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How to Achieve Your Business Goals

We all set goals for ourselves and for our businesses. However, too few of us actually achieve those goals, and it’s not for lack of trying—we’re just not following the right blueprint. 

Just like everyone else, earlier in my career, I suffered from not achieving my goals. 

This goes for personal goals, business goals, and goals on a project basis; I just wasn’t making it happen. After years of struggling and trying different methods, I finally found what worked. 

Part of my success came from experimentation, but a lot of it was also from learning through other people’s experiences. I fully appreciated and leveraged all of the information that’s available on the Internet and through reading books. 

One of the books I read was written by Peter Drucker. He identified a concept called “SMART” objectives, which is something that we’ll define in greater detail later on. I’ll also teach you how to implement SMART objectives and get your team aligned with your goals. 

Let’s dive in!
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5 Tips and Best Practices to Achieve Your Business Goals

As previously mentioned, I went through a ton of trial and error when it came to achieving my goals. I can finally say that I’ve discovered a proven method for success.

I’ve broken down my methodology into five simple steps that you can follow to have success and achieve your goals as well. 

Goal setting is crucial for startups, small businesses, large organizations, and everything in between. The goal-setting process is more than just writing a business plan. Here’s what you need to do:

#1 — Clearly Identify Your Goals and Objectives

This is a common mistake that I see on a daily basis. The first thing you need to do is identify your goals and objectives—remove any confusion between the two.

Goals are the outcomes that you want. Objectives are the steps you must take to achieve those outcomes.

It’s extremely important that you’re able to identify a good goal. This may sound obvious, but trust me, not all goals are good ones. Goals must have your full attention and focus so you can really think through what a proper goal is for your business.

It’s easy to identify a bad goal because they sound something along the lines of “make more money” or “become the next Facebook” or “be on the cover of Forbes.” These are goals that everyone wants and it sort of goes without saying.

But none of these are really the actual goal of your business. 

Ask yourself, why is your company different than others? Don’t try and identify a goal through monetary reasoning, but more for the purpose your business serves. 

For example, a good goal would be something like “become the number one choice for customers in my market sector.” Now the idea is specific to a certain market.

If you’re struggling to identify the mission, vision, and goal of your company, I highly recommend that you go watch Simon Sinek’s TED Talk about how great leaders inspire action. 

Sinek wrote a book titled “Start With Why,” and he does an excellent job explaining that concept during this video. The book is also worth reading, but the video is a faster way to grasp this idea. 

Do yourself a favor and actually watch it to fully understand what he’s saying here. It’s a beautiful resource for understanding the soul of your company and why your company exists. I really learned a ton of useful information from this, and it inspired me to take the proper steps to achieve success.

Let’s get back to the example I used earlier about becoming the number one choice for your customer satisfaction in a specific market sector. 

What steps do you need to take in order to achieve this strategic goal? Those will be your objectives. Examples could include:

  • Increase brand trust
  • Provide 24 hour support to your customer base
  • Reduce bug debt by 50%

All of these will put you on track to ultimately reach your clearly defined goals. Now you’ve separated the difference between a goal and an objective. 

Company goals for business success must start with an action plan. 

#2 — Make Sure Your Objectives Are SMART

As I mentioned earlier, SMART objectives were defined in a book by Peter Drucker. SMART is an acronym that stands for:

  • Specific: Outline a clear statement that defines what is required.
  • Measurable: A clear unit of measurement (preferably through numerical terms) that can identify progress and completion of the objective.
  • Achievable: Objectives should be challenging yet achievable. You need to be happy with the outcome, but your team must be willing to commit. 
  • Realistic: Managers should focus on outcomes and let the team focus on the initiatives to achieve those outcomes. 
  • Timely: Set a specific date of achievement that must be agreed upon and met. 

The reason why goals must be specific is because you’ll have no other way of knowing if you’ve actually achieved them or not. 

They must also be measurable, so it’s not something that’s infinite. For example, “keep customers happy” isn’t measurable. What does happy mean? “Make product better” doesn’t work either. What is better? How much is better? It can’t be measured.

It’s crucial that you allow your team to deal with the initiatives. Otherwise, the methods that we impose as managers might not be realistic, which means they can’t be achieved on time. This brings me to our last step—timely. Always set deadlines for everything so your team knows when objectives must be completed by.  

Implementing SMART objectives to achieve your goal is the best way to stay on track without losing sight of the end results. 

#3 — Identify Clear KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)

Let’s quickly recap. We’re going to focus ourselves on the objectives and let our team focus on the initiatives to achieve those objectives. To do this properly, we need to make sure that we have pre-defined measurements to track everything—preferably in numerical terms.  

This allows us to measure success and increase transparency, so we’ll know if we’re going to hit our goal or not. Better yet, we’ll know if we’re on track to hit our goals.

Here’s what I mean. Let’s refer back to an objective that I used as an example earlier—reduce our bug log by 50%. For simplicity’s sake, let’s say we have 100 bugs. 50% of that is 50 bugs. We want to achieve this objective in one month. (I know I’m throwing out lots of numbers, but stay with me).

If we get to the midway point of the month and only one-third of the bugs have been fixed, we immediately know that we’re not on track to finish on time. 

So this gives you the ability to track your progress and forecast whether or not you’ll hit those goals. You can always find ways to adjust accordingly to meet your deadlines and objectives. 

CHALLENGE: What was your previous goal? What has your new goal become? Why does your small business exist? How did you redefine your mission, vision, and goal from something like “I want to make more money” to “become a leader in my industry” based on what we’ve covered so far? 

I’m really interested in knowing how you made that change so we can all benefit from each other. So let me know in the comments section, and we can have a discussion. 

#4 — Give Your Team Ownership and Autonomy

If we’re going to delegate initiatives to our team, they need to make their own decisions to live and die by. Micromanaging is not effective, and sometimes, we as managers will get in their way. 

By increasing the level of autonomy with your staff, you’ll automatically increase their level of engagement. 

If you don’t empower your team, then you’ll restrict their potential and ultimately hinder the path to completing objectives.

In short, let everyone do their jobs the best way that they know how to. You must be able to trust your team if you want to scale your company and experience business growth.

Additionally, here’s another reason why you should avoid micromanagement. If things don’t go well, the excuse from your staff will always become, “I did what you told me to do.”

So make sure your team is autonomous and owns their initiatives. People can own multiple initiatives; that’s fine too. But they need to own something, and the success of their engagement will be tied directly to their level of ownership.

Trust your team to deliver.

If they don’t deliver, that’s another subject altogether. But give them the opportunity to succeed. 

#5 — Keep Your Team Accountable

For this to work effectively, your team must be held accountable and responsible for their role in achieving objectives. 

Let’s rewind for a minute quickly. We’ve already identified a true goal and the objectives required to achieve that goal. Now we’ve assigned our team the clear KPIs for SMART objectives that they must use to focus on their own initiatives. So the final step is holding them accountable. 

Holding your team accountable starts with something as simple as circling a date on a calendar. Invite all of your stakeholders to a meeting at the end of the pre-assigned date. Here are some helpful tips for fostering a culture of accountability:

Holding a meeting with your stakeholders gives everyone an opportunity to report on their status and check in with their objectives. This will be the time when you’ll figure out if everything has been achieved or not.

All of your managers will need to attend this meeting and report amongst each other. This also creates a friendly competition between your managers to see who achieved their goals and who did not. 

PRO TIP: If you want a B, ask for an A. So even if your team falls a bit short, you’re still getting a passing grade. But if you ask for a C, your team will most likely come back with failure. 

When you hold this meeting, make sure you do a retrospective. Understand the objectives that were met and the adjectives that weren’t met. More importantly, understand the why behind both. 

What did we do well? What did we do poorly? How can we adjust?

Then hammer own your next set of objectives for the upcoming month, quarter, year, etc. Make sure all of this is determined based on the learnings you had from the first time around, which will make it easier for you to trend toward success. 

Conclusion

Nobody wants to fall short of their goals. But in order to achieve success in a business environment, you need to follow the playbook that’s been outlined by leaders who came before you.

I wish that I had this resource when I first started out. It would have saved me so much time, money, and headaches. But I’m still grateful that I found it when I did, as I’ve been able to accomplish countless goals since then. 

Let’s quickly recap. 

First, you need to define your goals and distinguish them from your objectives. Then, make sure you have SMART goals and set KPIs to track your progress. Give your team autonomy, and hold them accountable. 

That’s it! This works for long-term goals and short-term goals alike. 

I really hope that this guide helps you achieve your goals. Keep it close by so you can continually refer back to it in the future. Let’s build great things together!

How to Manage Your Remote Teams

I’ve been dealing with remote teams for over 20 years.

