You Have an App Idea,
But What Do You Do Next?

July 9, 2015

Software developers have the luxury of "playing" with ideas. They come up with a new app idea and code it. It could be a success, or it could fail.

The investment is just their time and coding effort. For the rest of us, it's not so easy. Most people with app ideas have no idea what to do after they've mulled over the idea for a few weeks. If you think you've got a killer app idea, here's what to do next.

What Kind of App Do You Want?

There are two basic types of apps: native mobile and web apps. Responsive web apps can still run on mobile devices, but there are some pros and cons with going the web app route. You should know the difference between the two before you find your developer.

Native mobile apps are the apps you find at Google Play or the Apple Store. As a matter of fact, if your app is purely an HTML5 web app, you won't be able to upload it to these app stores. This means you lose out on potential visibility.

Visibility is difficult when you first start your app development journey, so you might want to create a native app that's visible on both the web and the app stores.

Google announced that it recently started crawling Play Store apps and displays related results in its search engine for mobile queries.

Native mobile apps have their advantages, but you'll also find some disadvantages.

First, native apps are more expensive to build. You must create an app for each operating system including Android and iOS. If you choose to migrate to Windows, you'll need a third app for Windows. Hiring developers for three separate app versions increases your startup costs. You can opt to test your app for a specific platform first, and then migrate to other platforms later.

Native apps are expensive to build, and they must be maintained by the developer. Each addition and bug fix needs a new build and upload to the app stores. Web apps are more convenient and cheaper to maintain after the initial build. Instead of fixing bugs on two or three different platforms, you only need to maintain one - the web application.

Web apps also have the ability to run on a myriad of devices. As long as your app is responsive, it will run on an Android, Windows, Blackberry, or iOS device. Size of the screen doesn't matter either. A responsive web app runs on small smartphone screens to large tablets. They even run on desktops when coded properly.

Weigh the pros and cons of each type of app and then determine your direction.

How Do You Convey Ideas to Developers?

You might have your idea laid out in your head, but you need to effectively transfer the information to a developer. The most efficient way to explain app ideas to developers is through wireframes and documentation.

Wireframes are the "stick figures" of design. Draw the layout on a piece of paper or even using a rudimentary drawing application such as MS Paint. Draw the location of navigation, buttons, input boxes and any logos. Give the developer a visual image of your app screens. Draw a wireframe for each screen in your app. Wireframes help a developer visualize your concept.

With the wireframes drawn, now explain functionality for each screen. Don't assume the developer knows specific functionality. Be specific. Explain what each button should do, input for each text box, and create a workflow from screen to screen. This will help you flesh out business requirements.  Business requirements give developers specific instructions for every functionality within your app.

Freemium, Paid, or Free

Every app creator wants some kind of result from their software. Even if it's free, there's no guarantee your app will be popular or downloaded. If you need compensation for the app, you can choose paid or freemium income strategies.

Freemium is the most successful earners on the market. Look at Clash of Clans, Angry Birds, or Candy Crush. These app creators allow users to download the app for free but charge for in-game purchases. Clash of Clans made almost a billion dollars after its 3-year anniversary in 2015. Freemium versions give users just enough to play the game but not enough to move through the game quickly. The result is that players buy in-game items to advance.

Paid apps also perform well depending on your audience. Freemium strategies are usually for game development, but apps such as productivity target business people who don't mind paying a couple dollars for a new app. Paid apps don't draw in as many downloads, especially when the app isn't well known. However, you can still perform well with a paid app as it becomes more popular.

Remember to include the app store's commission, which is 30% for both Google and Apple.

Decide what type of income strategy you want to use. If you choose a paid and free version, you'll need to create two versions of your app and let users upgrade for a fee. This is an important business requirement to pass along to your developer.

Determine Your Marketing Avenue

Even before your app launches, you should have a solid marketing plan. Who is your target audience? Where will you advertise? What is your budget? Will you offer your app for free or a paid version? What about ASO (app store optimization)? All of these questions should be considered before launch.

Some app creators make the mistake of hiring a developer and leaving the marketing strategies for later. You can be proactive with marketing and create a plan that molds to the app.

For instance, suppose you have an app that caters to healthcare individuals such as doctors. You can perform marketing research and buy leads related to your market. How many doctors are in need of better mobility? Do doctors use smartphones or tablets? How do you sell your technology to the healthcare industry? What are your advantages over competitors?

Micro-Test Your Idea

App costs can range from $500 to $50,000. That's a wide gap, and you don't know if you'll make any money in return.

Micro-testing involves using the web to test for user interest. Domain names are cheap, hosting is cheap, and buying a simple landing page is cheap. You then place some ads on various ad networks and take signups from people interested in your software. If you seem to have a good response, then not only can you validate user interest, but you also have an email list for marketing when you launch.

Another advantage of micro-testing is that you can identify your advertising costs for each download. For instance, if you spend $10 for every signup, then you can estimate that each install will cost you about $10 in advertising costs.

Finally, It's Time to Find a Developer

Now, it's time for the hard part - or easy part if you know a developer. You can find someone local, or you can use freelance sites to find a developer. Elance and Upwork are two popular freelance bidding sites, but there are numerous places to find a developer.

Remember that cheap doesn't always mean better. Ensure your developer has skills for the platform they're coding for. For instance, if you hire an Android developer, they should have samples from the Google Play Store.

You can also find a developer through search engines.  Most developers have a website for marketing. Just search "app developer" and you'll see millions of results. You can refine your search by location, so you can meet a developer face-to-face.

Be careful about developers who simply outsource development. This means you're paying for a project manager instead of a developer.

Outsourcing adds time to development deadlines, and it often increases costs. What can take a local developer 40 hours to accomplish could take several more hours in communication and missed deadlines.

Choosing a developer is probably the most difficult part of the experience, because the wrong one can waste hours of effort and drains your budget. To help avoid any issues, create clear business requirements and wireframes before you search for a developer. Interview them and review each portfolio piece. A developer can give a better estimate on deadline and costs with clear requirements.

For new app creators, the process of going from idea to tangible product is stressful. If you prepare and understand the development and marketing processes, it will help you avoid common pitfalls.

Do your research, and always be patient when it comes to development. Rush your app too quickly and it could turn into a disorganized mess.

by on July 9, 2015

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