Looking for App Ideas? Start with Email

Apps either replace your email or pull data out of it.

When you look at the most popular apps on the App Store (excluding games), there is a principle that holds true for almost every single one — an app either replaces your email or pulls data out of your email.

Let’s look through some examples of both types of apps. Starting with…

Apps That Replace Your Email

Slack

Slack is one of the most obvious examples of an email replacement app. Slack lets you share files, have conversations, and more.

Basically, all the cool things you do with Slack are things you used to exclusively do through email — Slack just does them better.

It’s hard to think of any legitimate scenarios where sending an email to a coworker would be better than just sending a Slack message to them.

Hey email, anything you can do I can do better! 🎵

SMS

Emails are, by design, conversational.

I’m email, but like way cooler.

SMS replaces your email by streamlining email into a conversational interface that’s more straightforward and personal.

iMessage is now full of features that used to be reserved for email.

That’s not all though. As SMS has evolved, users are now able to share photos, videos, audio, files, locations, stickers, and more — further establishing SMS as an email replacement.

Facebook

Did you want to keep in touch with someone before the advent of social media? Snail mail was a good solution, but email was a great solution — you could just send your friend an email every now and then to stay in touch. It’s like snail mail, but instant, not snail-y.

Boom. It’s 2006. Facebook is a thing now.

Step aside, email.

Now you can just search for someone’s name and easily stay in touch online. Many people used to think of email as the best way to stay in touch with friends — now they think of Facebook.

Even in 2006, I was blowing email out of the water.

Apps That Pull Data Out of Your Email

Not every app replaces your email. Most apps just take the data in your email and store it/organize it in a way that’s valuable.

Pocket

Pocket is a great example of an app that helps declutter your inbox by parsing out the data in your emails.

Sure, you could keep your emails in your inbox — but why would you do that when I exist?

If you have an email address, you probably receive emails every day with links to articles in them.

Articles you want to read.

Like you’re totally going to read them.

Really.

But not right now.

Pocket fixes this problem by letting users easily dump those articles into Pocket to read later.

It’s got some pretty neat features too, like offline reading, and a pretty rad reader mode. But it’s real killer feature is helping me reduce the amount of emails chilling in my inbox.

Click. One less email.

Every To-do App

There are so many to-do apps, I couldn’t choose just one. 🤷‍♂️

Many emails you receive throughout the day are actually to-dos.

Because your to-dos need a home, and that home really shouldn’t be your email.

When you get an email, sometimes you have to do something in response to the email. So you fire up your favorite to-do app and jot down a to-do.

Then you can archive/delete the email and your new to-do is now nicely organized with all the other stuff you have to do.

Some companies have tweaked this concept a little bit. For example, Google noticed a lot of people were using Gmail like a to-do list, so Google turned their email client into a to-do list.

But really, to-do apps are fantastic examples of apps that snatch data out of your inbox and format it into a more actionable/readable way.

Deliveries

This nifty little app for iOS/macOS takes tracking numbers and formats them into a list view with days remaining. It has extra goodies too, like a map of where your deliveries have been and push notifications so you know exactly when FedEx just slammed your package into the ground in front of your door.

Stop digging through your email for tracking numbers. Let me take care of ‘em.

Sure, this may seem trivial to some, but the value proposition is pretty solid.

Why dig through your emails for tracking numbers when you can store them all in an app? Why obsessively refresh the tracking page when you can let the app send you a notification when your package arrives?

The app ultimately saves you time and stress, all by just pulling data out of your email and formatting it in a clear, convenient way.

In Conclusion

Nearly every app is…

A. Just a better form of email or

B. Taking the data people hoard in their emails and parsing it out in ways that are useful.

So take this information and go make products that fit into one of those categories. Or if you’re already working on a product, identify which category your app fits into and adjust accordingly.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go make an app that tells me if the coupons that Applebees emails me are really worth it.

So many coupons, so many emails.

Think I’m totally wrong or have something to add? Leave a comment below.

Be sure to give me a recommendation if you liked this post or you learned something new. 👍🏼

Also, follow me on twitter if you like tweets/rants about UI/UX.

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