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. 

There are far more legitimate reasons to build an app. You may want to expand your audience, promote a different product or improve the customer experience with existing products. You may just love the creation process and you decided an app is your next challenge. Any of those would be great.

Many of you may already be aware of this. So what is the real benefit of knowing your why? I've come up with three reasons why I feel it's so important.

  • Motivation
    It will keep you motivated. It will keep you going through the times when you don't feel inspired. When things don't seem to be going as smoothly as planned, which we all know probably happens more than we'd like. Building an app can be a lot of work, so it's important to have already thought about what the end goal is and why you want to achieve it.
  • Guide Decisions
    It will guide business decisions. It will keep you aligned with your goals. It will even take away the stress of certain decisions. Do we need this feature or that feature? You will have a constant baseline to refer to help make those choices.
  • Define Success
    Most importantly, it will allow you to define success for yourself. You can create your own path instead of trying to emulate others. You can stay focused on your objectives. You can be confident you are on the right path to accomplish what you set out to do, and more importantly, be true to yourself. Believe me you’re going to create a much better product, and do much better work when you are true to yourself.

To illustrate my point... for my app Find My Train, we were essentially building the app to scratch my own itch. We were solving a problem that I was having that I wanted to fix. The "why" was I used the Light Rail often, but found the existing available apps (for Phoenix) to be horrible experiences at best - outdated schedules, showing times for only one direction, one app even used army time for some odd reason. Not to mention as a designer I didn't find them particularly pleasing to the eye.

Knowing the "why" helped shape our definition of success. The goal was not to make money, though we have made some. If it was, the app may be considered a failure since it's only available for one city and not generating a significant amount of return. However, based on the criteria we set out to accomplish, the app has been a great success. It's been very well received. It's led to additional projects. It was honestly one of the funnest project I've ever worked on, and the four of us are all still friends to this day and continue to work on other projects together.

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If you found this information helpful, you may enjoy an upcoming book that I am working on with my friend Kirk. The book is called “The Bootstrapper’s Guide to Creating Apps”, and covers the entire process of creating successful apps, from idea inception all the way through launch. If you’re interested you can find more information on our website.

And lastly, if you’re working on an app or planning to work on an app, I wish you the best. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you think there is anything I could do to help, whether that’s answer questions or bounce ideas off me. I am easily accessible and respond to all emails.