4 Designers Explain How They Got Their Best Mobile App Ideas

The advent of digital disruption has given rise to pervasive smartphone use, and along with it, a steadily growing interest in mobile applications (mobile apps). These apps run on various platforms – the two most popular being iOS and Android – and share one thing in common: they are here to stay. The Apple App store is home to over 2 million mobile apps, while Google Play has over 2.2 million apps, a number that is expected to further increase going forward.

According to data from web developer GO-Globe, 52% of the time individuals spend on digital media is on mobile apps. This means vast opportunities for tech-savvy individuals with a knack for designing mobile apps to rise the ranks and make a decent income. Today’s market for apps is huge and constantly expanding, and there are many app building platforms for you to turn your mobile app idea into reality.

So whether you’re an amateur mobile app designer or a seasoned pro, it’s time to get out there and put your creations in the list of top web apps for the year! To give you some inspiration, read on about these four established mobile app designers who defied the odds and followed their dreams.

Michael Flarup, Copenhagen, Denmark

Michael Flarup is the co-founder and lead designer at Robocat, a Danish software studio responsible for developing various well-known mobile app ideas such as Be My Eyes, a socially-oriented service that links blind users with volunteers who assist the blind to complete tasks that don’t require in-person assistance, and Breaking, a news aggregator that exists entirely in the iOS/OS X Today pane.

Flarup is partial to two categories of projects, the first one being those where he is part of the target audience, owing to his keenness for developing things that he himself would use. In an interview with The Industry, he points out that “when you make something for you, you are not only able to create a better product, you are also keenly aware of how that product should be marketed to others like you. It allows you to put so much more of yourself into a product — imbuing it with your taste, humour and view of the world”. The second category that interests him are projects help to improve the quality of people’s lives, hence the development of Be My Eyes.

His design philosophy is premised on fun and not necessarily on what makes good business sense. Many of his creations focus on engaging the user and imbuing a sense of “fun” into his designs wherever possible, as he believes that a significant part of creating meaningful experiences for the audience involves ramping up the enjoyment factor. You can browse his portfolio at http://www.pixelresort.com/.

Kyle Yamamoto and Howard Go, Los Angeles, USA

MochiBits, a game company, was founded in 2010 by game developers Kyle Yamamoto and Howard Go. They started on the path of game development by first releasing several simple iOS mobile apps for fun. MochiBits’ first word game, Word to Word, was released in August 2011 and till today, it remains the company’s most successful game and one of the top web apps of all time. Premised on word association matching, Word to Word entered the top 10 list for word games in the first three months of its release, and has since stayed consistently within the list of top 50 word games of all time.

Yamamoto and Go place utmost importance on finding the right balance as a team. Their chemistry is based on a clear understanding of each other when looking for inspiration for mobile app ideas. They also advocate having a clear sense of direction and knowing what you want in a product – these are the principles that have guided their work and constitute the reasons behind the stringent quality-control processes of the exacting duo.

The independent game developers find that the most challenging part of their roles is the process of coming up with mobile app ideas. They list the following factors and constraints that are considered when bouncing ideas off each other: manpower, time-frame, budget, game genre, market focus, programming, art and sound, and game data creation. The list is then refined and the weighed against the factors and constraints to determine the feasibility of the mobile app. The enterprising duo cites meeting deadlines as one of the biggest challenges faced by independent developers today, as they are often accountable to only themselves for the most part.


Patrick Moberg, New York, USA

At 26 years of age, Patrick Moberg is one of the youngest mobile app designers of today. His creation, Dots, is an extremely addictive mobile game that draws on the features of Tetris, Connect Four and Rubik’s Cube. The game reached 2 million downloads within a month of its release in 2013, putting it at No. 2 on the list of top free web apps for iPhones. What’s astounding is that it only took Moberg three months to design and build this remarkable game.

Moberg has artist Yayoi Kusama to thank for the inspiration to design Dots. Looking at the beautiful art she creates with dots and banking on his own interest in art, Moberg decided to enrol in the hacker-in-residence programme at Betaworks. Being new to app building platforms and mobile app design, he began by learning how to program, and toyed with several simple mobile app ideas. He found his initial efforts quite rewarding, and in an interview with blogger Brian Janosch, had this to say about the process of mobile app design: “There is something very magical about seeing things come alive because of code you’ve written. I think that might be a good way to introduce people to programming. Making games touches on a lot of different math and programming concepts.”

His growing interest in coding helped catalyse further designs the size of the iPhone screen, with a focus on art instead of interfaces. One of Moberg’s designs featured a grid of similar-sized dots, which prompted him to think about grouping and organising them in some fashion. He continued enhancing the design one small step at a time, all the while relying in his intuition on whether the changes gelled with the whole idea he had in mind. His initial working version was tested by everyone at Betaworks and further enhanced into the success that is Dots. He has a simple yet profound view on mobile app ideas and what they’re meant to do: “Many games optimise for trapping a user in their game so they can bleed money out of them, I just tried to make an interaction that felt enjoyable.”

Jeff Witten, New York, USA

Most people don’t know what to do with their loose change, and often, these coins get misplaced or dropped into a coin jar somewhere in the house and left to collect dust. What if I told you that you could digitise your loose change and put it to good use, all without having to lug it around? Well, that’s exactly what CoinOut does. Founded by 28-year-old Jeff Witten in 2014, CoinOut is an ingenious mobile app that allows you to save the change you receive at sundry shops (or any other participating merchant) to your phone, which can then be added to your bank accounts, transferred to a gift card, or given to charity. This great mobile app idea has afforded scores of people who use cash daily with an avenue to make the transition to electronic money.

Witten coined the mobile app idea upon completing a stint at Apple’s marketing department, while in the final year of his business and law studies at Columbia University. The inspiration for the technology came as he gained more knowledge on innovative mobile products such as M-Pesa in Kenya. The premise of CoinOut is simple in that it allows anyone with a basic mobile device to use it. Even as the push to go cashless is slowly but surely gaining ground globally, there are still many parts of the world that are a long way off from being a cashless society.

Witten is well aware of this, and at an interview with Fast Company, he opined: “I like using cash and I wanted to make it better, and despite what many people say, it’s not going away.” He continued by stating the case for CoinOut succinctly: “For small businesses, we’re reducing the cost of processing cash and providing tools to enhance their bottom line and make their lives easier.”

We hope that these amazing developers will spark some great ideas in you because there is always the next big thing coming up and we want you to realise that anyone has the potential to create amazing apps. Ideas are abundant and the difference between it staying an idea and turning it into a multi-million dollar empire is what you do with the idea!

If you have a great idea that needs some little TLC, head on over to ThunderQuote to find amazing developers to help you turn that idea into a money making machine!

ThunderQuote is the most comprehensive business services portal in Singapore, Australia and ASEAN , where hundreds of thousands of dollars of procurement contracts are sourced every month by major companies like Singapore Press Holdings, National Trade Union Congress and more.

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