Jul 12, 2021 Written by Tamar Barlev
Gaining Traction in App Development

Application development, be it in Los Angeles, New York, or Mars, is only part of the founding journey. If one develops the best app ever, but no one uses it, did the tree really fall in the forest?


…Sorry. Mixing metaphors. 


The point is that gaining traction is a critical component, if not the crux of product strategy and app development. After all, users not only attest to the app’s value proposition (to you, to investors) — users inform the product strategy and product roadmap. Their use and feedback fuel future iterations, from the minimal viable product (MVP) to version 6002.13.


Before we get into risks and reasons why an app (not yours, of course) might not gain traction, we should define the thing. And frankly, it’s a bit wishy-washy. Because while traction is getting noticed and utilized by a growing customer base, founders also need to define traction for themselves. What are the metrics to aim for at every development milestone? What are the numbers of downloads, logins, engagement, and referrals they’re tracking?


A founder should build tentative traction goals based on market validation and extensive research. But we’ll get into that.


Risks to Gaining Traction in App Development


Shoddy Product Strategy and Product Positioning

Yup. Sounds overwhelming. Luckily, we’re extremely humble experts in this domain. At Goji Labs, we’re obsessive researchers and planners, and through our experience, we’ve learned to invest heavily in product strategy and go-to-market strategies.

Here are where things might go wrong:

Gaining Traction in App Development


– Incorrect Market Validation

Basically, checking out the need for an app, and how its
competitive landscape and business model would look.


– Incorrect Target Demographics

In evaluating general demand, one should also assess their target market and target demographics. As in, who is an average user? Why do they want the app
now? What’s their tech savvy-ness? What are their favorite colors and baked goods? 

So…okay, maybe that crosses into the dystopian corporate territory. But one has got to know their audience inside out to tailor to and serve them accurately.

You wouldn’t create a marriage-matching app for dolphins because a) they’re not monogamous, and b) they don’t have opposable thumbs. So a) they don’t have the problem you would be trying to solve, and b) they literally would not be able to use it. Know your audience before you invest resources into app development.


– Incorrect Assessment of Timing 

Timing is huge in entering a market. Ideally, one would want to predict and set the zeitgeist. But if not, taking advantage of
current trends and needs is essential (versus releasing a product addressing past needs, which could be irrelevant.)

Like, if someone were to go-to-market with a glow-in-the-dark walkman that, yes, responds to voice commands but weighs seven pounds and can only be hand-carried, we’d ask—how big really is the market segment of extremely fit extreme hipsters? If the answer is not satisfactory, we may suggest reevaluating the timing here.

Another case of this would be entering a heavily saturated market—which by no means is impossible but would necessitate a pretty significant technical or novel edge.


– Building a Strong Go-to-Market Strategy (or not)

Ooooh, go-to-market. One of those fancy pants business terms—that shoulders the immense responsibility for carrying an app from Testflight to a user’s iPhone 37. Essentially, it’s a plan to create buzz, and overall awareness that funnels leads to converted leads to a (hopefully) growing market share.

This plan can be informed through extensive research: knowing the problem the app is solving, learning the target market, and even watching other players in the market (it’s okay to check out what others are doing and how it’s going for them.) Through this, one can figure out the most effective marketing channels and tactics. It should be solid initially but pivotable (if the first plan didn’t go as…uh, planned.)



Below Par* Branding and Marketing in App Development

*(or above? Idk, that colloquialism always confuses me)


– Advertising Your Application Through (in)Correct Channels

Just as one wouldn’t advertise a dating app for dolphins
on the glass-blowing channel* one needs to choose their vehicles for brand awareness. Since you’ve already done your research on your target audience (including what else they like), you can understand where they might be most likely exposed to your messaging.

*because there are very few glass-blowing dolphins, and virtually no one watches cable these days


– Minimal Social Media and Online Presence

Both are tremendous resources for brand awareness.
According to Zoominfo, 32% of companies have seen “very positive” effects on customer service objectives from social engagement, and brand loyalty has a lot to do with likability (86%) and trust (83%).