Throughout this time, I have been fine-tuning my process to make sure I can manage remote teams across the globe in different time zones and countries. I’ve read books on this topic, watched many videos, and experimented with different strategies to learn what works and what doesn’t.

If you’re having problems or concerns about managing a remote team, you’ve come to the right place. I know these problems. I’ve lived these problems. And I’ve solved these problems.

With teams going remotely today, more than ever before, I thought this would be an appropriate time to share my tips, tricks, and best practices for remote team management.

Challenges Associated With Remote Work

Some of you may be new to remote management, while others have managed remote teams in the past but didn’t have much success. Let me take a moment to quickly identify some of the problems and worries you might be feeling.

Is your team actually working? Are they working from home? Do they have family members and other distractions?

  • Transparency — What is my team working on? How long does it take to finish a task?
  • Availability — Will they answer when I call? If they don’t, are they out exploring nature?
  • Misaligned Goals and Priorities — Are team members focusing on what I need them to focus on? Are they really working effectively?

These are all valid concerns. But in reality, these should be concerns whether your team is remote or not. If they only become concerns when you move to remote management, it means you have a flaw in your process.

Vulnerabilities in your process are self-corrected by the environment. Here’s what I mean:

In a face-to-face office environment, how do you know if one of your employees is working? You can take a peek over at their desk. If they’re at the desk, you assume they’re working. How do you know what they’re working on? Just peek over their shoulder and see the screen.

But as we all know, just because someone is sitting at their desk with some code or a spreadsheet on their screen, it doesn’t really mean that they are actually working. So it’s unfair to say that in-person management will automatically correct your concerns associated with remote employees—that’s simply not the case.

You need to figure out a process that works for your organization, whether your team is remote or not.

It Starts at the Top (With You)

In addition to the concerns you might have, take a moment to figure out the challenges your team might be facing. According to a recent survey, here are the biggest struggles of working remotely.

I get asked all of the time, “how do you manage remote teams that are thousands of miles away and make sure that they are consistently productive?” If you’ve read my blogs and watched my videos, you know that I prefer a mixture of local and remote resources. My teams are distributed on something called “the golden ratio.”

But not all of us have the luxury of employing local and remote resources. So we need to figure out a process that works for both—and it all starts with you.

Here’s some good news. If you’re reading this guide, it means you’ve already identified that this is a worthwhile cause and problem that must be addressed. Seeking information is the first step, so kudos to you.

What needs to change in your process?

Whatever that answer might be, you need to be disciplined about it. Own that initiative. Make sure it’s implemented throughout your entire organization.

It’s your job to get all managers and team members at all levels to buy-in to your new process.

Being disciplined could be as simple as making sure all meetings start on time and end on time. I can’t tell you how many companies I’ve dealt with that have a systematic problem where every meeting is late, causing all other meetings to be late, and nobody complains. It becomes part of the company culture, and it’s super frustrating.

Even small discipline levels like starting and ending meetings on time will go a long way for remote teams. If you can’t manage this properly, your problems will snowball at a higher level.

Communication

I know that this is a generic topic that everyone talks about, but it’s extremely important.

Great communication is measured by quality, not quantity. Overcommunication is a huge problem, but we’ll discuss that in greater detail shortly.

Let’s refer back to traditional office environments. Why do you think open concepts in workspaces have become so popular lately?

These floorplans encourage communication.

Even if you’re on your headphones all day and get up to grab a coffee or drink from the water cooler, you might hear your colleagues talking about something as you move past them on a shared desk. These subjects may or may not pertain to you now, but they’ll inevitably come back to you.

So all of this information gets absorbed as a community.

But you lose this concept when your team goes remote. So how do you compensate?

Hold all-hands meetings. This is a best practice for managing both local and remote teams alike. And to be clear, when I say all hands, I mean all hands on deck. Bring everyone into the team meeting. All levels of management, all resources, leaders, the CEO, and c-suite should all be attending.

What is the goal and vision of your company? What are the current objectives? How are these changing?

By discussing these at an all-hands meeting, everyone will understand what needs to happen. All departments will contribute and explain how they are striving to reach those goals and objectives. This will get your entire team rowing in the same direction to get where the whole group needs to be.

This helps your team understand the why of what they’re doing, and not just the what.

From time to time, you need to make sure that everyone is aligned and knows the north star. For remote meetings, these check-ins can happen over any digital communication method, like Google Hangouts, Slack, Skype, Zoom, or whatever communication tools you’re using.

I encourage your entire team to put an updated picture of their face on their profiles. This helps everyone look at each other as a real person. Avoid screen names; use your real name on everything. This helps everyone understand that they are real people, not just company resources.

Turn on your camera during video calls and video conferencing. Make sure your team can see you. Encourage them to turn on their cameras as well.

There is something called the 7-38-55 rule, created by Dr. Albert Mehrabian.

 

The model suggests that just 7% of communication is the words you use, and 38% is your tone. But a whopping 55% of communication is based on body language.

Whether you agree with those exact numbers or not, it’s clear that nonverbal cues are a huge part of effective communication. By turning on the cameras, everyone can see each other and fully understand these nonverbal cues.

This also forces people to get dressed up and presentable so they can be on camera. Some remote workers can feel depressed and stay in their pajamas all day. But to keep morale high, being camera-ready will make your remote team take a shower, get dressed, and take care of themselves.

The camera can ultimately become a virtual portal into the workplace.

Do NOT Overcommunicate

Overcommunication can be just as bad as no communication at all.

I’m referring to things like meetings that go on for too long, meetings that happen too frequently, excessive chatter on messaging channels, etc.

If a meeting can take 30 minutes, don’t stretch it to an hour. Otherwise, you’ll have participants zoning out and not paying attention. If someone doesn’t need to be at a meeting, don’t force them to be there.

Here’s a study that shows what people are really doing during conference calls.

In some companies I’ve worked with, I implement a mute hour throughout the day. Nobody is allowed to get on a chat channel unless it’s extremely urgent. This could be an hour, two hours, four hours, or whatever you decide per day.

I’ve even implemented policies like “no meeting Wednesdays,” where nobody can schedule meetings on a particular day of the week.

Both of these policies help people go into a deep state of work. If you have one full day without any meetings, that’s 20% of the week where everyone can dedicate to complete focus without distractions.

Process, Process, Process

I can’t emphasize this enough. You must have a process that encourages productivity, transparency, and accountability.

How do you know if your system and process are good or not? Simple—by the results.

Pick a process that works for you; you don’t work for the process. That’s how you vet out these mechanisms to see if they’re aiding your company or hindering you.

Personally, I recommend agile project management. It’s a common management methodology for software development teams.

This project management framework is meant to encourage productivity, transparency, and accountability. But it gives you the ability to stay agile and change directions, initiatives, and priorities on the fly.

I have a video on the Agile SCRUM methodology that you can check out for more details on this framework.

As with any new process that’s implemented in a business, it’s always important to ease in. Give yourself time so everyone can adjust.

The new process should include a daily standup meeting. Some people call them huddles, daily syncs, or daily check-ins (it doesn’t matter what you call it). But it happens every day, and it’s supposed to be really short—so short that people don’t feel the need to sit (hence the name).

Your team gets together, and everyone spends a couple of minutes explaining what they did yesterday and what they plan on doing today. This is an opportunity for people to express areas where they need help or assistance.

Now let’s circle back to one of our earlier talking points—change starts with you.

Make sure you’re disciplined enough to ensure this meeting is actually held every day. If you’re not around, make sure someone is doing it, like a project manager.

If the meeting is supposed to be at 9 AM, that’s 9 AM sharp—not 9:05 or 9:10.

Think of it like working out. The hardest part of working out is making it to the gym. So how do you make sure these meetings happen daily?

  • Standardize
  • Ritualize
  • Optimize

If you do a daily standup meeting every day for weeks and months, it will eventually become muscle memory. Even if you’re on vacation or get sick, the meeting will still happen because it’s a daily ritual for your team.

Don’t try to fix everything on day one, or it will fall apart. Back to my gym analogy. If you try to lift too much weight on your first day, you’ll never be able to get where you want to go. Instead, you can start to optimize your process over time.

Autonomy and Accountability For Remote Work

The best remote teams are autonomous and are held accountable for their work.

When you give your team autonomy, it means that every single member has to take ownership for a particular task. They can complete it by themselves.

If you’re constantly looking over their shoulder and micromanaging, it becomes a major problem. Your team will get disconnected, and if things go wrong, they’ll give you an excuse like, “I just did what you told me to do.”

Any time you hear those words, it’s a big red flag and sign that you’re micromanaging too much.

Remote teams should be autonomous. Let them handle takes and take responsibility. Allow them to own those tasks and take pride in their work.

To hold them accountable, make sure you give them clear and measurable SMART objectives.

Make sure your requests are extremely clear. What does success look like? When is it expected? At the end of this deadline, it’s up to you to make sure your team is held accountable.

