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How to Come Up With KILLER App Ideas Series - Part 4 - Be Inspired from Real Life Activities

How to Come Up With KILLER App Ideas Series – Part 4 – Be Inspired from Real Life Activities

Tic Tac ToeHave you ever noticed that many of the most popular mobile apps are virtual versions of something you could do in real life?  At first this probably seems odd – why would someone buy an app so they can do something virtually if they could simply do that activity in real life?  It all comes down to one thing – laziness.  As humans, we are all lazy to some degree.  For example, why are there so many baseball game apps on the app store?  Couldn’t you just grab a few friends and go play your own real game?  Sure you could!  It would just require more effort, and especially to young people, that effort is just not worth it to them.  They take the path of least resistance.

Start off by thinking of all the things that you do in real life.  It doesn’t matter whether or not you think you could make a good app out of it, just write everything down.  What parts of your daily life do you enjoy, and which don’t you?  Write down even the smallest things in life that you either enjoy or are annoyed by.

First start with the things you like.  How could you incorporate these activities into an app?  I’m a big board gaming geek so let’s use that as an example.  As you probably know, most board games require the use of dice in one way or another.  There are obviously other app developers who enjoy playing board games as well because there are lots of dice-rolling apps out on the app store.  The reason that they’re there – people want to take the path of least resistance.  It’s just a little bit easier to tap on an iPhone screen to roll dice than actually pick the dice up off the table and roll them.  Even though people enjoy playing board games and rolling dice, a lot of people would still prefer to do it virtually.

Now let’s move on to things that you don’t like throughout your day.  Let’s stick with my example of playing board games.  Today while playing Settlers of Catan I couldn’t roll any numbers I needed whatsoever!  Now how could I fix this with an app?  Please note that we’re not necessarily trying to “solve” the problem here like we talked about in Part 1, but instead we are trying to give the user a way to deal with the problem.  So maybe we could make a loaded-dice app?  That would be a fun way for board gamers to mess with their friends.  It doesn’t solve the problem of bad luck per se, but it makes the user happy because they can laugh about it instead of be upset about it.

Just in case that example wasn’t clear enough I’ll give you another example of how an app doesn’t “solve” a problem, but instead makes it easier to deal with or makes the situation less aggravating.  Let’s say that you have a really annoying boss at work.  You hate your boss’ guts but there’s obviously not much you can do about it.  There are apps out there that let you take a picture of your boss’ head and then you can virtually beat the shit out of your boss’ picture on your phone.  It doesn’t “solve” the problem, but it helps you deal with the situation as you can get a laugh out of beating up your boss and not get in trouble for actually doing it!

So now we’ve discussed making apps out of real life activities that you enjoy and real life aggravations that you could make light of.  What about things that you do that you really don’t enjoy yet you really don’t hate either.  Not sure what I’m talking about?  I’m talking about things you do when you’re bored!

Think of all the Tic Tac Toe apps on the app store.  There are tons of them and quite a few are making some good money.  Have you met anyone who seriously loves Tic Tac Toe?  I sure haven’t!  So why are these Tic Tac Toe apps selling so well?  Well, once again people want to take the path of least resistance when they are bored.  People only play Tic Tac Toe when they are bored and if you think about it – people usually use their smartphones when they are bored.  So it’s a perfect fit!

Even the smallest things you do when you’re bored can make a lot of money if you make an app that does this action virtually.  Take the app Paper Toss.  This is a genius idea!  Every person loves crumpling up a piece of paper and tossing it into a trash can when they’re done with it.  Nobody considers that a hobby of theirs though and nobody really does it in their free time.  They only do it when they have nothing better to do and are bored.

What are the little games and activities you do when you’re bored?  Can you make apps out of them?

Lots of the most successful apps in the app store are just virtual versions of a popular activity in real life:

Words With Friends – Scrabble

Draw Something – Pictionary

iBeer – Drinking Beer

Flick Home Run – Baseball

Crazy Snowboard – Snowboarding

These are just a few of the many great examples there are!  Even take a look at the entertainment/game apps you have on your smartphone – how many of them are virtual versions of something you could do in real life?  Probably quite a few!

Just pay attention to the little and tiniest things you do during your day when you have free time or are bored.  Or even take some of the more obvious activities or annoyances you experience in real life.  There are tons of untapped opportunities here!  And remember, don’t be afraid if you see a similar app – you can always do it better!


If you missed any of the previous posts in this series, here they are:

Part 1 – Solve a Problem

Part 2 – Improve on an Existing Idea

Part 3 – “Niche Down” an Idea


  1. Hi Thomas,

    Interesting post! Never really thought that much about apps before, but you make a good point about the ones that are successful. I’m constantly playing Angry Birds when I’m bored, on the train, waiting for someone, etc.

    People usually think that they have to think of some great, unique idea that nobody has ever though of. But as you’ve shown, sometimes the simplest ideas are the best!

    Great post 🙂

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