Today, every business and their dog has an app or three on an app store near you. It doesn’t even matter what kind of business you have, everything from banks to restaurants to mom and pop shops have an app.
Almost every startup I talk to has the exact same story. Their app idea is completely original and everyone will have it on their phone for all time because of how original it is.
News flash, the “Field of Dreams” logic of the app store (you know the one: If you build it, they will come) no longer applies. Being original is no longer enough to get the traffic you’re dreaming of, no matter how small your dream is.
1. It probably isn’t unique anyway
2.2 million apps on Google Play and 2 million on Apple’s App Store… Maaan. Every idea has been hashed out at least once. Rarely will you find some semblance of uniqueness, but most ideas are just iterations on some existing product.
If you searched and couldn’t find something similar to your app idea, maybe that should raise alarm bells instead of getting you excited.
2. Tried, tested, and true… just like Ford Trucks
“New” doesn’t always mean “better”. This is not a Sears Catalogue of app outfits you’re looking at.
Designing and developing an app takes time and money. Messing up a single assumption means going back to the drawing board on some or all the features within your app.
You can assume that an app that’s visible on an App Store is probably working with some degree of success. Why not borrow what’s appropriate like the design of their map, the menu system, or even something as simple as how they display alerts for new sales?
3. The more familiar, the less you need to explain
Elevator pitches for apps are important.
You’ll often notice that, especially in mobile gaming, reviewers are using one or two big name apps in a single sentence to describe a game.
For example FarmVille: Harvest Swap could be called “Candy Crush with vegetables”. The latest Family Feud game could be described as “Family Feud mashed together with Tinder”. Apple’s 2016 Game of the Year runner up, “Reigns”, could be called “A choose-your-own-adventure novel mashed with Tinder” (a lot of things are being mashed with Tinder lately)!
Each of these apps takes what worked from their predecessors to help explain to their audience what you do with the app. By doing so, people immediately assign value to the app depending on how much they loved the original!
4. The best apps solve a problem
Ok – as an entrepreneur you’re probably aware of this, but it’s good to reiterate.
What problem do they solve? Usually it’s one of the issues discovered while using one of the industry leader apps. Use what they do right, and fix what is broken.
Taking your app’s design direction too close to an existing app is dangerous. Your work might get blocked from entering the walled garden. If you’re super unlucky, the original app owner will catch on and sue your pants off… so don’t do that.
The best advice I can give is take what you need and leave. Like Aladdin, take only the lamp, leave the rest of the treasure alone.