Whenever anyone asks me why I like Apple products I always give them two reasons. The first reason is that I like having all my devices (iPhone, iPad and Mac) all on an identical, or at least similar and cooperative, operating system. But it’s the second reason that usually generates the most discussion. I like Apple products because of the vast quantity of apps that there are. But they’re not all good. So, what makes a good app and what makes a bad one?

Well let’s talk about the three things that should be prerequisites to making an app.

  1. The app must do something that is worthwhile. This sounds pretty rational however take a glance through the app store and let me know how many apps there are that you don’t think do anything worthwhile. Example: Fat Booth. ‘Nuff said. 
  2. The app must make something easier. This is equally as important as the first concept. An app should not take an existing activity and make it more difficult. For example, I downloaded a calendar app that had so much going on from a feature perspective that navigating the app became virtually unusable. It would have been easier for me to start carrying a day planner again.
  3. Finally, the app has to be easy to navigate or, to speak in design terms, it must be intuitive. Recently this has been the switch to sliders rather than buttons. This is a must. There are great apps that do amazing things that are difficult to navigate and those apps will never succeed when compared to apps that just FEEL good. 

If you are going to use an app, you want these three things to be a part of it. SO obviously if you’re going to build an app, you need these three things to be a part of it. Most apps only fill one or two of these criteria but the apps that are absolute game changers have to meet all three. Some great apps, really great apps, are missing the boat on a couple of these criteria but they do the others so well that they can succeed anyways. For example, I don’t particularly find that Evernote (the mobile app) is easy to navigate or intuitive. I don’t actually think that Talking Tom makes something easier but it provides people with an extraordinary amount of fun and that could be considered worthwhile and it’s pretty easy to use.

Now, many people would say “well, Android has apps too, so why Apple.” True, but not as many. Not even close to as many. Not even half. Why does that make a difference? I download a lot of apps. More than most. Way more than most. Why? Because a lot of them are terrible. Actually, possibly most of them. But much as Einstein published 249 papers, the majority of which are never cited anywhere and Picasso made thousands of pieces of junk that no one puts on any walls in a museum anywhere, there are a whole lot of failures on the road to success. A lot. Most.

So what does this mean? Well, firstly it means that if you wanted to find something fantastic, you’re probably going to start by finding a whole lot of junk. And if you’re going to create something fantastic, start now because chances are you’re not suddenly going to write a masterpiece. You’re probably going to write a lot of junk first. So, get that out of the way. You have to tail many times (in most cases) before you succeed. (Unless you’re Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveller’s Wife, in which case your first book will be amazing, and your second one will be the failure.)

Download EVERY app you can find (mostly the free ones) and you’ll find some good ones. And if you’re an app developer, please, for the love of god, follow these rules.