3 Ingredients of Creating a Great App

Ah.. we’re in 2016. Creating an app has never been quicker + easier than now!

If you have about US$5k and access to a good app developer, you can create an app.

At the same time, creating just an app does not matter much: In 2008, just creating an app was enough but today it would be half-witted to expect that.

Now, people have enough experiences to differentiate between an ordinary app and a great app.

People have good options to get their things done. More than one option in most cases.

When people did not have options, creating an ordinary app worked well. Not anymore.

Imagine that you’re traveling in a desert and you’re extremely thirsty:

You are halfway and you do not have a drop of water in your water bottle. You have been 
searching for a water source but you haven't found one yet.

A group of villege-men passes by and you ask them if they can offer you a glass of water.

They want to charge $500 for a glass of non-purified water which has send particles.

You pay them and drink water.

What if you're in your hometown with abundance of purifie water at your disposal?

You ignore villege-men's offer, don't you?

In the App World, users have an abundance of purified water :). They’ll ignore you if you offer them dirty water. An ordinary app is like dirty water; a great app is like purified!

Here are the 3 Ingredients of Creating a Great App

great app

I reiterate – the below 3 are the ingredients of creating a great app:

  1. Attention to UX: Attention to UX will make the app more relevant to the user.
  2. Continuous testing: Continuous testing will instill the right habits for your app success.
  3. Measuring the right metrics: Measuring the right metrics will tell you how you’re doing against your app success goals.

A great app is made with users in mind, tested continuously and measured against the right goals.

A great app also means that the life of people associated with creating or consuming the app will be great. Users want it so their needs are fulfilled. Since users use it more, founders make more $$$, and since startup and its founders make more money, the programmers get to spend a lot of time on the hacktivities that make them happy :).

Great App = Great Life: for Founders; for Programmers; for Users! #startups #ux Click To Tweet

If you learn to make an app great, you learn to better your life. This is no exaggeration!

How to Create a Great App

The process of making an app great is the process of making anything great: may it be a strategy, customer service, organization management, personal leadership, writing skill, or a relationship!

The reason it is so difficult to focus on these 3 important ingredients is that it requires you to acknowledge that your original execution was imperfect.

#Startup world is looking for ppl who continuously work(hard or smart or whatever)to make it work! Click To Tweet

Is unconditional commitment to continuous improvement a part of your startup vision?

If not, it is going to be more difficult. If yes, you have an edge. Leverage it!

SketchNote: 5 Startup Lessons Learned from Steve Jobs

Who said Steve Jobs is not alive?

Though Steve Jobs is physically not present in this world, he’s still alive in our hearts through his larger than life creations.

While I did not have the privilege of working for him at Apple, NeXT or Pixar, I have the privilege to learn from the people who have been there and done that.

Yes, I’m talking about Guy Kawasaki and his wonderful article on Entrepreneur.com.

A couple of days ago, when I was reading at night, I stumbled upon this wonderful article: 5 Things I Learned About Successful Startups From Steve Jobs!

I read the article attentively. I liked the lessons. Since the majority of the clients I work with are startup founders, I thought I will arrange a brainstorming session with my team on the subject sooner than later … to better our startup consulting muscles.

The need was to summarize the article quickly, understand the crux of it, and share it with the team members along with context-specific and relevant examples so we can leverage the learning offered by Jobs via Guy!

I don’t know if I will ever create a product, service or an outcome which will put a dent in the universe like Jobs did but I know one thing for sure: I’ll DIE EMPTY and unleash my best work every day. Thanks, Todd Henry!

At that point, my best work was to summarize the article in some way but how?

Last week, I met my friend Tanmay, who is a master of sketch notes. He’s an artist who ships. I enjoy observing and learning from his fascinating creations: his writing, his photography and his sketch notes.

Since Tanmay is living in Chandigarh,  meeting in-person is not as frequent as it used to be so when we met last week, we spent some good time and talked about topics where our interests intersect. Sketch note was one of them.

“What if I create a sketch note for of this article?” I thought to myself.

When the possibility of a new creation emerges, the devil who lives within you, known as resistance gets even stronger (yes, Steven Pressfield, I get it.) and tells you 100 reasons why you should not venture into the unknown.

Some of the reasons that were telling me that I should not venture into creating a sketch note were:

  • I don’t deeply understand what sketch noting is;
  • My drawing was really bad;
  • I do not have good tools at the moment;
  • What if my sketch note will look ugly (I never got good marks in my drawing class while schooling);
  • I haven’t read the SketchNote Handbook from Mike Rohde … yet;
  • I don’t know how to begin …

All BS reasons: my lizard brain, as Seth Godin puts it, was doing everything possible to convince me how I am not the right fit to start SketchNoting but somehow I was able to pull the plug.

