional features once you start testing the initial versions of your app. But if you decide to make major changes after a substantial amount of work has been done, it can frustrate your programmer. It’s like telling the builder who just installed your fireplace that you want it on the other side of the living room. The news will not go over well. Most people don’t realize this is what they are demanding of their programmer when they ask for big changes. That’s why it’s important for you to take your time and carefully plan every aspect of the app before you submit it for coding.

Step 4: Register as a Developer

You now have your idea drawn out. Before you go any further, you need to sign up as a developer with the platform for which you’re looking to create apps.

Don’t be intimidated by the word “developer.” It doesn’t mean you have to be the programmer. It’s simply the name used for somebody who publishes apps. All you have to do is set up a “developer account” so you can offer your apps for sale in one of the app stores.

Here are the links for each platform and a brief overview of their requirements.

Apple iOS *— Registration requirements include a fee of $99 per year and accepting the terms of service.

Android— Registration requirements include a fee of $25 per year and accepting the terms of service.

BlackBerry— Registration requirements include a $200 fee for every 10 apps you publish. You must have a BlackBerry World App Vendor Agreement in place with RIM (the creator of BlackBerry) to distribute apps.

* For your first app, I strongly suggest developing for Apple iOS, rather than Android or Blackberry. Simply put, Apple users are much more likely to spend money on apps. You will increase your odds of making a profit simply by developing for the iOS platform.

Also, don’t forget to go over the App Store review guidelines. Apple enforces these rules during the review process, and if you don’t follow them, your app will be rejected. For instance, you might remember seeing a plethora of fart or flashlight apps on the App Store awhile back. As a result, Apple has decided to no longer accept those types of apps. Knowing these rules can save you a lot of time and effort. If you see any of your ideas conflicting with the guidelines, reject them and move on to the next one.

Step 5: Find Prospective Programmers

Coding your own app, especially if you’re teaching yourself at the same time, will take too long. The likelihood of you getting stuck and giving up is very high. It will also be unsustainable over the long run when you want to create several apps at the same time and consistently update your existing apps. After all, the goal is to get your time back and escape the long hours of the rat race. Therefore, programmers will be the foundation of your business. They will allow you to create apps quickly and scale your efforts.

Hiring your first programmer will be a lengthy process. You’ll need to: post the job, filter applicants, interview qualified candidates, have them sign your NDA, explain your idea, then give them a micro-test… all before coding begins! But while this process takes time, it is time well spent. Making great hires will help you avoid unnecessary delays, costs, and frustration in the future. You’ll always be looking to add new talent to your team, so learning how to quickly and effectively assess programmers is an important skill to develop.

Let’s get started. The first part of this step is to post your job to a hiring site.

Top Hiring Resources

These websites allow programmers to bid on jobs that you post. As you can imagine, the competition creates a bidding frenzy that gives you a good chance of getting quality work at a low price.

Here are a few of my favorite outsourcing sites:

oDesk— Its work diary feature tracks the hours your programmer is working for you and takes screenshots of the programmer’s desktop at certain time intervals.

Freelancer— This site has the most programmers listed. They claim that twice as many programmers will respond to your ad, and I found this to be mostly true.

Guru and Elance. Both of these sites have huge lists of programmers.

 

Below is a template of a job posting, followed by an explanation for each of its components:


Click the image to enlarge.

Enter the skill requirements—What programming languages do they know? For iPhone apps, the skills I list are: iPhone, Objective C, Cocoa, and C Programming.

Give a basic description of your project—Keep it simple and skill-specific. Tell the applicants that you will discuss details during the selection process. Do NOT reveal the specifics of your idea or marketing plan. Use general descriptions, and request info on how many revisions (a.k.a. iterations) their quote includes.

Post your ad only for a few days—This way programmers have a sense of urgency to quickly bid on your job.

Filter applicants—I always filter applicants using these criteria:

- They have a rating of four or five stars.
– They have at least 100 hours of work logged.
– Their English is good.

Compose individual messages to all suitable applicants, inviting them to a Skype call for further screening. Most of these programmers will overseas, which can present issues with communication and time zone differences. Therefore, a Skype interview is an absolute must before you can continue. Disqualify anyone who is not willing to jump on a Skype call.

The Interview: Essential Questions to Ask Programmers

Don’t give away any of your ideas during this initial conversation. Whenever the topic comes up, say you’ll be more than happy to discuss everything after they sign the NDA (if you want a copy of the NDA template I use, see the bottom of this post). Here are the questions you should ask each applicant before committing to anything:

- How long have you been developing apps?

- How many apps have you worked on? Can I see them?

- Do you have a website? What is it?

- Do you have references I can talk to?

- What’s your schedule like? How soon can you start?

- What time zone do you work in? What are your hours?

- What’s frustrating for you when working with clients?

- Are you working with a team? What are their skills?

- Can you create graphics, or do you have somebody who can?

- Can I see examples of the graphics work?

- What happens if you become sick during a project?

- What if you hit a technical hurdle during the project? Do you have other team members or a network of programmers who can help you?

- How do you ensure that you don’t compete with your clients?

- Can you provide flat-fee quotes?

- What’s your payment schedule? How do you prefer payment?

- Can you create milestones tied to payments?

- Do you publish your own apps on the App Store?

- How do you submit an app to the App Store? (Can they verbally walk you through the process, or do they make you feel brain challenged?)

Finally, mention that you like to start things off with a few simple tests (creating/delivering your app’s icon and a “Hello, World!” app) before coding begins. You need to tell them this upfront so they aren’t surprised after they have provided their quote. Most programmers are happy to get these tests done without a charge, but some will want a small fee. In either case, be clear with this requirement and have them include it in the quote.

During the interview, pay attention to how well they are able to explain themselves. Are they articulate? Do they use too much techno babble? Do they speak your native language fluently? Do they seem confident with their answers? How is their tone and demeanor? If you have any issues or worries, you may want to move on to somebody else. But if you can communicate with them easily and your gut is telling you “Yes,” you’ll want to proceed to the next step.

In either case, thank them for their time and mention that you will follow up with an NDA agreement if you decide to move forward.

Step 6: Sign NDA, Share your Idea, and Hire Your Programmer

You must protect your ideas, source code, and any other intellectual property. These are the assets that will build your business, so you need to have each potential programmer sign an NDA before you hire them. Yes, it’s rare to have an idea stolen, but it does happen (read the bottom of this post if you want a copy of the NDA that I use).

As you’re going through this process, you will be getting feedback on your programmers’ responsiveness. For instance, if it’s taking too long for them to sign the NDA, it might indicate how slowly the development process will move. Buyer beware!

Once the NDA has been signed by both parties, you can share your idea and designs with your programmer. At this stage, it’s critical to ensure they have the skills to complete your app. You do not have any wiggle room here, especially on your first app. Either they know how to make it or they don’t. You want to hear things like, “I know exactly how to do that” or “I’ve done similar apps, so it will not be a problem.” You don’t want to hear things like, “I should be able to do that, but I have to research a few things” or “I’m not sure but I can probably figure it out.” If you hear those words, switch to an app idea they are confident about or run for the hills.

After you’ve found the best programmer for the job, you can commit to hiring them. Establish milestones and timelines during the quoting process (break up the app into several parts), and decide on a schedule for check-ins that you’re both comfortable with (ask them directly how they like to be managed). You will need to periodically review their work, from start to finish. Most applications go through multiple iterations during design and development, and I won’t release partial payments until I’m fully satisfied with each milestone.

Step 7: Begin Coding

Rather than jumping haphazardly into a full-fledged project, I prefer to gradually ramp up my programmer’s workload by starting with a couple smaller tasks. You need to assess their graphics capabilities, implementation speed, and overall work dynamic (e.g. communication, time zone, etc.). If you’re underwhelmed with their skills, you need to get out quickly. Remember: Hire slow, fire fast. It will pay off over the long run.

Here’s my three-step process during the coding phase:

1. Icon—Ask the programmer to create and deliver the icon of your app. You will probably have several ideas for icons, so pass them on and ask for a finished 512 x 512 iTunes Artwork version of the icon.

2. Hello, World!—Ask the programmer for a “Hello, World!” app. It’s a simple app that opens up and shows a page that displays “Hello, World!”, and it will take them 10 minutes to create. The idea here is not to test their programming skills, but to determine how they will deliver apps to you for testing. This app should include the icon they created, so you can see how it will look on your phone.

3. App Delivery—When the programmers are ready to show you a test version of your app, they have to create something called an “ad hoc” (a version of your app that can be delivered to and run on your iPhone, without the use of the App Store). This ad hoc version of your app needs to be installed on your phone before you can test it. The initial installation was a bit cumbersome in the past, but a new service called TestFlight has simplified the process. I ask all programmers to use this service even if they have not used it before. They will be able to figure it out, and you’ll be able to install your test apps with a few touches on your phone.

The first version of your app is finished and delivered, and you’re now staring at it on your phone/tablet. Give yourself a pat on the back — you’ve made serious progress! But don’t get too caught up with yourself, because now it’s time to begin the testing phase.

Step 8: Test Your App

If you were having a house built, you’d want to make sure everything was in working order before you signed off. You would check major things like the roof and plumbing, all the way down to minor things, like crown molding and paint. You need to do the same thing with your app.

To start, your app must perform as expected. Pull out your initial design document and go through every feature. Never assume that something works because it worked last time you tested the app. Test each feature every time, especially before the final release.

Most importantly, don’t be the only tester. Your app makes sense to you, but it might not to others. You need to get everyone you know, from your 12-year-old nephew to your 75-year-old grandmother, to test your app.

The time you spend on testing is crucial because you will see how consumers use your product, what features are intuitive, what they don’t understand, and their patterns. They will have questions that won’t occur to you because you designed the app and everything about it is obvious to you.

Hand the app to them and say, “Hey check this out.” Don’t mention that it’s your app, what it’s supposed to do, or how it works. Give as little information as possible and watch as they try to understand and navigate through your app. This experience will be similar to the one your real user will have, because you won’t be there to explain things to them either.

Watch them testing your app and ask yourself these questions:

- Are they confused?

- Are they stuck?

- Are they complaining?

- Are they using the app the way you intended?

- Did they find a mistake or a bug?

- Are they having fun?

- Are they making suggestions for improvements? If yes, which ones?

Get them to talk about their experience with your app. They will be more honest if they don’t know the app is yours. Don’t get offended if you hear something you don’t like; their feedback is priceless. Assess each response to see if there’s a problem with your app, then ask yourself these questions:

- Would other users have the same issues? If yes, how can I fix them?

- Should I move things around?

- Should I change colors to improve visibility?

- Would adding some instructions help?

- Should I improve navigation?

Testing and debugging will take several iterations, like the design and development stages. This is all part of the process. Don’t forget to use TestFlight to save lots of time with the mechanics of installing test versions of your app.

Just remember: If you keep tweaking things and adding features, you might unnecessarily increase costs and production time. You need to get the app on the market quickly and in a basic form to test the concept. Only redesign during this phase if you feel you have a good justification for it. Otherwise, add the idea to your update list and move forward with development (I keep an update list for each app and refer back to it when the time is right).

Step 9: Post your App to the Market

At this point, you’ve had all of your friends and family test your app, taken the best feedback into account, and wrapped up any final changes with your programmer. Congratulations – it’s time for you to send the app to the App Store for review!

It’s a good idea to have your programmers show you how to submit your first few apps. Do not give out your developer account login information to your programmer or anybody else. The best way to have them show you how to submit your app, without having to giveaway your login, is to do a screen-share over Skype or GoToMeeting and have them walk you through the process. As your business grows, you might want to delegate this task to someone on your team.

Below is a screencast on how to upload an app to the App Store. As you’ll see, it’s a fairly confusing and tedious process. Best to leave this task to your programmers:

The amount of time Apple will take to review and approve/reject your app will depend on whether you’re submitting on behalf of yourself or a company. If you’re an individual, it will usually take 3-7 days. If you’re a company, it will likely take 7-10 days.

The real fun begins once your app is approved and available for download…

Step 10: Marketing Your App

The App Store is filled with thousands of great apps, but most developers are not skilled when it comes to marketing. Meanwhile, many poorly designed apps rank highly because their developers have figured out the marketing game. How do they do it?

You really need to focus on a few key areas to effectively market your apps, which will allow customers to discover and download them. Understanding how an app’s basic elements are marketing opportunities is essential to being successful in the app business. Your job is to create a seamless flow from the icon all the way to the download button. Let’s take a closer look at these components, which you can adjust at any time from your developer account:

ICON
The first thing users will see when they are checking out your app is the icon — the small square image with the rounded corners to the left of the app title. It’s also the image that users will see on their phone after they install your app.

