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News  29, Mar 2012

How to build an app that goes from zero to hero

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Two of the hottest application today are Pinterest and Draw Something. When you are on the street, chances of you bumping into someone who is drawing something on their mobile app is very high. Everyone is doing it. Likewise when you are browsing the web, chances of you stumbling upon sites that uses the Masonry design, which was made popular by Pinterest, is also very high. Launched in 2010, the site grew from 1.6 million visitors in September 2011 to a whopping 11.1 million visitors in February 2012. So we ask ourselves, what are the common elements behind these two explosive web and mobile app?

Content is king

Perhaps the most important element is that on both apps, the content is user curated. In my opinion, both Pinterest and Draw Something managed to successfully leverage on our inner desire to express ourselves. With Pinterest, you can create your own boards for the content you want, and you are free to add on content according to your own likes and style. The same goes for Draw Something, where you, alongside with your friends, curate the content for each other. Both apps does extremely well in understanding that if more content is generated, more users will frequent the site.

What startups can learn from this: Try to allow users to have a sense ownership on your app, and have a space to express themselves.

Photo: Pinterest.com/e27sg

A picture speaks a thousand words

Both applications are very visual. Who doesn’t love pretty things? Pinterest’s masonry-style design allows users to skim through user created site/boards and repin them on their own boards. Users can also upload their own pretty pins onto Pinterest. Same goes for Draw Something, where the visual component comes from the user curation as well. Social sharing helped fueled the popularity of both apps, and all of the sudden, everyone is talking about Pinterest and Draw Something. Making non-users want to hop on board and check it out.  I was also sharing with a friend at a networking event that everything is about slick and sexy user interface right now, and not so much about how complex the backend algorithm is.

What startups can learn from this: Focus on getting the user interface right, and make it sexy.

Female users love it
The popularity of Pinterest can also be attributed to its appeal to female. Until now, I still don’t get Pinterest, but my female friends can spend hours on them, adding photos onto their pinboards. The same goes for Draw Something, where I would only spend up to 30 seconds drawing something for my friend but my female friends could spend up to 3 minutes just to draw something really nice. Of course, the good thing that comes out of this is that, I would automatically share the masterpiece onto my social media channels, which helped fueled the virality of both apps.

What startups can learn from this: Target the right crowd. According to Comscore, women are the majority of social networking users, and spend 30% more time on sites than men. If you are a social app, targeting the female user based would be a wise choice.

Allows one to escape and be in a completely different world

Pinterest and Draw Something has done a good job in providing a haven for its user to escape to and be distracted from the hectic world. When users launch the respective apps, both Pinterest and Draw Something allows them to be completely laser focused on the app discovering a whole new world. With Pinterest, you can discover beautiful pins from other users and with Draw Something, you are focusing on guessing what your friend draws for you, and this can be really addictive, and sticky.

What startups can learn from this: Help your user find the reason to stick to your app through the content that could be curated on your app.

Social Sharing made easy

We all know how Pinterest has provided an awesome platform for finding inspiration, but in order to get people to actually use your digital content collection service, you have to make the act of collecting and sharing content a nearly effortless task. Pinterest has done a good job in achieving that by their “Repin” button which is as simple as the “retweet” button on Twitter. The same goes for Draw Something. While there are no social sharing mechanism in place yet, with its recent exit to Zynga, the plans for Draw Something is to move towards collecting and sharing the curated content on the platform. My guess is, pushing out your drawings onto the various social media channels would also be just a matter of a simple “Share” button.

What startups can learn from this: Social sharing of your platform has to be as effortless as possible.

Jacky Yap

Jacky Yap

Having spent one year abroad in Shanghai under the NUS Overseas College Programme, Jacky has an avid interest in entrepreneurship and web based startups. Jacky used to run N-House, Singapore's first entrepreneurial themed residence in NUS, and was also part of the organizing team for Startup Weekend Singapore 2012. You can reach him at jacky [at] e27 [dot] co

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=597314821 Lester Neo

    To me, Pinterest is just another web app that does not catch me on until it HIT NEWS (Good and Bad), then I signed up to find out more and barely keeping myself active in it….

    As for Draw Something, I did not even bothered to install the same. But I realised one interesting trend: It was made popular via Viral basis more than social media sharing. Within 1 week, an office of 50 are busy drawing something! LOL After 2 weeks, the craze died. So in terms of spreading, it was one of the most successful mobile apps that commanded such popularity because it capitalised on one simple factor: I can see what the other party draws and how they attempt to guess! So many such similar games but this one shows you the history of how the artwork was drawn and how people made their guesses. In short: KAPOness!

     

  • http://twitter.com/AcUmali Allen Umali

    I think the craze as like any wild fire will eventually die, but it’s what happens after the craze is over that is important. If a lot of people are still using it after the initial craze then you know you have created something of interest and lot of people will use. It is was the same for facebook. The key will be how to keep people coming back.

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