So, you have been struck by an ingenious app idea in the middle of the night, as many of us do, and want to begin building it. The first, most difficult part of the process of having the application idea is perhaps the hardest, but you should certainly identify the need before you begin even thinking about developing it. Does it solve a problem that people regularly search for on Google, for example?
If you’re serious about your application, it’s worth browsing some software product development services in order to gauge the realistic scope, budget, and difficulty of the project.
Whilst creating an app yourself is a great way to learn programming skills, it’s timely and perhaps unrealistic unless it’s a very simple, limited application.
Perform some market research
Beyond just identifying the need for the application, you should ideally perform some market research to see if the solution already exists. Research your competitors and their strategy, the strengths and weaknesses of other developers in the market, and what their unique selling point is.
You don’t need to be the only one in the market, but you need to know how to avoid their mistakes and improve on similar applications.
You can also research the marketing potential of your app, by seeing how common the topic is searched. For example, if your app is designed to solve a specific problem, use Google Keyword Tools, Trends, and other services to see how often the problem is searched and how competitive its keywords are.
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Write out the features
Next up is to write out the perfect version of this application and all of its features. This can also be the stage in which you consider how it may be monetized because features can be divided into tiers, but this is generally the part where you dream up the best version of the app.
Also, this is where you write out the user journey. For example, users will sign in/create an account using Facebook/Google, they can choose a username and profile picture, and so on. Think about the key features that would make your 30-second elevator pitch.
Choose your platform and language
The next part is deciding if you want a Windows Desktop app, IOS, web app, or a mixture. This decision, along with your feature list, will help dictate what programming language you will develop the application in – it will also dictate if there are any limitations and the scope of its ambition.
Keep in mind the access to native device APIs, time frame, your expertise and budget (and the expertise of your team), and if you want to be maintaining multi-platform support.
Now you’re ready for some visuals. Using either a pencil and pad or some software, you can sketch out what your main screens will look like. This will show what the user will see, how the features are presented, and how the application will be navigated. Usability is important but also sketching out the onboarding sequence too.
After this, you can actually get to work on some of the app’s graphic design. This can help manifest these sketches and help establish your branding, colors, and overall aesthetic all before actually beginning to develop the app.
It may be worth paying for a graphic designer at this stage because conveying your vision early on is super important for future devs. Of course, you can have regular meetings, but visually displaying your theoretical app is a powerful tool to keep the design on track with your vision, so you don’t want to cut corners from the start, as it may become more costly to correct them later on.
Finally, you can think about how you’re going to stand out above the millions of apps already in the store. You may want to plan out a landing page, website, and email list for your launch, as well as the media kit for the app. Of course, you can consider paid marketing options, like PPC and influencer marketing, but these will be short-lasting impacts.
The benefit of these is that you can very closely track the return on the investment, such as how many downloads you receive as a direct result of each ad. Then, you can tweak the ads to optimize the return. Of course, you want to also decide if the return is even worth the spending in the first place – usually, this will not work well for free apps.
Content is king, so you may also want to document this journey on a blog and help develop organic traffic who will begin to await the launch. This can help build hype for a big release and can cost nothing, except your time.
Being regular with your posts is important, such as once per week, but also causing a social media stir can also be beneficial. To make an impact on social media, video or other engaging content can be made with it being easily shareable in mind.
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Budget and Develop
Now, you’re ready to layout an entire budget and begin developing the application, be it yourself or with a team of devs. This process is important regardless of which option you pick, as the more detail you can hand over to the team you’re paying, the more the final app will align to how you dreamt of it.
Generally, apps take longer than anticipated, and even the most thoroughly thought-out budgets tend to underestimate the cost of the project. So, keep this context in mind and ask others who have experienced a similar project where they miscalculated or underestimated.
Something that is important to keep in mind is to ask yourself if the app has all of the intended functionality and delivers its initial USP successfully and to also ask if it’s perfect.
Many will not release the app until it’s perfect but this can be a costly mistake as there are diminishing returns over time with each final adjustment. Knowing when the app is successful and when it’s perfect is important to distinguish if your project costs are running away from you.