The icon is important because it’s how the users will identify your app. It needs to look sharp, capture the app’s essence, attract the users’ attention, and compel them to investigate your app further.


Great app icons are clear, beautiful, and memorable.

Many developers create icons as an afterthought and focus all of their effort on the app itself, but the icon is the first impression you will make on the users. The old expression “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression” applies here. Make sure you have a quality icon that represents your app and makes the users believe it has value.

APP TITLE
Over 80 percent of searches in the App Store are related to an app’s functionality, rather than an app’s name. Therefore, it is critical that you help users find your app when they perform relevant keyword searches in the app store.


Source: Chomp.com

Each word in your app’s title serves as a keyword, much like keywords in search engines. You can think of the title as your URL. For instance, if you type “angry” into the App Store search field, the Angry Birds apps will return as a search result.

DESCRIPTIONS
Having a compelling description for your app is like having a great opening line — people are more willing to learn about you once you’ve piqued their interest. The first chunk of your app’s description needs to be packed with the most relevant information customers should know.

If applicable, use statements like “Top App 2012” or “One of the Most Addictive Games in the App Store.” Follow it up with a call-to-action, such as, “Check out the screenshots and see for yourself.”

SCREENSHOTS
Screenshots are great marketing tools because they give users a visual of what they will experience. Think of them as the trailer for your app. Here are a couple examples of effective screenshots:

Nike+ GPS screenshots.

Free Music Download Pro screenshots. Note the use of captions to explain the app’s features.

Many people shopping for apps won’t read the description, but will instead scroll down to the screenshots. The screenshots need to convey the main functionality of the app without showing too many details that may confuse users. If your screenshots are cluttered, it will be as ineffective as a realtor trying to sell a house with messy rooms. The brain gets overwhelmed and buyers have more trouble seeing the product’s true value. Therefore, the screenshots you include should be clean, appealing, and informative.

KEYWORDS
Unlike your icon and title, keywords are not something the users get to see. When you submit your app to the App Store, you’re allowed to provide keywords relevant to your app. When users search for one of the terms you entered, your app appears in the search results.

For example, if you type in the word “kids” or “game” on the App Store, you will find that Angry Birds is one of the search results. The terms “kids” and “game” are not in the app title. The makers of Angry Birds most likely chose those keywords to associate with their app.

A good example of effective keyword usage is an app I created called Flashlight. Since the name is Flashlight, we came up with keywords, such as “bright,” “help,” “light,” and “camping.”

One time, I added the term “phone” to the keywords of my free prank fingerprint app. This seemingly minor change propelled the app to the number one top overall free category, which moved the company’s income from $1,000 per day to $3,000 per day. This is the power of refining the marketing components for your app. Simple changes can dramatically increase your revenue.

CATEGORIES
The App Store organizes apps into specific categories to help users find them more easily. In addition to the top overall rankings of all apps, each category has its own top rankings and, therefore, generates a certain amount of visibility based on these charts. Users looking for certain apps often browse through these category charts without looking at the top overall charts. For instance, an app that doesn’t show up in the top 200 overall might still be in the top 10 of a particular category.

When you’re submitting your app for review, make sure to select the most relevant category for your app. On the other hand, many apps can be classified into more than one category. You have to choose one, but you can always change the category during an update.

One of my apps, Alarm Security, wasn’t performing well, and I was trying to bring it back up in the rankings. I initially tried changing the name and keywords, but it didn’t move much. The one thing I hadn’t tried was switching it out of the Entertainment category. The app contained various alarm sounds (like loud screams and gunshots), so I assumed users would use it more as a goof than as a tool. I was wrong.

Once I moved the app into the Utilities category, the number of downloads skyrocketed. After five days, the paid downloads had tripled, and it was only because of a category change.

Just as your app will always need certain refinements due to consumer demand and competition, so will your marketing. For most of my apps, I have changed the icon and screenshots three to five times and the title and description between 5 and 10 times. I change keywords almost every time I update apps. I always switch the categories when it makes sense. Keep an open mind and continue to be inspired by your observations during your market research.

Finally, there’s a simple rule of thumb I follow for making changes: Tweak once per week, then measure. You have to allow ample time to see the effect of any changes you make. Measure your results, then make adjustments based on your data in the following week. Your goal is to increase traffic and revenue, all while improving your users’ experience with the app.

Bonus Marketing Tactics

FREE APPS
After you’ve taken care of the basics, your best marketing tool will be offering a free version of your app. It will generate traffic and visibility that you otherwise wouldn’t get.

Free apps create the most traffic because they have the smallest barrier to entry. It takes five seconds to download, and it’s free. Why wouldn’t you push the button? Once the free version of your app gains some traction, you can use it to advertise the paid version of the same app. This is like getting those free food samples at the supermarket. If you like the sample you tasted, you might buy the whole bag and become a long-term customer.

NAG SCREENS
Nag screens (pop-ups that remind users to check out the paid version of the app) have been the most critical marketing tactic for my business. You might worry about annoying users with these ads, and that is a valid concern, but you need to think of nag screens as adding value for your users. If they downloaded your free app and they are using it, a percentage of your users will be interested in buying the paid version of your app. For those who don’t, a quick pop-up message is a small price to pay for using the free version.

You have to accept this and not shy away from this type of marketing. If you’re still on the fence, consider this: When Apple launched its iBooks app, it used a nag screen within the App Store app. If you had an iPhone at the time, you may remember seeing that pop-up inviting you to download iBooks. Well, you were nagged by the one and only Apple.

Basic nag screen (left) vs. Advanced nag screen (right). Advanced nag screens typically have three times higher click-thru rates.

When adding a nag screen, explain to your developer what you are looking for, and reference specific examples of other apps that have nag screens. Be sure you can change the nag screen without submitting a new update to the app store. To do this, tell the developer you want your nag screen to be dynamic. This will allow you to change your marketing message redirect your app’s traffic within seconds. This is an absolute must. Your nag screens will lose a huge part of their effectiveness if you cannot change them on the fly.

How do you assess the effectiveness of your nag screen? All you have to do is keep track of how many times you show a particular nag screen and how many users click “Yes” to check out the app(s) you’re promoting. This is called your click-through rate, and the higher the percentage, the better.

Final Thoughts

This is the first time in history when so many of us have the tools and access to knowledge that can quickly lift us out of the rat race. Your background, gender, race, education, and situation are irrelevant. All you need is the desire and a game plan.

You don’t have to wait till “someday” to fulfill your dreams. You can start right now…

Contest and Bonuses

We’re throwing a contest for any readers who are ready to dive into the app world. Whoever comes up with the best idea for an iPhone app (as decided by me and my team) will have 100% of their development costs covered. That’s right: You won’t need to spend anything to have your app made – all it will cost is your time and effort. This will be a great learning experience for the winner, so if money is all that’s holding you back, we want to help you get started.

Here are the details:

- You have 1-week (ending Monday, April 30, 2012 at 9am EST) to research and design your app idea. Your app should try to fill a void in the market or improve upon apps that are currently available.

- Once you’ve decided upon your idea, post a comment below with a detailed explanation of the app you want to develop. Bonus points if you can show us (with a drawing, video, etc.) how your app will function. More bonus points if you show us the research you did to prove your app’s potential for success.

- You can only submit one (1) idea (one entry per person), so make it good!

- Up to $5,000 USD of your development costs will be covered. 100% of all revenues earned will go to the winner.

- Winner gets a 1-hour phone call with me (Chad) at any point during development or marketing.

For those who are worried that someone is going to steal your idea and make a million dollars with it– you don’t have to enter the contest! Just remember: my success in the app store came from emulating successful apps. In other words, borrowing proven ideas and trying to make them better. If someone else can succeed by taking one of my ideas and improving upon it, that’s only fair game. Don’t let the fear of losing prevent you from trying to win.

Contest deadline has passed; Winner (Alex K.) has been contacted. Thanks, all!

Finally, for those who’d like a copy of my NDA template (along with the checklist I use when hiring a new coder), email a copy of your receipt for App Empire, my comprehensive book on app development and marketing, to bonus (at) appempire.com. The book goes into depth on advanced marketing and monetization techniques, including how to put your business on cruise control (automate).

We look forward to seeing what you guys come up with! Talk to you in the comments :)

Posted on: April 22, 2012.

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Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration)

915 comments on “How to Build an App Empire: Can You Create The Next Instagram?

  1. Interesting read. This seems like this is right up Kevin Rose’s alley. Did you happen to consult him in creating this article Tim?

    Like

    • Hey Chad, I have some questions.

      If I’m selling an app I created do I
      need to create a company?
      If so, how and why?
      Could It just be me alone?
      How are revenues processed?
      Where does the money go?
      How do I claim it?

      Thanks.

      Like

      • Hi Mike,

        You don’t need to be a company and can register with Apple as a sole proprietor/individual. Once registered as a developer you tell them your bank details, and after they take their 30% the rest is deposited in your bank account.

        Cheers,

        Andy

        Like

      • i had the same question if you get the answer to this please email it to me. i would appreciate it greatly!!!

        Like

      • Hey Antonio,

        how long does it take to create an app? For example, let’s say create an app like the “finger print app” of Chad. I couldn’t find any advice how much time is needed for coding. Can you help me?

        Cheers!

        Like

  2. Tim,

    Thanks for sharing this. I have had about 3-4 different ideas that I thought would make solid apps. All based on, “things I wish I had an app for right now”. This post could not have came at a better time as I am on a mini retirement in Koh Samui and looking for new projects that are fun. I spent about an hour or two figuring out what it took to make apps and got discouraged and confused (this was 2 days ago), once again you have read my mind and swooped into save the day.

    We’ll see if any of my ideas make it through the process.

    Best,

    Like

    • Hey Jordan, I went through a similar phase. Pushed through the initial feeling of overwhelm, found a developer and got a health app developed…phew…

      Now on to marketing and monetization which is a sly beast. I haven’t the slightest clue where to start to monetize my app.

      There are 6.8 billion people on the planet. 5.1 billion of them own a cell phone, but only 4.2 billion own a toothbrush. That’s ridonculous.

      Now I’m off to find ways to effectively market apps…keywords seem to be a big factor.

      Progress = one step followed by another.

      Like

  3. Hey Chad, fantastic article. Thanks for providing so much detail. Congrats on your success.

    Quick question: once you launch an app, how do you handle customer support? How much time / effort does support cost your business? Do the customer support needs differ depending on the cost of the app or the type of app?

    Thanks if you’re able to answer this.

    Like

    • Hi Corbett,

      Truthfully, the majority of apps won’t require much customer support. For instance, if a customer wants a refund, they need to go through Apple, not you. If a customer is confused about the functionality of the app, you can try to incorporate an explanation (through a demo or instructions) in the next update. Customers usually express their concerns, praise, or complaints in the reviews of your app, not as emails. I try to keep my apps as simple and self-explanatory as possible, and take legitimate feedback in the reviews into account. Of course, if you feel your app absolutely needs support, then you should consider hiring and training an employee to help with customer service.

      – Chad

      Like

      • Hey Chad,

        Great post, one of the best i have ever read. Very inspiring, I bought an itunes copy of the book and a hard copy on Amazon to take notes on. Where do I email you the receipt so I can get a copy of the NDA?

        Thanks

        Jose

        Like

      • Would doing my reserch in the android app market be just as good or do I have to purchase an Iphone to effectively develop in the apple app market?

        Like

      • Hi Chad

        I’m not sure if your still replying on this site but if you are i’d appreciate a little bit of advice.

        I have an app idea that i’ve just created designs for and that i’m about to get pricing for.

        I’ve just found out that you’ve released a new system.

        I have budget to do one or the other – genuinely which is best to do first?

        I only just found out about this competition so i’m really gutted…

        Cheers,

        Mark
        UK

        Like

      • hey chad would you like to team up with me in creating an app. I’ve developed the app design just need a partner who knows what their doing.

        Im trying to create a social network on an app.

        if you are interested or would like to team up feel free to give me a call

        cheers mate!!!