I started creating a sketch note. I think it is better to call it Digital SketchNote because I did not hand-draw it. I digitally drew it. On my Macbook Pro.  But I think when it comes to creating something, tools matter less. Intention + first quick action + willingness to continuously iterate to put it in the right direction matter more.

'To starting something up, first quick action matters more than the wealth of tools.' #startups Click To Tweet

This is the 6th iteration of the sketch note I created 2 days ago. First one was ugly. The second one was little less ugly and this one hopefully is not as much – LOL :D!

So here comes my first SketchNote:

Startup Lessons Steve Jobs - SketchNote

I have spent 4 hours designing this SketchNote. Maybe it is much more time than what a seasoned SketchNoter would have taken and the quality of this SketchNote may be primitive, I enjoyed every bit of this experience.

Fun thing was that in the process, I got some design direction from my better half Kavita, who runs her own graphic design studio, KreativePencils. It was fun to be on the receiving side of the direction in this project!

Does it all matter?

It matters to me at least. It matters to me not because I created my first sketch note. It matters to me because I ventured into the sea of an unknown once again!

Exploring an uncertain next with an immense faith in yourself, regardless of the skills or the tool, gives me inner strength and happiness.

Steve Jobs had said,

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

So yes: the dots are being connected. With Jobs’ insights; with Guy’s expressions of Job’s insights; with Entrepreneur Magazine publishing it; with the lessons learned from Todd and Pressfield are intersecting; with Tanmay inspiring me to look at SketchNote as a subject and Kavita filling the gaps of the talent that I have … there is no better way to begin a new year!

Thank you, Steve Jobs. Thank you, Guy Kawasaki. Thank you Entrepreneur.com. Thank you, Todd Henry, Thank you, Steven Pressfield. Thank you, Tanmay. Thank you, Kavita. I am grateful to your contributions in my life.

And one more thing!

Thank you so much the reader of my blogs for reading through, criticizing and giving feedback on my ideas, thoughts and point of views. I am grateful to you. I am because you are.

I am grateful to you. I am because you are.

Ubuntu!

 

Happiness and a Small Town Tea Stall Owner – a Short Story

A Tea Stall Owner from a small town was absolutely satisfied and happy in his life.
small town tea owner on happiness
One day he got to know a bit more about his regular customer: a Car Driver of a well-known business tycoon.

The Car Driver used to stop at his stall every morning and every evening with different expensive and luxurious cars.

“This Car Driver gets to drive different, expensive cars every day. He must be the happiest person in the world,” he thought.

The Car Driver

the car driver on happiness

“Well,” said the car driver, “I felt I was very fortunate to drive different and cool luxury cars every day until I met Mona, my boss’s personal secretary.”

“She is well educated, good looking and career oriented woman. She also gets to drive almost all the cars that I drive, but she is treated more respectfully and attentively than me. Maybe with more affection too ;)”

The Tea Stall Owner then approached Mona.

The Personal Secretary

personal secretary on happiness
Mona explained, “I lived a happy life until my boss got married to Kate, the popular film actress.”

“I only get to be with my boss for a few hours a day, I get his attention, I learn a few things from him and if he is in a good mood, I can get little cozy with him. You know what I mean. I also get to drive most of his expensive cars, but my boss’s wife, Kate, being a very popular actress and more beautiful than me, enjoys an abundance of his attention and wealth. Kate is a big name in the film industry, earns millions, and also enjoys attention and love from our country’s most handsome man, my boss!  I was really happy before my boss’s marriage with Kate but not anymore. I feel jealous of Kate …”

The Film Actress

kate on happiness
The Tea Stall Owner then approached Kate, “Hey Kate, you’re so beautiful, rich and famous. Every day thousands of people come to see and greet you. People come to me for having a tea. I do not get any attention from them. They just care about their tea. Sometimes they even don’t care about the quality of tea I make. They come to my place, talk about everything on the earth with other people and leave. I don’t get enough love, richness and wealth though essentially God has created both of us as human beings. I think you must be the happiest person in the world and I’m not …”

Kate replied, “I always thought that I was the most loved and happy person on the planet.”

“But because of my popularity, I feel trapped. I cannot live the life I want to. I have to wear the mask of the “brand” I have become.  Sure, I have an abundance of money, fame, and a loving husband, but I am not free.  I ‘have to’ behave specifically so I can maintain my brand image.”