Here’s an example. Let’s say a developer is working with a product team to output a new feature that will boost sales. Once that feature is out, you must gather analytics to see if it actually increased sales or not.

Everyone needs to be held accountable for the decisions that are made.

Not so much for fear of repercussions. But more so you can know what worked well (and do more of that) and what didn’t work well (so you can do less of it). Ultimately, you can adjust accordingly so everyone gets better.

Tell the team that you win together, and lose together.

When team members find someone who is the weakest link that month, they can go and help that person. You might be the weakest link one month, but the next weak it could be me, and I’ll need your help. That’s how you build teamwork while managing remote employees.

Collaborative efforts when everyone has the autonomy to do their parts are crucial for managing successful remote teams.

Coaching and Nurturing

This is another important aspect for managing any team. But more often than not, you might forget about this (I know I’m guilty of forgetting too).

Every employee that I have (remote or not) has a very clear definition of their responsibilities.

You might ask yourself, “Shouldn’t it be obvious what a developer should do? Or a project manager? Or a designer?”

Grab any employee that isn’t doing well and ask them the definition of their job. Ask them about their responsibilities. See if their answer matches yours—it probably doesn’t.

Have a meeting and clearly explain what you expect from that employee. Give them five clear and measurable metrics that will allow them to succeed. Write them down and explain them in detail. Then on a frequent basis, score your employees on those metrics and provide feedback.

So many employees are surprised when they are let go because they weren’t given enough feedback to know they were doing poorly. They think they’re doing a good job, but they’re not—because nobody told them.

If you fire an employee and they are surprised, it’s a flaw in the management system.

Management should be able to explain problems BEFORE it’s too late. Tell them what they’re doing well, what they’re not doing well, and clearly identify your expectations. You still need to do this with remote teams to hold them accountable.

Acknowledge your team for a job well done. More than 60% of employees say that management does not recognize their achievements.

 

A simple “thank you” can go a long way.

When you recognize good work, it actually makes people more productive. In fact, 69% of employees say that they would work harder if they felt more appreciated. Another study suggests that 37% of employees consider recognition to be the most important part of management success. This ranked first on the list of responses.

Don’t be afraid to recognize team members amongst their peers or in front of the entire organization for a job well done.

Give them a shout out during the all-hands meetings (that we discussed earlier). Have an MVP, employee of the month, or whatever award works best for your company culture.

There are so many unsung heroes in tech. For example, there are countless QAs out there that make sure the products are great, but never get recognized for it.

Show your team that you understand how valuable they are. Say thank you, and give kudos on good work.

Conclusion

Remote working has become the new normal. Managers must be able to adapt accordingly to successfully manage remote teams.

At its core, remote management will encompass many of the same practices and management styles you use to manage a traditional office environment. You just need to apply those same strategies to your remote environment.

Even if it’s your first time working with a distributed team, you can still have success using my methodology for remote team members.

Trust me; as someone who has tried seemingly every remote management tactic under the sun, the tips and best practices described above actually work.

I hope this guide was helpful and gave you clear and logical steps for managing remote teams. Good luck!

How to Perform User Testing For Your App

With so many stages involved in an app development project, user testing is often overlooked.

But this step is crucial to the performance and success of your app. It’s something that you should be doing throughout the development process, as well as after your app has finally launched.

Overall, user testing helps eliminate problems, find bugs, and optimize the UX for your app.

Unless you’ve been through this process before, getting started with app user testing can feel like a daunting challenge. How do you conduct user testing for your app? When should you start user testing? What should you be testing? These are common questions that have probably crossed your mind.

Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place. I created this guide to explain everything you need to know about app user testing and how it works.

You’ll even find a step-by-step guide to user testing as you continue below. So regardless of your app type, industry, or experience level, this resource will steer you in the right direction for app user testing. Let’s dive in!

What is User Testing?

Before we continue, let’s start with the basics to make sure we’re all on the same page. User testing can be defined as the process of testing the interface and functions of an app, product, website, or service.

The purpose of these tests is to determine if the product in question (an app in our case) is ready for launch.

You’re essentially checking the usability of your app as real people perform specific tests in a realistic testing environment. Can your app be used naturally by a person who isn’t familiar with it? The only way to answer this question is with user testing.

As someone who has been involved throughout the development process, you can’t unbiasedly test your app’s usability on your own. Tests must be conducted by people who are neutral and don’t know how the app is supposed to work.

From a UI and UX design perspective, user testing is an absolute must. Even if you think the design and layout of your app are perfect, you’ll need to run usability tests to confirm your hypothesis.

While user testing should be conducted prior to launch, it shouldn’t stop once your app is live.

User testing is a continuous process. It’s one of the best ways to continually improve your app’s UI/UX design, especially as you come out with new updates and changes.

How to Conduct App User Testing in 6 Simple Steps

User testing isn’t really a one-size-fits-all process. But with years of experience conducting user tests, I’ve been able to narrow down the core steps to include in your testing.

Whether this is your first user test or 100th user test, the step-by-step guide outlined below will be the best way to conduct the user tests for your app. These steps are explained in a way that can be customized to fit any type of app or development project. Here’s what you need to do:

Step #1: Define Your Goals

Like any experiment, the first step to user testing is defining your goals. What exactly do you want to test? You can’t start until this question has been answered.

Your usability testing goals will change depending on where your app is in the development lifecycle. For example, some developers will run tests before the actual development phase begins. These types of tests will be centered around the discovery, exploration, and user research of your target market and what they expect in your app. Since you won’t have a functioning app yet, the goals of this type of test will look very different from a test being run just prior to an app’s launch.

Concept testing and card sorting are two popular ways to see how users will interact with the features, structure, and hierarchy of your app—even without a functioning product.

As you run tests during development, your goals should be centered on validation related to the user experience.

While things might look good and make sense on paper during the wireframing of your app, you need to test those theories from a UI/UX perspective once your design team has actually implemented those elements.

Usability testing is not about gathering generic feedback for your app. You should be using these tests to identify specific problems. So focus your goals around this concept.

For example, let’s say you’re testing an ecommerce app. To determine if your navigation is intuitive or not, you can ask yourself questions like:

  • Can a mobile user easily search for a specific product?
  • Can users easily add items to their shopping cart?
  • Can users complete the checkout process with minimal friction?

These types of questions will help you focus on specific goals for app user testing.

Step #2: Determine the Testing Method

Next, you’ll need to figure out exactly how you’re going to conduct the tests. There are lots of different ways that this can happen. But for the most part, user testing can be segmented into the following categories:

  • In-person moderated
  • In-person unmoderated
  • Remote moderated
  • Remote unmoderated

There are pros and cons to each. For starters, moderated sessions typically offer deeper insights because you’ll be able to ask questions, and get feedback, and follow-up with testers in real-time.

Here’s an example. A user might make a comment such as, “this is surprising,” and say nothing else. During a moderated session, the moderator could follow-up by asking, “what was surprising?” You won’t have this option in an unmoderated session.

The downside of a moderated session is that it’s unnatural for users. If you’re trying to emulate real-life scenarios, app users wouldn’t have any guidance or real-time communication with a third party while using the app.

In-person testing has its challenges as well. It’s more labor-intensive, and you’ll have to deal with scheduling. Some test participants feel pressure to “say the right thing” when they’re being watched in-person, whereas they’d be more candid with feedback remotely.

Unmoderated remote sessions are the easiest way to get the most possible tests done for the lowest cost. You’ll also get to test users in a more natural environment. However, you lose the ability to communicate in real-time.

So which option is the best?

There’s really no right or wrong answer here. It all comes down to your personal preferences. You may ultimately decide to conduct user testing in multiple environments with a combination of these methods mentioned above.

Step #3: Select the Participants

Now it’s time to find real users to participate in your tests. Don’t just select random people, or you won’t get accurate test results.

Hopefully, you’ve already identified a target market for your app by now. But look beyond the demographics like age, sex, marital status, and location. Behavioral targeting is much more valuable here. So look for users who are already using apps that are similar to yours.

Recruiting participants that have some interest and prior experience in what your app is trying to accomplish will have much more value than a random user who happens to be a certain age and gender.

UserTesting.com is a great platform for finding participants and conducting tests. They even have specific solutions for mobile app user testing.

The platform supports multiple testing methods. It’s a popular choice for mobile app prototypes, unreleased apps, apps already available in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, AR/VR apps, home testing, “out in the wild” testing, and more.

There are plenty of other similar alternatives on the market, but UserTesting.com is definitely one of the most popular solutions for finding and testing participants in one place.

How many testers do you need for an accurate user testing experiment? According to a famous study from the Nielsen Norman Group, five is the perfect number.

The concept here is pretty simple. If you test zero users, you’ll find zero usability problems (obviously). But as you test more and more people, the number of issues you encounter will start to flatten out.

