Great artists steal. Great app founders MODEL. (Part 1 of 3)

When in Rome, do as the Romans do… When building an app, do as the great apps do.
Austin Betzer
Posted on
March 30, 2021
Minute Read

When in Rome do as the Romans do…

Should you be trying to reinvent the wheel?

We talk to SO many businesses who want to invent something completely new when it comes to their app…

They have a completely new way to take orders, process payments, or an entirely new business model…

Here’s the thing: If you want to make a successful app, it’s not required to reinvent the wheel — in fact, doing something completely new and out there can actually hurt you because your app flow doesn’t feel familiar and users get lost.

There are lots of things that are consistent on almost all of the top apps…

Apple even REQUIRES that some user elements be consistent for your app to be approved.

So back to my first question… should you be trying to make something completely new and different so you can stand out?

There’s no such thing as a new idea.

This quote from Mark Twain perfectly sums up how you should approach your app build:

“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”

Your mental kaleidoscope.

So does this mean that it’s ok to download a super popular app and redesign their onboarding and payment process pixel for pixel?


There’s a quote that’s often taken out of context that goes something like this… “Good artists copy, great artists steal…”

I don’t think Picasso meant to LITERALLY steal. That’s jacked up to take a design or process that someone else has spent lots of money on and just copy it.

I think he meant to take an approach similar to what Mark Twain said… Use inspiration as fuel for your mental kaleidoscope.

Start with modeling.

So where do you start when you’re building your “mental kaleidoscope?”


This is a term from psychology where an individual learns how to act by observing others and then imitating their behavior.

Here’s how this applies to your app — let’s say you’re building an onboarding process for your new app that attempts to convert downloads into paid subscriptions. Here’s what to do:

  1. Find apps in your same space or following your same monetization model.
  2. Download them! Go through their process, and pay for their features.
  3. Take screenshots of EVERYTHING. Every screen, notification, pop up, email, etc.
  4. Take notes — understand what you like and what turns you off.
  5. Sit on all of this for a few days and come back to it…

Here’s the important thing to remember: Don’t just look at ONE app!

If you only follow this process with one app, your “mental kaleidoscope” only has ONE source of information…

Whatever you come up with for your app would probably look EXACTLY like your reference…

So do this same process with 5 or 6 apps. This will help you start seeing the similarities between all of them and you’ll start to form a vision of how you can stand out from them at the same time.

This will help you recognize PATTERNS and avoid PLAGIARIZING.

I hope this helps! I’m publishing two more articles as part of this little series — the next one will be a more in depth guide on the modeling process I outlined above.

Stay tuned!

Austin Betzer
My only passion is helping others solve meaningful real-world problems. I will continue to do just that!

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