7 Critical Mistakes to Avoid when Developing a Mobile App

Mistakes to Avoid when Developing an App

By Graham McCorkill

February 28, 2020

Do you have a great Mobile App idea?

If you’re a potential App Entrepreneur, then this information is for you. You’ll save a ton of money if you avoid these 7 critical mistakes when developing a mobile app.

So what is an APP ENTREPRENEUR I hear you ask? 

Do you have an idea for a mobile app, or a web app or any type of software platform? Then you are a potential app entrepreneur!

An App Entrepreneur builds a business around an app (really, any software product). They aim to take it to commercial success. Trouble is, the road to building a commercially successful app can be fraught with uncertainty, difficulty, and worry. 

I understand the uncertainty of creating something new, from scratch, without any guarantee of success.

For the past 30+ years, I’ve been in business. I have worked in the family business. I’ve been a founder or co-founder in over 12 startups. I’ve experienced both success (and failure) across a range of industries.

In 2012, I co-founded a small App Development company. We grew it to become one of the fastest growing and best development agencies in Australia until late 2017.

During this time, I saw a lot of our client’s apps fail to reach commercial success for many reasons. Most of which I thought were avoidable (in retrospect).

I became obsessed with this. I studied design thinking, lean methodology, lean startup, exponential growth strategy among others. And I spent time analysing how successful app companies do it.

A Shocking Statistic!

One statistic I discovered shocked me! Over 90% of all first-time app entrepreneurs fail.

How could this be? What I’ve found, when you boil it down, the primary reason most first-time app entrepreneurs fail, is:

IT’S THEIR FIRST TIME! 

Creating a successful mobile or web app or a new software platform is hard. Going from idea to commercial success requires a clear strategy, many unique skill sets and an ability to prioritise what’s important. 

Even founders who are successful in other areas of business find themselves facing a steep learning curve. 

My current business, Kuboom Startup Innovation, was established to coach app entrepreneurs from idea through commercialisation… to help maximise their potential for success. 

See our post – 12 Key Steps to Kickstart your App Idea.

Below, listed in this guide, are 7 critical mistakes to avoid when developing a mobile app. I’ve seen first-time app entrepreneurs make these mistakes over and over again. If you’re considering becoming an app entrepreneur, these are mistakes you’ll want to avoid like the coronavirus.

Mistake 1 – Having The Wrong Mindset

In most cases, the old saying “Build it, and they will come’’, is wrong when developing an App. I’ve seen so many believe that when their app is released, millions of users will flock to their idea and they will be an instant millionaire.

It is important to understand that an App is a product. To successfully sell that product, you’ll need to build a business around the product with all the marketing, sales, operational and further development functions to support its growth.

Mistake 2 –  Trying to create an App for EVERYONE

When looking at established Apps like Facebook, Spotify, Uber, YouTube, that have hundreds of millions of users worldwide, many first-time App Entrepreneurs imagine their App will have the same market size.

However, they forget that even these companies focused on a niche market in the beginning. They all aimed to dominate or monopolize their niche before tackling a progressively larger target market.

It’s important to clearly define your target users and get to know what they care about.

Mistake 3 – Engaging an App Development Agency too early

Many first-time App Entrepreneurs start out by googling ‘App Developers’, then call a couple of agencies at the top of the search results. They’ll book some meetings to discuss their idea and get a range of advice about what to do next.

The entrepreneur will excitedly choose the agency they like best. They’ll sign a contract, pay a deposit and start the product design phase.

Here’s the reality however… Development agencies are incentivised to develop something. Of course, most will advise you that you should also do user testing, competitor analysis and formulate a marketing strategy. But they make their money from development. 

I’m not trying to imply that App agencies are unethical. On the contrary, I have found that most, especially Australian based, are very ethical and aim to develop a high-quality product. 

What I am saying is, it’s important to complete several critical steps to confirm your idea can be a commercial success BEFORE engaging a dev agency. Do your due diligence.

Mistake 4 – Believing that users will think like them.

