Design, simplicity and speed crucial to 'great apps'

The global applications economy will hit US$25 billion (S$31.66 billion) this year, around 60 per cent of which will be Apple apps, according to ABI Research.

The app economy should then continue to grow rapidly to be worth more than US$90 billion by 2018, said the US research company.

Matt Monday, the former editor of Apple App Store, said the US tech giant is looking for "great apps" - that is, those which add value and enrich the lives of users.

Today, great design is a large part of that equation, and Apple considers design to include how a product works, not just how it looks, he said.

"This gets into user experience, which I break down into value proposition, which is how developers message the app and the value of the app to the user before they use it, and value delivery, which is how developers provide that value to the user with the functionality and feel of the app," he said.

The main components that will make an app successful are just like in any successful business, that is, doing the things that people really need or want, he said.

Games are most successful, and apps that add gaming elements (game mechanics) to them often do better than those that do not, he added.

"Of course, being better than the competition is very important. Making something simpler is harder than making it complex, and simple with mobile is important," said Monday.

He said the key characters of good applications include great design, simplicity and speed. Moreover, social integration, which is the ability to do and share with friends and others, is now also really important.

"Game mechanics [a reward for interacting with the app], something new, something unique," he said.

"To design great applications, developers should start with an empathy for their consumers and customers. Developers really need to know the desires, motivations, pains of who they are building this app for before they begin to design. But, also design has to do with taste, which is a difficult thing to teach quickly. So if a developer lacks taste, they should absolutely partner with [or pay for] someone who does have taste.

"Taste can be relative to a particular community, culture, generation, et cetera. But again, it's important to understand who you are building the app for first," said Monday.

He added that the vast majority of apps were not popular and would not be considered successes in the market. For the ones that are genuinely successful, the majority will be popular for about a month and then fall off the charts.

It is very rare for an app to climb the "top charts" and stay there for more than a month or two, but some do, he said.

Great Thai potential

Meanwhile, Krating-Ruangroj Poonpol, former senior vice president for the Products Division at Total Access Communication (DTAC) and founder of Disrupt University, said Thai developers absolutely have the potential to develop good apps that can make a lot of money and see millions of downloads worldwide.

For app monetisation, he added that for the Android platform, there is much more flexibility to incorporate payments into the phone bill. That could be huge if people who buy Android phones spent as much money on apps as iPhone owners do.

They do not at the moment, but this could change as more "financially secure" mobile subscribers turn to Android, and as developers get more comfortable developing their apps for Android.

In the meantime, developing a free app that is connected to an account which offers basic services for free, and then either "pay as you use" or "premium features" for a monthly fee, seems to be taking off, he said.

So are completely free apps that offer in-app purchases, such as Path and a significant portion of the successful games on the market, he added.