Successful web applications are applications that solve unmet needs, are easy to use, and have a simple yet powerful marketing process to get people in the door. Most of the effort in creating a web application comes up front, in the development process.
Once development is complete, if your product is a success you’ll be able to make a lot more money with less work than other online business models. (For example, through advertising, blogging, etc.)
Here’s how to create a web application that sells.
Fulfill an Unmet Need
The most important thing about your web application is that it has to fulfill an unmet need that the market truly wants.
Basecamp, for example, was the first online project management tool that was both easy to use and affordable for the small business owner. As a result, the web app has really taken off.
A good indication of whether or not a web app will be useful is to ask yourself what you would genuinely use. Founders who use their own products generally create better products and have a better chance at success.
Ease of Use and Minimalist on Features
Don’t over develop. Don’t add too many features. Products can be killed by having too many features rather than too few.
Dropbox wasn’t the first to market in the online back-up industry. They overtook the industry not because they had more features, but because their proposition was simpler. They backed up everything you put in one folder on your computer, automatically, all the time. It was much easier to use than other systems with complex set-up and myriads of options that nobody understood.
Make your product easy to use. Reduce feature sets and get it down to the core of solving your user’s problems.
Development can be very easy if you already have the skills, while being tricky for an entrepreneur who isn’t also a coder.
Outsourcing an integral part of your business generally isn’t a good idea. If your business is a software business, don’t outsource the coding of your product.
Instead, the coding is best done either by a technical co-founder or a trusted employee. You want to have a close relationship with whoever is developing your code.
Generating Traffic and Getting Sales
Do your round one beta testing with friends and friends of friends. This will be your ground zero. From there, contact high-impact individuals in the industry you serve to get the word out.
Take for example 99designs, a service that hosts design competitions amongst designers where only the winning design is selected and paid for by the client. When they first launched, nobody had heard of them, though a few people had used the concept and liked it.
By targeting key individuals in the CSS communities and design communities, the founder was quickly able to get the word out.
Experiment with PPC traffic as well as SEO traffic. Email bloggers and publishers in your space about your new product. If you’re truly solving a problem, they’ll want to know about it.
Also target tech-oriented sites that follow web applications. Hacker News is easy to get into, though not necessarily easy to rank for. TechCrunch is much harder to get into, but can get a lot of exposure to truly market-changing applications.
Creating a web application that sells isn’t easy, but can be incredibly rewarding both emotionally and financially. Most of the work is up front – once you have the product and it’s taken off, you’ll have a stream of income with little work that will last a long time.