The reality is that when you first release your app it will not have too many users to begin with. Unless of course you have collected a large amount of people who are just itching to download your newly released app… However this is very rarely the case, especially with entrepreneurs as this would have taken a marketing budget equal to that of your development costs.
There’s no need to be worried about a slow take-off and in fact there can be some benefits (but I’ll get to those soon). It is common for great apps to start out slowly to begin with until their organic growth strategies start to take force. The growth from there can be exponential, especially if you have a concept that really is good but just needs to be seen or heard of in order to get a download. Given this pattern of growth, it is wise to consider your features with this in mind.
When you first start out on, for example, a social network where no one else is (cough cough, google+) the features that would thrive if you had hordes of friends (such as circles) seem a bit redundant, and in fact tend to bring more attention to the fact that there is no one in the app yet. Even things such as public chat rooms, forums and threads will seem a bit empty when you’ve only just started out. It’s not the best look when users are moving around the app and seeing that there is no one else here.
People love to be part of a crowd and that first time they try to use the app and find themselves alone will likely be the last time they use it for a long while.
I was a classic case of this user mentality when I was added to Facebook by a group of friends I had met on a holiday to the US. Keep in mind I was about 14 at the time. But with a total of about 5 or 6 friends, I couldn’t understand the hype that surrounded this new platform. (I was still a myspace user!) When I returned to Australia nobody else I knew had an account in the system so my participation quickly dwindled, until about a year later when Facebook had a booming growth in Australia. It just had no appeal to me without the user numbers that drive the very use of the app. This is not to say that Facebook set up in the wrong way (they seem to be doing okay now huh?), it is just an example of how a lot of users need the numbers before they will hang around to interact.
The idea is to fake it ’til you make it! So the users can’t see how empty your app is…
Features like those for sorting friends or organising elements of the app that won’t be largely populated yet should be avoided. Not only will this save you costs on development that you can then put to marketing, it will also give you the ability to get your market’s opinion of what features should come next.
Being smart about all of the features you put into your first release is crucial as that is the first juggling act between development and marketing that will determine whether or not you even make it to the second and third releases.
It helps to network with people who have done it before and see what went right and wrong for them. Also questioning your market and trying to see your project from their perspective can help you in making these types of decisions.
Think about what you would want in an app if it was just you on your own to begin with