        Like

      • Hey Chad, hope all is well. I seem to be missing the NDA contract i’m not sure if i’m just late and you took it down or i’m just missing it

        Like

  4. I am very wary of comments like “No matter what your dream lifestyle is, you can have it as an appreneur.” Generalized over-promises are a stable for marketers which usually fails to benefit the consumer. (let’s face it) Anything CAN deliver your dream lifestyle. (it’s a good marketing jargon) Does it deliver your dream lifestyle? To only a few. (statistically)
    Besides that point, it is a good opportunity. What do you have to lose? Maybe a email address you have to burn, but other than that why not?
    I do have to point out because you made an app doesn’t mean it will be profitable. You still have to market it until it catches momentum. Thousands of app are out there and not all of them(only a few of them) make a profit. Just because Chad Mureta made money will apps does not mean you will. Just because you are winner of this contest doesn’t mean you will make a profit either. This needs to be said because the impression is that App development will solve all of your problems. I’m 98% sure it won’t.
    You can deal with that, you should enter. Good luck and remember to have fun if you can.

    Like

    • Thanks for the comment, David. You are right in saying that only a small percentage of developers will succeed on a huge level in this market, but that’s the way things are in every field / industry. My goal in this post was to show people that — while the competition is abundant in the app store — now is the best time to experiment with developing apps. It’s difficult to strike the perfect balance of getting readers excited and motivated enough to take action, while still managing expectations that simply building an app does NOT guarantee success. My hope is that readers will want and try to build a sustainable lifestyle business, but still recognize that they’ll have to put in hard work.

      Like

      • Thank you for your reply, Chad. I hope my previous comment was not too much. This blog as a habit of censoring readers’ opinions(over 6 times already) which are at the same level of criticism as my previous comment. The omitting common sense makes for great marketing(or storytelling) but doesn’t benefit the readers. That being said, I commend you for starting this competition. If a few people can achieve their 4 hour work week with creating Apps, that will be fantastic. Besides apps are really fun. :)
        I won’t be entering, but I wish the best of luck to you, Chad, and anyone that enters.

        Like

      • Just to pitch in my $.02, zero businesses guarantee success and most fail. But the combination of low barriers to entry and global reach make this a business idea worth trying. I’ve been banging my head against a wall trying to get myself to take the time to learn the programming myself, and I’ve had a couple of ideas bumping around in my head for a year. I need to remember the lessons in Four Hour Workweek and get others to do the work.

        Thanks for the post Chad – very inspirational. I wish you continued success!

        Like

    • David,

      Don’t you think think us, as the readers, should do some type of due-diligence? I don’t think we should be spoon-fed obvious facts like
      “creating an app does not guarantee a fortune”. Anyone that needs that type of disclaimer has no shot whatsoever, because they are so far removed from reality. Tim has a pretty intelligent readership and I don’t think most of us want to be babied with disclaimers.

      Like

  5. Good lord, now that’s a guide if I’ve ever seen one! Chad, you are the man. Clearly I haven’t read the whole thing since you just posted, but I still felt the need to say thank you and that I’ve bookmarked this for reading during lunch tomorrow.

    Like

  6. Such a timely post. I actually met up with a client earlier today who is having me build her new iOS app. When I got to the coffee shop I found her reading 4 Hour Work Week.

    Like

  7. Here’s an idea for an app I’ve had for a while: An audio RSS Feed Reader. Basically, the functionality would be similar to Google Reader, but users will have the option to tap on a sound icon to have an item on their feed read to them. An additional feature could be the ability to create playlist of news items to be read in order, or to read all news items in a category.

    Great for people who want to have the latest news read to them on their commute to work or while on-the-go.

    Like

  8. Hi Chad,

    I am an aspiring app developer who has started my own mobile app development company, Rare Digital Designs. I am submitting my latest app idea for this competition. QuoteBoat will be the mobile version of a social network based on sharing & discovering peresonal quotes with your friends. Currently there are a lot of websites for finding famous quotes but none for sharing personal quotes with friends. I have provided a link to a demo video I made displaying the functionality of the app. Let me know if you have any questions and thanks for putting on this competetion!

    Demo video: http://vimeo.com/40829172

    Like

    • Great idea, Zain! I’d like to be able to read through a list of quotes from the category I like and post it directly as opposed to typing it though.

      Or the option to hit the microphone button and say it (speech to text).

      Good luck!
      David

      Like

      • Thanks for the feedback David. I will look into adding the ability to re-post quotes. Currently there is an option to “Anchor” which allows users to save a list of favorite quotes to their profiles.

        As for the speech to text function I decided not to add it since the iPhone 4s has this ability built in. I will definitely add it to the road map for legacy devices, but now it would take to much time to implement.

        Zain

        Like

  9. Don’t hate; Emulate! Priceless :) I’ve always wanted to create an app, but I didn’t know where to start since I rarely use any and the ones I wanted to use weren’t made yet, which was pointed out as a bad sign, though I guess with the right marketing you can sell anything :)

    My idea was to make an App called What Were You Thinking? So basically, you’d have a color coded body front view and back view for the 5 Chinese elements Fire, Earth, Metal Water, Wood (Red, Yellow, Grey, Blue, Green) All the elements correspond to a particular body part and emotion so if a person has an injury say to his left ankle you could tap that part and an analysis of what the person was thinking. With ankles it’s a major life decision in this case probably in regards to getting married since left relates to feminine said usually mother, sister, wife or gf. Pains in the butt relate to the fire element, so the person might be experiencing sadness or pathologically, depression. I kind of thought the free version would be “How Do You Really Feel?” because that would relate to the emotions of the 5 elements and “What Were You Thinking?” goes into that a bit deeper, because it relies more on the various meridians flowing through the joint.
    I would love to post a picture but an association I belong to owns the one I’d like to use. I probably could sell it back to the community in app form, as long as the administration got their cut :)
    As for marketing whenever I give presentations about body psychology people always ask me about the colored coded chart I have and if they can buy one, which I call Chinese Medicine for Dummies. It’s the most amazing thing on planet imo and I would just like it to be a bit more accessible to people. Once they know what the hell they were thinking and can resolve that issue they can heal much faster because they know where to place the attention.

    ~S

    Like

  10. What a great post! This needs to be re-read a few times. Thanks for writing it Chad and thanks Tim for having him on here.

    Time to brainstorm for an idea.

    Like

      • Chad, thanks for sharing all this info and Tim for putting it up.

        Here goes mine: Business Category: Send a Note: “Send a hand written thank you note you don’t have to write yourself”. In today’s text and email world hand writing and sending out an actual signed card will mean more than ever.

        Lets create an app that allows users to send handwritten notes directly via an app. Users will only have to log-in, write the message on the screen, their name, mailing address and hit SEND. Via the online page users will “load” their account with a minimum of $10 which allows them to send out 4 notes ($2.50/note). Apple has a similar app but it’s too expensive and notes are not Hand Written. I can have my assistant hand write the notes until orders are large enough at which point we can easily outsource this task. Total cost per card and postage for us is about $1.50 including my assistance time. Healthy margin!

        PS/The person writing the notes will physically also sign the note on the users behalf. *Sending an actual hand written note in today’s society means much more than ever before.

        PSS/I already have the design mock-ups ready to go!

        Thanks for listening.

        Like

      • Hey Benny, I had multiple app companies because I didn’t want to be tied down. I wanted to stay mobile and be able to walk away when the time was right. Having apps in the store requires constant monitoring and tweaking for as long as you have them, and I chose to give them up at certain points so I could focus on other endeavors (and, of course, do some traveling!).

        Like

  11. A pretty basic idea. An app that gives you the option to delay a text message and verify who you are sending it to. It’s terrible when you send a text message to someone you didn’t want it to go to and once that text is sent there is no going back.

    Like

  12. Fantastic article, very insightful. Tim, it’s so inspiring that you have people who open up and share so much here. Thank you for keeping introducing the beautiful minds.

    Like

    • Do you not think there’s a very good reason he’s done this?

      1) free marketing for his book – which Tim and his circle frequently plug each other as a ‘back-scratch’

      2) of course he’s going to bloody use ideas people post on here..! Don’t be so naive.. Ok, one might win.. But there’ll be another 10 ideas he can run with and create with very little Dev cost – I can’t believe people are so naive about how business works.

      If people believe in their app idea, don’t be so stupid as to give it away for free!!!
      What Chad’s covered here is by absolutely NO means comprehensive – on the contrary, it’s a drop in the ocean – creating the app’s the easy part, honestly.. The 90% of your focused effort should be on how the hell you get your app out of the arse of 400,000 others. And this is growing daily.

      Just look around you and ask ‘why is someone in this business willing to give away ‘secrets’ and tell me how to do everything?’

      There’s no such thing as a free lunch guys.

      Like

      • Like Mr. Burns, I’m gently tapping my fingers together with an evil grin… There are many interesting ideas here, but these comments aren’t exactly my private gold mine :) As I said, if you want to keep your idea to yourself, don’t share it – go out and do it! A public forum is the most transparent option for a contest, and when everyone shares, it motivates others to start taking action. The other option was to not do any contest at all.

        As with everything that seems “too good to be true,” there will be skeptics. It comes with the territory.

        (And of course I’m marketing my book! Shameless, I know, though offering $5K in development costs isn’t exactly “free.”)

        Like

  13. Contest Entry:

    I work part-time as a baseball umpire. We have a nice little clicker that helps us keep track of strikes, balls, and outs. The rest we often have to keep in our heads while making sure ALL baseball rules are being followed. It can be tricky work unless one has years of experience umpiring.

    I was out in the diamond one day and thought how cool it would be to have futuristic sunglasses that would keep the score and inning in my peripheral vision; then i saw this post.

    How about an app that helps referees of various sports? Too often, scores are not kept track of during games unless they are at the collegiate level or above. An app that would help refs keep track of various stats would be simple and useful.

    I would like to develop a simple app that helps me keep track of the innings and score in baseball. It would have to have a simple interface so that I wouldn’t spend too much time in between innings or plays entering in information. I’m sure other sports could benefit if there is no one working the scoreboard.

    Thank you for your time! Good luck to others entering the contest!

    Like

  14. Holy monster of awesome post Chad. You are the real deal. Thanks for sharing all this detailed info.

    I recently invested $5000 in a video editing app through appbackr.com, a crowd funding / investing platform and made a quick return of $700 in a few weeks.

    I want to learn Objective-C and build my own apps.

    Like

  15. Goodness gracious Timothy this post is terrible! How am I going to explain to my girlfriend now that I cant sleep and its not caffeine induced this time. She is going to think I am cheating on her or something. This post is awesome. I love the how to, the why, you get it.. i love it all.

    I want to retweet this but I dont want to share this with anyone. I want to hold it and caress it and keep it myself. I know your supposed to share, and the Golden Rule, blah blah blah.

    This post is awesome man. Thanks again for sharing this content. I will retweet it, i dont want to be that guy.

    Cheers,

    Christoph

    Like

    • Christoph, my thoughts exactly! Only for me, it will be my finace that will wonder “why are you still up and on your computer? don’t you work in the morning?” =)
      Thanks Tim, I’m really excited after reading this post! However, now I have to figure out how to get through the rest of my work day so I can go home and start developing!
      Thanks,

      ~Melissa

      Like

  16. idea: some people look for airport code when they’re traveling on twitter so they can connect with other people who happens to be at the same airport. For example if I’m on a layover at San Fran then I’ll search twitter for SFO, and if I see a recent twit that includes SFO as well there’s a chance that I can connect with that person and hang out, making waiting time more fun.

    execution: an app that does above but automated. It would have the option to run in the background. Once you open it up it’ll craw and search social sites base on your GPS coordinates, then it’ll show other people that you can connect nearby, it’ll also give you the option to ping/poke/hit/call/chat/say hi/twit to them before you actually walk over.

    scale: it doesn’t have to be limited to airports or things like that. If you’re at the store then you can open it up and find other users nearby. If you’re at a park/fair/other event you can find other people on a map nearby. You can also filter nearby users base on their profile, characteristics, likes/dislikes, culture background, etc.

    Like

    • This is weird but this is my exact idea. It is a great Idea. I read this blog on friday and thaught I would submit it. I was reading the other posts and saw this. We have a very similar vision and Idea. Contact me if you want to brain storm together. Good luck man.

      Like

    • Hey a:
      There’s a similar app that a gay friend of mine was showing me. The idea is that it shows you (in real time) other users. So one guy might post “I’m at bar X, and I’m drinking margaritas” and then you can connect face-to-face. It’s basically a way to meet people who share similar traits as you.
      Maybe you could incorporate/emulate some functionality. Check out grindr. Some of the language is kinda NSFW though.
      I think your app is a great idea!

      Like

  17. Hi Tim/Chad,

    For the contest, can I enter an idea I had and built a website for?
    I have never made an app in my life and could use this as an opportunity to build a mobile app, if I am still eligible for the contest.

    Thanks,
    Cody

    Like

  18. Killer article Chad. I swear Tim writes this blog just for me (okay, maybe not) because I was literally JUST on odesk placing an ad for an app programmer when this article went live.

