The mobile markets don't always make sense. There is no way you could have asked anyone to predict the rise of such apps like Flappy Bird or Draw Something, or for that matter Secret. But most people would argue after the fact that there was something of substance in those apps. Flappy Bird was just difficult enough with a simple, yet charming style that made people want to beat each other's high score in frustrated fashion. Draw Something brought out everyone's artistic side for a month or two until fatigue set in, but while you were into it you felt like the Picasso of drawing charades. And Secret lets us abandon reality for a bit and indulge in the darker side of our anonym-ish friends' personalities. Clearly there was no way of predicting their success before-hand, otherwise these apps would have been beaten to the market. But while some may argue their success was crazy, no one is really arguing the value, even if it's in terms of entertainment.
For those of you who don't know what Yo is, the quick brief is that Yo is an app made on a lark by the CEO and an employee of Mobli a photo and video mobile startup. The concept of Yo is that you can only send a push notification to your friends and the only thing that notification says is "Yo". That's it, that's all the app does. And with that simple concept Yo has blown up overnight. It launched at the end of March and hit the top 10 overall in the App Store on June 19. Since then it has maintained a solid position and hasn't dropped out of the top 50 overall.
There is something to be said for simplicity in design, but even Yo's app icon takes this concept to the extreme (the icon is just a solid purple square). Inexplicability, aside from their overnight success, the quick nature of Yo's rise has led to a significant seed funding round to see how far the team can take their simplistic concept.
The Move to Single Purpose Apps
So what does Yo's initial success mean for the mobile market? Well we shouldn't rush to come to too many solid conclusions, because the story hasn't had a chance to play out, but it's always fun to speculate, so here goes.
Yo's design and its success appears to be reinforcing the reasoning behind the market-wide shift toward narrow focus and single purpose apps. The most famous example of this shift is Facebook with its mobile efforts. Facebook is gradually moving away from the single platform app into a constellation of apps that feed into its social graph. So far the Facebook family of apps include Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Paper, Move, Messenger and Slingshot. Each of these apps other than the main Facebook app have a very narrow focus with limited overall functionality. Obviously not as narrow as Yo, but the progression is there. This feeds back into the concept of App Constellations that has been developing and that we have discussed on this blog before. It also shows that a well executed, focused app can rise above the noise. There's also an element of luck in catching the collective zeitgeist, and timing is definitely a factor in that.
Do One Thing Really Well
In real terms what does this mean for the mobile developer? When it comes to mobile, the market is clearly showing that people want apps that do one thing really well. The market seems to be moving away from the concept of people only using a handful of apps regularly. This appears to have been driven by the maturation of the mobile OS'es that have made the organization of apps on the device better over time. We no longer have ten pages of apps on our phone, but rather a few pages of well organized app folders, or in the case of Android high functioning widget setups. This means that a larger number of apps can be accessed with ease, enabling more narrowly focused apps to stay top of mind with users.
So the next time you have a stupid idea for an app that does only one thing, like sending a push notification that says noting but "Yo" don't dismiss it. Use the tools at your disposal to build out a quick beta and throw it up on the App Store. You never know what could catch on. We know, we want to see this one actually hit the store.
I wrote an app called Hodor because Hodoring someone is so much cooler than Yoing someone. #yo #hodor #got pic.twitter.com/5VQ8F4Er33— Tyler Hedrick (@tyler_hedrick) June 20, 2014