It’s easy to come up with an idea.
But following through with that idea and building a mobile application is not the easiest process.
Fortunately for you, I’ve been through this before.
I know what it takes to validate an idea and turn your app into a reality.
It’s absolutely essential that you go through the validation process. Otherwise, you could start dumping money into an idea that won’t give you any return on your investment.
I’ve seen that happen to people as well.
If you want to develop a successful app, you’ll need to be ready to put in the time.
It’s not really something you can just do as a small side project.
Mobile applications are a business, and that’s exactly how you should treat the process.
One of the biggest problems I see from people who have failed app development projects is that they get in over their heads.
They think their idea is great, so they tell a couple of friends and they hear, “You should totally make that an app!”
So they hire a developer and start building, but they skipped the validation steps.
If you follow the procedure that I’ll show you, it will make the process much easier and minimize the chance of failure.
At worst, you’ll learn early on that your app isn’t a viable business before you pour too much money into it.
Here’s what you need to do.
Find an audience for your app
The first thing you need to do is find out who is going to be using your app.
“My app is for everyone,” isn’t a valid response here.
You need to narrow that audience and target a more specific group.
Take a look at how teenagers in the United States feel about their smartphones.
Compared to their computers and tablets, this group of people says that they can’t go more than a day without using their phones.
So you’ll want to find data like this to help you find a specific audience for your app.
You can break these segments down even further.
There are hundreds of millions of people who have smartphones.
That doesn’t mean you need to target everyone.
Instead, look for communities and subgroups who need an app to help them do something.
How can your idea make someone else’s life easier?
If you’re able to answer that question, you’re on the right track to validate your idea.
For those of you that don’t have a concrete answer to that question yet, it may be time to go back to the drawing board.
Think about the apps that you use the most on a daily basis.
Do you use mobile banking?
Smartphones are the preferred device for different banking needs because it’s easier than going into a physical branch.
Financial institutions recognize this, and that’s one of the reasons why they developed mobile apps for their customers.
Uber is another great example.
They recognized a problem with taxi cabs and other car services and developed an app that gets users connected to a driver with way less friction.
So just make sure that you clearly define which group your app is going to help.
This will make the rest of your validation process much easier.
Research the market
Once you define who the app is for, you’ve got to figure out how to appeal to them.
Don’t jump ahead and start launching a marketing campaign just yet. We’ll get to that later on.
Basically what you’re doing here is the preliminary research that will help with your eventual marketing efforts.
In our previous step, you figured out who the app was for and how it will help them with their problem or make their life easier.
Now you’ve got to see if any other companies have already solved that problem, or at least attempted to.
You’re going to have some competition.
Unless you think you’re developing a unicorn like Snapchat, then chances are that other apps perform a similar function to yours.
Plus, other people are trying to get into this space as well, just like you are.
But don’t let that scare you.
There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of competition.
How many pizza shops are located in your city?
There’s room for more than one to be successful.
Same goes for the app world.
But part of your market research efforts means that you’ll need to find a way to position yourself with an advantage of the competition.
What makes your app stand out?
How will you get your app to the user?
You’ll want to differentiate yourself from your competitors in the app store.
Understand how app store optimization works.
For example, look at the impact of having keywords in your title.
Other factors that affect your search ranking include:
- App category
- Download rates
So start planning ahead for these when you’re conducting your initial market research.
What title or keywords will speak to your target audience?
If it’s a PWA (progressive web app), you’ll need to figure out how the user will get to the site or location where you can push the app to them.
Clearly define the app
Now that you’ve picked the audience and know how to reach them, it’s time for you to clearly define your app.
This definition will give you a general direction, purpose, and goal.
Doing this will also help you brand your app, which we’ll get to shortly.
Is your app going to stand alone for your company?
Or is it going to be just one aspect of an already existing business or your startup company?
For example, let’s say you already have a business that operates on an ecommerce platform.
You could set a goal for your app to get more dollars spent per purchase from your existing customers, or it could be a way for you to lure in new customers.
Or let’s say your app is a startup company.
Your goal might be to use this app to get brand exposure and eventually partner with a major corporation.
Do you want to keep your app forever? Or is your ultimate goal to get bought out?
These are all different examples of questions you would ask yourself to determine a clear vision for the future of your company.
The functions of your app need to be clear as well.
Is it a game?
Are users going to be able to connect with one another?
Does it have educational tools?
Pick a direction and stick with it.
That way you can also determine your minimum viable product.
This prevents you from saying, “we can also add…” once development has already started.
If that happens, it’s going to tack on more time and more money.
So get everything sorted out ahead of time.
Pick a Platform
Choosing a platform isn’t as simple as flipping a coin.
You’ve got to understand the differences between the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
For starters, look at the users.
While some of your initial research may have shown that there are more Android users across the globe, people with Apple devices make more money.
It’s also easier to develop your app for the Android platform.
There are less restrictions and barriers if you choose to launch your app on the Google Play Store.
With that said, it’s less expensive and quicker if you build an app for the Apple App Store.
This is a big decision for you because there are so many factors to consider.
You’ve got to go back to the target audience that we defined earlier.
Find out what kinds of devices they are using.
For example, if your primary target market is a group of people in a country outside of the United States, building for Apple first would be a mistake.
While the distribution for users in the United States is closer to 50/50, Android dominates globally with over 80% of the market share.
Your monetization strategy can also impact which platform you decide to develop for.
