Keep It Simple

In 2013 the average person's attention span was 8 seconds, down from 12 seconds in 2000. Hell, a gold fish has an average attention span of 9 seconds! Surely, you already understand that your app has an extremely limited amount of time to grab a user's attention, and demonstrate it's value, and convince people to download it. Don't let your app get quickly browsed over because people aren't able to quickly identify with it and understand how they will benefit. People need to know what your app is about and what pain it's going to fix or they will scroll passed it in a matter of seconds.

To illustrate the point, take a look a very brief look (literally just 1 to 2 seconds) at the homepage for a very successful app by the team Tapity called Grades. Go ahead, I'll wait. 

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Solve Real Pains

Quick question, how many times have you downloaded an app, used it for a day or two, and then never touched it again until months later when you're clearing out all of your unused apps? I'm sure it's more often than we'd like.

I'd be willing to bet that most of those apps were novel, eye catching, or had some sort of other x factor that made them sound fun, but something was missing that didn't give them any lasting appeal. I won't deny that there's something to be said about novelty, but for the majority of apps, the only real way to guarantee your app isn't deleted after a few days is to create something where your users will continually benefit from its use.

Does this mean you need some genius idea that nobody has ever thought of before? Or solve a pain that nobody has ever addressed before? Not at all. I don't even think that's realistic. I actually believe the opposite, that pretty much everything we work on is a remix of other ideas or technologies. Any change you've ever seen Kirby Ferguson's short series about this? If not, you might want to check it out (after you finish reading this article of course).

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Know Your "Why"

Let's start from the very beginning. I personally believe this is probably the most important factor for success. For whatever reason, you've decided you want to build an app. Most likely you already even have an idea in mind. For a lot of people, that would be enough to get started. I ask you to take one extra step before diving in and answer the following question.

What is the real reason you want to build this app? Write it out. Be honest about your reasoning, as this will guide many decisions, which will help you to focus and deliver a better product. Make sure you know what your end goal is.

If it's to make easy money (or worse, get rich), become famous like Zuckerberg, or tell somebody "I told you so", I would beg you to rethink whether you should create an app. You may be enticed by all of the overnight success stories, but considering there are over a 1.2 million apps in the Apple App store alone (1.3 for Android), those stories are far more scarce than you may have imagined. Not to mention over 92% of those are free. Building a successful app takes serious dedication. 

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Stretch 20 Minutes a Day

For February, my New Month's Resolution was to stretch for 20 minutes a day. Just as it played out with the previous resolution of writing 500 words a day, I certainly could have improved on this one. All said and done, I missed about a weeks worth of stretching. That's still a solid three weeks of consistently stretching every single day.

So what did I learn? Not as much as I had hoped for. The reason I chose this resolution was I work on a computer for the better part of every day. I have some mild back pain, but worse is my neck pain. I was hoping that stretching consistently would help loosen my neck muscles and improve the pain. Didn't happen. 

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Elements of Successful Apps

I'm starting a series of posts called "Elements of Successful Apps" based on a speech I gave this week at Startup Week. I posted the slide deck and notes in a previous post. I'll be covering one element at time to make them digestible and actionable.

There's no magic formula for creating a successful app, and I'm not going to pretend there is. I won't pretend I know everything there is to know about successful apps. These elements alone do not guarantee success, however, they will have a tremendous impact on your app's success. Not all successful apps will have all of these elements, but most do. So let's get to it.

Element 1: Know Your "Why"
Element 2: Solve Real Pains
Element 3: Keep It Simple

More in the works...

Startup Week Presentation Notes

First off, huge thanks to everybody that came to my presentation this afternoon. I couldn't have been more pleased with the response to my very first speaking engagement. It was an absolute pleasure meeting everybody afterwards and throughout the rest of the afternoon.

As I mentioned, I'm posting links to some of the things I discussed. You can also download a PDF copy of the slide deck if you're looking for a refresher.

FYI: I'll be posting the full speech as an article next week, so stay tuned if you're interested. Enjoy the rest of Phoenix Startup Week! #yesphx

Freelance Graphic Designer Simply Adam Mann's Slide Deck for Phoenix Startup Week

Write 500 Words a Day

As I mentioned in my last post, I decided to switch things up this new year and have a new resolution every month. To kick things off, I chose to write 500 words a day for the month of January.

In the past I've had difficulties putting my thoughts on paper. I've had no shortage of thoughts I wanted to be heard, but I never followed through with actually writing them down. I was always quick to write myself off by saying "I'm a horrible writer" for as long as I can remember. That said, I don't know if I ever really tried. Besides, even if I was a horrible writer, what I failed to recognize is that writing is a skill, and ALL skills can be learned with practice and persistence.

