It would seem to me that users would more likely frequent a site that is well marketed (SEO, etc.) rather than one that is technically superior but has less exposure on the web. Going by this it would also seem that the uniqueness of the web app would be less important, or? Since those that are marketed the best would receive the most users. Am I correct in this?
Neither marketing nor uniqueness is a guarantee for a successful business (or web app).
You can easily build something completely unique and put a ton of marketing behind it without it ever succeeding.
What I'm saying is that if there is no customer interest in what you build (even if it is unique - and even if they find out about it) it will not be successful.
So your first priority should be to find out if what you are trying to build is actually needed in the first place.
Best of luck!
When it comes down to making revenue, all the uniqueness in the world won't help if your marketing is bad, so it really depends what you goal is: make a cool flashy project which no one heard of, or... make revenue.
There are alot of ideas out there that weren't unique at all, they just outperformed their predecessors, take for example:
Google - they weren't the 1st search engine, simply the best.
Facebook - they weren't the 1st social networking site, simply the most viral (marketable).
Apple's iPhone - wasn't the 1st phone obviously, just outperformed the rest.
So when it comes down to making a product or service which EARNS money, I believe it boils down to marketing & doing it better than the people who were before you. And as people state here over & over - ideas worth no money, it's the level of execution of the ideas which earns the money.
Marketing is undoubtedly at the top here. Even if the idea is better than the competitors and good for the customer, they are not going to be able to buy it if they don't hear of it. To reach the customers you need marketing and specifically advertising.
You need a combination of both, marketing AND creativity skills. Just trying to make the thousand's knock-off won't help you much.
If your product doesn't really excel the competition, your marketing will also help your competitor as your marketing efforts will start making many users look for alternatives before making the purchase and will find that the original is just better than your clone.
In the end, you spend marketing money for your competitor.
As a conclusion: It never hurts to use your brain unless you experience that your head starts hurting if you try to make good use of it. In such case, there are probably other jobs available for you that require less creativity but strengths in other areas, e.g. at Walmart or Mc Donalds.
No offense intented. I have highest respect for people working there (instead of going the eays way of collecting social security money)!
You should always know your limit. If thinking and having ideas causes dizzyness in your head, you should seriously consider to stay clear of any job in the IT industry.
Ah, another one. The problem with the idea-having-challenged copycats is that they are often engaged in opensource communities. This means, that if you reach out to carbon copy any existing successfull product to exploit it commercially, you will compete with dozens open-source developers with the same lack of creativy that will also grab the low-hanging fruit.
Now, try to compete to a zero dollar price tag, wunderkind.
There is an exception to this. If you have a very very big advertisement pocket, of course you can squash down a better product but we speak about solid 6 digit figures here.
Practically both segments are important but they should be practiced on due times. Like; building an idea, investing development resources and finishing an application comes under phase 1. Marketing a product/service is a continuous process that never ends until you are in business. But it is always preferred to invest money and time in marketing campaigns once your products are mature enough and ready to go live.
To all intents and purposes, there's no such thing as 'unique' on the web. Or, to put the point another way, every site may be unique, but successful new ideas get copied, adapted and improved on at an amazing rate.
And, it's often noted, most of the huge success stories on the web respun rather than invented their category, and out-marketed everyone else.
But that doesn't mean I think that [product that sucks] + [massive marketing resource] = success. Far from it. There have been massive flops, both high and low profile.
For me, success is the product of determination to create value, intense and sustained connection to the market, fast cycle time to try improvements and abandon blind alleys, and patiently waiting for the moment that the wave rises and being the first, quickest and boldest to ride it. Oh, and it helps to have a jumbo-sized portion of luck.