Article in Mobile App Development category.

How to Know if Your App Idea Will Succeed

Bringing a successful mobile app idea to life is a huge process. Fueled can show you a realistic, yet digestible glimpse of what it looks…

You might be one of the many employees of an enterprise, seeking direction for a possible app idea. You can also be working for a startup that has a rough picture of the end result, but without a blueprint that will help it become reality.

Or maybe you’re just someone who needs an outside perspective, specifically from an expert mobile app development company before diving into the wildly competitive app space.

Fueled is a growth strategy consultancy that solves problems with tech, developing and launching mobile apps that stand out in the market. Our team transitioned Warby Parker from website to mobile, making their app an instant hit in the App Store. We also got our feet wet in android app development and helped develop Quizup and Afterlight, two apps that were ranked at #1 in the Google Play store.

Perry Curac-Dahl, Fueled’s top business development strategist and app-vetting extraordinaire, has the low-down on what separates a great mobile app idea from a vast sea of copycats. We’ve been there since the beginning, watching the rise and fall of great apps (RIP, Vine), and we know what makes an app thrive or perish.

Millions of apps have been developed since the App Store first launched ten years ago. In fact, there will be an estimated 5.06 million apps by the end of 2020, a stark contrast to the measly 5,000 apps from back in 2008.

Closeup Photo of Three Persons Hands on Table Holding SmartphonesIt may feel like there’s an app for everything, but successful apps come out all the time. And although bringing your mobile app idea to life is a huge process, we want to show you a realistic, yet digestible glimpse of what it looks like to build a great product.

Problem Size and Target Audience

Identify your problem and target audience. What are you trying to solve, how big is the issue, and what kind of people are you offering a solution to? At the end of the day, the most successful apps are the ones that solve a small problem for niche users— You want to target a small market that will grow over time.

On the other hand, it’s not ideal to try to solve a small problem for a big market, because there will simply not be enough demand. Let’s say you want to develop a note-taking or task-managing app. As innovative as your product may be, there’s a strong chance that what you offer will not be interesting enough to cater to your desired audience. Instead of going through the hassle of downloading an external productivity app, users can just rely on their regular, pre-installed notes app.

At the same time, if you want to tackle a big problem for a big market, you’ll be competing with big names like Facebook and Google who are already on the offense. It’ll be virtually impossible to stand a chance against their existing user bases, pools of money, and hoards of talented team members.

Product Blueprint

successful app
An example of a wireframe by Kimberly Voisin

Establishing Your Name

You have to figure out how to reel in a promising user base. Orchestrate your idea in such a way that users will be won over by your selling point, which can then prompt them to actually download the app. Work to give great value at a fast pace when the relationship is still fresh so that they’ll be more willing to develop their trust. By building a reliable presence, you can organically create a reputable title for yourself.


If you’re already thinking about monetization, you’re looking too far into the future. Although there may be a lot of ways you can monetize, this process shouldn’t be a big priority when you already have to focus on getting your product right. Your product feature set will probably change as you conduct a few experiments and receive feedback.

Finding a product-market fit is a slightly more difficult prerequisite to monetization, where you create a product that people will love and use repeatedly. After you navigate your way into an app idea that has a bit more foundation, then you have more leeway to move on to monetization.


If you worry about competition too early in the game, you will do yourself more harm than good. (Notice a pattern here?) Many developers grow discouraged when they realize that their app idea is not as unique as they initially thought and close themselves off from any remaining opportunities. Don’t fall victim to this attitude—unless you’re going head to head with a big name like Google, competition will not be your downfall.

Don’t feel intimidated by all the other apps that fall into a similar category as yours. If there is a real problem to be solved, there will be a notable market for it; embrace its inevitability. And if there are other startups who are offering solutions like yours, they validate that your solution is heading in the right direction.

Vetting Enterprise App Ideas

In 2017, users spent more time on apps than on the web. If more consumers are turning to their mobile screens for an easier, more accessible browsing experience, enterprise companies should begin to develop an app idea that will bring in the results that they want to see.

The right way to evaluate an enterprise project begins by observing what users are doing with their digital properties. Most of our enterprise clients already have a website and might even have an app, which means they have somewhat of a viable business model. Unless there’s a very low level of value that this hypothetical app will create for their consumers, it would make the most sense to have an app.

"The first step is really to dive into the big questions: What is your business all about? Who are your customers? What do they love about you? What do they do on your website?"

Picking a Platform

Pretend you’re at a family reunion and your sports-crazy uncle wants to play softball. You’ve never played softball, you don’t know the rules, and you never intend to play it again after the reunion. Thus, it wouldn’t really make sense for you to spend $200 on softball gear, right?  

