12 Common Mistakes Startups Make When Building Apps

Many businesses are enchanted with the idea that mobile apps will enable them to reach out to more users and customers. However, they often underestimate the challenges of creating a mobile app, and their first attempt may result in failure and wasted time and effort.

Here, we highlight 12 of the most common mistakes startups and entrepreneurs make when building their apps. Knowing these will give you a head-start in planning for your future app!

1. Recreating the web experience

Many times, companies expect mobile apps to be an exact replica of their website. However, this illusion is far from the truth as a mobile app should not equal a downsized web experience. Instead, the most valuable features should be emphasized in a mobile app for your on-the-go users.

Starting with a web-version app is a good way to figure out the differences between your existing web experience and a prototype web app through iteration. If ultimately the app simply “recreates” the website experience with no value added for mobile users, then this may be a case of the next point.

2. Creating a mobile app for the sake of it

Just because every other company has a mobile app in the market doesn’t mean you must have one too, if you have no clear purpose for one. If your mobile app serves no purpose and offers no benefits to the users, it will eventually fail, costing you valuable time and money. Before making the decision to build a mobile app, consider the direction and goal of having one and what user experience it will bring to your target audience.

3. Designing the mobile app as something separate from the brand

A mobile app should be an extension of the company brand with a focus on consistency. Design aspects feature prominently in the use of typesetting, colours and general look and feel. If done successfully, your users will easily associate the mobile app with the company brand, and it will leave an imprint on their mind.

4. Building a mobile app without in-house expertise

Most businesses do not have the in-house technical expertise required to build a large-scale custom mobile application. Trying to do so without specialised experts increases the amount of time taken and often produces deliverables below expectations.

Consulting or hiring a third party with the required technical knowledge can save time and guarantee quality, especially if done with proper planning catered to your user’s needs. Cost is often an issue, but this can be mitigated with proper budgeting and sourcing of vendors. Freelancers and part-timers are also an option in minimizing costs.

As with any app development, unexpected problems may arise that cause projects to run over-budget and over deadlines. However, with proper planning and the right team of developers, this can be mitigated and accounted for in risk margins.

5. Choosing the right platform from the start

Research into which devices your target users have is essential in deciding which is the optimal platform to create for for your first app. You can create for other platforms later on, but when building your initial mobile app it is best to build natively and launch it on one platform first. Focus on developing for the most popular platform, before reaching out to users in the other platforms. Remember that users of different platforms search for performance in different places.

If users seem to be equally distributed between the iOS and Android platforms, it is recommended to start on iOS. It is easier to develop for iOS as there are far fewer different types of hardware devices and screen sizes.

Instagram had amassed a staggering 30 million users on the iOS platform before it launched on Android.

6. Failing to plan for multiple platform

While it is a mistake to develop your first app for multiple platforms at once, it is an even bigger mistake to disregard other platforms once you have your app ready and available for use on one platform. Don’t just develop for iOS, or just for Android, as this will run the risk of severely limiting your audience.

7. Packing too many features into your mobile app

The “less is more” motto certainly holds true when developing a mobile app. It is important to remember that doing more with less and concentrating on presenting the most valued feature to users is key. Packing too many features into one app might cause it to become buggy and this, in turn, will keep users at bay. Take note to develop your mobile app with one or two essential, core feature(s) and observe how the market responds.

8. Over-complicating the User Interface

The user interface for your app should be user-friendly and simplistic. Users should be able to pick it up and have no problems using it instantly. Each button and its functions should be clear-cut, precise and elementary. Some examples of an app having positive user interfaces and well-received user experiences include one that has

  • Fast-loading screens
  • Easy registration process
  • Ads that are non-intrusive to the user’s experience

9. Lack of participation in the development of the app

You may have the impression that once the app is in development, you can sit back and await the final product to be completed. This is not the wisest approach to ensure quality deliverables for the app. It is important that the development team and client work closely together to build the app together, i.e. co-innovation.

If choosing an external third-party firm to build your app, you are choosing a partner and this partner has to be familiar with your company goals and values, your company’s vision for the app, and what they can do to help you develop the most purposeful and useful app. Feedback has to be given back and forth during the development process for efficiency and thorough understanding as well as in developing the most coherent strategy.

10. Forgetting to include analytics

Using analytical and tracking tools upon launching your app is crucial in providing you with valuable information when it comes to design, user experience and content. It is not enough to simply track the number of downloads - to learn about your users and improve on your app, you need to monitor the right things.

Asking a few basic questions will give you an idea of what to monitor:

  • Who are the users downloading your app?
  • Where are they from?
  • When do they download/use your app?
  • What platforms are they on?
  • How are their experiences on your app?

With this, you can determine the key metrics for your mobile app. Dave McLure’s “AARRR!” metrics is a helpful guide of what to look for:

  • A: Acquisition - where/what channels do users come from?
  • A: Activation - what % have a "happy" initial experience?
  • R: Retention - do they come back and re-visit over time?
  • R: Referral - do they like it enough to tell their friends?
  • R: Revenue - can you monetize any of this behavior?

11. Not thinking about your return of investment (ROI)

Avoid leaving the decision on how you are going to monetize your app until the last minute. It is important to have an idea of how you will be making money from your app way before launching it - e.g. will you be going for a subscription model? Perhaps a free with in-app purchases system? Or maybe you prefer in-app advertising? It is certainly a significant decision to make and settling on the best one will take some time and research. One tip to help you along with making that decision is taking a look at the top apps in your prospective genre and gaining an understanding of their business model. This involves market research and competitor analysis for a comprehensive grasp on what your competitors are doing to monetize their app. Read more about market research here (https://binarythinktank.com/blog/informed-decisions-with-market-research.html).

12. Failure to market app before its launch

Not having a thorough marketing and user-acquisition strategy before launching the app is a big mistake. Just launching your app and leaving it in the app store is NOT going to get your app any attention or users. It is important to reach out via various mediums to get some sort of spotlight on your app even before it is launched. Steps that can be taken are, for example:

  • Create and publish a demo video on your app
  • Approach writers of online tech blogs or tech magazines/newsletters and send them a marketing package together with the demo video to advertise for your app
  • Make use of social media (facebook, twitter, youtube, instagram, google+) to market your app with the demo video

Another approach is to heavily market the existing website instead, and lead users into downloading the app from there. It tends to be easier to market a website, as web platforms are still highly popular and there are more avenues to explore in marketing a website, e.g. easily sharing the site from social media accounts.

If you intend to hire an external mobile app developer, you should choose a mobile app developer that can work on both Android and iOS.