Building Great apps step 1 : Refining your app idea

Kids looking at wallAn app can’t be great at everything, what will your app be best at? Figure that out you are well on you way to a great app

This blog is part of a series, you can see all the posts in the series here.

We all know the value of apps, we’ve used good apps, and lousy apps. We appreciate the value of being able to do something quickly and easily on a tablet or phone.

A tablet or phone is something we just grab off the kitchen table or couch, or bring with us when we go out. It’s smaller and more portable than a laptop. We’ve learned that it can be a great way to get things done or to pass the time with a fun game.

You have an app idea of your own, but with all the apps in the market, how do you ensure your app stands out? How do you ensure your app adds value? After you come up with an app idea ask yourself one question


Take the time to figure out what your app will be best at. Write it down! It’s called a “Best at” statement. Keep it short and to the point. Focus on one specific strength. Start the phrase with “My app is best at …”

Taking the time to write a best at statement helps in many ways

  • It helps you control scope creep (ooh we could add this feature, or that feature, but wait, does that support your best at statement? if it doesn’t don’t add it!)
  • It helps you stand out in the market, look at other similar apps, why will your app be BEST at what it does vs other similar apps? is it more specific for a particular market? Does it have better features?
  • It gives you focus, and a way to evaluate the app. If you tell someone my app is the best at ‘x’ and ask them to test it for you, they can test it with your best at statement in mind and give you feedback to improve on what it is best at.

Here’s a few sample best at statements to get you thinking about their power.

My app is the best at timing for bakers – Would a timer app for a baker have different features from the usual timer apps? Sure it would. I want a notification when it’s half way through baking time so I can turn the baking sheets around for even cooking. I want to be able to add 1, 2, or 5 minutes to the timer after it runs out when I look at the cookies and decide they need another 2 mins. I want to be notified if my volume is turned off so I don’t miss the timer and burn the cookies.

My app is the best at pong for making you laugh  - my pong game will have a twist, it will randomly add small pictures on the board and every time you hit a picture it will either have an effect on the picture (like spin) and make different noises. Users can create their own library of pictures or take pictures with the built-in camera to appear so they can hit their friends. They can also record their own sounds to make when they hit a photo.

My app is the best at posting to multiple twitter accounts – users can log in to one or more twitter accounts. When they write a tweet they can select which accounts to use for the tweet. They can also define groups of twitter accounts and select to tweet by all accounts in that group. They can select one account to tweet, and other accounts to retweet.

My app is the best at keeping track of family gift lists – this app allows me to figure out who in my family wants what for Christmas and what has already been purchased. In the app you can define one or more families or groups of people. When there is a group I can invite the members of that group to add items to their wish list. Items can include URLs, photos, and store names where you can purchase the item. When another group member logs in they can see the other family members wish list and they can indicate if they have purchased that item. When you log in to update your own wish list you cannot see what others have purchased from your wish list. Users can also suggest items for each others wish list (e.g. parents suggestions for their kids wish list) when others add to your wish list you do not see what they have added.

Whether you are already working on an app, or have been thinking of writing an app. Take 15 minutes and come up with your best at statement and write it down. Then score yourself 10 points for getting started on your app! Don’t forget to check our Windows 8 resources page and Windows Phone resources pages to help you start building the app.

Do you see how the best at statement helps me think about what my app will be able to do, and the features that I should add to the app? The best at statement could appear in the description of your app in the store, so anyone looking at your app in the store instantly understands what your app is best at, so they are more likely to appreciate and use its features because they understand when to use it.

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