Online Presence to Gain Traction in App DevelopmentBut it’s not only that—a channel to communicate with one’s
audience is an opportunity to understand them better, receive
feedback, and inform product development. For example, you
can message a clear value proposition through press releases,
marketing materials, reviews, promotions, and social media.

All are excellent vehicles to establish your brand, engage with your audience, and learn from them.


– SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

Which, admittedly, is a long game. But boy, is it worth it. If a dolphin
were to search “I’m lonely, how do I find a partner in this big, bad world?” (which, again, wouldn’t happen because they are naturally non-monogamous, adventure-seeking creatures), you really would hope to show up as result #1. But, of course, part of that could be entering a relatively novel space. But even if the market is saturated, while SEO would be competitive, it could give a remarkable advantage to a new player.


Minimal User Satisfaction

There are several facets to user satisfaction, and they all relate to how well one knows their audience. I’m sure I don’t need to invoke the dolphin dating app example again, and I’m sure we’ve all had enough of it. But it holds its ground.

A dolphin would not use an app if:

– The App Just Isn’t That Useful

The app must comprehensively address user needs. Imagine a banking app that stores your money but doesn’t show you how much you have and gives you negative interest or an investment app that stops you from trading when it feels like it (oops.) A user would download (because of strong messaging), become disappointed with the 
service, stop logging in, and give you a bad review.

A founder should focus on fleshing out “what is the point?”, perhaps putting out surveys about the specific problem they would like to solve. Once one knows their audience’s pain points, through product strategy, they must strategically decide which are the most urgent and belong in the MVP and which should come in future iterations in app development.

Even in the MVP, however, the problem should be more or less solved. As one builds the app and receives feedback, they can add additional, informed features that bring even more value and answer more needs (or do so more precisely and complexly). User satisfaction has everything to do with gaining traction, and it’s not going to happen until the app solves the problem it set out to solve.


– Unstellar UX (User Experience)

UX is a main facet of customer experience. Have you ever used an app that made you want to throw your phone across the room? Did you ever open it again afterward or recommend it to your friends? No. Unless that app belongs to your health insurance, and you needed to file a claim, and hey, they hold you hostage

UX, or bad UX, has been the killer of many excellent ideas. The last emotion you want to evoke in your users is frustration, and bad UX does exactly that. It is a beautifully complex field that we have become (again, humble) experts in as we’ve designed hundreds of digital products. And our investment makes sense when you realize that a “well-designed customer interface can boost conversation rates from 200% to 400%.”

 Bad UX in App Development can look like:

1) A convoluted workflow and app design that makes your user have to press the back button 17 times to the home page so that they can go 20 pages deep in another menu to toggle between the two pages they need (see, that was even exhausting to read.)

2) Slow loading anything and everything. The year is no longer 1999. If I hear that dial-up ring in my head while waiting for something to load, I’m closing it and deleting it. We’re an impatient bunch these days, and while that might be entitled, it’s likely a characteristic your users share. Fun fact: slow-loading interfaces cause retailers to lose $2B in sales every year.

3) Aesthetics unpleasing for the target demographic. Are you building a Shazam for Metal Music fans? Maybe don’t make it baby blue. That’s not to say there aren’t Metalheads who love the pastel palette, but you get the gist. 

4) Overt Complexity, especially in the context of your audience. This is where your knowledge about your audience’s tech savvy-ness comes into play. This is also where the acronym “K.I.S.S.” (“keep it simple…sweetheart”) comes into play. While you are setting out to solve your audience’s needs comprehensively, an intuitive and streamlined onboarding flow is essential to getting users to use and recommend the app. 


….Well, that was a lot. Also, sorry for all of the dolphin stuff. 


In any case, though, we’re here to chat!

Looking for help with app development in Los Angeles, New York, or literally anywhere else?

Have an app, but you’re in a slight pickle? Doing super well but looking to scale or revamp?

We’d love to help. Find us here. 

– Goji Labs