    I’ve got countless app ideas (who doesn’t), but after winning some money in a poker game figured now was the time to commit and hire a programmer. Chad your guide will be invaluable, you’ve taught me a lot of tricks to use when hiring.

    One issue I have faced is estimating how much an app will cost to create. Most workers seem to prefer an hourly rate, which I’m happy to pay, but I need to know if making my app is a 50 hour job or a 200 hour job.

    I have already sketched out a dozen pages with designs for my app (I need to fully understand my own work before asking a programmer to do the same) – I’ll scan them up and enter your contest. Thanks guys!

    Like

  19. Truly inspiring… Upon reading the title my first thought was, “Interesting, but there is no way I have enough time in my life to do that.” After reading, I am now thinking, “Holy crap this is the first thing I am doing when I wake up tomorrow!”

    Like

  20. Hey Chad,

    I want to say I admire your ability to fight through your motor vehicle injuries and rehabilitation to keep a sound mind and start a business like this. Most people would lay in bed with depression or give up on life. Takes a lot of mental toughness to pull through and accomplish what you have done.

    This is a great post which I have bookmarked and shared with others. I think you have given all of us a blueprint to run with to just get started. Thanks for sharing and much success to you with your other app endeavors!

    Like

  21. Great read!

    Here’s my idea: How about a photo diary app that bridges the gap between taking a photo and filing it. Everyone organizes their photos by date and location, so how about a new camera app that replaces the stock one (or one that pulls from the gallery) along with geotag information, and then organizes it by 3 simple buttons – date, location, or map.

    date and location are obviously traditional methods, but map view integrates the two. It will pin regions on a map where you’ve taken photos and then you can use gestures to zoom in and out of. Upon zooming into a particular location you’ve been to, you can then flip through dates you were there. ie. flipping through your history at one location, be it a mall or a school, an annual vacation, etc. and see you as you age!

    Key to this is the automation in the sync and filing. The less the user has to do the better. Friends can “follow you” and see their pictures, or tag them to share albums into their photo diary. This app will replace stock galleries and make photo management fun!

    Another possible layer of of social networking can adopt true “checkins” by amount of albums or pictures taken in an location based on timestamps.

    Like

  22. Excellent Post!

    I wish I had read this before I did my first (and only) app at the end of last year!!

    I am reasonably happy with the app, it works well but the advertising doesn’t appear on it so I have no revenue from it… but the experience of making it (using odesk) was invaluable.

    Like

  23. THANKS TIM AND CHAD FOR SHARING THIS POST!!!! This is a very very inspiring post to me. I promise both of you right here and right now that because of this inspiring post, I will develop and publish an app in the future. (Coming from no background of app development) Time to go brainstorm and sketch out some of my app ideas!

    Like

    • Hey Dan, there is a great book on amazon that teaches you realtime how to build an app. i just finished reading it, and am on my 3rd app. You don’t need a mac or coding experience. check it out, its called How to Make apps yourself. I thought it was worth recommending,and hopefully it will help.

      Like

  24. THANKS TIM AND CHAD FOR SHARING THIS POST!!!! This post is very very inspiring to me. I promise both of you right here and right now that because of this inspiring post, I will develop and publish an app in the future. (I’m coming from no background of app development)

    Time for me to go brainstorm and sketch out some of my app ideas for this contest!

    Like

  25. Finally, an article on my realm. I’m a freelance audio contractor for some of the top grossing developers (backflip studios, etc.) which means I make original music and sounds as well as dialogue assets using my team of VO artists. Shameless plug here for any appers looking for unique audio! Check my music/sound work in Paper Toss 2.0(game), Graffiti Ball(game) and 8 Planets (edu) – All are free. For more samples visit my http://www.noisebuffet homepage

    I don’t normally put my services out there like this, but yours is THE only blog I read, and my experience with 4H people (4HP?) has been nothing short of amazing. I’m OCD passionate about getting the best sounds out of a mobile device and have been doing so since pre-iphone (worked on over 100+ apps)

    Looking forward to more posts like this one!
    B

    Like

  26. Excellent guide! As a developer I have admit I did cringe at the mention of NDA’s. Developers hate them. If you read websites like HackerNews you will see stories regularly complaining about them and honestly a lot of the best developers won’t sign them.

    One other point is that you mentioned testing the developer with designing the app icon. That’s a job for a designer. Most developers don’t make good designers so if it is your first time building an app I would recommend hiring both (graphics are usuall much less expensive than the programming).

    Very good guide though, especially the marketing section.

    Like

  27. Wow, what a great post! I have just downloaded Chad Mureta book from app store, very inspiring! I have been wanting to start a app building business and I think your contest will help push me to becoming an appreneur.

    I created a youtube presentation for my idea for the contest.

    Below is a link of my entry to the contest:

    Thanks for inspiring me and I hope to hear from you soon.

    Like

  28. This is great stuff, thanks for sharing. I got tired of working with solo freelancers so I started my own full time dev team in the Philippines. Expecting to have at least 3-4 apps in the app store within the next month or two. This gives me some great ideas for what to do next after I see how the market responds to our apps.

    I’m also having a look at HTML5 mobile web apps, which can either be distributed through the app stores via Phonegap (a library to wrap web applications in native code) or directly through the internet. There are some limitations (limited or no 3d graphics, accelerometer, GPS, etc), but many simple apps can be built that will work fine.

    Like

    • Hi Mike

      I’m not sure of what software you use, however, for creating web-based apps I use App Cobra which is available from Knowledge Presenter http://www.appcobra.com

      Their software allows geolocation, accelerometer data, etc.
      Maybe of interest to you(?)

      Regards
      Sam

      Like

  29. Hi guys,

    Great post! I have been thinking about the app market for a long time and often wondered how to break into it. Well here it is! Amazing wealth of knowledge here!

    Thanks for this post and I will be back with my submission soon! =)

    Peter.

    Like

  30. ‘Mini MBA’ or ‘Daily MBA’ or ‘Daily Strategist’

    A very simple app – functionality similar to ‘MotivationalQuotes’ which is in the top 200 of Business Apps in the AppStore. Can be configured to display new quotes daily or simply as the user desires.
    Essentially would contain a database of quotes from noted entrepreneurs and business writers (Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, Napoleon Hill, Nassim Taleb, Robert Greene, Tim Ferriss, etc.). Both free and premium versions would be made available – the premium version would contain a larger database of quotes.
    The idea is not that original and easy to replicate but I am an avid reader and have compiled quite a unique and impressive collection of quotes (both old and new) over several years – so hopefully this little app would add some genuine value to people’s lives as well as make some money. See my twitter feed for a sample of my collected quotes (I’ve put this as my website link for this comment).
    Even if I don’t win, thank you Chad (and Tim) for this excellent and inspiring article.

    Like

  31. Hi Chad,

    I would like to buy your book (to get the NDAs as well) but it is only available in print in the US and as a kindle version.

    Will you add the book to the ibook store any time soon?

    I am living in the Philippines so I shipping will be expensive and take forever…

    Thanks,

    Oliver

    Like

    • Hi Oliver. I also live outside the US and have same problems than you. However, I have instaled Kindle free in my PC and my iPad and was able to buy this and several other books from Amazon. I hope this piece of advise helps you. Apps Empire has been an inspiring book for me, by the way.

      Like

  32. Thanks Chad and 4HWW for this great article. I found it extremely insightful.

    App idea:
    Ever wanted to fully follow someone to the tenth degree?
    (twitter, Facebook, instagram, blog’s rss, four square, google + YouTube, etc..)

    This app would have all the fields to enter the usernames, rss feeds, and urls of the person you want to follow (friends, celebrity, famous person, etc) and output the information beautifully on ur phone organized perfectly. Plus push notifications and now ur basically a true stalker :)

    Thanks again for the mind spark.
    Cheers,
    Tim

    Like

  33. I have an APp idea for ICE (In Case of Emergency). Here is the description. I haven’t encountered this kind of app in Appstore and is very much needed for everyone.
    Description:
    Let’s say a person leaves during night to some place. His loved ones would like to know whether he reached the destination safely or not. The App can run in Background. Scenario 1: One thing he can do is he can call his loved person, once he reaches his destination. But at midnight, calling your people will be inconvenience, unless urgent. Also, you might have left to that place on purpose and you don’t want to waste time in calling/sending SMS. Here comes this app which is handy in sending an automated SMS (Reached destination with GPS location) to your loved ones. Scenario 2: Suppose if he is struck up in traffic or for any other reason (breakdown) and gets delayed. So his people will be worried. This idea will avoid such panicking situations. Scenario 3: When he has some emergency ( accident/ health etc) and he crosses time limit, immediately the mobile will send SMS to the preselected phone (your loved ones mobile) about the GPS location . This way night shift workers/females/Old people can make use of this feature and get attention immediately from their people (in case of emergency). One more extra feature which is the crux of the app is to protect user from Muggers, car jackers etc. Cant share it public. I have come up with detailed mockups and wire framing. If you like this app and gets selected in contest, pls let me know so that I can share all those details with you. Readers pls feel free to share your opinion on this app.

    Like

    • I love this. ICE is a good idea that really isn’t feasible. If you find someone in distress and have their cell phone, where’s their ICE?! It’s different for practically everyone.

      Like

  34. Hey Tim,
    I just got done watching “A day in the life”; hey that lock that your using for your pistol case is supposed to properly secure your Firearm not the box its in, you could have explained that,but you didn’t .FAIL.
    As a person who has grown up around many different types of firearms ( rare and imported Firearm ) fired many thousands of rounds from 50.cal (ammo size not calories) to 22.cal rimfire; I can honestly say you need to do more research on the subject.
    I certainly hope your book focuses a lot more on safety than the public saw on your “A day in the life” episode. Also you might want to research a gun safe since anyone watching the episode knows where you keep your firearm and key to the said lock (that goes through the hole where the shell casing comes out and through the part where the clip goes. I thought i would use language you could understand ;) ). So with that said i am sure your book will be a fantastic piece of Fiction.
    P.S America was built on the back of skill trades remember that when you flush a toilet,turn on the light ,and drive your car, etc .

    Like

  35. Debaze is a free, fun social debating game with your friends connected through facebook. We are aiming to be the market leader to connect friends with fun social debating.

    Debaze makes debates more easily searchable, easy to involve friends (as voters, spectators or referees) and rewards the debaters with points earned by votes as well as the number of spectators influenced. A user gets 50 credits to start with and uses his/her credits to create a debate, challenge a friend to debate and increase the visibility of his/her debate. A debate’s duration is set before the debate begins so debaters and spectators have time to review and add comments. The Twitter-sized arguments will be viewable by the debaters’ Facebook networks, which the spectators can vote “Like” or “Changed my View”. As Debaters receive more “Likes” and “Changed Views”, they receive more points, which are added to their Debate Rating at the end of the debate and compared to the opponent’s Debate Rating. Debating points help users get virtual badges, rewards, and higher rankings than their friends.

    P.S.
    I have some mock ups that I created! Where can I post them. I really liked your article. Very inspiring!

    Like

  36. —–>>>App Idea<<<——This will blow Draw Something out of the water.

    NAME- "15 Seconds".

    RULES- Each player is given the option of 3 words, much like "Draw Something" however, instead of drawing the word, the player must act out the word on video in under 15 seconds with only 1 attempt, and the video is automatically recorded and sent to the opposing player for guessing. The opposing player must guess the word, similar to the Draw Something screen but instead of the drawing its the video of the person acting out the word.

    Make Sense?

    The reason this will kill Draw Something is because videos are much funnier and much more viral as we will add an option to upload to facebook and friends can watch the video and start playing the app as well.

    This post serves as intellectual property.

    Like

    • Good idea when you first think about it but I see two big drawbacks to this:

      1) Have you ever tried filming yourself with an iphone? You wuold have to get someone else ot hold the camera for you or you just have a screen with your face, how many actions can you act out with your face.

      2) How slow would loading times be if people are constantly having to wait for videos to load. I dont think peopel would have the patience to wait until internet on phones is a lot quicker.

      Just some constructive criticism.

      Like

  37. I have dabbled in the app-creation game once. I didn’t do to well, but with these tricks I am sure to try again.

    This should not be free. I can’t believe you gave us your keys to success on silver platter. Love you for that Chad. Will submit my idea ASAP!

    Like

  38. I must say creating an app has been one of the mosty enjoyable experiences and it’s a great source of “Tim Ferriss style” automated income- whenever and wherever I am I can always make money.
    … I’m very “appy” with that :-)

    Like

  39. Great Article Tim,

    I publish children’s books for the iPad, and I found the part on how to do market research for apps especially relevant. I wonder though about your strategy of emulating other successful apps, if all the readers of this article go out an do that, won’t we be flooding the market with too many me-toos? Maybe as app developer we should be developing for real needs and if we fail to do that, so will your app?