“But you know what, for last several years, I have been consciously seeing you selling the tea at this corner. I am seeing that you are really enjoying your work as a tea maker. Often, you’re singing a song or you’re having fun along with those college students who come to your stall to take some tea on credit. Whenever I see you, I think perhaps you’re the happiest person on the earth because you’re free and you can do whatever you want!”

“For past few days, I have been thinking if I were a Tea Stall Owner like you, I could really do all that I want to, without wearing any masks!!!”

Conclusion

hort Story on Happiness

That’s our problem too.

We look for happiness everywhere else but not from within.

We make a comparison with others and create an abundance of unhappiness in our lives.

We don’t value the present moment that God has showered us with.

We plunge ourselves in the vicious cycle of unhappiness: I am unhappy than him. I am less beautiful than her. My cousin has 2 bungalows while I am staying on rent.

How our life would become if we value our present state?

How our life would become if we choose not to compare ourselves with others, for better or worse?

How our life would become if we just live the present moment?

How instead of writing that above is “easier said than done,” we start making it easy – for our own self – and others too?

Happiness has no relationship with the profession you are in. It emerges from within.

If you look forward to the next moment of your life with equal or better enthusiasm, then your present moment is well spent. If not, then … you need to make some changes.

What changes you will make will depend upon the type of expectations you have from your life, but ask yourself this: a life full of accomplishments is worth at the cost of happiness – or a life full of happiness is worth at the cost of accomplishments?

There is no right generalized answer to this question but I am sure there is an answer that is right for you. That answer will determine the course of your next life. Choose it consciously so you don’t have any deathbed regrets.

Make it Great with an Accountability Partner

You are clear about the primary aim of your life.

You have set your chief SMART goal.

You have a compelling list of 100 unique reasons why you should reach the set goal.

You have a list of 3 or more SMART sub-goals that you must achieve to hit the goal you have set.

Still there is a strong possibility that you will miss the goal. What could that be?

Lack of accountability.

We, the humans, have a wonderful capability to find out reasons why something cannot be done. Valid, acceptable and compelling reasons why something is not possible.

Those reasons are caused by what we know as “resistance”.

Resistance is one of the most powerful negative forces you experience in your entire lifetime.

Resistance is your biggest enemy. Resistance aims to kill. Resistance aims to kill the possibility to take actions.

Oh … damn resistance.

Sometimes the resistance wears the mask of reasons. Sometimes it wears the mask of logic. Sometimes it wears the mask of reality. What’s more, sometimes it wears the mask of yourself … and your other (vested!) interests.

And, you do not even know that you have to fight with your own self who is now representative of your enemy that stays within you … resistance!

Reflect on below thought from Pressfield’s masterpiece book called  Do The Work on resistance:

“Resistance is the Dragon; you are the Knight” ~ Steven Pressfield

And you know what, you slay the dragon once, and he will never have power over you again.

Public accountability is one such powerful tool that can help you to slay the dragon.

When you have a project to be delivered, a business to start or life change to make, your inner dragon will tell you all the reasons why you should not be doing that thing.

This issue is caused by the design of humans. This is how we are. Let us accept it so we can do something about it.

By making your goals public and creating situations where you are held accountable, you tell your inner dragon to shut its fire-spitting mouth.

For example, if you make a public announcement of your personal goal in your community, your public Facebook profile or on your personal blog, it is an example of applying public accountability in your life.

Now, there are private goals that you may not want to share publicly. What to do? How to get the benefits of public accountability without making your goals public?

By having one or more private accountability partners.

accountability partner

Here are some of the traits that you would look for in your private accountability partners:

a) Accessibility: They should be accessible to you on a regular basis. It is great if your accountability partner is within the same family, same office premises or the same city where you can easily access them.

b) Choice: They should accept themselves as their accountability partner. Someone might have assigned or insisted an accountability partner to you, but they should choose themselves as your accountability partner nonetheless.

c) Relevance: They should be able to relate to your goals in some manner. For example, if your goal is to lose 6 kg weight in 60 days and you pick a foodie accountability partner who thinks it is a wasteful thinking, it won’t help.

d) Respect: You should be able to respect your accountability partner and s/he should be able to respect you. You may have a difference of opinions but as if they don’t respect for who you are, it does not work.

It does not matter what job title or experience or gender your accountability partner have, it matters that your accountability partner will make you accountable such that you achieve your goal.

Your accountability partner could be your friend, colleague, boss, spouse or even a social media contact you made online. Whosoever s/he is, if s/he follows the following 100 rules for being an accountability partner, it will work:

100 Rules for Being an Effective Accountability Partner

Rule #1:

An accountability partner will make sure that her partner achieves the set goal.

