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How to Find the Right apps to Make Your Work Easier

Today, I decided that I would create a meal plan for myself and use that as a basis to create my grocery shopping lists. I started with much excitement, and as I researched on the different kinds of meals I would include in my meal plan, I decided I need an app to help me manage the process. Armed with my new found resolve, I proceeded to Google to search for the best meal planning apps. My first search for the term 'Meal Planner' returned over 11 million results. There were no direct references to apps on the first page, so I decided to include 'app' in my search terms. My next search for 'meal planner app' returned 973,000 results. You know how the story goes with google searches. I clicked on a few links on the first page and began reading. Armed with recommendations from those articles, I went to the play store to look for the apps that I thought would meet my need. After a brief search and bombarded with so many options which I did not think fit what I wanted, I finally decided to choose a plain looking one that looked clean and user-friendly. I read the reviews, everything seemed all right until I installed it and tried to generate a shopping list which is the very reason I decided to get an app, and I hit a paywall. In my opinion, that was a fundamental feature, and I had not even experienced the app to see whether it would meet my needs before the app to see whether it would meet my needs before the app makers started asking me to pay. I was a bit put off by that approach and decided to uninstall the app.

Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? Searching and searching for the perfect app to help you perform simple tasks only to find out that you the apps you try don't do what you need them to do. Finding the right apps for your work can be a daunting task because there are so many apps that come out every single day and choosing the right one can be a rollercoaster ride of installing and uninstalling apps on your phone. In fact, a report I read from Tech crunch, shows that the number of apps on the App store is expected to reach 5 million by 2020. In the Google Play store, you have 2,500 apps added every day, 100 apps every hour and about 1.7 apps per minute. That is huge! There needs to be a smart way to find the best apps for handling tasks, whether it is as small as finding the perfect meal planner like me, managing a big project at work or automating a critical process. I realise that the approach for discovering the right apps cuts across all these regardless of the task. I download or sign up for an average of 3 - 5 apps, and I am always willing to try new products, here are my top tips for finding the best one.

Step 1: Define the task or process

The first step in the process is to define the exact function or procedure for which you need an app. It does seem like a no-brainer step, but it is critical to think of this because without defining what you would like to get done with the app, it would be easy to get distracted by all the shiny apps or get overwhelmed as you conduct your search.

Two questions you should ask yourself as you define your task or process.

What do I ultimately want to achieve with the app?
What stresses me about the current way I do things?
With these two questions answered, you can proceed to the next step, as it gives you a much clearer picture of what you should be looking out for and helps you eliminate options very quickly.

Step 2: Break it down into smaller bits (Milestones)

When you have defined your ultimate goal or the result of the process you need the app for, it is essential to take that goal and break it down into smaller milestones. The reason you should do this is that, sometimes, you may not find an app that does what you want. However, you may find apps that handle the smaller aspects of the process which you can integrate to create your perfect solution. I typically do this when I want to automate entire processes. It can also be useful if you are going to use this for one goal that is not as big as a process. For example, I use a particular app for my exercise and another for my pedometer (counting steps). Even though many apps allow you record your exercises and also count steps, I particularly love my training app because it has a unique story feature that keeps you motivated and informed throughout the workout. Then, of course, I need the pedometer app because I want to record my movement throughout the day and ensure I am hitting my fitness goals. You can apply this to other processes in your life and work. You might combine two or more project management and to-do apps because each one has its strengths and the only way you would be able to know this if you had previously broken down your big goal into smaller goals.

Step 3: Define your use case and parameters (Answer questions like where will you use it, when will you use it).

The third step in the process is to visualise exactly how you would use the app and decide on the most important features for you. To enable you to do this very quickly, answer the following questions below to determine what features would be most important for the app.

Where are you likely to be when you are performing the task? e.g. Church, Home, Work, Gym and so on.
What time of the day are you likely going to be performing the task? e.g. morning, afternoon and so on.
Based on one and two above, what device are you probably going to be with and have access to at the time of using the app? e.g. if you would most likely be at work like in the case of a project management app, or a sales app, then you would want it to be accessible on a laptop or the web.
Is your history important? Would you like your data to be stored on your device or in the cloud?

Would you always be with your device or would like to access the app from other devices that are not yours?
How significant is this problem? Are you willing to pay for the right features? If the problem is a pressing one, it is important to decide upfront if this is something you are willing to pay for to access the right solution.
Would you always have the internet connection at the point of using the app? It is an important question to answer because if you plan to use this app when you may not have an internet connection, e.g. you are travelling to a different country.
How many people would use the app and how vital is collaboration? Needless to say that this is very important in team settings. If the goal is to automate some processes at work and you work in a team or are a team leader, it is essential to choose an app that allows for secure collaboration and hits are the specific pain point of the team.

