8 Unconventional Ways to Source New App Feature Ideas

hand-nokia-outside-4957Let's face it. Analytics aren't going away any time soon. They tell too powerful a story, and should be driving a lot of the new features you develop in your app. But brands are built on more than just data, they're built on emotional connections with your users. When developing new updates for your app to better connect with your userbase, sometimes you need to go beyond the numbers, and that can mean sourcing ideas in unconventional ways. Below are eight unique ways to source your next app feature.

First: Talk to Other People…in Person

1. Attend Meetups

At Localytics, we’re always throwing a new hadoop hootenanny or app analytics affair. It’s a great chance for us to bounce ideas off of the community. It’s also good for the attendees to see how other companies are leveraging similar technologies to solve similar problems. Sometimes, all it takes is for us to see how someone else does it to inspire us and get our gears really going.

Here are some app-related meetups for the biggest US app development communities:

San Francisco:

Boston:

New York:

Austin:

Atlanta:

Chicago:

Seattle:

Don’t get tunnel vision with the official Meetup groups though. Make sure you’re keeping up with other local companies’ events as well. A good way to do this is to subscribe to company news blogs or create a list on Twitter to monitor the startups in your community.

Get Your Social Media On

Maintaining a presence on social media is no longer optional for any company. And if you’re in the business of engaging users in the most convenient place, this is a no-brainer. But what you do with it is more important than anything.

2) Monitor Branded Twitter Mentions or Hashtags

social-media-640543_1280Meet your new customer service center: Twitter. There was a time when people felt honored when companies would respond to personal tweets. I have to admit, I do get all fuzzy inside when companies like Alaska Airlines respond to mine. But in modern-day Twitter, if a customer is having issues with your product or service, you are expected to respond, and fast. I’m not here to preach to you about customer service, but rather open your eyes to the opportunity within.

If someone is taking his gripes to social media, it’s likely he’s not the only one to have experienced this problem. Take the time to respond to users, but after that, take that feedback and determine whether new or updated app features would help solve future instances of this problem. Obviously you can’t respond to every social media complaint with a new feature, but it’s a great chance to identify sweet spots that otherwise wouldn’t have come to light. It’s not just a customer service platform, it’s a new feature platform.

3) Crowdsource on Social Media

Every company, and every app, has a social media platform that gets more engagement than the others. For us, it’s Twitter. But it could be Facebook or even Instagram for you. Whatever it may be, use this as a chance to give your users a say in which new features are developed. You can experiment with new screen flows, startup screens or even new logos. Send it out to the masses and hopefully you get a solid response.

If you’re a new app and are just getting your social media footing, then you can try finding some App Marketing groups to crowdsource there. I’ve been a part of one on Facebook for over six months now and have been pleasantly surprised at the support and receptiveness of everyone in the group. Here are a few on Facebook and LinkedIn to get you started:

*Mobile Insider Tip - These groups are also great places to find beta testers for new app versions.

4) Follow UI & UX Publications

There are some seriously talented app designers out there. And there are some social media accounts dedicated to showcasing their designs. If you’re at a loss for what new feature to build next, sometimes all it takes is a little aesthetic inspiration and you’re on your way to your users’ new favorite feature. For some reason, I’ve found Twitter and Instagram to be the best medium for this.

Instagram:

Twitter:

 

Join the Reddit Community

They’re the self-proclaimed “Front Page of the Internet.” And in many ways it’s true. Before almost anything goes viral on Facebook or Twitter, the Reddit community probably saw it five days prior.

And yes, the Reddit community certainly has its share of YouTube trolls and the same corny jokes told over, and over, and over. But they’re called a community for a reason. They’re always there to rally around a good cause. They can provide rich, honest feedback about almost anything, and apps are no different.

5) Patrol the Subreddits

binoculars-100590_1280First, take a quick stroll around the different subreddits (these are the user-built categories). There are a bunch related to apps, and in each one you’ll find hundreds of posts about different subtopics. They won’t all be relevant, but you may find a few that are right up your alley. The key here is to not just stick to the development subreddits, but poke around those that app users frequent. This is where you can find some great information on the types of apps and features that they’re looking for. Here are a couple to get you started:

iPhone Subreddit - 137,000 iPhone Lovers
Android Subreddit - 533,000 Readers

6) Crowdsource on Reddit

The second way to take advantage of Reddit is to crowdsource your idea. Similarly to how we talked about on Facebook or Twitter, come up with a pointed question about new features you’re interested in developing. It’s incredibly important to remember though, that Reddit users are sticklers on transparency, and will call you out immediately if you try to skirt around it being your app that you’re interested in. Just be upfront and honest that you’re trying to source new feature ideas for your app. We would highly suggest becoming a contributing member of the community (upvoting, commenting, etc) first before posting your own question. They’ll be much more receptive and apt to provide feedback. We’ve given you a few popular posts so you can see the types of topics people have been posting about:

Reddit, what are some MUST have apps on your cellphone nowadays?
Suggest Some Not-Yet Existing Android Apps People Desperately Need

Ask on Quora

7) Quora

Ever wanted to know if jellyfish suffer from depression, or what time of day you would eat if you were a Hobbit? (Hint: Elevensies is at 11am). Welp, look no further than Quora. And yes, these are actual questions on the popular question-and-answer forum. But on a serious note, there is another side of Quora that is deeply insightful for people trying to find answers to legitimate questions. These range from general industry trends, to API integrations, to specific business-related topics. Quora is unique in that users must use their real name to sign up. In this respect, they have a leg up on Reddit in getting more honest answers out of the community.

Unlike Reddit, questions are the only type of post in Quora. This means users expect it, and are willing to spend time crafting intelligent answers. Even if you don’t have a specific question to ask, take a look around and follow some relevant topics. Your home page will start to populate with all types of useful information. Dig a little deeper and you’ll start to find great ideas for new app features. Below are a couple app-related questions to give you an idea:

Q: Every time I come up with an idea to build an app there is something similar already available. Should I still go ahead and build my app?
Q: How does one effectively market an iPhone app?

Hackathons

8) Host a Hackathon

localytics-hackathon-verticalOriginally, we only had seven unconventional ways to source new app features. But after experiencing Localytics’ first Hackathon just over one month ago, an 8th way was born.

Along with many other employees here, I had never been part of one before. But by the end of it, I think we could all agree that those 48 hours cultivated some of the most creative, productive ideas we’ve had as a company. Along with some really killer culture-based ones, we also saw some unbelievable new product features that, without the Hackathon, probably wouldn’t have been built.

Your employees are some of the best resources for developing new features. There’s no denying you need their expertise on a day-to-day basis, but giving them a chance to develop what they would if they had “all the time in the world” fosters creativity. Additionally, working interdepartmentally forces employees to think in unconventional ways.

A Roadmap to Success

Once you've gotten the chance to explore and think up some new app features, the next step is to prioritize your backlog. Which features are essential to your brand? More importantly, which will build the strongest relationships with your users? In order to help you understand this, we've built a free template, How to Build Your App Feature Roadmap. Once you get your feet wet with the main concepts, you'll have yourself a formidable app feature plan guaranteed to keep your users engaged with every new release.

Free eBook: eBook: How to Build Your App Feature Roadmap

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