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Getting People to Use Your App (gaborcselle.com)
32 points by gaborcselle 1838 days ago | hide | past | web | 14 comments | favorite

The devil is in the details. I think a lot of devs realize they need a very polished app and substantial viral value - the trouble is that you can't just will either of those things into existence, or even buy them.

Executing a good app is really hard, and people who can do it consistently are very rare still. Getting a really cohesive, well-built app done is more than just hiring the most expensive ObjC coders and designers you know.

How about:

1) Solve an actual problem.

2) Resemble/enhance something people already enjoy.

Because the article's #1 point is entirely valid and thoroughly unnecessary for popularity. And #2? Well, good luck with all that (no, seriously, that's exactly what you need.)

I'm not sure what you're getting at. Of course your app should be useful, but my point in the post is that that's not enough - you have to think a priori about how to make the app spread.

(I can only speak as a user when it comes to native apps, so what I'm getting at may not align with your point of view or context. Please take my tone not as derision, but pragmatism as a paying customer and interested reader.)

You say "Of course your app should be useful", yet your post opened with "Chances are, someone has already thought of your app idea". So to me your post communicates, "Since your app is just another knockoff, polish it up real nice and hope for a media/celebrity mention or a front page link on HN/Reddit."

My tendency would be to say, "Of course your app should have a decent UI" but having owned a few Android devices and an iPhone, my experience is that utility trumps all. It's not unusual for very useful apps to exhibit truly shameful user experience. They may have a high utility factor and even have a polished interface, but be terrible to actually use. (We're going to assume through all of this that we're not even talking about minimal bugs or smooth, consistent performance, those should also be a given.)

Plus half of your first point was really your second point -- in essence, "Getting People to Use Your App" boils down to "Figure out a strategy to get popular."

Look, all I'm trying to say is that surely, with your background, you have more insight to offer than "...make your app high quality. Hike up production value. Make it really good."


The "virality" of an app is so important and yet overlooked by many first time consumer app creators. Even if you make an absolutely beautiful app, chances are most people won't share from it if you don't focus on that 100%. I am literally redoing flows in my app to get this done now.

I think DrawChat is a beautiful example of how all the flows in the app are focused on getting you to share the content, and close the user feedback loop.

Wow, thanks a lot! I'm happy that DrawChat is helping app creators think about getting adoption right.

I've seen LOTS of non-viral apps (and worked on a few) that had the production value / cred to get featured in the app store and get epic press. They eventually fail UNLESS they have some sort of other distribution magic (viral, supporting parent site, ongoing word of mouth, etc).

Here's a screenshot that illustrates the gravity in the app store:


Apple will frequently feature high quality apps-- they cycle these all the time. This particular app (top tier investors, featured in NYT, WSJ, etc, etc) was featured twice. You can see what happens afterwards.

How do you "make your app high-quality" while also letting it grow organically by letting people see and play with early versions that still have rough edges?

That's not something you can do on the App Store, but on Google Play this is quite possible.

Most of the apps I had in mind when reading the article were social apps with some sort of chicken and egg problem when it comes to user adoption.

I believe that apps having a chicken and egg issue should try to break the distribution cycles they put in place. After all, Twitter started booming because Jessica Alba created an account. Although Airbnb did some great hacking, they manage to get 2 minutes on CNN with their Obama corn flakes.

The viral aspect is hands down the most important. Like you said, look at SnapChat. It's unreal how quickly it spread. Even games like Temple Run quickly boomed from friends comparing scores.

It seems like the simplistic ideas are the ones that go viral the most quickly.

What about using acquisition costs vs. profit per customer, and ads to get people to use an app?

You bring up a good point: Do ads work to get user adoption? I'm not sure - I certainly haven't heard of an app that used ads for more than just jumpstarting the viral loop.

Are there examples of apps that have gotten adoption through ads?

Hotel Tonight and Uber both advertise a LOT-- I assume they have the LTV to support the cost of buying a user via ads. I've spoken to a lot of mobile ad experts and, because the targeting power isn't yet there, they say it's cheaper to buy a user with plain ol' web ads than mobile ads (unless your a game).

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