This is a guest post by Steve P. Young, Founder of Pixel Happy, a content marketing and mobile app development firm.

Want to build the next BIG app? Have a brilliant idea that is a sure-fire success?

You can build it and see if the come. Or you can go the smart route and validate it first.

In a world with 700,000 apps in the Apple App Store and over 850,000 apps in Google Play, we no longer live in a world where if “you build it, they will come.” It’s more “if you build it and it’s awesome, then they MIGHT come.”

Instead of spending the time, money, and energy in building an app, you can take these four simple steps to first validate that there’s actually a market for your app idea.

Are people searching for your app?

A dead simple way to validate your idea is to see if people are actually searching for your app. Using the Google Keyword tool, you can discover the number of searches your idea generates.

When using this tool, you want to make sure you have the keyword match set to “exact”. This will show you the number of searches there are for your exact keyword phrase.

As an example, before I built Breakup Meter, I used the Google Keyword tool to see how many searches there were for “love meter”. Note how the broad and phrase match return a significantly higher number of searches. This will skew your data as the broad and phrase match settings will include keywords such as “love meter game” or “love calculator”.

However, using the “exact” match type i was able to see that there were 74,000 searches a month for “love meter” and the competition for the term was low. That was a good signal to me that there was a definite market for the app.

Along with my background with SEO, I was sure that I could rank for the keyword.

Are they buying or using similar apps?

For me, it’s not if they are using similar apps; it’s if they are buying similar apps? However, if you’re going for scale maybe it’s using. The point is all the same.

AppAnnie is a great service to look at the top charts of different app stores. What you want to do is make sure that similar apps to the one you are building are within those top charts. I don’t mean exactly the same, but something similar.

For example, CarTunes is an amazing and slick music player app that is completely gesture based. I’ve personally replaced Apple’s default music player with this app.

I had a chance to interview Ryan Oksenhorn, developer of CarTunes, on my podcast and what I admire about him is that he went after a huge market and put his own spin on it.

Who doesn’t listen to music on their iPhone? In addition, he solved the one problem that most people have while listening to music in their car – the inability to look at the actual music player.

CarTunes has over 3.5 million downloads by solving one problem in a huge market. Listen to the full interview here.

I also got a chance to interview the very own Tope Abayomi, but more on that later.

Will people actually download it?

If after the first two steps, you’re still unsure of your app’s success then I’d recommend spending $100 to really test the market.

This last step you’ll be testing whether or not your audience will exchange an email address to be notified when the app is live. If they’re not willing to exchange an email address they’re likely not going to fork over a couple of dollars for the app.

Step 1 – Build a Buyer Persona

Think about who will download your app. Be as specific as possible. For my Breakup Meter app here is one of my buyer personas.

image credit: Wood Street

Name: Brad
Age: 19
Income: Mom and dad
Description: Brad is in college and loves entertainment photo apps such as FatBooth and UglyMeter. He doesn’t mind spending a couple of dollars for an app in exchange for a few good laughs with friends at a party.
How to reach buyer: Brad spends most of his free time on Facebook. He reads the college paper and ESPN.

After going through this exercise I know exactly what I have to do to reach all the Brads of the world.

– Reach out to college papers about the app
– Create a Facebook page for the app
– Run ads on Facebook and/or ESPN

Create 3 buyer personas for your app. When you’re thinking about each buyer try to be as specific as possible. What do they read, what other apps do they have on their phone and what type of messaging resonates with them.

Step 2 – Build a Landing Page

Now that you have the buyer personas and have an idea of what other apps your potential buyers are using, you can look at the description of those apps to get a sense of the style of messaging that resonates with your audience.

Next step then is to build a landing page promoting your app. You can use a service like Unbounce or buy a landing page through ThemeForest.

You’ll also want to create a few screen shots of the app so potential buyers think its a real app. If you’re not a designer, use one of the iPhone app design templates on App Design Vault.

Then sign up for an email service provider like Mailchimp so you can start generating leads for your app.

What we’re trying to achieve here is to see if there’s an audience for your app. Are they willing to exchange an email address to be notified when the app is released.

Step 3 – Buy Ads

The next and final step is to run a few ads for your app. If you have a web hosting service such as BlueHost, take look at your control panel. They are always giving away free coupons to advertise on Facebook and Google Adwords. I’d recommend using these coupons for your ads.

Go back to your buyer persona and figure out the best place to run an ad. I find that Facebook has the best targeting features, but every app is different.

For my app, my target audience is males age 16-25 who have an iPhone. Using Facebook’s targeting I was able to target my ads specifically for this audience.

You’re also able to cap the dollar amount you’d like to spend each day on the ad. If you’re using a coupon, then you’ll likely only have $50 to spend, so I’d recommend capping your daily budget at $10 a day.

Create a Poll in a Forum

This tip comes from the man himself, Tope Abayomi. I had him on my podcast, Mobile App Chat, where entrepreneurs in the mobile space share their success stories and he told me a story of how he validated App Design Vault.

He went to a popular iPhone developers forum and created a poll. He asked the members what is the biggest challenge you have when developing apps?

A) Coding
B) Designing
C) Marketing
D) which Tope doesn’t remember

Over 70% of the respondents selected “Designing”. Boom!

App Design Vault was born.

The story of how Tope built App Design Vault from the ground up is an inspirational one and definitely worth a listen. Plus, he’s such an all-around nice guy.


While many will tell you that the mobile space is extremely crowded, I’d argue that there is still plenty of room. However, before spending the time, money, and energy on building an app, make sure you do the due diligence to validate your idea beforehand.

Talk to as many people as you can. Do a video chat rather than an audio one, so you can see the person’s reaction. Do everything you can to make sure you give yourself the best chance at succeeding.

Believe me I’ve seen my share of app failures.

What are some creative ways you’ve validated your app idea? Do you think validation is worth all the trouble? Share your thoughts in the comments.

This is a guest post by Steve P. Young, Founder of Pixel Happy, a content marketing and mobile app development firm. He also hosts Mobile App Chat a podcast interviewing the top mobile entrepreneurs.

He’s been featured on Pando Daily, Website Magazine, General Assembly, Search Marketing Expo and other major publications.


  1. Pingback: Fish XL – 4 Simple Ways to Validate Your Mobile App Idea | iPhone and iOS App Design Templates

  2. Rahat Khanna

    Excellent post with all the details. I am right now new to App Development but I am planning to release one. I will also blog post my whole process & journey and will surely include these in the Ideation phase.