Getting an app off the ground is an exciting endeavor. Ideas are translated from thought and put on paper. Once seemingly distant concepts start to coalesce into a singular design and the mobile app starts to roughly take shape. At this point, mobile app idea owners (clients) lacking the coding and design skills to continue usually engage a development company. However, before the first wireframes hit the paper or scope is discussed, the mobile app must first be defined.
What’s a Benchmark?
When a mobile app development company benchmarks a mobile app idea, the company compares different apps (competitors) and other interesting initiatives related with the client's app. Usually, this process takes place right after the idea and before the RFP (Request for proposal) or Wireframes.
Why is this useful? When benchmarking a mobile app, you compare equally all the other apps or projects similar to yours or your client's so you can take decisions on what your future app must have, must not have, add or take features the client thought the app should have, etc.
Developers can more efficiently tackle an app when it has been given a more definitive shape. Placing the app in a category goes a long way towards achieving this. By comparing the app idea with existing and successful mobile apps in the marketplace, both developers and their clients are able create a roadmap on how to proceed.
The benchmark, a useful tool
Skipping this step only amounts to compounding frustrations down the road. What looks like a simple compare and contrast exercise between apps actually leads to the creation of a solid game plan towards the mobile app development and launch of a successful app.
This helps us to understand the current market trends when we launch the app.
We always start the development process with a careful analysis of the basis of the project and we consider benchmarking to be a very important part of this phase. No great app can be done without an in-depth analysis of current market conditions and the target audience, and benchmarking can bring a huge dose of inspiration at every step of a project. It is especially useful when our clients give us only a general overview of the project and it is our role to provide them with proven solutions that have biggest chances to succeed on the market.
There are several reasons to benchmark a mobile app idea before jumping into the development process and hit the market. First, analyzing the market will give you information about your competitors, their strategy, their strengths and weaknesses.
Benchmarking also helps you to define the success of your future application. Looking at other similar apps gives you the ability to set goals effectively so they are realistic and achievable and probably unlocks new ideas in terms of features that will differentiate your mobile app in a crowded market. Finally, benchmarking is useful to give a perception of which apps are doing well in terms of revenue. This will be extremely helpful when deciding the most effective monetization model.
Including the benchmark within the budget
Imagine planning to get from point A to point B on a map, but not paying attention to the roads in between. That is what it would be like to create an app without first benchmarking. It would be difficult if not impossible for a developer to make an app without this step, which is why anyone looking to have a mobile app built should be skeptical of mobile app development companies who opt to skip this crucial phase of the development process.
In our opinion, each project has to begin with an in-depth analysis of the requirements and possibilities. That's why it is vital to search through the market and find out what is working and what's not as well as to get to know where some great opportunities for improvement can be found. When we approach a new project, one of our developers is always responsible for a research on possible benchmarks and reporting the insights they've found to the whole team.
If the client wants only a prototype, then we can only do the design of the app. Sometimes clients ask for an MVP of project to launch in the market with the core features of the app.
No matter the stage of the project, we always make sure we benchmark our work or ideas with what’s out there in the market. It’s a systematic and continuous process that despite having more emphasis in the initial stage of any given project, it remains constant throughout all stages, even after the first version of the mobile app is completed and launched. If possible (and this highly depends on the client’s budget) the most important thing is seeing the progress over time, so it is always good to run at least two benchmarks so there is a term of comparison.
Hours spent on the benchmark
It is important to understand that the benchmarking process differs on a case by case basis. Various parameters of the app must be taken into consideration and then each must be held up against those of similar or comparable apps. Benchmarking is not an exhaustive step (but it is better if it is), however it does not need to post definitive comparison figures and result in the formation of a general direction that will be taken to bring the app to fruition.
There is not a precise duration for benchmarking. The length of it depends on the scope of the project. If we’re talking about a complex mobile app with high number of features or with a fierce competition in the app market, we’ll probably spend more time gathering all the information we need. However, despite the time constraint and the size of the project, there are always essential dimensions we make sure are analyzed.
It depents greatly on the specific project. Are similar applications available for a certain platform? How elaborate is the project? Does the client has his own benchmark ideas or do we have to do the whole research ourselves? A safe answer is to dedicate about a couple of hours for the benchmarking process.
It depends on the functionality of the application.
Key aspects to compare
Competitor analysis can be tricky if a mobile app developers are not sure what they are looking for. Knowledgeable and experienced development companies often employ both a wide and narrow approach. Wide looks at the general specifications and performance of apps. A narrow approach delves into an apps specific features and functionalities. When comparing competitor apps it is prudent to consider almost all aspects.