After a handful of tests, you’ll see the same thing over and over again. So there’s no reason to continue observing things that you already know.

Based on this curve, 15 users is the absolute maximum number of participants you’d need to uncover all usability issues. But most experts recommend between 5-7 participants. Some will say up to ten is ok too.

You might need to offer an incentive to recruit participants. The compensation amount should vary depending on the type of test you’re running. For example, an in-person moderated session could be valued at around $50-$100. But an unmoderated remote test might be worth closer to $15.

Step #4: Prepare the Testing Materials and Testing Environment

Once you’ve recruited testers, it’s time to prepare for the test itself.

What exactly are you going to be testing? Refer back to the goals that we established back in step #1. You’ll use the goals to create objectives for the user to complete. You’ll ultimately create a list of tasks, which is sometimes referred to as a testing script.

Set up a realistic scenario for your users. For instance, here’s an example of some objectives you could list for an ecommerce app test:

  • Search for a blue dress
  • Add a medium-sized red shirt to your shopping cart
  • Create a user profile
  • Complete a purchase that qualifies for free shipping
  • Save your billing details for future purchases
  • Complete a purchase with your card saved on-file

In these scenarios, you’re not telling the participants how to complete the tasks. Instead, you’re just telling them what you want them to do. There’s a big difference. The idea here is to give your participants clear instructions but allow them to naturally engage with your app and its usability—this will provide you with the best usability testing results.

You should also prepare follow-up questions and debriefing questions.

If you’re running tests in-person, you’ll also have to prepare a testing environment. Is the test taking place at your office? Are you going to run it in a third-party testing facility? Where will the participants be sitting? Where is the moderator sitting? You must have all of this stuff in order before the test itself. Otherwise, you’ll be scrambling around during your appointments, which will ultimately impact the quality of your tests. Make sure the testing environment doesn’t interfere with the user experience.

Earlier I mentioned UserTesting.com as a platform for remote app user testing. But Lookback.io is another popular testing tool and perfect for both moderated and unmoderated app testing.

Just make sure you find a platform and finalize your testing environment before you proceed.

You’ll also want to run some practice tests before you start testing actual users. Running into problems or glitches (unrelated to the app itself) during an experiment will definitely de-rail the accuracy and effectiveness of your results. So work out all the kinks associated with your testing environment ahead of time.

Step #5: Run the Test

This step is pretty self-explanatory. After all of your hard work, it’s finally time to conduct user testing for your app!

Surprisingly, this is the easiest step in the process. If you followed everything else I’ve explained to this point, there’s really not much for you to do here. Your participants will already be recruited and have the testing materials to complete your desired objectives.

With moderated testing, you might need to remind participants to think out loud as they complete tasks.

For example, a participant might furrow their brow or tighten their lips throughout the process. In many cases, these actions could indicate some type of frustration or pain point. But it’s better for the user to verbally express those challenges, instead of forcing you to play a guessing game.

Every test should end with debriefing and follow-up questions. Even if the test is remote and unmoderated, you can get those questions over your participants via email or through the testing platform. This is an important part of the design process that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Follow-up questions and feedback need to be completed immediately after the test, while everything is still fresh in the participant’s mind. If they answer these questions at another time, the results will be skewed and not as accurate.

Step #6: Analyze and Adjust

The experiment isn’t over after the test is complete. You still need to go back and analyze the results.

What similar problems did testers encounter? What friction or pain points were associated with your objectives?

Aside from the direct feedback from your participants, you should also go back and observe measurable data. For example, how long did it take them to complete one step of a particular task? The length of time it takes someone to complete an action is a good indication of how difficult it was. In some instances, the amount of time completing a task could also be an indication of how engaged a participant was with your app. These metrics are always helpful.

Once these observations have been clearly identified, it’s time to create an action plan with your team to improve the app. You’ll likely need to make some UI/UX design adjustments to enhance your app.

App Usability Testing Tips and Best Practices

As someone who has conducted countless user testing experiments, I’ve learned quite a bit of useful information over the years. While you’re following the steps above, make sure to keep the following tips in mind:

  • Always record your tests (even for moderated sessions), so you can go back and watch
  • Don’t make assumptions; provide your participants with SPECIFIC instructions
  • Ask mobile users what type of experience, features, and functionality they expect
  • Don’t make tasks too complicated (not all participants are tech-savvy)
  • Avoid technical terms in your testing script (most people won’t know terms like hamburger menu, UI/UX, etc.). So use common language.
  • There is always room for improvement (even if you have a great UX designer)
  • Moderators should remain neutral (no positive reinforcement or critiquing during the test)
  • Moderators should say as little as possible (to mirror real-life scenarios)
  • Run tests on multiple platforms (iOS and Android)
  • Participants provide better feedback when presented with comparable options
  • Always note visual cues (furrowed brow, smiles, hand to chin, facial expressions etc.)
  • Continue conducting user tests for different goals (this is an ongoing process)

If you’re having participants perform tasks that involve transactions, you should always use real money. Fake or monopoly money won’t give you the same results. When real money is at stake, users will take the time to shop around and get the best deal (like they would in the real world)

Following these tips will improve the accuracy and results of your mobile app user testing.

Conclusion

User testing is crucial to the success of any app. It’s one of the most important steps in the design phase of your app as well.

Don’t underestimate the value of user testing. Whether you’re still prototyping or getting ready for launch, you’d be surprised at how helpful these insights will be to the UX of your mobile application.

If you’re struggling with the concept of user testing and don’t know where to start, just follow the step-by-step process outlined in this guide. For those of you who still have questions, feel free to drop a comment or reach out to our Pro Services team here at BuildFire. Good luck and happy testing!

How to Develop Your Mobile App Idea

Do you have a tech startup idea that’s been rattling around in your brain for a while?

Are you having problems explaining it to people? Or maybe when you discuss it with others, they just don’t understand what you’re talking about. Maybe you feel like you have an idea, but it’s not quite all there yet.

If you need help to validate your business idea, you’ve come to the right place.

I’ve been in the tech industry for more than two decades and have five successful startups under my belt. I’m sure you can imagine what the conversations are like whenever I’m at a dinner party.

Someone always tells me that they have a great idea they want to share with me. So for the next hour, I have to entertain that idea and tell them how great it is (even if it’s not that unique). We talk (they do most of the talking), have a couple of drinks, and say we’ll be 50/50 partners on the idea. For me, dinner parties like this can sometimes be a drag.

But it still begs the question—how do you develop and validate your business idea?

It’s an age-old question that has been addressed in many different schools of thought. Countless speakers have shared their opinions on the subject. Stanford has the NABC method (Need, Approach, Benefit, Competition).

In this guide, I’m going to give you six tips to validate your business idea in a way that’s specifically catered to tech companies and raising money for your startup.

These best practices are based on my first-hand experience in software development. It’s worked for me and it’s worked for my clients who have had success in this space.

Business Validation Tip #1: Explain the Problem and Opportunity

This is always the first thing that you need to do. You must be able to clearly articulate the problem that you’re trying to solve as well as the opportunity at hand.

The number one reason why startups fail is because the market doesn’t need what they’re offering.

You must be able to clearly identify the problem and opportunity in the market. If you can’t do that, it might be time to go back to the drawing board and create a new business plan for your software development venture.

Conduct market research. Get your market validation. What is the market looking for? Is there an existing need that you’re trying to fill? Or are you creating a new need?

If you’re addressing an existing need, this can be split up into two categories—needs that you have and needs that others have.

If you don’t feel the need yourself, the product might suffer a little bit. That’s because the information you’re getting is always one step removed.

The other side of this concept is creating a completely new demand. This is extremely difficult but highly profitable.

Smartphones are the perfect example to explain what I mean.

If you’re old enough to remember, think about the days when nobody had smartphones. We were all just fine. Life continued and operated with no problems.

But now I dare you to put your smartphone down and walk to the end of the block. See what happens. You’ll get anxious, and the addiction to your phone will start to kick in. You need to be with your phone at all times.

This type of need didn’t exist prior to the invention of the smartphone. But once it was created, the need was established.

So if a product can create a new need or functionality, you have the opportunity for limitless profits, but it’s extremely risky.

The next thing that you need to ask yourself is whether your business idea is a “must-have” or “nice to have” product. Is it a consumer luxury item? Or can people do without it?

The loyalty of your customers will differ based on whether or not this is a need or a want.

Business Validation Tip #2: Competitive Advantage Analysis

Once you’ve identified the market need, you must be able to properly articulate your competitive advantage.

If you’re entering an existing market that has competitors, why should the target audience pick you over the competition? There must be a differentiator in your product that improves the user experience.

What is your competitive advantage? If you’re just another “me too” business, then you’re not different.

