You may or may not have heard of an Italian Economist called Vilfredo Pareto. He is noted as coming up with what is widely known as the 80-20 principle which states that 80% of effects come from 20% of causes

This is a principle that, like it or not, can either make your app a total success or an utter failure in the app store. Why is this so?

Circling back to the 80-20 principle, lots of companies have verified the validity of the priinciple. An example is Microsoft who discovered that 80% of crashes were eliminated by fixing 20% of the most reported bugs

But in this case, I am not talking about fixing bugs in your application. Rather, I want to explain how focusing your time on activities that matter the least will make your app destined to fail.

What are these activities? Read on

Focusing on Development and Coding will make your app fail

Developing features and writing code is the activity that 80% of developers engage in but only constitutes to 20% of the app’s success. What! To a developer, that is blasphemy. I can already see tons of people with ropes ready to hang me.

As a developer myself, I struggled to come to terms with this too. I believed in writing the best app ever and of course a great app will sell itself, for sure. Well, we all know that is not true.

A tribute to this philosophy lies in the thousands of apps that have great functionality but are buried in the deepest of the deep positions in the App store rankings. Many developers will relate to the pain of seeing a really inferior app in their category sitting in the Top 100 and making tons of money in the App store.

So what is the activity that will give your app an 80% chance of success?

Focusing on Marketing your App will make it succeed

In this day and age where you have almost half a million apps to compete with, the Gold rush is officially over. Only useful apps with a careful and well-thought out marketing strategy will succeed.

The irony of this point is that most of us developers agree that marketing your app is important but all we do about it ends there. we simply agree but do nothing about it or at best do it half-heartedly.

The reason for the half-hearted approach to marketing is mostly because it doesn’t fall in our area of expertise. You want to spend your time writing code and not trying to generate Facebook fans or begging App review sites to review your app.

Sure, focusing on functionality and more features will make you keep your customers and increase word of mouth but if you have no customers in the first place, there is no one to tell their friends about your app. You need to get attention to your app and the harsh reality is that spending time marketing your app will get you that attention.

Two Low Hanging Fruits You Can Pluck Today

The good news is that marketing does not need to be that hard or painful. You can take a lesson from the book of the great company Apple by applying great design to your app. Apple is known for beautiful use interfaces that people love to interact with. This is one form of implicit marketing that is easy to implement and goes a long way in making your app stand out from the wannabee apps in your category.

Here are two quick tips.

  • Get a magnetic icon and app title. This is the first encounter a prospect has with your app whether it be on the App Store or in a review post. Make it count, make it magnetic
  • Invest in great app design. Your screenshots go a long way in making me decide if I want your app on my iPhone or iPad. After I install your app, the way your app makes me feel (Warm and Fuzzy or Ugh!) will determine if I open it up again or not.

A quote from Teehan+Lax, designers of the iPhone GUI PSD explains why

“You don’t notice this level of detail on a micro level, but you’re aware of it on a macro one. When you pick up your phone to send a tweet or check an email you’re seeing hundreds of these details a second. Those details add up to make the experience what it is” – Teehan

It all needs a mindset change

You need to decide. What are you? A business or a hobbyist.

If you are a hobbyist, like what most indie developers actually are (but will not accept), then spend your time coding and adding features that you think your users may need. Who knows you may be the one in a million that hits the jackpot.

If you are in a business, think like one. As an indie developer, you have limited resources and you must allocate them to the activities that have the most effect on your app’s success.

Sorry if this pill is hard to swallow but that is why it is called medicine. If a pill will heal my ailment, I will take it any day.


  1. Kenny

    Great post. Marketing is really the key ingredient in making your app successful. And it’s not just marketing, it’s “Creative Marketing”. You can have a great app but if people don’t know about it, then it’s just going to sit there and collect “digital dust”. Before creating an app, even before putting the idea on paper, make sure you do your research. Your idea must be unique and fulfill the users need. Remember the slogan “There’s an app for that” it’s true.

    • zenon zenonos

      Hey there Aizul,
      Great app you published there.

      Can you please tell if you have put an image showing the map preview or an actual mkmapview in the location detail view?


