The app industry is growing, yet the time people spend using apps is staying consistent. It’s time to recognise that the battle to stand out in app stores is getting tougher with every passing day. But going above and beyond with the work you put into branding, user experience and user interface can launch you to the 5-star reviews realm.
Every day, thousands of new apps are launched in the App Store and in Google Play. In 2017, there were an estimated 2.2 million iOS apps available, and another 3 million available in Google Play. You can confidently say the app industry is huge, and the truth is it’s only getting bigger: App Annie reports that between 2015 and 2020, the mobile app industry will quadruple the generated annual gross revenue, reaching $189 billion.
The question that stands out more and more is this: how big is the attention span of the average human when they’re using apps? Well, there’s a trend showing up repeatedly, called the 30:10 rule (meaning roughly 30 apps per month, 10 per day), confirmed by reports made by App Annie, Forrester, and Nielsen.
The truth of the matter is that the app industry is slowly maturing. Competition is getting tougher and users more sophisticated. If you want your product to stand out, you need to go above and beyond to make it. The good news is the ways of making your app stand out haven’t been exhausted yet, and they probably won’t get exhausted fully ever. In fact, there is a three-threaded approach that may just get you on top of the masses of average apps and help you stand out. At it’s core, the approach is simple, but harder to implement: if you want the users to choose you, you need to argument and validate their choice at every step of their interaction with your product. And you do this in three ways: through branding your product, paying attention to the user experience you create, and designing a delightful user interface.
Build your product’s brand
A brand is more than a logo, a name or a set of colours and fonts. Yes, you want to be easily recognisable and present an appealing identity. But you also have to make sure that under the looks, your future users will find something they resonate with. After all, a brand is who your product shows itself to be and the perceptions it strives to create at every point of contact with prospective audience and users.
Branding is what makes your product say: “This is who I am, this is what I do, this is what you can expect from me”. Branding is more than marketing efforts, whose main efforts are to determine a course of action in their audience. Marketing tactics are what’s pushing users to check out your product’s landing page and test your product. But it’s your brand’s strength that determines a user to stay loyal and recommend your product to their friends.
To increase your brand’s strength you need to know who your product is and what it stands for. Once you have a clear definition of that, you can look at your customer journey, outside and inside the product, and make sure your brand is coming across consistently at all points of contact.
The process itself is complex and needs patience and constant interactions with your user base. After all, there is no brand without an audience. Don’t hesitate to start small and remain self-aware across your journey to grow your product. In time, your brand will grow hand-in-hand with your product.
Create a valuable user experience
If branding makes you consistent in who you are, user experience is what makes your product deliver the value you promised. A positive user experience finds the balance between your objectives as a business (growing and turning profits) and the goals of the users (usually, solving a problem for them or satisfying a want they have).
It’s worth remembering that user experience isn’t created in a vacuum, or a conference room. If you want users to have great experiences with your product, you need to go where your users are and understand them: map their processes, identify their frustrations, test and validate your prototype with them. You may not always be able to give them what they want, but when you succeed in giving them what they need, they will appreciate you solving a problem for them.
As a founder, you need to allow the process of building your user experience and adding new features to be iterative. Despite a fast moving industry and impatient investors, the truth of the matter is that the step-by-step approach will give you time to gain more insights, plan and streamline development and ensure you are providing value at every step of the way.
Delight though user interface
The last thread in making your product stand out is the user interface itself. Clothing both your product’s brand and functionalities into attractive and clear visuals, user interface is the face your product will show every day to the people using it.
That is why you should strive to keep things clear and delightful for users. A great user interface clarifies and supports the user’s options and tasks, is pleasant for the eye and offers clear feedback on actions taken, but also manages to add delightful elements (i.e. a celebratory animation, an icon that conveys personality).
When you, the product founder, succeed in threading together a strong brand, clear user experience and delightful user interface, they all come together and make your app stand out in crowded app stores and overpopulated smartphones. Yes, you have to go above and beyond to make these come together in a coherent way. You have to make better decisions, invest more time and effort, become more demanding when you outsource tasks, and be more aware of where your product is and where you are heading with it. But at the end of the day, your hard work will pay off and success will follow it, through a product that stands out and provides value and delights every user.