How to Brainstorm Ideas for Your Next App

If you can think of it, there’s probably an app for it: from paying your bills with Prism Bills, to successful plant parenting with Koubachi, to planning the perfect marriage proposal.

New apps come in waves of tens of thousands, and many developers dive deeper and deeper to find a niche that hasn’t already been occupied by countless others. But the churning sea of app development continually brings new apps to the surface, and often there’s a good idea -- even if not a totally original one -- at the core.

Some developers find success by specializing in ideation. Here are a few of the techniques they use.

Don’t worry about reinventing the wheel...
For creative people, originality is a big deal, so it can feel crushing to find an app similar to one of your own ideas. The most successful developers, however, realize that being the first to market is less important than being the best to market. Before Waze, for instance, Google Maps Navigation looked like it would be dominant in turn-by-turn navigation. Evernote became a billion-dollar company by treading the familiar ground of notepad apps and online to-do lists.

...or staying away from competition
Avoiding competition is a good way to miss out on ideas. If people are flocking to a particular kind of app, like travel apps for millennials, then this just means there’s a huge demand for it. Don’t be afraid to squeeze your way into a crowded niche. Chances are, there’s still an unexplored space to explore, no matter how small, like a different payment option or monetization model. For instance, subscriptions are just beginning to take off in mobile, and the field is wide open for developers who can think of the right pricing tiers.

If you’re in a team, spend more time alone
Don’t hold any brainstorming meetings before each member of your team has spent some time alone. Group meetings can actually be bad for creative thought: members can hold back from voicing out a contrasting opinion in favor of avoiding conflict and maintaining “harmony,” a phenomenon known as groupthink. Spending time to think of your own ideas before coming together is a great way of uncovering unique ideas and unbiased opinions.

Learn how to listen to pain
Collectively, we rant about brands publicly more than 800 million times per year. This swirling vortex of negativity is actually fertile ground for app ideas. Following these complaints can lead to a gap in the market that developers can create a solution for. There are a number of free services you can use to zoom in on relevant conversations. For instance, you can set up free alerts for “inaccurate diagnosis” on Google Alerts for posts related to healthcare apps. Hootsuite and Tweetdeck for Twitter aggregate relevant keywords and hashtags on Facebook and Twitter, and both have free plans for individual users. Tenjin’s own DataVault shows how much it would cost to bid on certain keywords. The cost shows developers the popularity of a phrase or word, like “after hours delivery,” to clue in on demand.

While the app market itself is in a mature state, the continual evolution of technology and audience continues to create new opportunities for success. If you can think of it, there may be an app for it -- but there’s probably room for an even better one, too.

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