To find a good benchmark, one has to search for both successful and high-quality apps. Quantitative variables like the number of downloads and average rating are our first hint, as they show, whether an application is appealing enough that users want to install it and support it with good reviews. We also pay close attention to qualitative variables. In this case, design and UX are very important factors for our developers.
Most app ideas have a certain dose of innovation so appreciated in start-up industry. That's why strict comparison of two different apps is often impossible. Our strategy is to compare the general picture of a mobile app first and then to focus on specific features that need further research and development.
Mobile apps are our passion so we check new solutions available on the market everyday and share our feelings and insights among coworkers. It is not uncommon that, while creating a strategy for a new app, we use the solutions that one of us has seen in apps or games he uses himself. They are not necessarily from the same app category as the app we are working on because good solutions can be adjusted to a lot of app genres.
The data we analyze usually depends on the industry in which the app is related to. However, the benchmark process is more focused around several key metrics such as:
Although the benchmark is mostly in quantitative terms, it is not limited to it. Our benchmarking process includes some qualitative items such as the usability and aesthetics of similar apps. We always try to compare in terms of separate features, it provides better insights.
For basic quantitative metrics, we usually focus the comparison process with apps from the same industry and category. For more qualitative items, we check apps from different categories. We’re aware that looking outside the box might bring some new fresh ideas.
We review user flow that is UX. Most of the applications get success because of the UX and designing part. We review how features are implemented and their flow. We also compare similar features, interface and core features of our apps. We try to make easy user flow. So when users download the app, they do not need to learn how to use it. They can easily understand it and start using it.
Generally, we check applications of the same categories because they have similar features. We can take reference of other categories apps for design [UI-UX] purpose.
The client's influence on the benchmark
Communication is key throughout the entire app development process and benchmarking is no different. More often than not, clients are more informed about their apps competitors and where it is supposed to fit in the market place. Not sharing this information would only be detrimental to the mobile app development process and so developers usually like to involve their clients particularly when it comes to the benchmarking process.
For the benchmarking process we need the client's involvement till UI-UX process. So we will have a clear idea of the app flow after the UX is completed.
We are convinced that our clients know their market best as they are experts in their own branch. That's why we often ask them to tell us everything they know about the market and their main competitors, so that we can truly understand their needs as well as chances and obstacles to the project.
Many clients do a great work here, digging really deep not only in their industry and competition, but also giving us some benchmarks to follow. Some clients find it even easier to describe their app idea by giving us a benchmark that inspired them to create a certain app. We always consider such insights to be very valuable and pay careful attention to them. But we always do our own in-depth banchmarking analysis as well and suggest clients possible solutions.
That always depends on the client, if they want to be more involved with the benchmarking process we’re happy to accommodate that. We have our own benchmarking process and our team can handle it without any external help but we’re totally open to listen to our client’s ideas and suggestions. It’s extremely helpful if the client brings their own list of competitors and items they would like us to check, it shows strong motivation and willingness to collaborate.
Similar mobile apps
There are literally hundreds of thousands of mobile apps across different platforms. Needless to say it is an industry full of noise. Trends rise and fade quickly but there are categories of apps which see a lot more competition than others. On demand, dating and photosharing apps are but a few categories that witness a huge competitor pressure.
Food apps, taxi apps, chat apps, deals/offers apps are some mobile apps with more competitors.
We think that the most competitive apps areon the games, education and lifestyle categories.
Every app is different. Judging from our experience, many clients decide to develop a mobile app that is somehow connected with communication between people, e.g. social app or messenger app. Apps that gather offers or products and allow to simply find a desire thing are also popular, as well as tools designed to solve specific problems.
The hardest benchmark
As previously mentioned, the benchmarking process can drastically differ from client to client and from project to project. However, there are times when a considerable amount of effort and resources must be committed to setting a benchmark. Our top mobile app development companies share some of their experiences with these quasi-monumental endeavors.
GL Deals and Bounty Star apps have represented the biggest efforts in benchmarking process for our company.
We are developing mobile apps for many different branches and for various platforms, including wearables, so we sometimes face a situation that we make a certain app type for the first time. That's a great challenge but it also takes more time and effort to develop such an app. Hopefully, we already have experience in so many different branches that this scenario happens less and less often and we can provide our clients with many valuable benchmarks that we've already developed ourselves.
We have developed mobile apps for different categories and industries and each of these projects presented unique challenges in terms of benchmarking. Unfortunately, as most of our projects are under NDA agreements we’re not able to share which one has represented the biggest effort.
In this day and age, the importance of benchmarking cannot be overstated. Developers and mobile app creators should do their best to go through this step in as much detail as possible. A benchmark sets the tone towards the completion and launch of the app. It is easy to say that benchmarking is merely a comparison of two apps, but it is more than that. It is the creation of a blueprint towards bringing an idea through the app creation process and breathe life into it.
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