Remaining 99 rules don’t matter!

FAQs About Accountability Partner

Q1: Why accountability partner?
A1: Because you are smart. You know how to lie to yourself. Your accountability partner won’t allow you to do that!

Q2: Can my spouse, or colleague can be my accountability partner?
A2: Yes, they can.

Q3: What one thing an accountability partner should do on a regular basis?
A3: One thing that accountability partner does on a regular basis is to connect her partner with the possible outcome of the goal once achieved. Having said that, there are no set rules or steps that work for everyone; still the accountability partner will make her partner realize that you are accountable to take actions such that you can reach the goal.

Q4: What ONE thing that accountability partner must not do?
A4: Accountability partner does not disempower her partner intentionally or unintentionally. Sure, during the process she might learn that a particular technique might not work – so she can communicate the same but in a constructive manner. In a way, that empowers her partner to achieve the goal, not to keep away with the goal based on the discovered knowledge that a particular technique might not work.

Q5: What is one understanding that accountability partner would practice from?
A5: An accountability partner would practice the relational accountability. She’d understand that accountability is the willingness to give an account to someone else of your actions and motives. It is a give and take relationship where the purpose is to empower each other to achieve the goal.

In conclusion:
Accountability Partners can help you reach your goals sooner than later and help you build a more strengthened version of yourself.

Leverage it now!

Depthless Impulse Vs. Slow Mastery

What is one of the most common behavioral patterns of young startup founders?

Depthless impulse married with an action bias.

Action bias is good. Action bias with impulse is accident prone. Action bias with depthless impulse is disastrous.

Action bias=good. Action bias+impulse=accident prone. Action bias+depthless impulse=disaster.… Click To Tweet

Here’s a story of a young such startup founder and his mentor:

A young startup founder went to his newfound mentor and said passionately, “I am committed to learning your thinking process. How long will it take me to master it?”

The mentor’s reply was casual, “3 years.” Impatiently, the young startup founder answered, “But I want to learn it faster than that. I will work very hard. I will practice every day, 12 or more hours a day. How long will it take then?”

“5 years,” replied the mentor.

“But, if I really, really work hard at it and give my best shot. Maybe 16 or 18 hours a day if I have to. How long then?” asked young startup founder.

The mentor paused for a moment and said, “Well, 10 years.”

“But, I do not understand,” said the disappointed young startup founder. “At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that?”

Replied the mentor,” When you have one eye on mastering my thinking process, you have only one eye on the path that leads to learning my thinking process.”

Same is the case with many young startup founders. They get so much excited about the end result their idea might produce, they fail to give their 100% into walking the path that leads to the end result they had once imagined.

Depthless impulse is easy, getting into the verticle depth of the matter is not. It is painful. It is boring. It takes more time than what you think it should take. But above all, it is a surefire way to achieving your best potential. And, the whole notion of the startups is to achieve one’s best potential, isn’t it?

Startups who do not want to invest in verticle depth cease to exist sooner than later.

Not because they don’t figure out the different ideas to pursue, but because they don’t pursue the ideas differently.

Don’t let you startup cease. Only action bias won’t save your startup. Practice slow mastery over depthless impulse and experience it yourself.

Do Less AND Do Better

Had a chat with a young startup founder yesterday. She was  in her early twenties. Young blood with full of energy.

Her startup is about creating a fitness related solution using mobile-first approach.

The idea looked good. She was talented and confident. She was determined to make it happen.

Here’s a glimpse of our conversation:

"If I get funding of around US$25,000 then I'll hire the best mobile app developer and have them develop 10 BEST features from the competitor's apps," she said.
"Why do you want to build those 10 features?" was my question.
She: "Because I think all these features are super cool and offer the users with a lot of 
options and if users get more options then they might use more of my app and if they use 
more of my app then I'll make more money from the app."
Me: "What if you identify one or two EXTREMELY important features and leave every other 
feature out for upcoming releases?"
She: "But...but I know that all the 10 features are very good and my app should have it."
Me: "Why? Are those 10 features absolutely *essential* to the core of your solution? Or 
just good to have features?"
She: "Well, only one is core, but all others are really cool features. For example, I can 
provide sign in option via Twitter on top of email sign in option that I'm going to have 
as a default option."
Me: "Do you know how many people who are interested in your fitness niche are on Twitter? 
Are they active users? Do they really care if you have Twitter login option? Do you have 
any data which is unique to your niche that tells you that you must absolutely have 'Login via Twitter' feature in your fitness app?"
She: "Ugh, I don't have any specific data but I feel that it is a really good feature. I along with lot of my friends use Twitter so frequently. I think other users would also be using Twitter like ours ..."
Me: "What if you launch without Twitter login option and see if your users demand it?"
She: "I think I can do that but oh yes, I got the idea: rather than focusing on including 
every great feature that I can think of, you're suggesting that I quickly go to the market with the vital few features that are just better than my competitors?"
Me: "Absolutely. Do less AND do better!"