Your idea must be different enough to stand out from the crowd. Give people a reason to choose you over the other players in the market.

You need to develop a strategy for how you’re going to beat your competitors. Play to win.

The strategy must explain how you’re going to gain ground on the competition. They’ve already been in business for months, years, or potentially decades before you. So you have lots of ground to cover just to catch up; then you can beat them from there.

Business Validation Tip #3: Is Your Idea Defendable?

If you don’t have any competitors, and you’re creating something new, then you need to ask yourself this—”is my idea defendable?”

Here’s what I mean by defendable. Does your product have intellectual property that you can patent to defend against other competitors?

In software, a patent is super easy to obtain and extremely difficult to defend.

This is a common question that I hear from all of my clients. It’s such a common occurrence that I’ll probably write a complete guide on the topic soon. With software, everyone asks, “Can I patent it?”

The answer is yes. But the real question should be, can you defend it? And the answer—you probably can’t. All someone else needs to do is change 20% of your patent, and it’s considered to be different software by law.

It’s much easier to defend a utility patent if you’re an electrical engineer or something like that. But when you’re dealing with software, intellectual property is extremely hard to defend.

So there could be other app developers or app development companies out there creating solutions for the app store with the same functionality as your software.

Think about the electric scooters that we see popping up in all major cities right now. It’s a really good idea, and it’s already out there. However, it’s so difficult to defend. Within months there are three or four other competitors coming to join the party.

Delivery apps available for iOS and Android apps are another example. A mobile app development company or freelancer could create a successful app without another app business in the delivery space getting in their way.

There are just two examples of great application ideas that are tough to defend.

Business Validation Tip #4: Go to Market Strategy

In terms of business validation for your tech startup idea, you must have a very specific go-to-market strategy. What do I mean by this?

When you develop a product or a business, and you’re ready to open up your doors, start selling, taking subscriptions, or whatever else you’re offering—how does the world know that you exist? How are you going to start gaining customers?

If you’re a brick and mortar company, you can do this through guerilla marketing. Make some posters and take out local ads. Maybe you’re in a high traffic area, and people will just randomly see you.

That’s fine for brick and mortar, but technology is a bit different.

You could have the best idea and the wold that nobody has heard about. So you need to have a marketing strategy. Always reserve some of your funds to make sure you have some sort of digital marketing presence.

You might start by creating an MVP (minimum viable product) for your mobile application and promote it via social media.

Consider offering some type of freemium model. Allow people to try your product before they actually purchase anything. Free trials for subscription businesses have a historically high conversion rate.

Lots of times, this strategy will be much cheaper than a full-blown marketing plan. You’ll still need to have some marketing to let people know that there’s a free tier, but it won’t be as involved.

When it comes to your go-to-market strategy, there are lots of different ways to approach this. There is an age-old question for a scenario that shows two different schools of thought.

Let’s say there is a town with two successful Italian restaurants. People love Italian food in this town, and everyone goes to both. You decide to open up a brand new restaurant. Do you open an Italian one? Or something else?

One school of thought says that you already know how much people love Italian food here. If you can do a better job than the others, you’ll be successful.

The other school of thought says that this town is already saturated with Italian food. But obviously, people enjoy going out to eat. You can open up a restaurant offering a different type of cuisine to be successful.

Which method is correct? Drop a comment and let me know what you think.

Business Validation Tip #5: Financial Forecast and Security

You need a very clear financial statement and forecast of how your company is going to operate when it’s losing money in the beginning.

When you first start, you’ve spent lots of money and don’t have any customers.

You need to figure out when you’re going to go from red to black, which is your breakeven point. Then figure out when you’re going to turn profitable and get into the green.

How is this going to happen? How long will it take?

If you don’t know the answer to these questions, then you won’t know how much cash you need in your reserves. How much funding will you need to survive the storm?

So many businesses fail, not because the idea was bad—they just ran out of fuel. They didn’t calculate how long they needed to stay in the market to gather enough critical mass to become profitable.

Remember the graph I showed you earlier about the top reasons why startups fail? I already highlighted the fact that “no market need” ranked first on that list. But let’s look at it again and see some of the other reasons.

Running out of cash is the second most common reason why startups fail.

If you’re in the technology field, you hear about lots of companies operating at a loss on a massive scale until they become profitable.

Think of companies like Amazon. They didn’t make money for the longest time until they dominated the entire market. Think of companies like Twitter or LinkedIn. They lost money for years, and some are still losing money and not profitable.

You need to address these types of scenarios. What type of company are you going to be?

All development costs must be taken into consideration for your new app.

There’s a different strategy from user adoption to profitability that needs to be played out on paper before your company goes live. What’s your monetization strategy? Outline a Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C, so you have some contingencies in order.

The financial aspects of your project will be crucial if you’re trying to raise money from potential investors beyond crowdfunding.

Business Validation Tip #6: Does Your Business Scale?

You must be able to explain how your company and idea can scale.

If your company is relying on you and your skillset—you don’t scale. There are only 24 hours in a day. No matter what happens, you can’t add a 25th hour.

Do your costs decrease over time and volume? Do your costs plateau? Do your costs increase?

Some business models are fundamentally flawed from the beginning because they are assuming a fixed cost structure, which is not correct.

At scale, your company will have different logistics. Sometimes one employee can wear several different hats. But at scale, you’ll still need multiple employees. Your costs will go up.

If you’re housing all of your products locally at your office, that’s fine for now. But what happens when you scale and need to rent or buy a warehouse? Your costs will go up. Make sure you play out different scenarios to understand how the idea works at scale.

You also need to identify whether your product and company can cross demographics and markets. If you saturate a particular market, is there a lateral move you can make to gain more customer adoption?

BONUS Tip for Business Validation: Versatility and Resilience

This is more of a long term plan and strategy, but you should be thinking about it from the beginning. Is your company versatile and resilient?

Think of companies like Borders and Barnes & Noble. They’ve become completely obsolete. They had the opportunity to potentially go digital with selling books, but their efforts were too little and too late.

Another great example is car alarm companies. The car alarm itself hasn’t become obsolete. But now all of the car manufacturers build them directly into vehicles. So consumers don’t need to buy an after-market alarm. All of those businesses that opened up to sell car alarms are now obsolete.

Think about accessories for iPhones. Each accessory is so specific for adaptors. Once Apple changes the adaptors for new iPhones, all of your inventory becomes worthless. This is a serious problem if you have a large warehouse full of accessories that can’t be used.

So the question becomes when (not if) something hits your market, are you versatile enough to adjust and shift? Do you have the foresight to make adjustments ahead of time? Can you adapt to ever-changing markets?

Conclusion

Take all of these tips that I’ve explained above and use them to develop your business idea. Be as truthful with yourself as possible.

Maybe vet your best app idea out with some friends. See if there’s anything you forgot or missed. It’s always helpful to get another perspective on things that you might not see on your own.

It’s extremely important to adjust now so your business can see success. Just because you find a hurdle, it doesn’t mean that you have a bad idea.

Sometimes you just need to reshape that idea or rethink your strategy to be successful.  It’s much cheaper to make these adjustments now compared to after you build your company.

I hope this guide was helpful in explaining how to validate your business idea. Now you can hit the market and be successful at everything that you do.

How to Hire a Mobile App Developer (A Definitive Guide)

You want to build a mobile application.

Where do you start?

If you don’t know how to code, you’re going to need to hire someone to do it for you.

So the search begins to find an app developer.

Even if you built an app in the past, you may not have had the best experience with your developer.

This guide is perfect for you as well.

I’ll tell you exactly what you need to do to find a developer that’s going to give you the app that you’re looking for.

But let me perfectly honest with you, it’s not easy.

There are lots of factors that go into hiring a developer.

So just make sure that you don’t skip any of the steps, and you’re very thorough.

You’re going to be working with this person for a long time and giving them lots of money.

The last thing you want to happen is to get halfway through the development process and realize you chose the wrong person.

Or even worse, they develop a final product that you’re not happy with.

Believe me, I’ve seen this happen countless times.

All of this can be avoided if you hire the right person.

Here’s what you need to know.

Continue reading “How to Hire a Mobile App Developer (A Definitive Guide)”

How to Code an App – Learn to Build Mobile Apps in Less Than 30 Days

You have a great idea for an app. Now what?

While it might be a great premise, you need to figure out how you’ll get it to market. If you want to build apps, it takes more than just an idea.

So, what’s the first step in mobile app development? It depends.

Some of you might want to create your first app alone. But you don’t know how to code an app or have any programming skills for that matter. Is it even possible to create apps if you lack the basics of coding language? Do you need to start with an app for beginners?

Here’s the honest truth. If you want to learn how to code an app, t’s going to be hard. But you can definitely learn to code your first app app in less than 30 days.

