So you want to build an app… there are over 9 million registered app developers according to Apple, so you’re not alone! There are a few big reasons why you might want to develop a great app, and some things you’ll have to take into consideration for each of these paths. We’ll go over a few here.
My idea is the next Instagram
Ok, well maybe not. Your idea may be a great one – and it may be a dud. When you’re first getting started it’s likely to be somewhere in between. The first thing you should do is constantly ‘pitch’ people your idea. Bounce it off friends, family, colleagues, strangers on the bus (don’t be too annoying with that one!). This will not only get you valuable feedback from potential users, but it will also force you to become confident in your own idea and hear how it sounds to YOU. Don’t dive straight into building the app, let the idea marinate in your brain and grow into something more solid.
Once your idea is sticky, it’s important to keep your expectations and feature-set in check. Start small, iterate often and realize that your success story won’t happen overnight. Twitter started as a texting service. Instagram as an HTML5 checkin app. You never know which directions your app will go in, so don’t worry about that in the beginning. If your app is going to be successful, you’ll have to pivot, learn and adapt to the ever-changing market. This will alter your expectations on a weekly basis. So when you’re getting started, don’t spend too much time thinking about where you’ll spend your first billion – and focus that energy on how you’re going to optimize your current app in its current form.
My company wants an app
Apps are becoming commoditized in the same way websites were years ago. Every business wants or needs a presence on mobile. Initially, websites were shown on mobile, then there was a push for responsive design. The time has come where even responsive web apps aren’t enough; customers are demanding performant native applications.
If you’ve been assigned this task within your company, you may have some light programming skills or could be a seasoned app veteran. Either way, the metrics used to measure the app’s success will likely be the same. It’s unlikely your company will require the app goes viral and is downloaded by hundreds of millions of people (that’d be nice though!). It will, however, need to be functional, perform a specific task, or sell a product. It may not need to be the most beautiful app around, but it will need to be stable and users will have to enjoy using it. Platform selection will be key (stay tuned!) and you’ll want to utilize the tools that allow you to build the app in a way it can access the most users and increase company revenue.
This type of app will be more requirement-driven than market-driven, so planning and execution are key. A mistake could cost your company not only users but revenue as well. In the early stages, be sure to plan out the flows within the app. Are the important functions easy to access? Easy to use? These questions need to be answered before a single line of code is written.
I want to create a business building apps
Everyone has an idea or a need for an app. If you’re a developer, you’ve undoubtedly had friends/family/acquaintances approach you with the next great idea (“But my app idea is actually new and awesome!”). Chances are, it’s not – but people are paying more and more for your expertise as an app developer who not only can build apps but understand the market. SMBs are the obvious market here, but there are lots of individuals ready to invest as well. If you have the skills, creating a development shop can be a very lucrative business.
If you choose to go this route, you’ll need to team up with a designer. This is a critical piece to the app, and your client’s first touch-point with the product. They have to love how it looks and how it feels first and foremost. We’ll get into storyboarding and design in a future post, as planning will be another key component. You’ll need to keep your clients updated and well-informed before you start coding in order to keep costs and expectations in check. If you get the requirements well-defined and fully laid-out, it will free you up to code to expectations when it’s time to start building. A great way to lock down expectations early is to build functional wireframes that the client can start to play with.
Finally, you’ll want to keep your clients informed even after the app is launched. If you are using analytics properly and tracking performance, you can give your client all the info they’re looking for, suggest next steps and prove your worth. Being able to justify changes and decisions will be an important factor in keeping your client happy, so make sure you’re using the tools available to do that!
There are many reasons to build an app, hopefully this post highlighted a few of them and gave you some things to start thinking about if you are going down any of these routes. We’ll go over some of the components mentioned in more detail in future posts so stay tuned! Our next post will discuss platform selection – which one will help you reach your audience most efficiently?
Is there something we missed – or have anything you’d like to add? Let us know in the comments or find me on twitter @cjbeauchamp!