Lessons On Mobile App Development From Top 100 Mobile Apps
Lessons On Mobile App Development From Top 100 Mobile Apps
The following review looks at lessons on mobile app development from top 100 mobile apps, what they are, why each one of them is unique and the lesson to learn.

Are you exploring the idea of building an app?

Below, I’ve outlined 15 important lessons we can learn about mobile app development from Top 100 Mobile Apps, to help when choosing an app developer, marketing strategy, app design, etc.

You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else. – Albert Einstein

The following review looks at lessons on mobile app development from top 100 mobile apps, what they are, why each one of them is unique and the lesson to learn.

Case Study – Tinder

What it is:

Tinder has paved the way for modern ‘dating’. They’ve created a brand new way for people to connect with other people in their area.

Why it’s unique:

  • Straight forward design – no didgeridoos or features for the sake of being.
  • It’s a dating app with a shuffle card ‘feel’.
  • The design appeals to both genders.

The lesson to learn:

Ensure your users’ goals are met quickly

Most companies that operate in the dating space match people with similar personalities through complex questionnaires, and other weird tests. All this stuff makes people feel awkward and none of it really helps them meet their objectives very quickly.

Tinder on the other hand took a big side-step and started matching people at random who live in a similar area.

People can flip through profiles at a glance, without too much thinking or reading needed, and send connection requests to people that catch their interest.

Filling out questionnaires, or reading profiles takes away from the experience and maximises the work needed to achieve the desired outcome (see goal-directed design). Keep it clean, make it simple.

Avoid chasing short term gains

Case Study – Snapchat

What it is:

If you’re a non-millennial reading this, Snapchat involves a video, or photo snap is taken and sent to the receiver (most likely a friend…or sometimes an enemy). The receiver opens it and a timer is triggered. After the timer has timed-out the footage is erased forever. Just like that.

Why they’re unique:

In a ridiculously short space of time Snapchat has over 150million daily active users. The most successful update to Snapchat is the inclusion of ‘filters’ which they update daily, in order to create an anticipation for users that keep them coming back for more. 

The fact that the content is automatically destroyed is the real hook of snapchat which has resulted in some pretty gnarly footage floating around in the ‘interwebs.’ Not to mention a 3 billion dollar acquisition offer from Facebook…which they casually denied.

The Lesson to learn:

Are you thinking big or fast?

In my experience, App entrepreneurs are primarily concerned with how to monetise.

Common strategies include charging $0.99 per download, or in app advertising. Even at the expense of turning the user off.

Putting yourself before your users may bring short term gains, however a ‘free-to-download-strategy’ removes a big barrier of entry and opens the doors to millions of people who normally wouldn’t pay for apps. As a result you’re almost certain to get more word-of-mouth-marketing… which solves your second problem… User Acquisition!

Ask yourself the question: Should I focus on Growth First and Revenue Later?

Does gamification equal user engagement?

Case Study – Lumosity

What it is:

Lumosity is super-cool online Brain Training Program that tracks your results and gives you visual feedback on how you’re training is going in terms of improvement of overall brain performance.

Why They’re Unique:

It uses gamification in a smart way to incentivise desired user behaviour. Using gamification they’ve managed to build an engaged user base of 40 million people around the globe and monetise through a monthly subscription model at $14 a month. How do I know? I’m one of the suckers paying the big bugs to train my brain!

The Lesson to Learn:

Nobody downloads an app JUST because it has gamification…

Use gamification…but use it in a smart way.

Foursquare uses a badge-reward-system to encourage good user behaviour. But users quickly grow tired of the app because they don’t have a strong enough reason to use it.

Lumosity’s training platform gives users a sense of achievement and reinforces it through gamification.

Check out our crash course on Gamifying Mobile Apps here.

Leapfrog existing players with mCommerce

Case Study – Jack Threads

What is it:

An online shopping club, featuring daily sales of top-tier street, skate, surf and contemporary men’s fashion brands, accessible via a stylish mobile app. (And yes I’m a regular user…)

Why They’re Unique:

Jack Threads were quick to  jump aboard the ‘mCommerce-wagon’. It’s easy for users to browse their goods on the fly and because of their low-low prices and easy-to-use payment gateway it’s even easier to buy stuff.

The Lesson to Learn:

Get the First Mover Advantage

Back in 2008 competitive retailers like Amazon, etc. mopped up big turf by investing into the eCommerce scene before anyone else did. Why not take a leaf out of Jackthreads book, and leapfrog traditional competitors through mCommerce?

Dove-tail into successful applications

Case Study – VSCO Cam

What it is:

The VSCO Cam app gives you extra filters, fonts, and colours for your Instagram photos. It’s a design favourite at our office. 

Why They’re Unique:

They’ve leveraged the user-base of the popular app, Instagram, by adding value to the existing Instagramming process through additional filters and type-overlay, etc. VSCO isn’t the only (or even the first) to do this but they had a particular style that appealed to Instagram’s most dedicated audience. 

The Lesson to Learn

Don’t reinvent the wheel

Are you struggling to come up with a the next big social network? Or Candy Crush Saga Game? You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Why not just do what VSCO did and dove-tail off an already successful application?

What application can you Dove-tail off or add value to?

Generate Brand Awareness Through A Mobile App

Case Study – Lorna Jane

What it is:

Lorna Jane  is a sports-brand clothing company and have launched a mobile app that tracks your exercise-runs, walks and cycles – similar to Nike+. You can record your distance traveled, total active time, pace, speed and calories burned. What exercise-junkie wouldn’t love this?

Why They’re Unique:

These guys are smart. They’re advertising in a non-intrusive way through a brand-building campaign which moulds the way consumers ‘feel’ about the company and products.

The Lesson to Learn

Advertise without annoying people

Simple question: Who do you think the user of the Lorna Jane app is going to buy their sports ware from next time – Who’s always in their face? It’s the ‘Recency & Frequency’ model gone mobile!

Case Study – The Economist

What it is:

The economist is a written publication and have led the way in print innovation, one of the first to market with digital version of their magazine to be downloaded as an application.

Why They’re Unique:

In response to the significant decline in printed media the smart marketing people at The Economist have engaged mobile app developers to help attract an even broader range of readers who prefer to read from an iPhone/iPad instead of print-media. Like me!

The Lesson to Learn

Stay with the bell-curve-of-change

Blockbuster, Taxi’s and other business who have enjoyed dominant market share for many years are now struggling to stay alive in this digital landscape.

If you’re in a market with emerging substitute products think about moving with the times (like The Economist), even if you’re not under threat…yet

The example above highlights how rapidly new technology can turn an industry on its head.

How will you avoid being left behind?

Use the Halo Effect to Generate Traction

Case Study – Uber Eats

What is it:

UberEATS is an on-demand meal delivery service. Originally powered by the Uber ride sharing app it is now available as a stand alone app in its own right.

Why They’re Unique:

If you think of Uber as a ride-sharing platform, you’re wrong. Uber is dedicated to “finding better ways to move, work and thrive.” Once establishing themselves as a cutting edge and historically disruptive ride-sharing platform, they realised that the data collected by this platform opened up an entirely new suite of product opportunities. 

The Lesson to Learn

Use past successes to your advantage

The halo effect is the concept of one product generating enthusiasm for another product by piggy-packing off the initial product’s reputation.

How could you do the same?

We were lucky enough to have Uber present at one of our innovation events, you can watch the insightful video presentation here.