If you’re going to be successful, though, you’ll need to put in lots of work. You’ll need to dedicate time towards learning mobile app development every day in order to see real progress.

The time and energy you can devote to learning programming languages will pay for itself in the skills you learn. You can use these skills to create your own app and even other apps down the road. Like most things worth learning, the more you dedicate yourself, the faster your results will be.

But it isn’t just a race of working at blinding speed through a few textbooks you picked up at the library.

If you’re going to learn how to code your mobile app in just 30 days, you need to work smarter.

These are the exact strategies you’ll need to use to increase your retention, apply what you’ve learned, and start making progress towards building the app of your dreams.

Understand the final goal for your app

First and foremost, you need to know what you want to learn before you start coding.

Then you can use the right development tools to assist you.

I see a lot of people who say they want to learn how to code app but don’t know what their real goals are. You can spend your whole life learning new pieces of app development.

In truth, new features are being developed so fast, nobody will be able to keep up with it all the time.

And when you only have 30 days to learn how to code, you need to be really clear on what your goal is. Exactly what will your app do, and how will you get that process to work?

Start by learning about your target users. What will they be expecting in the app? What must you deliver?

Understand your target users

Get a clear feel for what the app should offer at a bare minimum. Remove anything that doesn’t fulfill this requirement. You can always add it later.

For example, you might want users to be able to login to your app with Facebook, Twitter, and Google. But you don’t have to add that in the first version.

Instead, consider which one is the most important. Only learn how to do that, then you can build your skills once you release the first version of your app and see what needs to be improved.

Who knows? You might find that 99% of your users are on Facebook, and Twitter and Google login options are a waste of your time.

Once you understand the core functionality, you want to wireframe everything your app will do. Wireframing is the process where you create a basic layout of your app.

make an app wireframe

You want to understand what each button does. Write all this down to help you remember it later.

This will make it easier for you to understand the graphic design of your app and simplify bug fixes down the road. Wireframing is a crucial part of the design process. So whether you’re building a simple app for yourself of an iOS app and Android apps for real users, always start here first.

True, it’s not very fun to do all this planning, but it’s a lot easier now than once you’ve started coding your app. You want to understand exactly what you need to learn now, so there aren’t surprises down the road.

If you don’t put in the work during this step and really understand what’s necessary to build out the app, you’re going to learn the wrong things during your 30 days, or forget key elements.

When you sit down to code the app, you’ll find gaps in your knowledge, and it’ll put the project far behind schedule.

The wireframe should incorporate elements of the design, but make sure to understand the user flow. Ensure it makes sense. Lay out all the features in advance so you know what’s required.

Create your screen flows

Once you have the functionality down, you’re going to need to focus on what that looks like on the backen. What kind of architecture do you want to use?

You should consider a few different pieces to this. Will you be storing data on the user’s device, or in the cloud? Will you need to send push notifications?

Think also about how you want to connect your databases.

A ticket app might have a primary database of events with a simpler user database, while a social app would have a main database of users with secondary functionality for events.

Decide what your focus is going to be, and decide on this structure. You need to figure out the basic backend of your app as soon as possible, preferably in a sketch or illustration.

App Backend

If you don’t know what that will look like yet, that’s okay. You may need to become more familiar with computer programming before you can choose the absolute best method.

But it’s best to have a working idea you change now, rather than a blank slate where you have to build everything from scratch later.

Up next, you need to choose the right language to learn. The primary language used for most Android development is Java.

It’s used in a number of other platforms as well, so this can be a good place to start if you’re looking to expand beyond apps one day.

Java

However, if you’re going to want to design an iOS app or iPhone app for the app store, you’re going to need to learn Objective-C or Swift. This is where all iOS developers get started.

These are specifically designed for Apple software (iOS platform), and unfortunately aren’t very applicable elsewhere. The experience you get learning any language, however, will serve you well later.

objective C

Choosing the right language is important, because your skills will be worthless if you can’t program in the correct framework.

If you’re unsure, go with the platform you feel most comfortable with, whether that’s Android or iOS. You’ll have a head start working with an operating system you already know well. Android app development (for the Google Play Store) is very different from building iOS apps on the iOS platform.

Up next, you need to learn the basics before you can start with the meaty code that will take you closer to developing your app.

Start by learning the critical basics

Before you get started, you need to understand the basics. There are lots of free resources out there to get you started in the right direction.

Just like you need to learn how to chop vegetables and turn on the oven before going to cooking school, these building blocks aren’t difficult, but they’re mandatory for effective learning.

First, you need to learn how to set up your code to run. A lot of online programs that teach programming forget this step. They leave you with plenty of knowledge, but zero experience on actually making your app run.

Don’t fall into this trap. Instead, learn how to take your code and put it into an app that you can actually test.

Second, learn how to set up an environment that will let you work efficiently. You’ll need a place to type in your code and see it in action.

If you’re coding with Swift or Objective-C for iOS, you’ll want to look into Xcode.

Xcode 9

Android developers will need to learn about Android Studio.

Download Android Studio and SDK Tools Android Studio

These are programs that give you the tools you need to actually design and publish Android apps and iOS apps, instead of just tinkering around with code.

Third, you need to learn version control. The most common version is Git, which is a free tool that saves revisions of your code.

When you make errors, you can restore an earlier version of your code to remove the bug.

If you’d like to take  to the next level, learn how to use GitHub. You can think of GitHub like Dropbox for code.

You can store updated code, share it with teammates, and view revisions in the platform.

The world s leading software development platform GitHub

The time you spend learning the system will likely pay off once you start development, especially if you’re working with a team.

Finally, learn about the language you’ll be using. I recommend getting familiar with the basic errors you might get and common problems beginners face.

Yes, you’ll learn the syntax and commands of the language in a little bit. But it’s helpful to know that most beginners struggle with if statements, for example, before you’ve wasted an afternoon.

Now that you have a good overview of the language and how to use it, let’s create a roadmap for your learning.

Be strategic about what you choose to learn

In a perfect world, you’d be able to learn about all the different app development features you want to.

But in the real world, our resources are limited. This means you only have a certain amount of time to learn, and you need to make the best use of it.

In your 30 days, you need to choose the 20% of work that will give you 80% of the results you’re looking for.

Depending on the type of app you’re developing, these numbers might vary. You may find that it’s more or less than this.

Perhaps 40% of the learning will give you 60% of the features, or even only 10% of the skills you need will deliver 90% of your features.

Either way, you need to focus on the most important functions for your app and a smooth user interface. Look for the key differentiators, or what makes your app different from everything else out there.

how to go from app idea to app store

With that in mind, do some research on what skill you’ll need, and create a basic outline for your 30 day learning plan.

Some of you might already have some web development skills. Depending on your skill level, you’ll have to decide whether or not you need to learn JavaScript or learn Python. You don’t want to waste time studying detailed information about code that you’ll never actually use. Anyone with basic Java knowledge will definitely have a head start.

If you’re creating a productivity app, you might spend the first week learning how to create a to-do list feature, the next two weeks on how to incorporate project folders, and the final week on accounts and authorization.

Whatever your app requires, make sure you schedule time to learn the skills necessary to turn those dreams into reality.

Creating a timetable of what you need to learn will give you a reliable way to move forward, and will reduce a lot of the stress that’s inherent in learning a new skill.

create a learning agenda

Once you have your roadmap in place, you’re going to need to decide on the best method for your personal learning style.

You may already know this, or you might have to play it by ear and see what works the best for you.

Some of the most common ways to learn programming are through books, tutorials, YouTube videos, and online courses.

If one of those stands out like a perfect match, plan on using it for most of your instruction. If you’re not sure where to turn, I recommend online courses as a starting place.

These provide you with instruction and instant feedback on your progress through interactive exercises, and many cost very little or even nothing to get started.

Learn to code for free

It’s worth your time to choose a learning method ahead of time. When you switch halfway through, you can miss out on valuable pieces and skip important information.

When you’re on a course for quick learning like this, it’s a good idea to focus on reference, not memorization.

You can spend hours reviewing flashcards, or a few seconds looking something up in a handy reference guide you’ve created. When your time is limited, the reference method is much faster.

To do this, take detailed notes of everything you learn. You can use a program like Evernote for this, since you can search for anything in the system later.

Get organized Work smarter Remember everything Evernote

FInally, I want to warn you about the biggest temptation you’ll face as a beginning developer: don’t learn while designing your app.

Yes, your ultimate goal is to design this app. It’s been your dream, and it’s your motivation for learning to code in the first place.

But if you start the app and learn as you build it, you’re going to have to go back and erase much of the code you originally wrote.

Even if you don’t have to erase it, it might have errors or bugs you missed because you weren’t aware of them at the time.

Instead, work on smaller projects while you’re learning, and leave the real app development until you’ve finished learning all the processes you need for programming it.