    Another strategy in getting your app out is to partner with a developer. Hiring solo programmers can be very risky from a quality and IP perspective. I’m fortunate to be located in Bangalore, India, and I have access to a really great partners. Your technology partner can bring in the needed experience that you don’t have in tech and share you

    In the app game, marketing is proving to be the most difficult part of the process for us. We were fortunate enough to get our app up on TED, this created a momentary spike in sales, but that sales spike evened out once the initial excitement was over.

    In order to get your app out, you really need to have a very aggressive marketing plan and you should be constantly updating your app, or your customer base will move to next app that is emulating your app.

    Another interesting way of raising capital and conducting marketing at the same time is Kickstarter. Gaming companies are having amazing success with this at the moment. But be careful, don’t automatically assume that you will have the same success (as I did). They’re enjoying this success in part because they have a really strong “existing” customer base that are participating in pre sales of their app.

    Like

  40. Ok… I’ll take a stab at it:

    The last time you were at your doctor’s office, did she mention when you need to have another blood test for your cholesterol? did she mention to you how often you need to have a mammogram, colonoscopy, etc? Chances are she didn’t. Do you remember what your last cholesterol was? do you keep a copy of your EKG with you?

    The idea is an app that integrates the recommendation from leading experts in medicine to keep track of how often you need these tests (based on your own personal health profile or the recommendation of your doctor) with friendly reminders, tracking of your abnormal lab results, and a handy little place to keep track of your medical problems and prescriptions.

    It’ll give you reminders that your cholesterol is due to be checked in 6 weeks, that you need another colonoscopy soon, and that your cardiologist wants to see you again for a general checkup in a month. it’ll give you a handy little place to show your doctors all the medicines you’re taking and the current medical problems you have and those you’re no longer having. It’ll allow you to pull up a copy of your recent EKG during your unexpected ER visit out of town.

    I have a couple screenshots i just rendered but have no idea how to add them to this post.

    Market research- There’s a decent list of prescription trackers on itunes. Additionally: ask anyone who’s ever been hospitalized if their life would have been easier if they had their medical information at their fingertips. These are consumers who would benefit, and pay a small fee to get their health managed, and organized.

    Revenue models: ads from local pharmacies/health insurance plans, premium features (find lower priced prescriptions, search for specialist based on your insurance) and a few more ideas up my sleeve.

    Like

    • Great idea. I bet some health food companies and gyms would also love some targeted ads to people with high cholesterol or high blood pressure.

      You could also include dentist visit reminders.

      The hard part would be marketing. Have you thought how you could have the “idea virus” component to this app? People might be hesitant to share their health issues.

      Like

  41. Great timing of the post for me. I’m making Android apps (since that’s the phone I took traveling with me) and have been able to get featured on Lifehacker twice in the last month.

    Still, with that great exposure the first time was just a temporary spike and the latest one just happened on Friday. I’m really hoping it will be a jump-start to a much higher install rate.

    My main interest is in the marketing side, getting publicity and it having staying power. This is what I’m focusing more on since my apps have gotten to a more mature state.

    I found an interesting new ad network called Swappit offers to trade ad space in your apps for running your own ads on other people’s apps. I just started with them last week and will give it a chance. So far the click through rate is pathetic, so I’m tweaking my ads and trying some more.

    And finally a plug for my apps, check them out in the Google Play store:
    Wave Control – Control your music playback with a wave of your hand!
    Around Sound – Don’t miss what’s going on around you while you’re rocking out to your music!
    Sound Alseep – Record what goes bump in the night… or if it’s just you snoring.

    Like

  42. WOW! that was a very insightful view of app making.

    I do have a great idea for an app, and have been looking into developers here in Australia, I’m finding it is quite expensive here to get it done.

    So thank you for posting developers details and sites for me to research.

    I will definitely enter it into the competition, just need to research some more.

    Thanks Guy… loving your work and the way you live your life.

    Aimee

    Like

    • Hey Aimee, there is a great book on amazon that teaches you realtime how to build an app. i just finished reading it, and am on my 3rd app. You don’t need a mac or coding experience. check it out, its called How to Make apps yourself. I thought it was worth recommending,and hopefully it will help.

      Like

  43. Great post! I like seeing the inspirational stories of people who guest post here. I think this one, and the one about hacking job credentials are possibly the best ones, as they really seem like they are available to anyone. Whereas others (like the abs guy) seem like models that can no longer be emulated.

    Personally, my problem with this is that I don’t like smartphones! Not into them! I get too addicted to things like that, I have enough time keeping away from twitter and email when I can only get to it from my computer, let alone my pocket.

    I get the impression from sites like 4HWW that it’s a mistake to pursue a muse that you don’t have some passion or interest in, or else it will become a chore. But on the other hand, this article makes it seem like this is a growing industry, with plenty of room for other stuff. Unlike, say, content sites, which seem to be crowded. Maybe it’s best to go where the growth is and try to squeeze your muse into it?

    Like

  44. Wow this article gave me a couple of good ideas, thank you so much!

    Whenever I get an idea, I always get so disappointed when I realize that someone already thought of it, but I’ve started to look at it from a different perspective.

    So what if the basics of an idea you have has already been thought of? That doesn’t mean that the result of your competitor, is better, or even close to the end result of your own vision.

    You can always take something that already exists, and just make it better, more effective, efficient, user friendly, and visually appealing (There are so many buttons to push).

    Again, take what works, discard the rest, and put your own unique twist on it.

    Also, one thing is to create a great app, another thing is to know how to market it in the right way, and if you know how to do that, you’re several steps ahead of the competition.

    I’m going to read this article a couple of times more, and then I’m going to research some more for my projects.

    Oh, and I will start reading The Four Hour Work Week again, there’s so much I forget as time passes ;-)

    Thanks again!

    Like

  45. I have dabbled in the app-creation game once. I didn’t do too well, but with these tricks I am sure to try again.

    This should not be free. I can’t believe you gave us your keys to success on a silver platter. Love you for that Chad. Will submit my idea ASAP!

    Like

  46. There is that fear that someone will flog my idea but stuff it, no risk no gain!

    The app that I would make is…HIDE MY APPS

    I’d like to create an app to hide apps you’ve downloaded that you don’t want others to see. At the moment, if a friend is going through your phone, they can see every app you’ve downloaded and there is no way to keep them private (not that I’ve figured out anyway). I suggest an app (similar to hide My Secret Apps or such) where you can move apps you’re too embarrassed for others to see into a decoy folder and the only way they can be accessed is via password/pin. The current apps for hiding stuff only lets you hide photos/documents/private browsing etc, they don’t let you move apps into them. I’m sure most people have at least one skeleton app theyd prefer stayed in the closet!

    Awesome article too, thanks for the inspiration!

    Like

    • Tanzy:

      I actually came up with that exact idea a while ago and am in the process of developing it. Have a bunch of other ideas related to it as well.

      Cool to see someone else come up with it organically.

      Like

    • I like this. One potential challenge is that Apple might add this functionality at some point.. It just seems like they should have it already.

      So, you should add some extra security functionality too.

      David

      Like

  47. Great article.

    As for the app I would like to develop, it is a flip on the traditional period tracker for women. This one is for men and it helps them know when they should tread lightly around their female counter part. Because any app that overtly told a woman that their boyfriend/spouse was worried that they had their period might get them in hotter water (what do you mean I’m hormonal?) it would be designed in a way to look like a very “male” app and the warnings would be subtle color coded alerts similar to the terror warnings post 9/11.

    Like

  48. Something that has always held me back from my app ideas is questions about copyright,patents,etc. Is there any guide you can suggest for what the line is between improving and copying apps you are emulating (of if there is one)?

    Like

    • Hey Chris, I think it depends what ideas you’re “copying”. If you’re emulating an app that exists, then it should be clear what improvements, or differences, you made. Then it shouldn’t be an issue. However, if you’re using names, logos, or anything that could be legally protected, then yes, you will definitely need to look into the terms of use before pursuing that concept.

      Like

  49. Chad,

    This guide is awesome – it not only contains a ton of great, useful information but it’s also very motivating. I’m a high school teacher of 98 students ages 13-18. My students constantly inspire a ton of product and service ideas, one of which I’d like to share here and hopefully get your feedback on.

    As a teacher, I find that very few high school students use e-mail for communication purposes. Teens prefer texting to emailing at this stage in their lives. In fact, very few of them even have registered email addresses – and those that do, rarely check their inbox. In response, many teachers text their students vital class information and allow students to respond with any related questions. I feel a little reluctant to go this route as it compromises my privacy and professional relationship with students.

    This inspired “teacher text”: Quick, easy SMS communication with your teachers. Teachers can register a unique username and students can text them with questions about homework, quizzes, tests, or class projects. Students can also register to receive texts containing project or assignment details, due dates, quiz & text reminders, resources, class announcements , etc. No personal phone numbers would be displayed within the app, just usernames. Teachers can add and group students based on their class period, allowing for easy group texts of vital class-related information. Parents can also register to receive a copy of all texts sent and received, or also to stay in the loop on what’s going on with their child at school.

    As mobile technology becomes more widespread, this form of communication between teachers and students will become dominant and perhaps make e-mail obsolete. Thank-you again for all the great information; I look forward to your feedback!

    Like

    • Dina,

      My girlfriend is a high school teacher and I helped her create a dummy Facebook profile so that the kids could add her, send her messages, and she could send out important info. It connects with the students where they hang out the most and she said it has made a huge improvement to her voice being heard.

      I know its technically against Facebook TOS but it has been super effective so far!

      Like

    • I love this idea. I’m a HS teacher as well and my kids would greatly benefit from greater communication. As a teacher it would drive me crazy to stay in touch with kids outside of school. Although I’m sure there are folks willing to do it. I believe social networks for teachers, schools and classrooms will be huge in the future too!! I have read that a lot of VC’s love the idea of changing society and your idea would definitely have an impact.

      Like

  50. First of all congrats on the massive success on the App Store, and thanks for sharing in such great detail what you learned.

    Though as an app designer with three of my own apps on the store, I can’t help but feel frustrated that your apps that you mention don’t really deliver unique value. The title mentions Instagram, but Instagram delivers a quality experience not matched by anyone else.

    Now your apps (Fingerprint Scanner, Emoji, Music Download, etc) have nothing unique about them, and in many cases are just gimmicks. Can’t you make money creating apps that actually deliver value?

    Unfortunately this is what sells on the app store…

    It would be wrong to get hung up on the quality of the applications and miss the excellent marketing advice throughout the article. This article should be read by everyone developing apps. I just wish quality was more of a focus.

    If you want help designing great iOS apps you can checkout my weekly newsletter: http://iOSDesign.co

    Like

    • I completely agree with you, Nathan. A lot of popular apps don’t provide much value. Simple games, tricks, and tools (mirror apps, flashlight apps) do very well, which is why I made a lot of simple apps. You need to cater to the market and earn revenue, which can mean putting some of your favorite ideas on hold until there’s substantial market interest or you have the financial freedom to take bigger risks on those ideas. That being said, I’m now focused on developing more value-based apps, and readily admit that several of the ideas I developed in the past are not apps that I’m particularly fond or proud of anymore! Best of luck :)

      Like

      • Who cares. You’re there to make money. If people are buying it, why stop?
        You say that they do not provide value, but they clearly do otherwise people would not be buying them. Be proud of what you do Chad and don’t feel the need to justify yourself to technology snobs, I would be.

        It is clear that you’re idea of “value” is quite different from the typical app store users idea of “value”. Unfortunately, you are only going to become succesful by catering to one of them…

        Why create products that people aren’t going to buy?

        Like

    • I find it interesting that you think Chad’s apps don’t “deliver unique value,” while in the next *breath* you say “Unfortunately this is what sells in the app store.”

      For the last flipping time:

      If it sells, IT DELIVERS VALUE.

      It does not have to be “unique” to be valuable. People don’t work for free (or if they do, they’re certifiable). To keep making things, they have to sell. If they sell, they have value to the buyer AND seller. Proven salability reduces risk (for both parties).

      Why do Wedgewood dishes or Mikasa dishes sell for so much more than the white, round, medium-weight Wal-Mart ones if they add no “unique” value? They’re just dishes, for crying out loud. For that matter, let’s use paper plates, they have an added value–no clean up!