In another hypothetical situation, you have a lawnmower for your new house, but you need a strange, obscure screwdriver to set it up. If your neighbor happens to have it, you wouldn’t go out of your way to drive all the way to Home Depot and buy the screwdriver—you’d just borrow it once.

mobile app idea

With an app, there’s a great amount of overhead involved. A user has to browse the App Store or Google Play, download an app, and most likely create an account for it. Then they would have to go through a brief onboarding session before fully experiencing what the app has to offer. If they feel that their time and effort will go to waste, they won’t invest themselves in this lengthy process.

Consider the app’s usefulness over time. If it’s something that people won’t rely on a fairly regular basis, they won’t be willing to go through with the onboarding process—it has to be a presence worth investing in. But sometimes, it could simply mean that your idea is more convenient on desktop, while other ideas are better suited for mobile.

Experiences that Are Better for Desktop

Activities that involve multiple browser tabs (like online shopping or planning a vacation) work best for desktop. Although it’s definitely possible to shop with an app, you’d want to scroll through different sections so you can see new arrivals, clothing categories, and final sales.

And if you had to plan a trip, you’d ideally open multiple links for locations, places to stay, and things to do. Activities that require more than one open tab can create an unpleasant app experience but would thrive when done on a big screen.

Desktop can also be a great starting point for companies that are less known, but eventually want to extend to mobile. Developing a website is less expensive than creating an app, and your site would work across all device types, essentially acting as a guinea pig for any of your future business aspirations.

Experiences that Are Better for Mobile

Most experiences that require geolocation, hardware integration, or bluetooth should be on a mobile platform. It would be silly for you to call an Uber or listen to Spotify on a laptop when you’re out and about.

People depend on apps most when they’re on the run and when they only have small blocks of time available for productivity. With the touch of a finger, they can make good use of that time by buying airplane tickets, catching up on social media accounts, or paying bills—all made possible by a mobile platform. Ultimately, put yourself in the user’s shoes and think about when they would use your app and how they’d like to use it.

"Anytime the technology can solve a problem that occurs when you’re not sitting at your desk, a mobile solution is probably going to be your best tool."

Choosing the Features

Rookie Mistake #1: Bloating Your App with Features

As you continue to develop a blueprint, make sure your potential app is a single product and not multiple products pretending to be a single product—there is a distinction between the two. Sometimes clients say that their idea is meant to solve only one problem, but will intend to also incorporate gamification, social networking, or even e-commerce for maximum profit. 

Objectively, adding additional elements isn’t a bad choice. It’s good to branch out and test what brings in more users. You first want to start with one small focus product that solves a single problem, especially if you’re in a startup and in the beginning stages of bringing your mobile app idea to life. Jumping a few steps too ahead will end up hurting you. This brings us to our next point.

Rookie Mistake #2: Getting Ahead of Yourself

Eager to make their great app idea a reality, developers sometimes go further down the path of uncertainty than necessary. A lot of startup founders assume people will love their product, so they want to build on various platforms, discuss marketing plans, and expect revenue without much validation.

The entrepreneurial mindset is notoriously visionary, and business go-getters want to make rapid progress. They want to see instant, solid results. So when their enthusiasm is met with cautious planning, like figuring out the costs that go into making an app, discouragement is expected.

Still, at the end of the day, our clients tend to be thankful for our approach—they end up discovering a surplus of information that they wouldn’t have caught without the agile process.

Rookie Mistake #3: Jumping on the Wrong Bandwagon

A lot of buzzwords get thrown around in the tech space. We’ve all heard of blockchain and how Bitcoin’s market cap is at a whopping $61 million. By 2021, AI is predicted to produce $2.9 trillion in business value. Many leaders of the tech and business world believe that machine learning will transform industries.

When clients hear these terms and look at their financial stats, they naturally want to capitalize on what they deem a trend. They want to assimilate their companies into this new age of cryptocurrency, AR, and AI.

However, most clients don’t take the time to really understand their concepts. They fail to recognize that the core of every algorithm is basic human logic, and hold onto the notion that these new buzzwords will grant them a magic wand.

People cannot properly integrate technology into great app ideas if they don’t fully recognize its breadth. Don’t jump on the bandwagon—do your proper research before you think about diving in.

Will Your App Be Revolutionary?

There’s no guarantee that your app will be groundbreaking. There are some obvious landmines you can avoid, but the idea is to chisel your app idea down to something that has a chance. Your topmost priority isn’t to introduce an app that will necessarily change the world but to create a strong idea that will survive in the midst of thousands of others in the market.

It comes down to execution: your ability to fund, how the market reacts, and how you navigate through unexpected changes.

First Mover Advantage vs. Second Mover Advantage

Second mover advantage can initially seem unwise. Why launch a similar model of an idea that already exists? Many of the prestigious companies we know of are products of second mover advantage, and there are more success stories than you’d expect.