  2. Paul Surette

    The hardest part for the app I’m building is the name… While the app isn’t done, and there is no reference to the name in the app, I agree it’s got to be catchy, and catch you’re eye. I know using the themes here (I’ve bought two) are going to make my app look amazing, but naming it? Wow, that’s another story…

    • Tope

      Try this app on the App store called “Namer”. I use it to name some themes on this site… Let me know how it goes

  3. BobbleShop

    Such great advice, we wish we had seen it sooner!! Just exemplifies your point: 80% focus on dev and 20% focus on marketing = hobbyist results.

    We feel we have a magnetic brand, an amazing product, a killer product roadmap….but a marketing plan equivalent to a cardboard sign for a kid’s lemonade stand.

    Any feedback on our design and any marketing advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance.

    iTunes Store:

  4. Pingback: INTELLIGENTSIA >> Para Quienes Saben » 3 Myths That Lead To Mediocre App Sales

  5. Eric Strait

    This was a remarkable read and your results have spoken for themselves. I know there has to be other companies like yours out there but I have not heard of them. There is a reason that your company is the only one of it’s kind I have seen on App Sumo. Great job and focus on marketing!

  6. Sandor Nagy

    Straight to the point. I have noticed early on that in an app’s life there is much more than coding. I have come to the conclusion that the single most important is the FIRST IMPRESSION your app makes. Your ICON and APP NAME makes the difference when someone encounters it.

    How to make your icons AWESOME?
    Take a look at this great tutorial:

  7. Chris

    as an indie developer, I definitely fell into the 80/20 trap with my first app. I was new to coding and was so excited just to get something out there, that I made many mistakes. I mistakenly thought that since my app was one of a kind in the app store, it would sell. It’s a celebrity mug shot app that shows just about every celebrity that has been arrested and their police mug shot. It’s been out a year and I still don’t think that there is another app like it. But sales? Ha! I must have sent out a million app review requests. Nobody volunteered to review it, so I paid for a couple, but got no traction at all. I then released a free version with in-app purchases. It sells better than the .99 full version, but really no substantial income at all. It has failed and is “hobbyist” because of my lack of attention to marketing.

    I don’t feel like the app looked professional enough and I think I could have done better on the icon. I used black and white, which won’t stand out at all. I also have recently learned just how important screenshots in the app store are. I need to go back and update those! Functionally and bug wise, the app is solid. Here’s the link for reference (and so I can maybe earn an extra $3 this week):

    So, the advice in this article is great. I will soon be releasing my second app, called Tap That Caption, in the photo captioning arena. I’ve looked hard at what’s out there and think I have some features and the look that will hopefully catch some eyes. I’m working hard on the marketing plan right now. There’s a great book to read called “Pitch Perfect” for pitching your app to the review sites. It’s written by Erica at and a very good read for all developers.

  8. Sufiyan Yasa

    I really didnt like the subtitile on :
    “Focusing on Development and Coding will make your app fail”
    In a way, it made me felt uneasy and weird.
    What about games? How should one apply these on a gaming -level experience?
    Balloon loons

    • Sandor Nagy

      Hi, Sufian,
      Let me explain why this HAS to be the title of this post.
      As you said, it made you uneasy, like you’ re missing out on something. It told you that ” Yes, your biggest fears, that you are missing out on something” IS TRUE. So you read on. This is a copywriting stuff that says: “the first most important thing in blog-post marketing is to make your readers read your title than read on”. That’s all you’ve got at tops so you have to take care how your headlines sound. The reason why this is a GREAT headline ( wheather it makes you uneasy or not) because Tope knows a thing or two about content marketing. The proof is that you and I also made a comment (got hooked till this part of the page). And this is hard, very hard. You can’t make anyone go this far without knowing some marketing. Well, maybe ones parents will always read their blogpost, but noone else. So, great job Tope. It’s really all about 20/80.
      And Sufiyan, it really doesn’t matter how great those levels are if noone knows about them. You have to spread the word out. One way is content marketing. Take a look at this post I’ve made earlier on my blog about app marketing. It’ll be an epic post cut into several blog posts every wednesday.
      Great post Tope.