      My point here is, theoretically, it MAY be more useful to write about something else than what has already been done, but if that were the way the world worked, Shakespeare would not have written Romeo and Juliet, which had already been done to death before he was born. Most would agree the English-speaking world would be a poorer place if Shakespeare had not been a copycat, and to date, his version is the “winning app” for that story.

      And yet, still people keep futzing around with it.

      Have you seen “West Side Story”?

      Like

    • And just to add, a cadillac that can not be found is worthless. I’ll pay for the donkey ride that gets me there until someone markets a Yugo that I can find. By this I mean, marketing is worth *A LOT* to the consumer (and by extension, the producer)

      Like

  51. Thanks Tim, another cracking post! I published a successful crowdfunding project here for my app idea Alakazam. I had the idea whilst working as a surf instructor in Morocco and had lots of spare time to kill! I’ve done extensive research and I believe there is a gap in the market for a last-minute, throw a dart at a map type flight search app. There is a video and some screenshots attached. Check it out here: http://www.pleasefund.us/projects/alakazam-iphone-app

    The £1000 I raised was enough to cover graphic design costs (which I now have finished), buying the domain name http://www.alakaz.am and have a basic prototype of the app working which uses an affiliation with skyscanner to find flights. I have many many more ideas to develop the concept once the beta is functional. Eg. for gamification spontaneous flyer miles, facebook integration, Groupon style last minute flight-deals, integration with Rome2rio, weather map overlays and perhaps even Airbnb affiliation!

    Here is my description of Alakazam – The world’s first SPONTANEOUS travel flight search.

    “Where would you like to wake up tomorrow?”

    Have you ever felt like SPINNING A GLOBE and catching a flight to the first place your finger lands on? Alakazam is the world’s first flight search app designed for SPONTANEOUS travellers!

    Imagine you have a free weekend and a bit of spare cash…

    Alakazam uses Skyscanner’s supurb search engine to find your flights and displays them in the form of darts on a map! If you don’t fancy going where the dart has landed, just SHAKE the iphone and another will be thrown to a different location!

    Or view all of the possible countries in the collection of crowdsourced polaroid photos beautiful enough to inspire a spontaneous ADVENTURE! You can even post the flight details to facebook and recruit your friends…

    The aim is to recreate the MAGICAL feeling of possibility by allowing you to explore all destinations within your budget. It’s easy to forget how incredible it is that for the price of a new t-shirt we can walk onto a giant metal cylinder and FLY ACROSS AN OCEAN! We believe that if everything is pre-planned, the art of DISCOVERY can be lost under itineraries and checklists. With its gorgeous elegant retro design, Alakazam aims to encourage and INSPIRE spontaneous travel around the world!

    “Try Travelling With A One Way Ticket…Being on an adventure is all about embracing spontaneity.”
    – Al Humphries

    Like

    • I use a fairly simple dividing line when explaining to clients (I build sites for mobile). The capabilities of the mobile web browsers are quite stunning nowadays – the only things you really can’t do is 3D and advanced 2D (say, what games would require), Camera access, image and video processing, push notification, and things like the address book or other phone data. All the rest (geolocation, small data storage – HTML5 features) are pretty much there.

      Most ‘utility’ apps would be fine as web. Check out Mobile Roadie for a good insight into what you can do on their hybrid platform (app shell around HTML5 guts).

      Like

  52. Hey Tim,

    Great article, very useful for me as a Snowboarder turned App Developer, without developing skills ;)

    I wonder what your ideas are about apps in Action Sports – it’s that market that has so much fun, love and inspiration and so much pull to the mainstream market now – trick thing is that it does not have the same reach as Instagram or FB for example.

    Anyway, very useful read, and if you are interested in a location based video battle platform for action sports, have a look at our crowdfunding website, my name is clickable!

    Thanks for all the inspiration so far,

    Michiel

    Like

  53. Meeting Facilitation App

    The world of facilitators and facilitation is a large and complex one. Leading meetings as a facilitator covers everyone from professional facilitators, to in house facilitators to managers trying to run productive meetings…and the challenges they face are common ones.

    From handling dysfunction in a group, to preparing an agenda, facilitators have to have lots of tools and strategies at their fingertips.

    My freemium app would have the basic tools and tips/tricks for their toolbox for free, with an option to pay in app for specific facilitation guides, in depth solutions to facilitation challenges, etc.

    I sure hope I win so can begin development ASAP to start helping them!

    Thanks guys! Now I’m off to buy the app book on Amazon….

    Like

  54. Hey Tim and Chad,

    As an addition to my previous post, here are more details about OWNR for the contest!

    OWNR is an app for skateboarders, snowboarders, BMX riders.. action sports! It helps you to find spots directly around you using GPS, link your trick videos to them to show your skills, and then battle with each other: who does the best trick and OWNS the spot?

    Are you a rider that wants to get noticed? OWNR is your tool to do this! The amount of spots you OWN forms the base of a ranking: who OWNS the most spots in the area and is the local killer? OWNR helps you to put yourself in the spotlights!

    OWNR is a great tool for riders, and will turn into a great marketing platform for action sports related brands.

    How about a simple spotbattle? The one who does the best trick on the Nike stair, wins a new pair of shoes. How about creating a brand territory? Or your favorite pro rider showing you how to do a trick in Augmented Reality?

    The global reach and coverage of many action sports can really make OWNR the new media platform for action sports. It gives you that feeling of being in a real life videogame, with a high benefit for both users and marketeers.

    Right now, i am crowdfunding and talking with some industry leading brands for investment in the development. Myself i’m a snowboarder, found a developer and a graphic designer, but need to extent our team to make it happen!

    Want to see more?
    Check out the VIDEO, full explanation and screens on our crowdfunding page:
    http://indiegogo.com/ownr

    Thank you so much for creating this contest.
    Your support would be amazing, and besides that it is great to be able to share my work here with you and your readers. Even though our targeted budget is a bit higher than 5000, anything could be useful, and other ways to get involved are always available

    Just very excited to hear your ideas, opinion and feedback!

    Thanks again,

    Michiel

    Like

    • @Michiel – this is a killer idea! Social by design and has a shot of going viral. We are putting a social site together called SkateHero.net (we also own skateboardhero.net and snowboardinghero.com). I would love to promote your app on our sites when we go live.

      Like

    • I have a similar idea for an app that would be location based so that people could post spots that they skate/snowboard/bmx etc. such as rails or stairsets in cities or backcountry mountain areas. Your idea seems similar just with a different functionality.

      Like

  55. I’m so inspired by this App since after my last “mini-retirement” I was finding myself riding ferries in Indonesia and wishing for some travel apps, I can’t wait to refine and submit my App Idea. What a fantastic opportunity!!

    Lots of love to the whole team and good luck everyone, I feel some fantastic ideas coming on!

    Like

  56. Wow! I love step-by-step guides that give real life examples of how a “Muse” is created. ! I love the idea that a person could create passive income off an idea that is 90% outsourced to others from the beginning.

    Additionally, creating Apps is a great business model that a person can take themselves out and it could continue to run after it is complete.

    Thanks for posting this!

    Like

  57. If you examine the Productivity charts you’ll see that there are hundreds of ‘Organiser’ apps but the most successful – and those consistently found at the top of the Paid and Grossing charts – are apps that leverage an existing user base such as those of Evernote or Toodledo.

    Evernote has all the qualities of the perfect personal organiser except for two glaring omissions: To Do reminders and handwritten/drawn/ink notes.

    To get a sense for the demand for these two additions please visit EN’s noteworthy blog and read the comments under any of the product update posts. Handwritten notes alone would allow millions of users to fully replace paper with their iPad.

    Therefore, third-party apps have emerged to meet the demand and build successful businesses without ever requiring expensive advertising. Their apps are advertised directly to Evernote’s enormous userbase inside the EN client and online in the ‘Trunk’. Evernote’s popularity amongst the tech-crowd also means many third-party tools get coverage on top-100 blogs like LifeHacker.

    The best apps in this category are also able to charge a premium price because they appeal to SME/business users who can either write-off the app as an expense or see apps that help them get work done more quickly as worthy investments.

    The best of the existing apps, ‘Awesome Note’, is a great looking notes app that syncs with Evernote notebooks and allows the inclusion of handwritten/drawn items.

    However, by trying to also offer sync with “Google Docs” the developers of Awesome Note have undermined the core functionality needed to fully sync with Evernote. Formatting from EN’s excellent web-clipper is completely lost in AN and when synced back to EN the formatting doesn’t return. To-do items from Evernote are also lost in favour of a clunky proprietary system in AN. Worst of all, the app doesn’t automatically sync with EN so running it on an iPhone and iPad simultaneously is haphazard at best and outright treacherous at worst (I’ve lost hours of research in a botched sync).

    Other apps which handle ink/handwritten notes superbly (e.g. Penultimate) aren’t able to pull information in from Evernote and therefore the USP of EN – being able to find anything from any device – is lost in these apps.

    Therefore my app suggestion isn’t to reinvent the wheel – it’s to build an iPad and iPhone Evernote client that adds handwritten/ink notes and automatic two-way syncing to the existing functionality. If it looks half as good as Awesome Note (or the equally good looking CalDAV/Toodledo client app 2Do) then it will take pride of place on many iPads.

    So Chad, whether you pinch this idea and build it or award this idea the prize and give it a huge kickstart, there’s already thousands of customers desperate to download the app that gets this right.

    Alternatively, Tim if you speak to the EN guys directly; get ink notes pushed up the priority list! You’ll really help a lot of people who you’ve helped to work remotely, work even more effectively.

    Like

  58. Thanks for such a detailed look into the App development process! I’m an eCommerce guy, and was always skeptical of the App market, just assuming there were thousands of failed apps for every success. Good to know it’s possible to do well consistently. Congratulations on your success!

    Like

  59. Great Post! I was having conversations over the weekend with my partner and together we searched for an app that we could use and came up empty. I work part-time in the fitness industry as a personal trainer and Yoga instructor. I NEED an app that allows clients and attendees of our 3x per week yoga class “check-in” much like the airlines use 24 hours before a scheduled flight. Simple confirmations and reminders aren’t enough to ensure I’ll have enough people for class. An additional function would allow people to “request a check-in time” on days where a traditional class isn’t on the schedule but they would l like me to hold an impromptu class. I’d gladly do this if the demand was there via “check-ins” from interested students. There are many apps that can show locations of classes but there was nothing similar to the new “Great Clips” check-in app for the fitness industry. I spent $31.99 downloading Personal Trainer Pro and while it is a very complete app for managing my client information, it lacks that one component I need to accurately forecast so that I can reduce wasting time (The T Ferriss way). Thank you!

    Like

  60. Great information, this is very encouraging. I love music apps and thought of this idea a few weeks ago; it might be fun:

    ShowerMC or Shower Mic: Not everyone is blessed with Mariah Carey’s 5 Octave Vocal Range, but in the shower it may seem that way. Everyone (or most people) sound great when they sing in the shower. Shower Mic would be an app that transforms singing voices, emitting “shower quality sound”. Users can sing into their phone and record the audio. When files are played back by the user, Shower Mic will make them sound like they do in the shower.

    The app’s main page could feature a running shower background and traditional shower head as the mic – and maybe there can be fun bubbles that float around in the shape of musical notes.

    Shower Mic is for everyone or anyone who loves to sing in the shower!

    Like

  61. Chad- thanks for this. I recently downloaded your book and am already engrossed in it so this post is great timing for me. As a mobile User Experience designer, I have no shortage of ideas but am lacking in the execution area. So, I have three questions:

    1. How does your NDA hold up internationally? Have you ever had any issues with foreign developers?
    2. What do you include in the terms of your hiring contract? It sounds like your payment schedule is deliverable based, and not calendar based (meaning there is a deadline but payment is only made when the deliverable is met, even if it is late). Other tips?
    3. How do you handle updates with your developers? Do you typically go back to the original developer for the update, or have you had reason to onboard a new developer and deal with the setback in schedule?

    Lastly, if anyone here is in need of help with the ux/storyboards/wireframes of their app ideas…

    Like

  62. App Title: Bloodstone: An Epic Dwarven Tale Reboot

    Void goal: To re-release an old cult game in a new format.

    Explanation: I want to build an app that is based on one of the biggest game series of the 90s. Bloodstone is a prequel to The Magic Candle series, made by the now defunct Mindcraft Software Inc. Bloodstone is a DOS game that is now considered abandonware, but I am in contact with the owner of the copyright and in negotiations to buy the name. If I don’t get the rights, then it will become the ‘spiritual remake’ of the original.

