I Downloaded Every App of the Day for 1 Year. Here Are the Traits That Set Them Apart From the Rest.

Here are eight common traits of top apps (and how to apply them to your product).

learn more about Seth Radman

By Seth Radman

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

My app got 30,000 downloads in 24 hours as Apple's App of the Day. But I didn't learn how to get featured overnight.

A few years ago, I decided to run an experiment to learn why some apps are big hits and others flop. I downloaded every single App of the Day for a year — 365 apps total. From free apps to paid apps, I went all in and spent 30 minutes studying the top apps every morning.

I discovered the best apps have certain traits in common that set them apart from the rest. Since then, I've been featured on the App Store over 100 times and helped millions of users.

Here are eight common traits of the top apps (and how to apply them to your own product):

Related: How To Make Your Mobile App Stand Out In A Crowd

1. No tutorial

The best apps are easy to use and simple to understand. They don't require a tutorial to get started because the app's design guides the user.

Headspace, an app that helps users meditate, is a great example. The app's interface is clean, with intuitive navigation and lots of negative space. You feel calm simply by opening the app as you start your first meditation.

2. Focused

Nearly all top apps focus on doing one thing best. They could add a lot more features, but instead, they have a clear and specific purpose.

Duolingo could teach you all kinds of new skills, but they focus exclusively on teaching language. FaceTune could provide a toolbox of photo effects, but instead, they focus solely on making your face look better in selfies.

What do you want to be known for? Focus on that one thing.

3. Beautiful icon

When searching for a new app, your first impression is the app icon — so make it beautiful. Most featured apps have a foreground icon with a solid or gradient background.

Cramming text into a tiny icon doesn't work well. Vibrant colors make it pop and catch the eye. Make your app icon relevant and pleasant to draw users in.

4. Accessible

The best apps are user-friendly for people with different abilities, preferences and needs. Following the iPhone's global dark mode was a common trait, as well as changing contrast and text sizing based on iPhone Settings. Top apps also use icons instead of text whenever possible to communicate clearly across different languages and cultures.

Related: 4 Steps for Increasing Your App's User Engagement and Retention

5. Full ecosystem

Apps on the App Store are more likely to get featured if they use the latest Apple features. Almost all featured apps included versions for iPad and Apple Watch, and many included iMessage and home screen widgets. These don't always improve the user experience, but Apple typically prefers them for using all their latest and greatest features.

While this may increase your chances at getting featured, I personally discourage these add-ons when first launching. They take time to build and can be distracting if they don't serve a real purpose for users.

6. Ask for reviews

There's a simple reason why top apps have thousands of reviews: They ask for them. Featured apps are very intentional with asking users for ratings at specific times — completing a task, hitting a goal or reaching a milestone. At those times, users are in a positive mood and are more likely to leave a 5-star review.

Don't go overboard bombarding users for ratings right away. Instagram asks after you share your third post. SoundHound asks after you successfully identify a song. Find an elegant way to prompt them immediately after providing value.

7. Personalization

Top apps craft a unique experience for each user. People love products that feel good, and they generally don't want to work hard to find things.

Spotify recommends new music based on your preferences. Snapchat suggests new filters you might enjoy. Todoist provides custom theme colors to make the app yours. Even your banking app probably greets you by name.

Find ways to make the user feel special just by using your app.

Related: 4 Exciting Mobile App Trends to Watch in 2023 And Beyond

8. Variable reward

Last but not least, there's a magic category of top apps that keeps users coming back for more. They release frequent updates, add new features and keep content fresh. This encourages users to engage more often to see if there is something new.

Netflix drops new content. Photomath supports new equations. Starbucks has new rewards specials. Keep things exciting for users so they keep coming back.

Before we wrap up, there's one trait you might expect to be on this list but isn't: pretty design.

Most featured apps do indeed look beautiful. But that's not a requirement if your app solves a clear problem and is intuitive. WhatsApp, Reddit, and GroupMe are some of the ugliest apps with millions of users. Being pleasant to look at is not the same as being helpful and easy to use.

If you're building an app and want to get featured on the App Store, know this: Getting featured by Apple is a wonderful side effect of building a product people love. Focus on helping customers, and things will fall into place.

Seth Radman

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Founder & Tech Entrepreneur

Seth Radman is an Atlanta-based tech entrepreneur who has built 40+ products used by more than 300 million people. He is a 4x startup founder with 2 exits in the music tech space. Seth is currently the Co-Founder & CTO at Infinite Giving.

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

These Sisters Quit Their Jobs Mid-Pandemic to Risk It All for Their Brand. Now They're Not Only Thriving, But Working to End the Cycle of Poverty in South Africa.
Warren Buffett and Partner Charlie Munger Reveal Their Best Business Advice for 2023
What You Should Actually Do If You're Accused of Gaslighting
The Viral Brand Behind Soaring Searches for 'Female Body Hair' Still Gets Up Close and Personal After Its $310 Million Sale
Find Out Which Brands Have Ranked on the Franchise 500 for Longest, Earning a Spot in Our New 'Hall of Fame'
Business News

FBI Investigating Woman's Death on a Carnival Cruise

The Federal Bureau of Investigation announced Sunday that it is looking into a 'suspicious death' in February on the Carnival Sunshine.

Business News

Carnival Cruise Wants Passengers to Have Fun in the Sun — But Do This, and You'll Get Burned With a New $500 Fee

The cruise line's updated contract follows a spate of unruly guest behavior across the tourism industry.

Business News

Man Charged Over Stabbing and Attempted Door Opening on United Airlines Flight

Francisco Severo Torres allegedly tried to stab a crew member with a broken spoon.

Business News

Honeymoon Couple Says They Were Stranded At Sea by Snorkeling Company. 'They Were So Scared.'

The newlyweds sued Sail Maui for leaving them behind in deep choppy water for two hours.

Business News

'My Brain Is Literally Going To Explode': Viral Video Sparks Debate Over Whether or Not Renters Should Tip Landlords

A TikTok is making its rounds showing a mock scenario where a tenant is asked to give a tip to their landlord.