Indie Devs: How to Avoid these 4 Common Mistakes
When passionate, driven indie developers decide to turn their hobby into a career, making a great app gets a lot more complicated. Here are some of the most common mistakes and how you can avoid them.
Mistake #1: Dreaming too big
It’s easy to get caught up in creating a vast, complex app, but make sure it’s achievable with the resources available to you. You can still dream big — but ask yourself what’s realistically achievable for the resources you have. Make your goals achievable and be ready to reduce scope if necessary.
This doesn’t mean reducing the quality of your app. Consider, for instance, the minimalist nature of many hyper-casual games; they rely on simple game mechanics to make them approachable and don’t necessarily require high-end graphics, sound, or extra features to make them enjoyable.
Mistake #2: Not researching the competition
Pay attention to your competition and trends in the mobile market. One of the easiest ways to get a leg up on the competition is simply understanding what works for them. Study their app functionality, but also how they market their games. How is your competition optimizing for the App Store and Google Play? What type of ads are they producing, and why do they work? What can you do better? Resources like Data.ai and Sensor Tower can help you gain deeper market insights.
- Browse through apps that are in the same category as yours.
- Analyze different themes and trends.
- Note which apps show up repeatedly with different search terms.
- Download and use these apps to get a better understanding of why they’re popular
- Look for what could be improved. This includes analyzing UI elements, ad types, ad frequency, how they integrate in-app purchases, etc.
Mistake #3: Ignoring or not seeking feedback
Get feedback from fellow developers. Go to industry events to network and get different perspectives on your app or scope industry trends. You can also tap into communities and forums within Reddit, Facebook, and others as a source of potential research (particularly for games). Reading opinions from these communities can help you identify problems and solutions that you may not have thought of.
If you’re building an app in a space that garners fandom, fan communities are also a good way to get people together to help test pre-release builds. In this way and more, fans can be your biggest advocates.
Mistake #4: Not investing in marketing
Indie developers often devote themselves to making a great app without putting together a great marketing plan. This is often attributed to a lack of capital, resources, and expertise. The good news is that you don’t need a multi-million dollar ad budget for effective marketing. Here are some free and low-cost methods of marketing your indie app:
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Twitch, etc. are all free and can be good ways to build your community organically. You can communicate with users, post behind-the-scenes and other interesting content, and gradually bolster your app and brand via search engine optimization (SEO).
App store optimization
Give your app the best possible chance to stand out from competitors through app store optimization, or ASO for short. If your storelisting isn’t optimized for search, it’ll get lost among your competitors. Research your audience, know your keywords, and build the best store page possible.
Think of ASO as SEO for the App Store and Google Play, as many of the same tactics can be used. For ASO, you’ll want to ensure your app’s icon, images, screenshots, and video are instantly captivating. For video, show the core functionality to let potential users know exactly why they should download your app. All text, including your app’s description and title, should feature keywords that you want to target, just like with SEO.
ASO rewards A/B testing, so make sure you continually iterate on your app’s listing. A small lift of a few percentage points across millions of downloads can have a noticeable impact on your business.
As mentioned previously, don’t overlook community building (especially through social media networks). This lets you test ideas with an objective crowd who is willing to take time out of their day to provide you with feedback.
Communities allow you to exchange ideas, share project updates, and promote your app organically. Fans who stick around your community will be your most hardcore fans who will help you spread the word and create new users. Social networks, like those mentioned above, offer a free way to build your presence and community.
Make creative creatives
As your app and business grow, you’ll have enough revenue to begin investing in user acquisition (UA) — and one of the most important things about UA, which is fairly obvious but can be difficult to pull off, is having unique and high-quality creatives.
As consumers have gotten used to advertising over the years, the expectation for quality has increased. Video — especially rewarded video — is by far the most popular ad format on mobile because of its effectiveness at increasing engagement. For games, video is especially effective at communicating the most enticing part of the game in a short amount of time. (Playable ads for games are also highly effective.)
A/B testing, like ASO, plays an extremely important role in app marketing. Experiment with ad variants to test things like colors, footage, subtle animation changes, or anything else you think may resonate with your users. Constantly building, testing, and iterating will help make your ads perform better and make your UA strategy more cost-effective.
Embrace failure to build success
As an indie developer, you will inevitably encounter a variety of new challenges — and whenever you face a new problem, just accept it as a new challenge. Embrace failures, take what you learn, and use it to improve.
With the right resources in place, and a plan to ensure the best possible chances at success, you are primed to avoid these mistakes and find the enthusiastic user base you deserve.