    You can try it out here: http://www.oldgames.sk/en/game/bloodstone-an-epic-dwarven-tale/

    Many game companies are taking off these days. The Kickstarter campaign for Shadowrun (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1613260297/shadowrun-returns) hit their goal in 28 hours and blew past 3 times the goal with still a few days to go. People are looking for some nostalgia, and dusting off an old game and giving it a reboot is a great way to capitalize on this trend, not to mention make a lot of old geeks very happy, while at the same time introducing some new players to a very cool game.

    Created 20 years ago, The Magic Candle series is still fondly remembered in gaming circles. One of the first DOS games that people ran on their Pentium 100 machines. It introduced many new concepts, like in game notes.

    Game play: Many games get this wrong, but I am thinking of an innovative way to include turn based play with real time fighting. It is based on the Cyberlords – Arcology (http://amzn.com/B004THQ3RY) method of adding in a way to stop fighting and give specific orders to each member of the party. It also closely models the original turn based game play.

    Interface: http://i.imgur.com/b221P.png

    Races, classes, and skills: Taken directly from the original and streamlined.

    Development: I have a clear idea of what needs to be done. Very little thrashing. Seth Godin rammed that idea into my head a long time ago with one of his talks (http://vimeo.com/5895898). I am going for a 16 bit look. They fit a huge game on two floppies. This game can be done the same way. Epic scale with a small footprint.

    Monetization methods: Free game (Level 1-5) and a paid game (Level 6 to 20). Microtransactions are also an idea. 25 cents for top of the line armor, weapons, or spells are an idea. The exact same model that Cyberlords uses is also an option.

    Marketing: I am far better at marketing than game design. I used my own marketing to beat out 2000 people to get on a Japanese reality show. America’s Got Talent contacted me last month about a video I made 4 years ago. My press releases helped books hit the #1 spot on Amazon.

    Research:
    Bloodstone Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloodstone:_An_Epic_Dwarven_Tale
    Mindcraft Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindcraft_Software

    Like

  63. App: Tap Tap Country
    Category: Education

    Players will learn countries/capitals/shapes/geographic locations of all Earth’s countries.

    Beginning with individual continents, players will work their way up to tapping the correct country (out of 2 or 3 visible choices) from all the 193 countries. Players can unlock badges, hit streaks, and activate ‘capital bonus’ mode.

    In capital bonus mode players, after tapping the correct country, will have to tap the correct name of that country’s capital.

    Reason for success: There is a top-rated 50 states game in the Education Category. Searches containing “country” yield a few results, but only one is based on visually selecting countries on a map (the best way to learn geography) and it’s terribly ugly. With slick visuals and a “game-ified” reward system this app will be a great learning tool.

    Click here for more info and a sample visual: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1z1UV-0fOgFQS7LUfINqJdcKjt4214fakabxLh-pGGn8/edit

    Like

  64. Great Post – maybe enough to get me moving on an app idea or two I’ve had.
    Here’s my submission:

    We’ve all been there before: You are at work, a fancy dinner, maybe even the movies, and you get a text / email / phone call that disrupts everyone around you. Glares are sent your way as you struggle to get your phone out and turn it to silent.

    Well, AutoHush can help.

    AutoHush is an app that manages your phone’s notification audio based on your location. Adding a new location would use a Maps-like interface where you can enter in a specific address, or use your current location. The next step is to select the desired notification audio(Text message: Silent, Calls: Vibrate, Etc.). Then finish adding, and from that point on when you approach that new location, your phone will change to that profile.

    You could have different profiles: Home, Work, Church, etc. All managing your phone’s audio without any interaction from you.

    Like

  65. here is my idea, generally for teenagers and college students.

    let suppose there are 3 guys (gaurav, vikas, shyam) living together in a dorm room and they bought some kitchen products.

    there individual spending, which they will either share or not with each other.

    gaurav- biscuits, rice, wheat, milk, a light bulb (of which he will share every thing except of biscuits with other two guys).

    vikas- beer, liquid handwash. (beer for himself, liquid hand wash will be used by all three)

    shyam- vegetable (shared by all three).

    now we need to decide who pays to how much money to who, so that money is shared between all, according to there usage.

    price(in rupees):

    biscuits – 12
    rice – 99
    wheat – 120
    milk – 42
    light bulb – 15
    beer – 66
    liquid handwash – 81
    vegetables – 120

    now money is balance as:-
    Gaurav – he spend total 288 (his share is 171) so he payed 117 extra. of which he will get 39 from shyam(spent 120 but his share is 159) and 78 from vikas(who spend 147 but his share is 225)….

    so the application would be to create a profile of individuals and divide there shared money they spend.

    I am a college student and really it takes too much time and effort to divide money daily like this and believe that so many students around the globe do the same….

    great article, Thank you :)

    Like

  66. Eyes On The Road app.

    Gives user the ability to STOP TEXTING and DRIVING.

    For diagram, see:

    http://www.sparsegroup.com/maximumconversions/2012/04/23/new-app-in-possible-development-eyesontheroad/

    Nobody likes to stop texting and driving, especially when that’s the POINT of a MOBILE PHONE.

    But everyone likes Google’s beer goggles, and in essence, that’s what this is. Beer goggles for texting and driving. Text Goggles is an alternate name.

    Hope this app wins!

    http://www.sparsegroup.com/maximumconversions/2012/04/23/new-app-in-possible-development-eyesontheroad/

    Brooks Hanes

    Like

  67. Everyone needs to stop Texting while Driving, but nobody can.

    EyesOnTheRoad or Text Goggles detects your movement, in a motor vehicle, and applies a frustration (determent) technique to slow the desire to text.

    Click on my name for the URL to my Visual Chart _with pictures_:

    www[dot]sparsegroup[dot]com/maximumconversions/2012/04/23/new-app-in-possible-development-eyesontheroad/

    Like

  68. Okay, here’s my idea.

    Nike+ GPS is an app for tracking your runs and providing the motivation you need by allowing friends to comment and tag which inserts a cheer into the audio stream. THis is a top selling app! This is great but what is lacking is the ability to include your own feedback based on location from previous runs.

    I’m a single-track biker (read: mountain biking through woods). With single-track it’s tough to remember where the obstacles are and you can end up losing valuable time with false prediction of obstacles. Or worse you can end up wrapped around a tree because you forgot one. The same is true with other sports (running, off-road, skiing, snowmobiling, rally road racing, or any track or trail sport).

    The app I’m dreaming of provides the ability to record obstacles or self-advice that will be played back in future laps. The app would need to allow the audio to be offset as a warning that plays *before* the obstacle. Example: “Oh #*&%! Tree!” would play one second before it was recorded on the previous lap or for runners “mean dog” or “tough incline” 10 seconds before the event.

    All the other features of Nike+ would be cool too.

    Let’s get cracking on this ;)

    Thanks,

    :Dan

    Like

  69. —–>>>> APP CONCEPT <<<“Proximity Dating”

    With Geo-location enabled, users are able to make their “profile” public. When they wonder around on their daily routine, taking the bus to work, shopping for groceries, eating out or just taking a walk, the app will alert you when another user is in close proximity – or if their profile matches yours. It’s real-time live dating. The app offers ice-breakers, and if it is good to go meeting up would only be a few minutes away.

    This idea comes from a more general concept whereby users are able to create public personal preference profiles on their device and as they journey through the world if they happen to pass something which matches the profile – they are alerted.

    If I like Stabucks, and I am in the area (like on any street corner..lol), I could be alerted to the location and they could even send me a coupon as I walk past the door. The overriding concept is having a public profile on your device which is activated when passing through geo-locations which match your likings/preferences.

    All the best and good luck to everyone in this competition!

    Like

  70. Wow, this post came at a great time for me. I had an idea for a KILLER and incredibly useful app just this weekend, in fact I had just bought Stephen Key’s “One Simple Idea” at the bookstore to flesh it out in greater detail and develop it.

    I’m a bit hesitant to post the idea publicly, but once I follow your steps and draw out how it will work and some research behind, who knows, might decide to enter this contest..

    Like

  71. Hi Chad,

    AMAZING post! I’ve been considering apps for a while now, but I’m a marketer, not a programmer, and was quoted $14K+. Please see my entry below! :-)

    According to The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, “as many as 15 million Americans have food allergies, including approximately 6 million children.” The amount of people affected by food allergies continues to grow each year. The following eight foods are responsible for 90% of all food-allergic reactions in the U.S.: milk, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, and fish. The app I’m looking to create would serve those struggling with food allergies, as well as those with specific food preferences (specifically vegetarians and vegans).

    I’d like users to be able to select their food preferences (dairy-free, meat-free, nut-free, gluten-free, soy-free, GMO-free, etc.) and find places to eat or shop nearby using the GPS feature on their phone. This would work almost like Google Maps, because the results would be based on where the user was located at that moment. In addition, users would be able to type in an address or zip code to find options by (as this is unavailable in similar apps, but necessary–as expressed by the app reviewers). The grocery stores, restaurants, etc. would have user-generated ratings and be tagged with food options (dairy-free, gluten-free, etc.).

    There are several apps that have similar concepts, but fall short. One of the most popular ones seems to be HappyCow, which is a vegan & vegetarian world restaurant finder. The application is $2.99, which seems high to me. The biggest issue users have is that they cannot “plan ahead.” If they are going to travel, they cannot see their options ahead of time. The users have to physically be in the location to search the places nearby.

    Another problem, there aren’t enough choices in the database. Imagine buying an app for $2.99 and realizing there are “no results found” in your area. Similarly, I don’t believe HappyCow allows users to extend the radius searched, so people might not get any results for where they are, but there may be an option meeting their food standards right outside of the radius being searched!

    A popular app for food allergy sufferers appears to be iCanEat OnTheGo, which allows users to select their “allergens” and then shows them what meals can be eaten at popular fast-food establishments. The app developer has the right idea, but most people struggling with allergies that I know cannot eat ANYTHING in an establishment that uses dairy, eggs, fish, gluten, peanuts, etc. The allergies are severe or aren’t, but they don’t want to take any risk.

    The market is definitely there. My app would serve not only those with food allergies or food preferences, but also the healthy-minded crowd that want to avoid specific types of ingredients, while still remaining “niche enough” to be hot!

    Balsamiq Mock-up: http://i39.tinypic.com/9pna5f.png

    Looking forward,
    Kaitlyn

    Like

  72. I am a mom to three kids and shop online for most of their clothes and shoes. I want to build an app that will allow me to measure my kids feet (width and length) on my iPad/Galaxy screen and show me their true size in US/UK/EU shoes. I would love for ads to link to new styles/sales, etc. once measured, so that I can purchase shoes that are just right for little feet.

    Like

  73. Finally a comprehensive article on this subject. I do have one question. With all the ideas being posted here is that really smart since the article mentions getting an NDA to protect your idea, then now there is a public forum where less ethical folks may wander in and pinch the best ones.

    Also, there is a fledging company called appbates.com APPBATES where you can get your app made free and share in the ad clicks. That pays for your app development free then over time the percentage covers the cost and you still make money even though the app was made free. Pretty neat. I have them doing a qr code one for me.

    Like

  74. Amazing post!

    Here’s my app idea:

    I’ve been extracting an idea by interviewing people in the very small niche market of equine dentists for the past 6 months which led to me creating a web-app for them which simply allows them to scan and upload their paper charts to our servers for remote access in the cloud (its a little more complex than that but that’s the basic idea).

    From connecting with all these dentists is has become apparent that they’re looking to take this a few steps further with a fully digital solution that can be used without a data connection…enter the iPad app.

    I’m not going to get into detail explaining the features here because I made a video that you can watch instead: http://media.shinywhitebox.com/david-lawrence/equifiles-equine-dentistry-ipad-app

    Basically I created a clickable UI using keynotopia (I can’t even match my clothes let alone design a decent UI) – you can see that it was modeled off the settings app on the iPad and Evernote – which I am now showing to my list of dentists for feedback to make sure that we have the feature set locked in to make the whole process a lot easier for the developers. *The developers loved getting a screencapture video as well!

    I have already tweaked a couple of features with the early feedback and added a small reminder and appointment setting feature.

    Now I know this is a fairly comprehensive app which is definitely bigger than the discussed pricepoint in the article but based on the feedback and validation I have done there is definitely a market for it so I’m not worried about the potential ROI, but more focused on finding the money to get it done in the first place. Some of it is coming from prepayments from the dentists but this $5,000 would go a long way to getting the ball rolling!!!

    I’m also going to apply the ol’ scope hammer to get it into an MVP format to start generating revenue to get it to full functionality. Plus after this initial investment, the source code from the app can be adjusted and repackaged for related business verticals.