If you want to charge users to download your app, it’s better to build for Apple.
The primary way to make money from Android users is through advertisements and in-app purchases.
You’ll get less money per purchase, but have access to more users.
Another option is developing for both platforms simultaneously.
This really isn’t reasonable for most companies because it’s not cheap.
You’d have to hire two separate developing teams.
An alternative option, which is more cost efficient, is building a hybrid app.
Hybrid apps work on both Apple and Android devices, and you don’t need to write code twice.
You could also build a PWA if you’re OK with temporarily reduced functionality until both platforms catch up with the current technology.
Create a brand, name, and look and feel
Branding is important.
You need to create an identity, which may be the most crucial factor to the success of your company.
The first impression that people get about your business will last for a long time, so you need to take it seriously.
You’ve got to consider your app icon, color scheme, look, feel, and tone that reflects the type of app that you want to build.
All of these should appeal to the audience you’re targeting.
For example, let’s say your target market is teenage girls.
Your app icon probably shouldn’t be a black skull and crossbones.
But a pink icon with flowers or something like that would speak more towards your audience.
You don’t need to wait until you develop your app to start doing this.
In fact, that’s a big mistake.
You should have a clear understanding of your branding before you start to develop.
That way you can begin promoting your app with that brand name and image before your app officially launches.
Now you’ll have users lined up and ready to download your app once it finally gets released.
Waiting until development is finished to do this is an inefficient use of your time.
But you’ve got to have the brand’s image squared away first.
Look at how company executives prioritize the reputation of their business.
Plan for the future of your app and company as well.
Don’t go with an image that might just be a fad or phase out in a few years.
You want to build a brand that’s sustainable and can last for a long time.
So I recommend just keeping everything professional.
That way people will look at you and see that you’re taking things seriously.
Assemble a team
App building is a full time job.
As I mentioned before, it’s not something that you can just do as a side project for a few hours each week.
You’re going to need help.
Here are some of the people that you’re going to need if you want to be successful.
- A person (or people) to build it
- Someone to help with your branding (look and feel)
- Someone to write up your business plan
- A person who can sell it
- Someone to make sure that everyone else is doing their job and keep it all together
If you’re not the person who has all of those skills, putting together the right team is essential.
Ideally, you should find a developer that wants to be part of your company.
That way they can help you manage the app, work on updates, and fix any bugs after it launches.
If marketing isn’t one of your strengths, find someone who can help you with the branding and sales components of this process.
Having a natural leader who can manage your team and stay on top of everything is important for every business as well.
So you’ll need to put someone in charge if you can’t handle that responsibility.
You can also consider working with an outside agency that already has all of these people in place.
They can help you customize your app and you’ll get all of your help in one place.
This will maximize the efficiency of your budget and save you lots of time and headaches down the road.
Estimate the costs
Building an app is expensive.
There’s no one size fits all answer for how much it will cost you to develop an app.
Usually, you can plan to spend about $250,000 and upwards of six months for the most basic apps.
Bigger apps with more complex features could cost nearly $2 million and take years to build.
So you’ve got to have a clear budget set before you get started or you’ll risk running out of money before you’re finished.
Keep in mind, everything won’t always go smoothly.
You’ve got to plan for some unexpected hiccups or speed bumps along the way.
Don’t invest every dollar into development either.
You’ll need money for marketing, testing, legal fees, and other expenses associated with operating a business.
If you don’t have the funds, you could look to get investors on board to help alleviate some of the costs.
But you need to have a clear business plan, brand image, and even a prototype ready if you want investors to take you seriously.
While this can help you with the financial burden of building an app, it comes with at a price of reduced earnings.
It’s your choice, but there’s lots of competition in this space.
Getting investors can help you accelerate development and beat other developers to the market.
So it’s definitely not the worst idea in the world to raise outside funding.
Get your app out in the world
I briefly talked about this when we discussed branding your app.
You’ve got to start the marketing process before development is finished.
If you already have an existing business, start promoting your app to your current customers.
For those of you who are creating a startup company, you need to create marketing distribution channels.
Set up social media profiles on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
Create a website.
Collect email addresses.
Set up waiting lists.
Try using platforms like Betalist to help you target early adopters.
There’s a huge network of people out there who want to be in on the ground floor when it comes to testing new technology.
Take advantage of these resources and get valuable feedback for your app by beta testing prototypes.
In-house testing is only so effective.
The people working on your app are biased, so they may not see flaws that an outside tester would catch.
Incorporate all of this feedback into a pre-release of the app.
Or you could create development milestones and add in those updates.
Nobody has a perfect app.
So don’t think this process ends after the initial development gets finished.
Once it officially launches on the Apple App Store, Google Play Store, or both, you’ll need to continue to update your app and optimize the user experience.
As you can see, this is a lot of work.
Having an idea is one thing, but validating it will take time and cost you lots of money.
Think about all the steps that we’ve outlined above.
Do you have the funds, time, and resources to do all of this?
You need help.
There are full service app building companies that can take some of the pressure off of you.
They specialize in the creation, building, and development.
This allows you to focus on securing the financing from potential investors and marketing the app.
It’s more cost efficient for you to go through a full service agency then hiring different people for each position.
Now you can put all of your energy into the aspects of your business that you’re good at instead of spending time learning how to code or develop.
What steps of the validation process have you already taken to turn your idea into a real app?