Step 4: Perform Targeted searches (pull together what you find, pick the best one that fits your use case, read reviews)

Perform Targeted searches (pull together what you find, pick the best one that fits your use case, read reviews)
After defining all your parameters, it is now time to perform the actual search for your app. My favourite places for searching for apps are Product Hunt and Zapier. Both of them have a wide range of apps that work very well for varying circumstances, and they both have their strengths which I would talk about in a bit. Some other sources include good ol' Google, the App/Play Store, specific websites like Alternatives to, some publications on Medium and recommendations from my friends. Each source has its strengths and weaknesses; however, Zapier and Product Hunt are my favourites because for Zapier, when I find an app there, it instantly means that I can connect that app with so many other apps and build systems that are fully automated and perform multiple tasks without my direct intervention. Product hunt, on the other hand, is like a gold mine where you find the latest and sometimes the best as well. You see, Product Hunt is a community of makers and early adopters (People who are always willing to try new things when it comes to the world of apps! and are not afraid to put down their email addresses and sign up for the next new thing).

That is why I love ProductHunt so much. The reviews you find there are genuinely from people who care about the performance of the product, and you can see them giving the makers of the product feedback on what to improve on and what they have done well. It helps my decision-making process, and sometimes I even find new apps in the comment section. It's amazing. In fact, many app makers take their product hunt launch very seriously because it can be a test for how well the early adopter community would accept their product and go on to prove the viability of their solution. If you live in Nigeria, the Nigerian equivalent of ProductHunt would be Radar by Tech Cabal, though that community is not as engaged or as big as the Product Hunt community. However, it can be worth a shot if you are looking for more Nigerian specific solutions.

When you do a targeted search for the app, you are looking for based on the goal, milestones and parameters.

Step 5: Trial Window

When you have shortlisted your apps based on your targeted search, the next step is to take the app for a test drive and ask yourself if it genuinely meets you or your team's need. One thing I have to tell you is that you should not be scared of giving out your email address primarily if you do not use it directly for payments. Alternatively, maybe you can have a separate email address for testing apps if you are terrified. Once you have seen an app you think looks good and has the features you want, you should install it or signup to see whether it does what it has promised. Very soon Google will roll out something called Instant Apps to help users test an app before the commit to using it. Till then the only way to know how you would ultimately feel about an app and whether it fits your workflow after doing due diligence with all the steps above is to try it.

Step 6: Request Features, Give Feedback

Requesting features when the app does not meet all your specs and giving feedback on whether it is excellent or needs improvement, is the most ignored step. Many times people do not care enough to provide the app makers feedback. Giving the app makers feedback is not complicated and trust me, especially if it is not an app by Google or Microsoft, the odds are that the makers of the App will take the Feedback seriously. Another leg of this step is to request for features from the App makers. This is something that people do not typically think of doing. However, asking for features is as simple as sending an email or dropping a comment for the app makers in the App store or on Product Hunt. When App makers create products or when they are building a brand, they would have typically set up web crawlers that can scour the web for any mention of their brand names. Perhaps if they are not engaged on the platform you have commented on, they might still find it if they have set up a tool like Google Alert. Finally, the team might implement the feature you request for. App makers usually have a roadmap for implementing new features in their apps, if your request is easy to implement, they may decide to bring it forward on the roadmap.

Step 7: Commit.

Committing to using an app can be sometimes as powerful or even more potent than the features of the app. This is really where the app comes to life and can deliver on its promise. If you are not able to commit to using an app, it really will not make any difference in your life. You need to resist the temptation to go back to your old way of doing things, even if it is for a brief moment because you will be breaking the new bit you are trying to build.

One thing that's very important to remember when you are changing your way of doing things, incorporating new tools into your workflow is that it would take some getting used to and may mean you slow down a bit to learn to use the tools and form a habit. However, if you have gone through all the steps listed above, you would have chosen the right app and would be able to go much faster than you would have gone in the past.

One thing that's very important to remember when you are changing your way of doing things, incorporating new tools into your workflow is that it would take some getting used to and may mean you slow down a bit to learn to use the tools and form a habit. However, if you have gone through all the steps listed above, you would have chosen the right app and would be able to go much faster than you would have gone in the past.

I am an app hunter, and I hope you enjoyed reading this piece. The next time you want to perform a task, ask yourself if there is no better way to do it, or if there is no app that can help you achieve the goal more efficiently. When you do, remember the steps written here and find yourself the best apps for the job. Finally, as for my meal planner app, I decided to create one for myself using Airtable.

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