    I think there’s massive potential in the SMB market for apps tailored to their industry and monetized through metered and usage-based billing systems.

    This whole project is my first foray into web development and is my big push and gamble to avoiding getting my first “real job” after finishing my degree. Sorry but when all I could find was regional sales rep for print supplies (as much as my mom would have preferred that) I really decided to put that in the “backup plan” pile and just go to work finding my own way.

    Hope you guys like it and for all the designers and tech savvy readers if you’ve got any feedback for me on the app idea don’t hold back!

    Like

    • Update: I had a 1.5 hour conversation with the dentist who created some of the first software in this niche and he’s not only sending me a free copy of his application but he’s giving me the entire list of people who purchased it to market to!

      I also have 3 dentists committed to pre-purchasing credits in the app in order to help get the project funded. My goal is to get to 10 dentists prepaid for true market validation because if I’ve learned one thing its that lots of people will tell you how cool your idea is but when it comes time to pay you’ll get a different story from most of them.

      The extensive research is paying off and the validation is well on its way.

      Like

  75. Since mobile technology is the next big thing and social networking is so big, why not combine the two and create something that fulfills a fundamental human social need; i.e.(friendship, dating, sex, entertainment, communication, confession, networking)

    My idea:
    Is a social networking app similar to the newest apps everyone is raving about at SXSW festival (Glancee, Highlight, Kismet). I uses the GPS tracking in your phone to show your current position and the people around you. It gives you the ability to view their profile, with links to their Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, almost as if people are walking around with these icons above their head giving you information about them and the ability to approach and talk with them once you find common ground. The app also integrates a reward system similar to Foursquare or Groupon. After meeting a new person/connection you receive a coupon or gift, for example buy one get one free drink, this also gives you an incentive to meet others. It is a Facebook/Twitter meets Foursquare and Groupon. Good for dating, networking, meeting others and exploring new places/opportunities.

    Great article!
    Thanks

    Like

  76. Nice post Chad!

    My idea is to redesign lost & found for the connected city.

    Here’s a demo, that brings the idea to life: http://vimeo.com/35435403

    Have you ever lost anything in a big city like NY or SF? It’s a nightmare to get back and a broken user experience. The idea is simple: Phoundit directly connects finders and owners of lost property through location, for an offline return experience.

    I’ve done research that validates “finder’s aren’t necessarily keepers” through purposefully losing items across New York City to see if they’d be returned. More details here: http://elanmiller.com/post/16360061321/on-social-experiments

    Good luck everyone!
    e

    Like

  77. Chad, thanks for sharing all this info and Tim for putting it up.

    Here goes mine: Business Category: Send a Note: “Send a hand written thank you note you don’t have to write yourself”. In today’s text and email world hand writing and sending out an actual signed card will mean more than ever.

    Lets create an app that allows users to send handwritten notes directly via an app. Users will only have to log-in, write the message on the screen, their name, mailing address and hit SEND. Via the online page users will “load” their account with a minimum of $10 which allows them to send out 4 notes ($2.50/note). Apple has a similar app but it’s too expensive and notes are not Hand Written. I can have my assistant hand write the notes until orders are large enough at which point we can easily outsource this task. Total cost per card and postage for us is about $1.50 including my assistance time. Healthy margin!

    PS/The person writing the notes will physically also sign the note on the users behalf. *Sending an actual hand written note in today’s society means much more than ever before.

    PSS/I already have the design mock-ups ready to go!

    Thanks for listening.

    Like

  78. This is an AWESOME article! People don’t realize this, as you said, even if it’s a 4-year old market it’s still in its initial phase. This is gonna continue to grow more and more, so the best time is NOW.

    I’m super interested in starting an app business and looking to meet cool people with who we can create a Mastermind and help each other out in the process.

    This post can also be a place to meet fellows like you so take advantage of that too!

    If anyone is interested add me on Facebook! (Just click on my name) ;)

    Thanks Chad for the article ;)

    Like

  79. Just finished a 600-page encyclopedia of best-practices, The Ultimate Guide to Sales Training (Pfeiffer). With close to 30 million U.S. individuals working in the selling profession (I don’t have global numbers at this time), an app designed to remove the biggest bottleneck in selling would have extremely high value.

    That bottleneck is Handling Objections.

    I have a proprietary model for developing responses to buyer resistance. In training I show a 12 page document on responding to price objections (it’s compressed onto a single page for fun). But the point is you can develop 30 or 40 or more responses to any objection. This enables a variety of sales pros to “find their voice.’ That is, use language with which they’re most comfortable and is a reflection of their personality. Each objection would have responses that fit into a wide and wild variety of comments, depending on the type of buyer, type of product and many other factors.

    The App would be customizable for each salesperson and/or each organization, as each company normally has about six objections that limit their ability to close business.

    And while this App can’t replace sales training, this one piece of the selling puzzle can be taught apart from formal training, with great results.

    To supplement, teach or practice what’s learned, I already have a flash-based video game called Revenge of the Reps where salespeople can click on buyers who offer resistance and determine how to respond to those buyers (including zapping the truly bad ones – sales pros know that some buyers just aren’t going to be upfront and honest and you better learn to move on).

    This App could serve as a major first step to creating Apps for 30+ additional pieces of the sales training puzzle.

    Like

  80. iPhone App programming became my “muse” after reading 4HWW. I am now an app developer and I too started with absolutely no experience. And yet I grossed $1-2K/mo. in less than a year (only after a few months, really).

    Here is the problem that I had that this post solved: I relied to much on programming myself or with a buddy that was a way more skilled programmer. The problem came when the two of us could not make the apps quick enough. Though I quit my 9-5… he still works his.

    What I need to do is hire different programmers to execute my never-ending ideas. But, I simplified my life so that I could survive on the app income, primarily, while still hustling new business ideas such as: children’s book writing and publishing. I still have a list of great app ideas but here is my best.

    My new App idea that can be made with Chad’s help:

    ‘A Frogger-style game for iPhone and iPad with an original character concept’

    Bonus Points: My research?

    Games are always the top sellers and biggest money makers… Angry Birds (Need I say more).

    Here are the recent in ‘what’s hot category… 50% of them are games:
    1. Whole living magazine
    2. Makers
    3. Crow (Game)
    4. Tops Bunt
    5. Spell Tower (Game)
    6. Soul Caliber (Game)
    7. Max Payne Mobile (Game)
    8. Avengers Origins (Game)
    9. Tetris (Game)
    10. NHL Game Center (Game)
    11. Daily Show Headlines
    12. The Lorax HD (Game)

    In todays Top Free Apps the top two spot are Games:
    1. Deer Hunter Reloaded (Games)
    2. Kingdom Age (Games)

    In Todays Top Paid Apps 5 of the top 10 are games:
    2. Angry Birds Space HD
    3. Draw Something by OMG
    4. Shark Dash
    6. Spell tower
    9. Wheres my water?

    The research is easy like Chad said and fun. Also, having a game ready for iPad and iPhone increases sales dramatically since iPhone has the larger user base yet smaller profits while iPad has less competition for apps and larger profits.

    My research also showed that the most popular of all time apps are ones that are simple, fun and addictive with unlock levels and in-app purchases or franchises such as ‘Angry Birds seasons’.

    My app will have the simple, fun and addictive game style of old school frogger with vivid HD character concepts that I created writing a series of children’s books entitled, “Battles of the Florida Roadkill’ (which I am currently preparing to self-publish through Amazon and iBooks so there will be cross-promotion with the book and the game).

    We will have a multi player game play as well that will implement an Angry Birds slingshot-type shooting function.

    The connection between Roadkill and the frogger concept was a no-brainer.

    That is the short of it. Sorry for the lists instead of images but, I don’t know how to implement images into the comments box.

    Like

  81. Title: Who Are Your True Friends?

    Purpose: To understand the nature of your relationships.

    In a world of 1000+ facebook friends, sometimes we wonder, how many of these relationships are meaningful connections. Texts are the preferred method of communication among many kids and adults.

    The app shows who we interact with the most and how by showing a leader board based on specified criteria (# of texts, texts per day, length of texts, average response time, etc) and at specific time intervals (1 day, 10 days, 30 days, 90 days, 1 year, all time).

    The free version will only show the top 5 people in each category while the full-version will show interactions for everyone.

    Like

  82. Thank you Chad & Tim for the great value you are giving to us.

    I’m desperate for an ANSWERING MACHINE APP on IOS & ANDROID.
    There are only Text/SMS answering apps but not a real one.

    If you have an incoming call and you don’t like to answer and you don’t like to reject the call because it might not be very polite you can touch another button where your answering machine answers.
    And because it’s an app you can manage those messages easily on your phone.

    As a feature I would suggest Tim’s voicemail template is already preinstalled ,-)

    I read there might be some hardware difficulties with the microphone but I’m sure if you work concentrated on that project you will make great success.
    Lots of business man are actually waiting for this app and are tired of those text/sms answering machines!

    I hope you will consider “my idea” ,-)

    Sunny Greetings – ALEX

    Like

  83. Love the guide, thanks so much.

    I think it would be a nice gesture to have a way for people to submit their ideas without having to announce them, unprotected, to however many thousands of people.

    Like

    • p.s. – I’m curious, does anyone know if there’s a market for creating music for app developers?

      I’ve created music, from drama to hip-hop, for TV since 1998. I don’t know if there’s a realistic market, or if music has gotten kind of devalued in app-land as it has in other markets.

      cheers!
      Todd

      Like

    • Hey guys- Thanks so much for all of your comments. The response has been amazing and my team is super excited to review all of your ideas!

      (Todd, I’m posting this under your comment since it’s the highest up with this question.)
      For those who were hoping to submit their idea privately (via email, rather than a comment): I completely understand where you’re coming from, but for this particular contest, we wanted to have a public forum so everyone could feel like they were on an even playing field.* Tim’s community is about sharing, which is why I gave away a lot of my book’s best content for this post. We want to encourage you guys to open up and share your ideas, but if you don’t feel comfortable sharing,** you don’t have to enter the contest! You can still pursue the idea on your own, and hopefully this post gives you a good enough roadmap to do that. Just remember: having an idea isn’t nearly as important as actually doing the research, proving the concept, and being able to execute.

      * I also didn’t want to make it seem like I was building a private collection of ideas to capitalize on :)

      ** This is why I only make hired programmers sign an NDA, and not my friends whom I share my ideas with — I know a programmer has the skills to successfully execute my ideas on their own. My friends, however, usually can’t (no offense, friends!) so I’m not afraid to open up with them.

      Best of luck everyone!

      Like

  84. Thank you for the post.

    My app idea is one that emulates existing successful apps. While looking over the best-sellers list, I noticed that there are several entertaining photo-enhancing apps on the list such as Baldify, Fatbooth, and Oldify. Judging by the success of these apps, I would like to design an app that makes the individual’s face in the photo look younger and skinnier. It is the opposite of the Oldify and Fatbooth apps. The name of the app may be Youngify or Glorydays.

    Thanks in advance for the consideration.

    Like

  85. This is a unique submission: I just co-created my first app, which was released last week. Part of a two-person team, I handled all editorial content, research and marketing. My boyfriend Joe developed the app in its entirety. We collaborated on every step, from concept to submission to Apple.

    Cheazza – Cheap Pizza is a free iPhone app highlighting New York City’s best cheap pizza. We absolutely love NYC’s dollar slices, and decided to show others where to get the best. Users can find nearby dollar slices, pizza freebies and other cheap deals.

    We created the app in our spare time for fun. Our marketing, promotion and advertising efforts are limited to anything free. We’ve proven we can execute an app with a great niche idea. We could use the money from this contest to market that idea broadly and to great effect.

    Like

  86. I’m currently working on an app that will help coach good posture with audible and or vibrating feedback when the iPhone… held in a strap that I’ve already made above the waist is at a bad angle. I’m working with an Occupational Therapist for support with the proper stances and angles at different points of a user’s back.

    Picture of the Waist Band:

    http://www.charlesgrugan.com/?attachment_id=298

    It will track the amount of time they are within “Good Posture” and “Bad Posture”. This way they can track their progress over time.

    if you have an iPhone, use it to go here: http://philau.charlesgrugan.com/myBack/index.html

    Above is a link to the app working as a Web app using only what I have coded in HTML5, CSS3 and Javascript.
    That’ right, a web App. Using other technology, I’ve found a way to get around placing items in the App store. All a user needs is the web address.

    This is a project in it’s infancy, I started three days ago. I welcome any feedback about this app.

    Link to the Application’s documentation:

    http://philau.charlesgrugan.com/UpstandingCitizen/myBack!2.pdf

    Like