One of the biggest mistakes a lot of first-time App Entrepreneurs make is, they assume their users think like they do. They believe users will instantly get their concept of the app and use it how it’s supposed to be used. Simply not true. 

Many spend way too much time during the development phase specifying and re-specifying the features and design just how they want. Trouble is, they’ll likely miss the most important part… What assumptions are you basing the success of your business on? What’s important to you, may not be important to your target users.

You’ll find, spending time identifying the key assumptions early in your planning phase, then testing and validating these assumptions will prove invaluable. Trust me on this! 

Mistake 5 – Spending too long developing the ‘perfect app’

Many first-time App Entrepreneurs have a fear-based mindset of  ‘we’ll only get one chance to get it right’. 

So they continue to develop and refine a suite of features and supporting features to get the app perfect. Right down to millimetre perfect positioning of every button, font size, and colour hue.

Problem is, by the time they’re ready to launch, both budget and timeline are blown and there’s no money left for marketing. Let alone updates to Version 1.10 of the app.

Successful app entrepreneurs ask themselves different questions…  “How can I keep it simple and get it out there asap?” “What’s the minimum feature set I’ll need to test my core assumption/s?” With the right strategy and a staged release, huge lessons can be learned.

Make your early adopters your biggest advocates. Learn from them and turn their feedback into meaningful updates.

Mistake 6 – Failing to create an effective go-to-market strategy

An App will generally take three to six months to develop the first version. During this time, many first-time App Entrepreneurs focus mainly on what their Development Agency is doing. Making sure they are working towards their vision for the App product. It’s relatively easy to control… and it’s their baby!

Problem is, when it’s time for the first release, they don’t know who their target users are. Or how to attract them to the App. 

Building a community of engaged users is key to the success of all Apps, even those for internal company use. It’s important to develop a strategy for how to start building a community of your target users way before release.

Mistake 7 – Trying to monetize prematurely

It can be tempting to slap a price tag on your shiny new app to quickly recoup costs and profit from your idea. 

This is usually a fatal mistake. Because if your app is not free in the early days it will create a barrier for first-time users and can completely stifle growth.

It’s critical to get rid of anything that may prevent users from getting started. Find ways to engage your users so they keep coming back and grow your user base as quickly as possible. You’ll find ways to monetise once you have momentum with lots of engaged users.

Key Take-Aways

Well, if you are still reading, you’re clearly serious about developing an app and making sure you don’t repeat the mistakes above, made by many first-time app entrepreneurs. 

I’m assuming you’re a potential first-time App Entrepreneur looking to build a commercially successful app. Or maybe you’re currently in the process of building an app. The best advice I can give you right now:

Don’t be afraid to ask for help from those with experience, even if you don’t think you need it! 

To get things started, I’ve created the complete ‘App Kickstart Roadmap’, which you can download here. It will help you identify all the priority tasks you need to check off before you commit to development. The tasks included in the Checklist will begin to establish your path to success.

Additionally, see our post – 12 Key Steps to Kickstart your App Idea.

Next, make sure you find yourself a mentor or coach with tech startup experience. For founders who can devote full time to their new project, an option you can consider is, look into joining one of the many incubator programs established in the last five or so years. Incubators and accelerators generally offer a great supportive community.

Final Thought

I’ll continue to publish regular how-to guides, roadmaps, and checklists. My aim is to help minimise your risk of making mistakes and maximise your potential for success… So, be sure to apply for our Founders Club to keep up-to-date with the latest resources from our team and other updates as soon as they become available.


Graham McCorkill

By combining his 30+ years of personal experience in business and innovation, with design thinking, lean methodology, lean startup and exponential growth strategy, Graham has built a comprehensive framework to maximise potential success for tech based startups. In 2018 he founded Kuboom - Startup Innovation, to coach first-time App Entrepreneurs to success. An experienced entrepreneur, startup coach and mentor, Graham has had senior leadership roles in several private and public companies and has founded or co-founded 8 successful startups. Currently, he is also a Mentor at Stone & Chalk Accelerator Program in Melbourne.

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