A classic problem beginning coders face is writing a basic structure for their app, then adding more and more features of top of this without a solid foundation.

This leaves your app wide open for security gaps you didn’t realize when you were just starting.

This can make your users vulnerable because you started without the top-down knowledge you need.

Security matters

Resist the tempation to learn as you go. Spending 30 days learning to code correctly before you touch the big app development project you have in mind will be time well spent.

How to learn day-to-day

Now that you know the general framework for developing a process to learn faster, let’s take a look at what exactly that looks like on a more granular, day-to-day basis.

The cornerstone of your daily efforts to learning how to code in 30 days is to be consistent. It’s far better to work on the process for 20 minutes every day six days a week than two hours every Saturday.

The reason is that your knowledge builds upon itself, and you’ll start to notice patterns in different things as you continue working. You’ll be thinking about code throughout the day if you do it regularly.

So instead of finding one large block a week, try to work on it a little bit every single day.

You’ll need to review what you’ve learned frequently. One of the most powerful tools I know for this is CodeCode.ninja, which allows you to create flashcards for programming snippets.

CodeCode Ninja Flashcards for Programmers

Again, the focus isn’t on memorizing a bunch of formulas you’ll only need a few times. Instead, use your flashcard review time to become familiar with the most common commands.

Learn how to set up variables, close lines of code, and create if and while statements. You’ll be using these over and over again, so you need to know them cold.

As you quiz yourself with the most important pieces you’ve learned, you’ll retain the knowledge you gain even better.

Another strategy that will accelerate your learning (as well as prepare you for the final app design project you’ll eventually be working on) is finishing small projects.

You’d be amazed how difficult it is to finish a project. It’s very easy to start something, but the finishing part can be incredibly difficult.

Instead of finding that out on the final app that really matters, practice finishing on smaller pieces you’re working on as you learn.

This means that the dummy app you’ve created just to learn one new component needs to be finished.

That doesn’t mean it should be polished enough to sell, but it does mean the basic functionality should be bug-free and usable. If a project is too far gone, don’t waste time trying to salvage it.

But if the project isn’t done simply because you didn’t want to finish it, remember: you need to learn the mental process behind app development just as much as the coding itself.

If you’re struggling to understand the complex abstract concepts at work in code, take a cue from Tim Ferriss’s strategies for rapid learning.

There are a number of strategies he’s worked to popularize, but one ofthe most basic is to remember with memory devices.

Use Mnemonic devices to compress info

If you need to remember the order of the variables for a function, for example, you can find a word with the same first letters in the same order.

Another technique that will speed up the process is connecting the new skills to whatever you’re familiar with already.

Coding is related to a number of other fields and interests, including science, cyphers, logic, language, and even giving someone directions (like in a recipe).

All of these can be used to help you understand what’s going on, even if your head is swimming with complicated numbers and symbols.

As you work, remember to test your code and get instant feedback about what’s working and what isn’t. Don’t waste time hacking around a problem. You’ll only reinforce bad habits.

Instead, research a solution, understand the method used, try it out, and see how you can apply it to other situations.

This is much more effective than mindlessly browsing your code for errors.

Another method is to look on a site that offers help. There are a number of sites with experts ready to answer your coding questions for free.

Bookmark important resources

When you’re stuck, look to a place like Stackoverflow to help you get unstuck.

Use strict deadlines

If you’re going to learn a completely new system of doing something in just 30 days (or even less), you need to set a realistic deadline for completing your project.

I’d recommend breaking it up into two steps. The first, of course, is the learning you’re going to need to understand how to code apps.

But the second step is developing your app, since that’s your ultimate goal anyways.

You need to have a clear deadline for your learning to end so you can get started with the app development process.

I recommend looking at the timeline for the app development. When would you like to have it ready to ship?

Prepare a realistic estimate of how long it will take to design the app itself. The simplest type of app will probably take around 2-3 months to develop, plus the approval process.

Use Strict Deadlines

In addition to the estimate you’ve prepared based on your research, include at least a few weeks as extra space since you’re just starting.

No matter how well you prepare, you’re going to encounter new problems you weren’t expecting, and you need to have the flexibility to solve them without jeopardizing the project.

From there, calculate a deadline for your learning to end and your development work to begin. Having a clear boundary of when your learning must end provides finality to the process.

It’ll motivate you to keep pushing through even when you’re confused or stuck.

As you work through the material you’ve saved, take time each week to revise your timeline. Ensure you’re meeting your goals, and correct course if need be.

Don’t push the deadline back, but consider focusing on fewer tasks and skills if you don’t have the time to commit to everything you had planned.

But what if you don’t have the time investment to make in learning code? Well, there are a few shortcuts you can take to get your app to market faster.

Shortcuts to building the app you’ve always wanted

There are a few ways to increase the speed of development.

If you don’t have the months it will take to design the app on top of the 30 days you’ll need for learning the basics of coding, these are options you need to consider.

The first is to use a library or template for your app. This is a body of work that you can use to speed up the process.

If you’re making a strategy game, for example, you can start with code someone else has already written for a similar strategy game. If it’s available to use, you can start with their code.

This strategy won’t let you learn as much about how the code works, but you can cut learning and development time by as much as half.

The second method is simply to hire someone else to design the app for you. This is probably the easiest strategy, but it’s certainly not the cheapest.

Hiring a developing team can be very expensive, with costs as high as $170,000. For a lot of would-be app developers, this is too prohibitive.

How Much Does it Cost to Build an App Infographic

Another alternative is using a builder that takes care of the basic framework for you, while allowing you to learn basic coding for your advanced features.

This means you won’t have to deal with the basics that are difficult to learn, but won’t make much of a difference for your users.

Tasks like creating users, building in security, and formatting basic layout elements will suck away precious hours without much return.

A builder like BuildFire can handle these pieces for you so you can focus on the important code you’ll need to learn for the best user experience possible.

Can you really learn to code a mobile app in under 30 days?

If you’re committed to developing your app into a reality, you know that it will take work.

If you’re new to coding, it can be  a tremendous challenge to learn everything there is to know about speaking and writing in a new language. Even if you’re building a beginner friendly app.

Like a new language, there is different grammar and vocabulary associated with programming language, and if you get things wrong you won’t be understood.

But like learning a language, learning how to code is a huge skill you’ll use for the rest of your life.

Even more importantly, you can put it into use immediately turning your napkin sketches of an app into reality, and maybe even making a little side money while you have fun.

Building an app takes time and practice. To get your app built quickly, focus on just one thing first. Some of you guys might decide to prioritize iOS development before moving on to Android development.

Figure out exactly what skills you need to learn to develop your app. The more focused you are, the faster you’ll learn how to code, and the faster you can develop your app.

Be strategic about what you learn when, and create a careful order for each skill. Learn the basics first, even if they don’t sound fun.

Build pieces on top of a solid foundation, and whatever you do, don’t start building your app immediately.

Wait until you have the skills to do it right, or you’ll be erasing all your old code anyways.

Put in consistent effort, and use speed learning strategies to hack your way to fast learning. Strict deadlines can help give you the push you need to keep going.

Finally, you might consider a few shortcuts. Use a library or template to get started with the app, or hire someone else to do it for you.

You can also feel free to use a platform like BuildFire to give you a headstart without learning how to code from scratch. Then you want have to worry about the minor details of coding for different screen sizes.

Whichever way you choose, learn as fast as humanly possible by studying in a smart way that saves you time and pushes you closer to your dream than you ever thought possible.

How to Become a Mobile App Developer (Beginner’s Guide to App Development)

Everyone wants to make the next great mobile application.

It can be an extremely profitable way to make some money if you know what you’re doing.

If you’ve got a great mobile app idea and decided to consult with a developer or an app development company, you may have been surprised to hear how costly it is to outsource development.

So that’s when the thought hit you, “I can just do learn to do this myself.”

I can relate.

It’s the reason why I studied code and started building mobile apps.

But where do you start?

Depending on your current situation and intentions, there are a few different routes you can go.

I’ll make sure to cover all of these scenarios throughout this complete beginner guide to mobile app development.

We’ll even cover topics like how to estimate the cost of building mobile apps.

While the development process for building mobile and web apps may sound intimidating, it’s really just like anything else. If you practice and put the time in, it will get much easier.

Plus, it helps to have some guidance from an expert in the field (that’s where I come in).

Here’s everything you need to know.

So…why do you want to become a mobile app developer?

OK. So you’re probably aware of how popular mobile apps are.

But just how many apps are there?

Let’s take a look at some information from Statista.

Apps numbers

Don’t be intimidated by the number of apps available across different mobile platforms.

Sure, you’ll have some competition, but the majority of these likely won’t be in your industry.

Plus, lots of apps out there are complete duds.

You won’t have to worry about competing against those either.

With that said, it’s important that you have a clear goal before you become a developer.

