6 Good Reasons for Making an App (and only one is about money)

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One of the most important questions you should ask yourself early on in the app creation process is “Why create an app?”. The reason I say its so important is that it effects a whole bunch of decisions along the way, and maybe some wake up calls! I dont think its so important to pigeon hole yourself as one the the below 6 reasons, but more acknowledge one or more of these reasons, and take note of the goals or metrics that most resonate with you.

Top 6 Reasons People Create Apps

There are probably far more than 6 reasons why people create apps, but below are the 6 biggest that I can find. Remember that they aren’t buckets that you have to fit into – they’re more broad categories of reason that have some commonly associated goals and metrics.

1. To make money

money stacksThe number one reason why anybody would go to the effort to creating an app is financial gain…its certainly one of the main reasons I’m involved in app development, and its nothing to be ashamed of! We all have to make money to pay the bills, buy food, buy shoes, buy new keyboards or whatever – we may all desire different amounts, different lifestyles, and different things in general. Building apps can be a great way fund or supplement your lifestyle.

Now its time for the reality check – the vast majority of mobile apps out there make less than $1000 a year. That isn’t to say you can’t make money, or make a living off app development – it just means you’ve got to be realistic about what you’re trying to achieve from each individual app…the days of creating a fart app and making over $100,000 are gone. Saying that, you can definitely make a living developing apps – the right apps, for the right people, of the right quality.

Some goals or metrics to use when developing to make money are

  • Revenue
  • Profit
  • Engagement
  • Recommendations
  • Ratings, Reviews & Feedback

2. To Drive Traffic

website trafficAnother common reason for creating an app is to drive traffic to something else, like a blog, website or service of some kind. Apps can be a great way to engage customers, provide additional value and drive traffic. Some examples of apps like this are:

  • The smart passive income app (for iPhone): This app provides the same great content from Pat Flynns blog to his readers, but in a format perfect for the iPhone, alomg with several other features. It allows Pat to engage more deeply with his customers and ensure that they’re staying interested in his work.
  • QuickSprout’s Online SEO Tool: Neil Patel’s blog released this excellent and free online app for analysing the SEO on your site. The tool is fantastic and it keeps me going back to the QuickSprout blog.

One thing that its really important to keep in mind is that in order to do this, your app has to be relevant to the audience you want to reach. In both of the above examples the app was perfectly suited to its audience (i.e. SEO tool for and SEO blog) – theres little point in producing a twitter app to drive traffic to your cooking blog!

For this type of reason you’re really looking for:

  • Active users / downloads
  • Sign-ups
  • Referrals
  • Engagement
  • Ratings, Reviews & Feedback

3. For fun

A great reason to get into creating apps is that its just plain fun…OK, not everyone finds making apps fun, but I definitely do! Creating something that you find useful or entertaining, to show off to your friends, that your friends find useful or entertaining etc – it can be highly rewarding. For me one of the biggest sources of my enjoyment is putting something together and getting it out there for the world to see. Its also great to see that people are using your app, and engaging with it – maybe even making a small difference to their lives.

I have to be honest now though, this isn’t my only motivation! I love to create apps and see how they do, but I want doing this kind of thing to be how I make a living. Would I do it if I wasn’t making any money? Probably, but I certainly wouldn’t sweat it as hard as I do!

Goals here are kind of varied, but are more based around:

  • Reactions from friends and family
  • Engagement
  • Ratings, Reviews & Feedback

4. As part of a larger product

This in some ways is quite similar to number 2 in that the app may be made to support or supplement a larger product. This is probably motivates one of the largest sources of successful apps in the mobile market places. Apps like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Ebay etc – they’re all there to supplement a much larger product or service. The apps often have no direct source of monetisation, but more assist a much larger product reach more users or interact with more users.

That isn’t to say that an individual developer (or small team) can’t have this as there primary goal – the larger product doesn’t have to be crazy big like the ones I mentioned. Examples of much more realistic sized apps that drive traffic to a bigger product are apps like Buffer or Flipboard – both are apps that comprise part of a wide strategy.

Metrics here are similar to number 2

  • Active users / downloads
  • Sign-ups
  • Referrals
  • Engagement
  • Ratings, Reviews & Feedback

5. To learn something new

Books

As a developer and/or entrepreneur you may have got into making an app to learn something new, and it is a great place to do that! From a developers perspective you could be learning new technologies, languages, environments etc. As an entrepreneur you could be learning new business models, marketplaces, marketing strategies etc. This is a huge motivation for me, as I love to learn new things and take on new challenges – and I can tell you without hesitation that I’ve learned a lot from doing this.

When getting into making apps for this reason you may not have the drive to actually deliver in the end, but I have to say that for me thats the most important part. I really don’t think you can learn a great deal if you don’t get the app from inception through to delivery. Sure, you may learn some technical skills, but without seeing them through to a production environment you really miss out on something. Don’t be ashamed of something if it isn’t perfect – in fact, if it is perfect you’ve probably spent too long polishing it!!

Some metrics that can be used to understand your success here are:

  • Speed, comfort and quality of the development
  • Marketing campaigns successes and failures
  • Ratings, Reviews & Feedback

6. For someone else

This is probably going to become more and more widespread as more companies strive for mobile presence – the IT department or outsourced developer/agency is delivering the app for the company or client they work for. I wont go into this one in too much detail as its mostly going to be about recognising what reason the ‘someone else’ has, and adjusting accordingly for that.

One thing to note though is that in addition to the goals mentioned in the previous 5 reasons, you may also want to consider:

  • Client / boss satisfaction
  • Timescales
  • Cost

How is this useful to me?

I wanted to write this article to clarify in my own head as much as other peoples the links between reasons for undertaking the work, and the way we measure the success in the end. Just because someone says that the only important factor is number of downloads (or whatever) doesn’t mean anything if your reason is to learn or for fun. I’m not saying that number of downloads isn’t important, but just that it isn’t applicable in all scenarios.

Do notice however that ratings, reviews and feedback are in all 6 categories – I think we should always be listening and learning from feedback – even it its just feedback from yourself!

What do you think? Do you have other reasons for making apps? Or do you agree/disagree with the reasons and metrics I mentioned?

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