For example, Google beat Yahoo when there were already other search engines, and Facebook overwhelmed Myspace when the site was still hugely popular. There was one thing that Google and Facebook had in common: they brought in a new set of concepts that made their competitors look archaic.

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First and second mover advantage rampant in the ride-sharing industry

Once companies gain momentum, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to shift towards a new course. But the ones who make their debut as second movers can skip the complexities and start wherever they please, therefore having a greater chance at succeeding.

"Second mover advantage revolves around the fact that you can learn from the mistakes that your predecessors made. You can see what worked and what didn’t."

This doesn’t mean that you should completely rule out first-mover advantage—our economy needs its healthy balance of old and new. Companies like Apple, Uber, and eBay have paved the way for renowned first movers. Their size will continue to grow even when second movers mimic their services, as they have a significant user base that won’t be willing to abandon familiarity and comfort for novelty.

Loyalties run deep—learning how to break someone’s ties to their favorite operating system or e-commerce platform won’t exactly be a walk in the park.

Ideal Solution vs. Feature Set: What’s the Difference?

The ideal solution is abstract and the feature set is the actual, tangible experience. Uber is an excellent example of this. The solution: the ability to summon a car to any location at a moment’s notice. Then you would have to consider the question: What does that experience look like?

The first feature would consist of you communicating where you want your car to go. How would you focus on your destination and confirm that your driver is on the same page? You use a map to make sure you have the correct location, so a map feature where you can enter the address is the next step to take. Once you identify the solution at a high level, then work your way through the features that will enable it.

"The solution is just the feature set, realized."

Occasionally feature sets don’t align with the solution, but other times, it’s only after the product launches that the founder is able to observe whether users believe the app solves a problem.

"It’s only the right solution if people are using it."

The feature set and its circumstances might be a form of a solution that customers want, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right one.

Back in the dot-com era, there was a case study on Webvan. Webvan was the first big grocery delivery service, and its founders believed that its user base would be more than enough. They spent hundreds of millions of dollars to build warehouses, purchase trucks, and invest in infrastructure–but when they launched the product, no one wanted it.

successful app
Sometimes, even the combination of solid ideas and great execution does not guarantee success.

Webvan, as revolutionary as it could have been, was a big flop. And it wasn’t that the idea was bad; people in the 90s just weren’t comfortable with sharing their credit card information on the internet.

Imagine that you’re stuck in a forest, trying to get from one side of a frozen river to the other. There’s an icy path that can possibly support your weight, but there are also a lot of unsteady patches waiting to swallow you.

You shouldn’t start sprinting across unless you want to go under. You have to take a tiny step first, gauge your situation, avoid a sinkhole here and there, and slowly make your way through the course. Each tentative step is an experiment, but it doesn’t mean you’re not making any progress.

There are a lot of factors that come into play when making a product successful, but we must acknowledge that we’re bad at making accurate predictions. What we think would be a great outcome can perform poorly, and vice versa.

Rather than making big bets with big losses, it’s better to start off with a small bet. You want to be efficient by using the least amount of resources and involving only a select group of people. Having an MVP allows you to sacrifice less for a product that has no guarantee of blossoming while keeping it in the market for users to get their sneak peek. Their feedback will drive you to where you need to be, whether that’s back to revision or towards completion.

High costs and long development cycles are just a few reasons why old school strategies are a no-go in our current economy. Lean Startup Methodology will give you clearer vision when you’re introducing a great app idea, allowing you to see where exactly the thin ice patches are hiding. You can act quicker and be smarter.

Although you are walking on an unconventional route of maybes and what-ifs, your journey will eventually get you to the other side of the river, and you’ll appreciate the process that ended up saving your life.

Validating an App Idea, in a Nutshell

Before launching your mobile app idea, remember that you have plenty of opportunities to fail. There is safety in knowing that you’ve nipped certain discrepancies before they had the chance to form deeper roots in your product.

The constant trial and error may feel tiresome at one point, but it’s a necessary component for your blueprint. Enjoy the ride while you’re still on it because sooner or later, you’ll be at a different stage of development with its own share of challenges.

Recognize the attributes of our current tech space. Trends have incredibly short lifespans; products come and go at a blink of an eye. There is a time for app ideas to thrive and come to life, but there is also a time for them to meet their end. There is a time for consumers to seek a certain solution that your app offers, and there is also a time where you must alter your vision to meet other needs.

Learn lessons from the predecessors who’ve already walked the road and made their rookie mistakes. Find a healthy balance between overestimating your future accomplishments and premeditating unknown disasters. Vetting a great app idea requires you to foster a persistent resilience.

From identifying your problem size to picking the proper platform, to creating a solid blueprint, there will surely be growing pains that make the product that much more rewarding.

Enter the field with confidence in your idea, as well as a good understanding of your future user base. If you don’t make the cut, try again. Give room for your solution to evolve, even if the end result looks far from what it once was.

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