Top tips to build an Android app that users will love

Want to become an app developer? Novoda's Kevin McDonagh has some advice that will enable you to create and build Android apps...

A Deloitte study, commissioned by Google last year, estimated that 439,000 jobs across Europe are directly associated with Android app development – with the industry generating more than £4bn globally for developers.

If you want to capitalise on this growing market opportunity then here are my top tips for budding Android app developers…

Testing with real users before you launch is key

There’s only so much you can do in a lab and testing with real users before you launch is key.

When developing apps for Android you can test different features with early access users in Google Play before you do a full launch. At a later stage, you can even share your app with a bigger group of users for final testing and to build advocates.

Finally, launch your app in the Google Play store and appeal to your already adopted users to rate your app with five stars.

Nobody wants to be a beta tester

Remember, you can use platforms to build communities of testers but never refer to them as beta or alpha. Their advocacy depends on the language you use. Nobody wants to be a beta tester.

Android’s Early Access tool allows you to create a small group of VIPs who will iron out any bugs in exchange for their VIP status. You should be on first-name terms with all of these VIPs.


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“[If you] build it they will not come – don’t just sit back and wait for the downloads”

Your bigger group of users are your Preview Group. The key is make advocates feel special so that you’re building relationships with advocates all the way up to your release.

Too many developers spend money on press and marketing and just sit back and wait for the downloads. Build it and they will not come; you need to cultivate communities of users.

Improve your Google Play store listing

It’s simple. Clean-up your Play store listing and you’ll get more downloads. I’ve seen it happen. Too many apps don’t follow basic listing rules.

Above all, your Google Play listing needs to be really clear and simple to read so that people understand the purpose of your app.

Each of your five images should display a key feature of your app. Within each image, there should be a couple of lines of text that describes the feature – not many developers do this – but Tinder is an example of an app that really makes the most of this feature.

“Your listing is not a place for marketing or promotional speech”

Under the images you should provide a succinct summary of what the app does, followed by highlights in bullet-points.

Your Play listing is not a place for marketing or promotional speech. It’s your one shot to explain clearly and succinctly why people should download your app.

Release often and work from your Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

From a design and usability perspective, plan your roadmap in terms of Proof of Concept, Minimum Viable Product (MVP), Minimum Desirable Product (MDP) and the wow factor which you hope will happen six months down the line.

“Refine your MVP with continuous updates”

When you have an MVP, you launch and get it out early and then refine with continuous updates. The great thing about Android is that it’s pro-developer so all the tools you need to succeed are there.

You can analyse app reviews, access the Play Developer Console on mobile devices and refine, refine, refine – safe in the knowledge that your app will work across the full gamut of Android phones.

The idea is nothing without the execution

Apps have become a competitive market. In the last year, 65 billion apps were downloaded from Google Play and, by 2018, the sector is expected to employ almost five million people and contribute €63bn to the EU economy.

Like any commoditised market therefore, the execution is more important than the  original idea.If you’re innovating with a unique idea, you’re taking all the risks and without the luxury of bottomless funding, this rarely leads to success.

“Apps are set to contribute $63bn to the EU economy by 2018”

My advice, therefore, is to look to ideas that are working in local ecosystems and to assess what your competitors are doing to solve problems. There is so much innovation in sectors like agriculture which app developers are aiding.

In emerging markets, Android showcases those apps which are more relevant to local demand alongside apps made by local developers so there’s an incentive to work with this talent and provide great execution to solve existing issues.

Kevin McDonagh is chief executive of app developer Novoda.