When it came to writing 500 words a day, naturally I wasn't perfect. In fact, not even close. Cumulatively, I missed roughly an entire weeks worth of writing. It much more difficult than I expected, and not for the reasons I expected. The most difficult part of the process was actually just sitting down and committing to writing.

Once I got over the initial hump of sitting still long enough to write, 500 words wasn't a problem at all. After all, it was only 500 words. The point wasn't to set a goal to challenge myself, the point was to explore the possibilities of how a different habit could affect my life.

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New Month's Resolutions

In my 2014 Review I mentioned how excited I was about the new year. I covered a few things like work, travel and personal growth. What is the most popular time of the year to focus on personal growth? The first day of the new year. That's in a couple of days - how convenient.

This year I wanted to do something different. Instead of a typical New Year's Resolution (let's be honest, who can actually keep a resolution for an entire year anyway), I decided I will give myself "New Month's Resolutions" instead. 

Each month of 2015 I will have a new resolution to uphold for that month. I figure one month is plenty of time to evaluate if my chosen resolution is something that could realistically become a habit, and more importantly, decide if it's something I even want to become a habit.

For the first month I will be writing 500 words a day. It doesn't matter what I write about. I could write an article for my website, a personal journal about something I've been struggling with, or maybe even an endless stream of incoherent words. What I write is besides the point. This is about experimentation, growth and learning about myself. I chose writing as my first month's resolution because it will help with a new book I'm working on. The more I write, the more my writing will improve.

I'll be writing a review at the end of each month to summarize the good and the bad, as well as what I have learned. On to the first month...

Update:

January's resolution: Write 500 Words a Day
February's resolution: Stretch 20 Minutes a Day

2014 Review

I was inspired to do this by Nathan Barry. I have found his work inspiring because he's able to accomplish so much while also being a husband and father. Just like Nathan's post, this post is written mostly for myself, but thought I'd share it anyways as a peak into my life outside of just design. It's important for people to see more than just Facebook highlights. Let's dive right in.

What Went Well

Health

  • Consistent Exercise
    This has been the first year where going to the gym has remained fairly constant. Naturally there has been a few weeks where I've completely slacked off (particularly during and after vacations), but I have formed a solid habit of exercising regularly. By regularly I don't mean every day like a gym rat, but 3 to 4 times a week.

  • Eating Well
    This isn't new, but it has continued throughout the year. Health is wealth.

  • Yoga
    I've been able to consistently do yoga every Wednesday evening. I'd enjoy doing it more, but it's a big time commitment when I'm already busy doing a lot for my health.

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How Much Does An App Cost?

We are finally nearing the launch of Find My Train, in fact, we just submitted it to the Apple App Store! Since we've began showing more of the app, I've had numerous people ask how much it would cost to build them an app.

Since this is my first time working on a team developing an app, I do not have much to compare it to, so I decided to look around the web. Below is a modified post by Vlad of Darwin Apps, which I think does a great job creating an analogy to help bridge the tech to non-tech gap of expectations between product and price. (Perhaps I also enjoy this analogy because I am a huge car fan)

Getting back to the question, how much does an app cost? To put it plainly, about as much as a car, depending on what you want.

“I just want an app and I want it to work” - Used 1994 Honda Civic - $1-5K.

You just want a simple app. Nothing fancy, and you don’t really care who works on it. You can probably find a freelancer locally (hint: College students, trust the CS / engineering degrees first) or someone off odesk to do this for you. It won’t be anything amazing, but if you’re careful in finding someone and managing the process, you can get a few screens done on one platform, and in an app store (or on the web), and maybe even test if you can solve a problem effectively with said app.

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Startup Weekend Phoenix

This past weekend has been one of the most inspiring and incredible weekends I've ever experienced thanks to an event called Startup Weekend Phoenix. In short, Startup Weekends are 54-hour events where developers, designers, marketers, product managers and startup enthusiasts come together to share ideas, form teams, build products and launch startups!

Our team worked on an app called Find My Train. The app will make sure you never have to wait for the Light Rail again, and we can't wait to share with you just how simple it is. For now, you can see a sneak peak from our pitch below that illustrates a few of the frustrations our app will solve for Light Rail riders. If you ever ride the Light Rail you will definitely want to sign up for more information!

At the end of the event, each team delivered a pitch to a panel of judges, and we took second place! We earned an amazing set of prizes valued at $15,000 that includes mentorship, entrepreneurial courses, pitch opportunities and more. Our next steps will include continuing to develop the app, releasing it for Phoenix, and hopefully continuing to expand to other cities and bus routes as well.

We can't wait to share more information as we work towards release. Make sure to sign up for updates today!