How to Find Inspiration for Your App

Picasso once said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.” Now this might have raised your eyebrows and got you thinking, “What about those three years he refused to paint in any color except blue?” His point is: You can’t sit around waiting for a good idea to slap you on the forehead; you have to move about, engage in an act of creation. Welcome to our specialty. Our devs and designers share their inspiring thoughts with you.

1.     Analyze App Ideas and Perform Competitive Research

Surprised to find yourself inspired by app designs that, on the surface, appear completely different to the ones you’re designing? Seeking direct inspiration from the App Store is not the best way to come up with an original killer app idea, but it is nevertheless extremely useful to get a sense of what is already out there because new ideas often spring from the merging of old ones.

Designing an app is all about:

  • Opening your mind to new ideas
  • Observing where existing apps fail, or
  • Adopting technologies and shaping them into new forms.

Test out the validity and marketability of your app concept through the good old-fashioned way of competitive research aka detective work. Analyze what your competition is doing whether right or wrong and gain the insight necessary to refining and improving your ideas and turning them into a unique app that stands out. When we take on clients who have an amazing idea for a mobile app our teams spend countless hours researching the space before even taking the first client call. Once there is a full knowledge of the space, teams can begin building out original ideas that take the best of the best ideas and get rid of the useless and unmarketable.

2.     Mix & Match

One useful starting point for developing a new app is to consider a mash-up of existing services. Mash-ups have created some of the most interesting technologies of the last few years. To create a mash-up, begin with this simple premise: “What if I mixed X with Y?” For example, what if you mashed MySpace with Flickr? That’s the thought process that led to the creation of Facebook. What if you mashed Twitter with a copy of Cosmopolitan magazine? You might end up with something that looks very much like Flipboard – a brilliant app that takes your twitter feed and uses it to publish a virtual magazine featuring your friends. What if you mashed BBC News with Scrabble? I don’t know, but I’d be interested in finding out. Playing around with mash-ups is a great way to get you thinking about fresh ideas.

3.     Don’t Group Brainstorm!

Psychologists have found that individuals working on their own come up with ideas that are far better than any group’s effort. Brainstorming sessions can sometimes create what researchers call an “illusion of group productivity”. A study by researchers at Texas A&M University published in Applied Cognitive Psychology demonstrate that not only are brainstorming sessions less effective than working alone, they actually block creativity because they encourage fixation and conformity of ideas. So, your best approach to the dreaded brainstorming meeting is to hear what everyone has to say, then go away, think up your own ideas, and present them back to the group to confirm the good and throw out the bad.

4.     Fulfill a Need

People buy software to solve a problem or satisfy a need. Weather and news apps keep users informed. Games feed a user’s desire to be entertained. Even silly novelty apps serve the basic need for acceptance by enabling users to bond over a few shared laughs. Although these general examples may be easy to recognize and understand, what about more specific needs? If you’re thinking of building something other than a game, such as productivity or utility app, here are a few facts to consider:

  • Does it focus on a need or issue that is currently not being addressed by other existing apps?
  • Does your app fulfill that need in a way that makes the mobile experience significantly easier?
  • If your app is similar to other existing apps, what feature(s) can you add that would solve the needs not currently addressed by your competitors?

5.     Discover Untapped Markets

Although mobile apps are inexpensive compared to traditional desktop software, they are no longer considered impulse buys, as they were in the early days when users were packing their phones with loads of apps. Nowadays, even though people may not think twice about spending $10 on a movie ticket, for some curious reason, they contemplate a great length whether to spend a mere two dollars on a game app. Part of the problem is that with so many apps priced at only $0.99 in an attempt to boost volume sales and rank higher on the store charts, users now have a distorted perception of what an app is worth. This has conditioned users to expect a lot of value for very little money.

To cut it through this purchase barrier, your app must be special, providing a unique experience. We all know the much overused “There’s an app for that”. But then, every so often, a pioneer comes along with a new app that causes developers worldwide to slap their own foreheads while shouting, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

So how do you go about finding new, untapped ideas? Easy! Take a look at your own needs and interests. Sure, you’re a developer, but you’re also a user. Is there some missing functionality that you would love to see added to the smartphone? If so, do any existing apps provide that functionality? No? Well, then odds are that others out there are wishing for the same thing. Bingo!

6.     Tell a Story

Make sure your app, if you truly want it to be a global blockbuster, includes at least one devastating surprise, one secret ingredient, the very last thing people would expect to find when clicking your product. To break the status-quo means to create something new, something challenging, odd, and fantastical that will really make your app shine. Also, remember that first and foremost you are a storyteller. You’re not a programmer. You’re not a designer. If you forget for a moment that you’re telling a story, your product will end up boring and bewildering your audience.

While you’re waiting for inspiration to come, spend your time waiting productively. Expose yourself to more creative venues, research the goods of the old and the successes of the new and encourage yourself to tap into areas you never thought you would.

How and where do you find inspiration? Got an idea we can add to the list? Share it with us!

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