We Built An App and It Failed: 7 Considerations When Developing Apps
Carolyn Canetti

Every single day, multiple times a day, I check and use an app that my company created called, Lynx. Lynx was built to make sharing, saving and consuming articles easier with your people. We pulled the plug on marketing, investment, and development into Lynx over a year ago, but it still sits proudly on my home screen and gets as much action as Instagram.

Our company is a B2B app platform for video, web, and print publishers. Over the last 6 years, a portion of our company spent 2 years trying our hand at consumer apps. As Marketing Manager, I have gone through the joys and perils of B2B and B2C marketing - focusing on retention, education, and new business from a client and end user standpoint.

We called it quits on Lynx. Outwardly - it was a fail, but for those who still use it - it’s a great app. Here are the things we had to consider when building our consumer app:

Timeline:

What is your ideal product, and how long will you give your team to build it? What’s the pipeline for app updates and feature releases? How many months can you stay afloat without outside money?

Ideal Product:

Once you build a product ready for marketing and potentially seeking investment, start a new timeline - don’t pour too much time into a product before recognizing sub par results. Set projections and goals for new users, retaining users, and revenue in a realistic manner.

Marketing:

Marketing is the chicken or egg puzzle for new apps. You have a good product but you need money to market it in order to show high numbers to receive investment, but you don’t have money, so how do you get the numbers to entice investors? A mouthful but it’s true. With your budget, figure out what conferences you can attend - in person demos go much farther than online ads.

New Users:

Finally, people are downloading your app! Depending on the type of app, there could be a “new user syndrome” do they need friends on the app to make it fun? How do you make sure the pioneer sticks around in a social app?

Education:

For users who aren’t getting an in-person tutorial from your team or their friends, it’s incredibly important to educate new users in the least daunting fashion. What’s the mission of your app? What do they need to know in order to find a use in your product?

Retention/UX:

This is perhaps the most crucial of all. You have a good product, you are getting people to download it, but are they sticking around? Is their experience so smooth, stable, reliable, and fun or useful that they will come back? Will they return and tell their friends to join too?

Quit (for now):

Unfortunately, not all apps and ideas make it to the top charts. Millions of people create apps and millions of people move on from their lightbulb idea. Stick to your timeline, be realistic about budget and users, make the best UX you can dream of, and you might build gold. But if not, it’s a learning experience that will help you with the next one, five or twenty ideas.

We ceased development and marketing on Lynx because we didn’t see new users sticking around, and those who did weren’t returning often enough. It was incredibly difficult to build a social app out of individuals who joined with no immediate network. We realized too late that our UI learning curve was too much for the average user. This product venture taught us an incredible amount of knowledge that we could relay to our publishing partners so that they could reach and understand their end users better.