We all either know of “Candy Crush” or have addictively played it for days. What you may not know is that this app brings in $1.54 billion per year! How did that happen?
Very smartly. And anyone interested in developing an app should understand what is really involved. Here are 11 steps that will get it built.
1. Why Do You Want to Do This?
Do you just want to “ride the wave” of such a great path to wealth? Or, do you want to solve a problem?
If you’re just looking for fame and fortune, then you don’t want to invest the time and money in what will probably not become a successful venture.
2. What Is Your Idea?
If you already have an idea, go to step three. If you don’t, then you need to find a problem to solve. This is what successful entrepreneurs do — they solve problems with a new or better product or service. Look for problems as you go through your day. Which ones might be solved by an app? The developer of “Candy Crush” thought they might be able to do this — design a game that was simple enough for children and yet addictive enough that all ages would get hooked. Their idea was not brand new; it was just designed and marketed really well.
3. Identify the Need
How big is the need? This will take some research.
Use something like Google Keyword Planner and see how many people are looking for what you are planning. What is your competition?
Look at apps in the same general category, download the free versions, and navigate around. Can you do it better? What is the market for those apps and how much of that market do you think you can steal?
You might consider also building a website that just gives a highlight of the general idea of your app and check out the level of interest through a CTA for an email sign-up. Of course, this will take several months, but better to find out now than later.
4. Start Sketching — You Have to Lay out Your Flow and Your Features
Get your idea down on paper. Describe every feature in detail. Create a storyboard for your skins — how will your screens connect, and how will the user navigate.
Consider using a wireframing tool and develop a rough prototype — this is especially important if you are going to look for angel funding or investments from business incubators. They want to see more than just an idea.
You will need all of the detail possible, so that your developer can understand exactly what you want.
5. Take out the Non-Essential Features
In your sketches or your prototype, you will have feature that are nice-to-have and features that are have-to-have. Take out the nice-to-have’s for now. These are things you can always add later. Right now it will be cheaper to develop a more basic one, and you can get it to market much faster.
6. Your First Commandment — Design Is More Important Than Development
Design is all about how it looks and how the user will experience it. So great UX and graphics must come first, development second. If you have the right design, your developer will do the rest.
7. Hire a Designer/Developer
You will find no lack of these folks around, all vying for your business. Be careful. First, check their references. Second, download the apps they have designed and developed and evaluate them yourself. Have they developed apps with features and flow that are similar to yours? And do they meet your expectations for looks and user experience? Take a look at the past reports they keep on the success rates of the apps they have designed and developed. A reputable firm will be happy to show you those.
8. Create Your Developer Accounts
You have to register for a developer account in all app stores. Google’s Android is $25 a year; Apple’s is $99 a year. You can register either as an individual or a company.
9. Do Not Skip the Analytics
You must integrate analytics to track downloads. And you will want to get a feel for user enjoyment and retention, especially for your mobile users. Flurry and Localytics have both free and paid versions. This cannot be over-emphasized, because you will need to know what is and isn’t “working.” Think about how many times apps change — all the time.
10. Get Feedback Quickly
There are people who do this; there are companies that hire people to do this. User testing is just smart. Develop a list of everything you want the users to do, have them complete all of the tasks, and if you use some of the newest tools, you will be able to see, in real time, how they are navigating and any bumps in the road they encounter. And the testing should occur on all platforms. Nothing is a worse PR nightmare than to have people angry because a downloaded app will not work on their devices.
11. Begin to Introduce Additional Features
Remember those nice-to-have features that you eliminated from the initial design? Well, now you can start adding them back in. Be certain to user test every new feature, however, on all platforms.
Building what you believe to be a great app is one thing — getting people to buy it and investors to take you to the next level, however, is quite something else. This post is really about building that app, but here are a few additional bonus nuggets for finding investors and marketing.
Where Is the Money?
First of all, you will be far better off if you have a minimum of a prototype when you seek investors. Most of them do not want to invest in just an idea. They want to see a design, so give them one. Here is where you can go for initial funding when you need it:
- Bootstrap. Start six to eight months ahead of actual development and begin to save for the money you will need for development. Do some additional freelance or other part-time work and start stashing cash away. If you are outsourcing the design/development, then see if you can set up progressive payments over time as it moves along.
- Look for app contests. Good ideas and prototypes can win money for development. Plus, many of these are run by business incubators and angel investors — a huge plus for you.
- Consider bank loans as almost a last resort. Unless you have a history of borrowing for this same type of thing and a good re-payment history, banks who do decide to take the risk will have high interest rates as a rule.
- Friends/Relatives. This is a hard one — but if necessary, and the funds are there, go for it.
- Angel or Seed Funding. this is highly competitive and you had better have a great prototype if you intend to really be in the competition.
Where Are the Customers?
Companies that build apps already have a strong Web presence and an audience, and marketing a new app is pretty easy. You, however, don’t have such an infrastructure. Here are just a few tips.
The app stores are the primary method of marketing new apps by individuals and startups. There are a couple of things you can do, beyond just putting it in the store:
- Get satisfied customers to leave positive reviews, and give them something for doing so — perhaps an additional feature for free.
- Optimize so people can find you their app store. There are great tools for app store optimization — don’t neglect them!
- Keep adding new things. Maintain your customer base (90 percent of app customers leave within six months) by generating announcements of updates or offering something for free.
- Build-in customer feedback protocols: You have to listen to your customers and consider their feedback and suggestions and improvement. When you do, they are happy and are far more prone to recommend your app
- Don’t forget social media. Using all of social media to promote your app goes without saying, as well as your website, if you have one.
Very few apps “take off” instantly. Have patience and keep a steady marketing plan and a scheduled addition of new features — slow and steady does often win the race!