Observe the capital “AND” in the above statement. It is the key. The purpose of doing less is to do it better than everyone else including your previous implementations. Better is non-negotiable.

If you can’t make it better, “less” has no value. In fact, it deteriorates the value of your solution. More and better is often fool’s paradise.

Less and better is possible.

Less and better is loved by the users.

Sometimes, Less and better is hated too by a few … but that’s okay!

More is full of clutter. Less is full of what matters more. #quote Click To Tweet

More is full of clutter. Less is full of what matters more. Apple does it. Basecamp does it. Trello does it. They do less and they do it better.

Sure, doing less is scary; doing better is difficult. Still, doing less + doing better is what it takes. Yes, it = your startup, boy!

The disease of copying superiors

Recently, Tom Peters shared this insightful article – The 15 Diseases of Leadership, According to Pope Francis – on his FB page and titled it as Wow & Wow & Wow!

It got Tom’s attention then who am I to ignore it?

It turned out to be a really insightful read and its author Gary Hamel has articulated it so aptly.

While all the pointers have a potential to be a wake-up call for many of us, point #10 struck the chord. Here it goes:

The disease of idolizing superiors:

This is the disease of those who court their superiors in the hope of gaining their favor. They are victims of careerism and opportunism; they honor persons [rather than the larger mission of the organization]. They think only of what they can get and not of what they should give; small-minded persons, unhappy and inspired only by their own lethal selfishness. Superiors themselves can be affected by this disease, when they try to obtain the submission, loyalty and psychological dependency of their subordinates, but the end result is unhealthy complicity.

I cannot agree more with this insight. Rather than learning from the superiors, many people in today’s workplace tend to blindly follow their superiors for different reasons.

However, I have observed that many middle managers at startups or smaller companies, often court their superiors because they want to become like them. While their objective is not always to gain the superior’s favor, they are absolutely impressed by their superiors than they should be and often commit a mistake of following their actions (and not their point of views) in similar situations.

These people are not small-minded, unhappy people who are inspired only by their own lethal selfishness. Instead, these people are mesmerized with the way their superior deals with different situations and think that they will also be able to lead similar situations if they will adapt to their superior’s style.

They get inspired by the heroic act of their superiors and tend to “copy” them.

They get psychologically dependent on their superiors and be loyal to the superior instead of being committed to the startup’s mission.

Often, such acts look innocent and give the superior a sense of personal fulfillment but it might bring negative consequences down the line.

Here is what is likely to happen when such a situation occurs

a) The superior starts feeling good about his subordinate’s act

b) The subordinate starts feeling good by keeping in the company of the superior

c) The subordinate starts simulating his superior’s actions in the majority of the tasks he undertakes – while hiring people; while delivering; while managing difficult situations with the clients; while doing their day-to-day work …

d) The superior starts noticing it and often tend to conclude that by following him, his people will also produce great results

e) This might result in missed focus on being as agile as possible, moving fast, failing small and failing fast, gathering as much data as possible and building an infrastructure upon which the startup or the small business organization can stand for the years to come

Four Ideas for Superiors to Deal With Subordinates Who Copy or Idolize Them

Such situations may plague the organization. Here are some of the ideas that might help the superior dealing with such situations:

  1. Be aware: Of your own act. Of your people’s act and identify matching patterns and see if those patterns indicate that your people are blindly following you, innocently or intentionally – and do something about it.
  2. Substance over smartness: Reward substance over smartness in each of the acts that your part of the business entertains. Even if the substance is not extremely good in style, reward it more over styled smartness which does not have equivalent substance.
  3. Communicate candidly: Talk to your subordinate and communicate what you have observed. Tell him that instead of being an inferior version of yourself, he should choose to become the BEST version of himself. Sure, he can choose to look at the situations from your point of view but he must understand and accept that merely copying your act won’t give him desired success.
  4. Lead thyself better: Now this has more to do with yourself rather than your subordinate. Empower your people such that they are inspired by the beauty of what they intend to create and not your heroic style. This is easier said than done but absolutely necessary if you want to create a mission-driven organization that gets things done!

In closing, copying superiors is indeed a disease and it must be dealt up front and as fast as possible. The key is to accept that it is a disease and then take corrective measures.

Question: Have you observed any such situation? What are your views about it?