How to make a profitable app?

Making a profitable app is the 21st-century Holy Grail.

Importance of an idea

Non-technical people think a good idea is half of a successful app. Technical people think that if only they had a good idea, they would have implemented it successfully. Neither is true. An idea is just a multiplication of an implementation. An average idea with great implementation produces good results. A poor idea with great implementation produces some results. A great idea with no action produces no result. Therefore, seek good ideas, but don’t fool yourself by thinking that your ideas are worth anything. Without action they are worthless.

How to find an idea?

Attitude

There are eight billion people on our planet, each problem you face isn’t secluded. It’s up to you what you do with it, you can either:

  1. do nothing;
  2. outsource the problem solving to someone else;
  3. or, take proactive steps, create the solution, turn it into product, and offer it to people solving thier problems too.

With this attitude, ideas will show up constantly on your daily basis. If not, you can try these generic ideas below.

Interests fussion

First approach works best if you want to work alone, or with trusted partner.

To create a robust idea, you need at least two interests, first one is assumed to be programming. The second one you must find within yourself, or within someone else you will work with. It must be a really close relationship because those interests won’t naturally align with each other. Therefore you need to trust each other as you would trust yourself, otherwise, you will waste a lot of time rightening misunderstandings.

The second interest is essential because it gives you insights into problems of the other domain. Problems that you can solve with programming. This gap of unsolved problem should make you angry, should motivate you to take action. This combination should be strong enough to bring innovation in the second field.

The other way of looking at this approach is that introducing interests put boundares on the infinite field of ideas. The field is so huge that you get overwhelmed by its size. Each interest cut off a big portion of ideas, leaving you with the amount you can deal with. The more interests you put the less ideas you are left with; although counter-intuitive at first, it’s good thing.

Try to be as specific as possible, don’t try to target general problems. If you like cooking, don’t create app with just collection of recipes, you must narrow it down.

Building unpon only one interest (e.g., only programming) won’t work because you fall into very competitive field full of highly experienced people and institutions that have already built fortifications in that field. You are small, you don’t have much to lose, turn it into your favor, compete where agility is vital.

Listen to people’s problems

Listen to people’s problems, the wealthier they are, the more valuable the problems.

One businessman once asked me if I know any company doing dropshipping in Poland because he couldn’t find any. After googling for a while I didn’t find any catalog with companies offering dropshipping. Most people would get aggravated and move on. What you should do is to react to these obstacles in a new proactive way. A nasty problem someone is facing is a business idea that you can build on. The dropshipping turned out to be a great niche with unsolved problems. There is no good catalog where people can find dropshipping companies.

If after searching you find some company solving the same problem, it’s all right, at least you know there is money in this niche.

Generalise what is specific

Each website has its own review system, most of which has questionable credibility. The problem can be solved by creating a generalized app that is a general review platform of all the products. Example rustpilot.com, ceneo.pl.

Specify what is general

Facebook offers an enormous amount of features. But each niche has some specific needs that cannot be solved by such a general platform. Therefore, you can create a specific solution suited for one particular group of users. The adjusted user experience will coax users to use your app.

Mediators

When looking for a flight, you want to get offers from all available providers. It’s possible thanks to mediator services like skyscanner.net or azair.eu. Otherwise, you would have to search for each particular provider individually. The time-consuming and painful experience may be strange to you. But new markets are constantly showing up and with them the demand for mediator service. For example, have you ever tried to find a ferry across the Baltic sea?

Data catalogs

Collect data in one place, present in tables, charts, allow comparisons, Make people’s life easier. Examples: gsmarena.com, cpubenchmark.net.

Change granulation

From e-mail to instant messengers like WhatsUp or Signal. From blogging to micro blogging like Twitter. From lifelong posts on Facebook to ephemeral stories like Snapchat.

Offer fresh UI

Clone some obscure app and improve its UI/UX. For example com.pnn.obdcardoctor and com.ovz.carscanner

Create UI for a library

Most of great tools are initially available as a CLI (command-line interface) tool or library. You can make it accessible to a larger non-technical audience by creating an app that is a proxy to the tool hidden underneath. Example: Online youtube downloaders uses youtube-dl, cloudconvert.com uses pandoc etc..

New platform

There are new app platforms rising all the time. Each of them is a field for a niche that you can occupy.

Desktop, Mobile, Web apps, Wearable, Android TV, ChromeOS Browser plugins, Spreadsheet add-ons, Blockchain dapps, or all together—multiplatform.

The only way to win with big companies is by finding a new field and establishing the fortifications before them.

Killer feature

Whenever looking for a flight or ferry, often you don’t really care that much of which airport or ferry terminal you are leaving, in about 6h you can be anywhere else. For most people what really matters are the date and price. Therefore the feature for searching flights across multiple locations (e.g. from any port in Poland to any port in Portugal) can be a killer feature for many people.

Search for one big feature that people will fall in love, and build around it.

Monetize

There is no virtue of working for free. If you have doubts if people will be willing to spend money on your app, then remember that you are building a product that will make their life easier, save their time—the most valuable asset in people’s life. Don’t think of it as a sales, you are exchanging your time for thier money, which they previously exchanged for thier time. If handled well it’s a win-win scenario. And this should be your goal. Your income is equal to the value given or time/money saved to other people. The more people you reach, the more time you save, the harder problems you solve, the more you earn.

Final remarks

Your idea does not need to be revolutionary. Revolution is the side effect of the successful implementation of a good idea.

You don’t need to be creative, copy and steal from other apps. Creativity appears on the path of creating. The most creative things were a combination of things that already existed but no one else assembled them together in that way.

Start with the basic version, something that gives users the most value. Everything else will be an improvement.