Ask LH: What App Should I Develop?

Dear Lifehacker, I'm a university student looking to get my hands dirty with some actual app development, but I have a problem. I have no idea what app to make! I've never been much of an 'ideas person', though I'm usually pretty good at latching on to the kernel of an idea and taking it through to completion if I can get my hands on one. How can I come up with some ideas for apps? Thanks, App Happy

Apps picture from Shutterstock

Dear App Happy,

App development is a competitive field, so the best advice we can offer you when building an app is this: build an app that solves a problem you actually have, on a device you actually use. No amount of attempting to second-guess the market is going to match actually building something which you can see a direct use for in your day-to-day life. That doesn't mean the app has to be an all-singing, every bell and whistle suite that covers every possible function: some of the most useful apps do a single thing and do it well.

That approach leaves out several categories of apps, with games being the most obvious. In that space, the honest truth is that there doesn't seem like a lot of room for uninspired amateurs. If an idea grabs you for a great game, run with it, but that's not a process which is easily forced.

As a student, it's also worth considering getting involved with an existing open source project. You say that you do well latching onto an existing idea and enhancing it; there are thousands of open-source projects across multiple platforms that would welcome that kind of enthusiasm. It's OK to cut your teeth helping others before launching out with your own ideas. Indeed, it's more than OK; it's a brilliant way to build your coding and collaboration skills.

Beyond that, we'd definitely like to open this one up to the readers. If you have a suggestion for an app the world needs (and which you're not going to build yourself), or if you have a useful idea-generation technique, tell us in the comments.

Cheers Lifehacker

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Comments

    Would be good if App Happy had a contact email we could send him ideas to so that he could make and profit share. Got 2 great ideas myself but dont want to give them out publically.

      I'm looking forward to the day when people don't automatically assume that an app developer is a 'him' :\ No offense, App Happier, I know you probably didn't do it on purpose, but it's just one of those things that gets to me.

        Of course, App Happier might have been using the 'universal he' as a gender-neutral pronoun. It's still in fairly widespread use.

        Fair call , I did just automatically assume.

    Is your motivation only experience or are you planning to make money? If you don't have any killer ideas in all likelihood you make wont make any money anyway :( Maybe approach your favorite charities or community organisations and ask if they have any app ideas. At least then your efforts go towards a good cause rather than being another "fart app" :)

    I completely agree with building something you would use on your own device. My other suggestion is to follow the APIs and best practices. The closer you are to "vanilla" code, the better (and easier) it will run on other devices.

    In the second case, an emulator is your best friend, as are a range of friends with different devices and tablets. The app should be for you, but the code should be for every other device out there.

    Apart from mobile.tutsplus.com can anyone recommend any good online resources for app development?

      Hey jsergeant, lately i've been using codeacademy.com, has HTML and JAVA courses. It's been alot of fun.

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