Ask the Experts: App Assessment

I am working on an app that I hope to turn into a company someday. My question is: how can I set my app apart? Without revealing my idea, I will say that there are similar apps on the market, but none quite like mine. I understand programming, but I am not sure how to make my app appealing to users or market it properly.


You are quite right to notice that coding alone is not the secret to a successful tech company. Tech innovation is not all about error logs and java profilers: it is also about things that are harder to measure or catalog, like the user’s experience and the marketing team’s slogan.


The most important thing to an app, besides its core concept, is its design. Design is what makes apps and other tech products easy to use. Unfortunately, it is not something that all tech professionals understand fully. Though the Mac and PC debate has cooled somewhat as more and more computer engineers warm up to Apple’s impressive hardware and UNIX-like command line, it is useful to look back at Apple’s iPod- and MacBook-fueled comeback for an example. Many in the tech world were astounded by Apple’s ability to get customers to pay so much for their hardware. But it was Apple’s sleek design sense and superb user interfaces that offered the value add that drove Apple’s rise from a company worth a few billion dollars in the late 90s to one that is worth $615 billion today.


While good design can be hard to quantify, its results can be measured. When ESPN redesigned its homepage, its profits jumped 35%. That is a very good indicator that your future company’s financial well-being rests, in part, on design. ESPN’s actually offerings did not change, but changes to presentation and user experience meant real improvements in terms of dollars and cents.


And while some design decisions may seem rather subjective, some specific design tactics have objective benefits for the companies that make them. For instance, infinite scrolling has been proven to reduce a website’s “bounce rate” (the bounce rate measures the number of users who quickly leave the page after it loads). Time cut its website’s bounce rate by 15% simply by adding infinite scrolling.


Design decisions are particularly important for a new company like yours, because design is largely responsible for first impressions. Some studies give design as much as 94% of the credit for first impressions among users, which means that – at first – your design could matter even more than your app’s usefulness!


Design is about making your app more functional, but also more appealing. Similarly, marketing and advertising have a lot to do with how your app is perceived. Here, again, Apple makes an excellent example. Apple’s design lent it a hip and aspirational quality that led many young people to purchase its laptops – even though many of them did not have any particular reason for opting for such high-priced hardware.


Marketing is changing, but it has remained vital. Studies tell us that millennials are 247% more likely to be influenced by blogs or social media sites, which means that smart marketing for modern apps needs to focus on these areas.


In short, your app needs to do more than just solve a problem. It needs to solve it elegantly and easily by creating an appealing and simple user experience. It needs great design and smart marketing.


“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” – Steve Jobs


Written by Martin J. Young, former correspondent of Asia Times.


The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily represent the opinions of King’s College or WRKC.