Here are a few common scenarios:

  • You want to build your own startup company
  • You’re trying to be a freelancer or run a mobile app development shop (mobile development services are in high demand)
  • You are a business owner that doesn’t have the funds to outsource app development

Chances are, you fall somewhere within these three examples. Regardless of your scenario, it’s worth noting that mobile app developers come in all different shapes and sizes. Throughout the app development world, there is a need for Android development, iOS app development, and development needs for multiple platforms, including hybrid mobile apps. There are Android developers who double as web developers. If you follow this path, you can learn to build a web app and Android apps simultaneously.

Let’s say you have the next big idea.

You want to take that concept and build an app to become the next Snapchat or Instagram.

If you fall into this category, I sincerely admire your ambition.

This won’t be an easy route, but if you’re successful, it could potentially be the most profitable.

In this case, you’ll need to learn how to do everything from scratch.

You’ll also want to consider how you plan to make money from your app.

Relying on paid downloads might not be your best option.

In fact, the majority of mobile applications are available for free.

free vs paid apps

So before you dive in head first, make sure you think about your strategy for generating a profit.

For those of you that want to be a freelance app builder or start your own app store, this isn’t something you need to worry about.

You’ll make money by charging clients to build apps for them.

If you’ve got the marketing skills as well, you can double as a consultant and charge more for your services.

In this case, it’s probably not the worst idea for you to know some different strategies to make money.

Or you can just stick to familiarizing yourself with the best tools for mobile app designers.

Let’s talk about the business owners who want to build an app as an extension of their current brand, business, or website.

What’s your budget?

The majority businesses plan to budget between $250,000 and $500,000 over the next 12 to 18 months.

app budget allocation

Does this sound too high to you?

It’s not.

Your location is relevant to how much it’s going to cost to develop your app.

If you’re located in North America, expect to pay roughly $150 per hour if you’re planning to hire someone to build your iOS mobile app.

median cost of iOS apps

So unless you’re planning to take a trip to Indonesia, it won’t be inexpensive.

On average, an app will take about 7-9 months to build and cost you about $270,000.

That’s an unrealistic number for some businesses.

Your company may not even be able to secure a $200,000 line of credit, never mind pay over $250,000 for an app.

So what’s the solution?

Follow my guide, and I’ll show you the most cost effective ways to develop your own app if you don’t have the funds to pay someone else to do it.

Option #1: Just learn how to code everything

If you want to become a mobile app developer, learning to code is your first option.

It’s not required for everyone, but for some of you, this will be the best route.

I’m speaking to those of you who want to build the next Instagram or Snapchat.

Here’s the good news, you don’t need to go back to school to learn code.

There are some great resources online that teach you how to code for free.

I’ll show you my favorite ones.

Team Treehouse offers a free trial for a week to new users.

So you can learn to code from your own computer, anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection.

Here’s how their system works.

They have thousands of videos to teach users the basics of coding.

After you watch the videos, you’ll take quizzes to test your knowledge.

Then, Team Treehouse gives you the tools needed to practice coding with interactive challenges.

The platform is super clean and really easy to use, especially for beginners.

Code Academy is another one of my favorites.

code academy

Their platform also has interactive tools that will teach you the coding basics for your mobile application.

Let’s take a step back for a minute.

Before you commit the time and teach yourself how to code, you should learn the basics of developing a minimum viable product (MVP).

Are you familiar with the lean startup methodology?

It’s a solution for shortening the cycles of product development.

Why should you consider this?

In short, it can save you money in the big picture.

Here’s a scenario.

A company has a great idea for a product, or in your case, a mobile application.

You could spend months or potentially years perfecting the app and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop it.

Then your big moment comes – it’s finally launch day.

All your hard work is about to pay off, right?

Not necessarily.

The consumer market could reject the idea, and your startup fails.

So, rather than asking yourself, “Can I build this app?” ask, “Should I build this app?”

Here’s a visual representation of this cycle.

app building cycle

You’ll constantly conduct research and get customer feedback throughout the process.

That way you can make the necessary changes along the way to minimize any inefficiency before a large-scale release.

Using the learn startup methodology will also let you know early on if you should continue developing your app or just cut your losses and avoid major failure.

  1. Build
  2. Measure
  3. Learn

If you can do these three things continuously, it’s worth it to learn how to code for your startup company.

Option #2: Use app builders

App builders are perfect for existing business owners who want to use a mobile application to enhance their company.

You may not have the budget to pay over $200,000 for someone else to build it for you.

Learning how to code probably isn’t an option either due to the time constraints of running a company.

App builders are also ideal for entrepreneurs and freelancers who want to make some money building apps for other businesses.

Both of these scenarios require zero coding skills if you find the right app builder.

So where do you start?

Look for existing templates and examples of generic applications.

I know I’m biased (obviously) but BuildFire has tons of great templates to fit your business.

buildfire

Regardless of your business type or industry, you’ll be able to find a template to get you started.

You could always design a template from scratch, but personally, I think it’s much easier to work off of an existing design.

So what space is your company in?

  • Ecommerce
  • Restaurant
  • Entertainment
  • Real Estate
  • Small Business
  • Non profit

The options go on and on.

For those of you who want to build apps for other businesses, app building tools like this give you the option to work with multiple templates all on the same platform.

It’s easy.

So you won’t need to learn how to code, you’ll just have to get good at navigating through the website and figure out what works best for your clients.

Then you can just white label the app to make money by selling it to the businesses you’re working with.

Let’s take this one step further.

What if your clients want customized features that aren’t in the generic templates?

Not a problem.

Take advantage of BuildFire’s pro services team.

buildfire pro service

Reach out directly to our experts.

We’ll spend one on one time with you to figure out exactly what you’re looking for.

Once everything is decided on, we build the app for you.

Then you can just resell it to your clients make a profit without having to do the bulk of the work.

This is ideal for people who have a large list of clients.

If you have to do all of the work yourself, it’s nearly impossible to scale.

So here’s your solution.

Use the BuildFire white labeling service.

Buildfire white label service

We build the apps, and you can sell it branded as your own.

That way you can spend the majority of your time and effort to get new customers.

You might make fewer margins, but this system is much more scalable.

Over time, this model is sustainable and will generate long-term profitability.

Option #3: Use app builders and some coding (using BF SDK)

The third choice for becoming a mobile app developer involves a combination of our last two options.

You can use an app building service and use some coding.

I’m referring to the BuildFire software development kit.

Instead of having our team build the app for you, this kit can teach you how to build it yourself.

Once you learn how to add custom features for your clients, you’ll be able to generate more profit.

Now, this will take more time and effort compared to our last option, but it all depends on your personal preference.

You may not be able to work with as many clients, but you’ll have higher margins on each project.

Using app builders and coding like the BuildFire SDK will also give you the opportunity to build plugins.

What’s a plugin?

It’s an added extension to an existing application.

They add more functionality to the user experience and can help generate more profits.

Here’s an example.

Let’s say you have an ecommerce business and want to develop a mobile app for your company.

You can use the Shopify plugin to add features to your store.

shopify integration

You’ll have different options while navigating the SDK.

You can add:

  • 3rd party developer plugins
  • Plugins created by BuildFire
  • Customized plugins built on your own

If you’re going to take the time to learn some code through an app builder, you should consider including a plugin with your designs.

Conclusion

Becoming a mobile app developer is much easier than it sounds.

Depending on your situation, you’ve got lots of options to choose from.

Learning how to build mobile apps are ideal for people who:

  • Want to build their own startup company
  • Are trying to create apps for other businesses
  • Own a business and can’t afford to outsource development

Virtually everyone today has their mobile devices within an arm’s reach. Most of us sleep with a mobile device next to our head every night.

How do people spend time on their phone?

time spent on apps

They’re using mobile apps. This graphic reinforces how important it is for you to get involved in this space.

There’s a tremendous opportunity for profit in the mobile app development field.

If you’re trying to launch a startup company, it’s in your best interest to learn how to code everything from scratch.

That’s not necessarily the easiest route, but it’s the most realistic.

Fortunately, you won’t have to go back to school to do this.

There are plenty of online tools like the options that we discussed earlier that can teach you how to code from your own computer.

App builders are perfect for business owners who don’t have the funds to pay a developer.

Just look for a generic template based on your industry and add the features you need.

For a more customized experience, you can work with the BuildFire pro services team directly.

If you’re an entrepreneur who wants to make money by selling apps to other businesses, take advantage of the white labeling services.

We’ll build your app.

All you have to do is brand it yourself and sell it to your clients.

This will give you a chance to grow your client list and scale your revenue stream.

But, if you want to learn the app development process from an app builder, just download the software development kit.

You can also learn how to add plugins to generate more profits.

Which option will you choose on your path to becoming a mobile app developer?