With 218 billion app downloads and $31.9 billion in revenue in 2020, it’s obvious why developing an app is a popular business proposition. But it is just as important to keep in mind that it’s not an easy market to break into, and that the majority of apps end up not being successful. So when you have a great app idea, you need to slow down, research, and plan before you jump into developing it. Let’s look at what 5 characteristics make a good app plan, and are worth spending money on before you spend money on a developer.

Things Needed to Create an App Before You Build It

Think About Your App as a Business Plan

  • What is the problem your app will solve?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • How are they currently solving that problem and why is your app better?
  • Sketch the user flow of how someone discovers and uses your app.

Market Research

  • Look at what your competitors have done well in app design and marketing.
  • Learn from the mistakes and feedback customers have left on similar apps to find important features and what pain points you can address.
  • Be honest with yourself about if there is a gap in the market for your product and what will make it unique.

Know What Features to Add to an App

  • What are the key features that make your app useful to your target audience?
  • Include an in-app feedback option, so users can get help quickly (and a bad review isn’t their first and only option).
  • Useful and actionable analytics can be baked into the app design to allow you to improve as you grow.
  • Social media sharing from within the app will allow for maximum organic growth and brand awareness.

Marketing Strategy

  • Marketing should happen long before an app is launched, think about timelines and how it relates to app development and launch dates.
  • Identify influencers and publications you might target to review to fit your audience.
  • Plan for the cost of the overall marketing so it can be included in the app budget.
    • Website for hosting app information and generating brand awareness
    • Paid ads for social media platforms and app stores
    • Video, photo, and written content creation for advertising

Continued Care and Feeding Of Your App

  • Initial launch isn’t the end of your plan.
  • Factor in continuing costs for updating the app.
  • Consider how much support will be needed for day-to-day maintenance.

What Makes an App Successful?

If you’ve worked through these steps, you’ve already done a huge amount of the work towards creating a successful app, before you’ve even started actual app development. Another important thing to think about before you get an app developer on board is what will define success to you, for this app? There are many different right answers to this question, depending on your goals.


If your goal is to generate revenue, there are some relatively straightforward ways to calculate how this might be achieved. The first is to establish how much money will be invested in creating and marketing your app and how much money will the average user spend there. Then simple division should be able to answer the question of “How many users does an app need to be successful?” If, for example, your app will cost $10,000 to develop, market, and continue to run, and each user will pay $1 while using it, you will need 10,000 users to begin to generate a profit.

Add Value to an Existing Business

Not all apps need to make money to be successful. Many apps are created that are never intended to make money as apps, but rather to improve customer experience with an existing business or industry. A banking app, for instance, does not generate a profit as a free-standing app. But by adding value to customers who use the bank, they increase customer retention rates and entice new customers to become users. Or the app could increase interest in an entire industry without requiring someone be a customer of any particular company (like a shoe company creating a running app). These types of apps can also be created by nonprofits to raise awareness of something that aligns with their mission, or by government agencies to distribute useful information.

Learning Experience or Hobby

For some app developers, none of these goals define success. For beginning app designers or students, the practice of creating an app and carrying out all the steps needed to make it function is the point. Getting an app up on the app store and having it work make it a successful app for them. For others, they may have a very specific use they would like an app to serve, and designing one that fits their needs and the needs of others in that particular area is their goal.

What Percentage of Apps Are Successful?

Because success can be defined in so many different ways, and depends on the goals of the individual app creators, we will never know the exact answer to this question. Many sources put success rates of consumer apps at 0.01% and 0.5%, but these are using profit as the main qualifier of success. Business to business apps look more encouraging, with up to a 13% success rate. This is likely because these apps are looked at through a broader lens of what is considered successful. Creating an app that drives additional customers to a business or saves a business money are included in this type of measure. 

Put the Web to Work

There’s a lot that goes into developing an app, long before a programmer starts working on it. At Moser, we can walk you through all the steps. We help you engage more customers with websites and mobile apps that offer outstanding user experience, performance, and design. To learn more about how we can help you get started today, contact us.