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.


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