What do I need to know to make an app?

You have an idea and been wanting to create an app but not sure of where to start.  How much does an app cost? How do I build an app team? How do I know if I have a good app idea? For starters, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve helped a ton of clients through this process (app idea, branding, beta and user acquisition) and we can help you answer these questions.

Even if you have found some app developers and designers who might be able to build it for you, there are key things you should consider in order to get it out and have people understand it.

Get feedback on your app idea

You’ve probably heard the term that ideas are a “dime a dozen” which is somewhat accurate. However, the one to successfully drive it over the finish line is the victor.

“Vision Without Execution Is Just Hallucination” – Thomas Edison

Talking about your idea gives you the opportunity to get feedback and experiment with different ways of explaining it that might appeal to different people. How many times have you been to a networking event where someone says they can’t talk about what they’re working on? It definitely makes you sound very mysterious working on a secret project but it doesn’t give you feedback on your idea. We’re not afraid to save prospect clients from bad app ideas while encouraging others to proceed – let’s talk.

Think through your business plan

This doesn’t have to be scary. You don’t have to spend weeks writing a business plan at this point. There are great tools like the lean canvas and business model canvas that will let you run through a version of your business plan in 30 minutes or less and force you to think about the problem, potential solution(s), value proposition, customer segments, costs, and how you might generate revenue. 

Check out your potential competition. There will always be competitors and you can choose to let it discourage you or learn from what they are (and are not) doing.

What is your budget?

This is an important one; your budget will dictate many of the choices below. An agency or trusted partner can walk you through the specific costs associated with each decision and help guide you to an optimal solution based on your end goal. You may start out wanting all the bells and whistles (features), only to find out that your budget won’t allow for all of them at once. You’ll work together to figure out the scope of work to fit your budget. You can add or remove phases in all sorts of ways while keeping your original goal in mind. If you are just looking for a rough idea of what an app will cost to build, there are some great calculators out there. Note: most apps will cost a minimum of $10,000.

Building your app development team

Your team is critical to the success of your app. The right mix of specialists will be able to help vet the initial idea, conduct user research, create a brand and messaging, structure a prototype, help distribute a beta, build the app(s), and help launch your app to the world. Some of the options for assembling a team:

1. Do it yourself. Assuming you know how to code.

2. Find a technical co-founder.

3. Hire a digital agency.

  • Mobile Software Developer
  • User Experience (UX) Designer
  • Quality Assurance (QA) Tester
  • Project Manager
  • Digital Marketer (pre/post launch)

You can outsource to an agency who has all theses expertise in-house. This saves you recruiting headaches and gives some peace of mind knowing you are working alongside specialists who have worked on similar projects.

4. Hire a developer (local/nearshore/offshore)

Just know that this is one piece of the puzzle and in a lot of cases, they won’t have the design (UI and UX) chops to make a sticky app that users won’t be able to put down. A solo developer may not have the quality assurance (QA) skills to run automation tests to assure your app is confidently bug-free. You’ll probably have to wear a project manager hat and knowing the ins-and-outs of various mobile/web development stages will be crucial. Finally, when you create your app store description, messaging, website and initiate the beta and official launch you will need marketing assistance. Thinking through app store optimization (APO) and search engine optimization (SEO) will be integral to the success of your app. So why not have a trusted partner along that journey?

You may want to ask your potential business partners, advisors, investors to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). Make sure it isn’t too restrictive though since contractors or agencies you hire need to be free to do work for other clients. If you aren’t willing to talk in detail about your idea, then it’s very difficult to expect an accurate estimate and feedback.

Build the first version 

If you are building something brand new – you need a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). The MVP is the smallest thing you can build that delivers customer value. There are many ways to do this and it doesn’t have to involve writing code. If you are building a new product, consider starting small and make sure people want and will pay for what you’re offering. When they do, keep building based on user feedback!

App user experience and design

“You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.” – Lee Iacocca

Use wireframes to help define your user experience and map out the layout of screens and workflow (this will act as your team’s blueprint). Your designer can help with branding and visual presentation (logo, colours, fonts, visual feel, imagery) of the app. Creative decisions need to tie back to solving the problem for your users. There is a lot of subtle psychology that explains what makes it popular, appealing, and easy to use.  

If you want to stay lean and build a basic prototype (which can be refined down the road), you can use static designs to help gauge interest from potential business partners and investors. 

Is it iOS, Android, or a web application?

Are you looking to start off lean and build one platform to test the market or do you have the budget to go full force with all platforms?  Understand platform usage in your target market is crucial to making your dollars stretch.

If you choose mobile, what type of app?

1. Native App – is an application program that has been developed for use on a particular platform or device. It’s coded with the native language of the platform, Objective-C or Swift on iOS, and Java on Android. Read More

2. Hybrid App – combines elements of both native and web applications. It can function whether or not the device is connected and integrates with web-based services and the device file system.  Read More

3. DIY App Builders – if you are building a common type of app for an event, small business, or a loyalty program there are services that let you use a drag and drop interface to build an app and handle the submission to the App Store or Google Play store. These are a great low-cost option if your app idea fits into the templates these services provide. Read More

Do you have required integrations?

Are there existing systems or data you need to integrate with to make this work? CRM, ERP, SaaS services, marketing automation tools, analytics, etc. These can affect the estimate a great deal. Do you have existing code that we will start with? If you have legacy systems that your app needs to communicate with, you’ll need to think through those and have a list ready. You don’t need all the details – just knowing there are one or more systems that may need more investigation will help.

When picking a solution you have to consider functionality costs, maintenance costs, and updates based on user feedback and regular operating system and devices updates. 

Getting down to business, now it’s time to build your app

Be sure to think through the above areas before you speak to a digital agency, web development company or mobile app development team. It’s important to come prepared to assure you get an accurate quote and your team is aligned on the project vision and roadmap.

Be sure to map out milestones and responsibilities with your team to ensure project success. Don’t forget to set up analytics to track how people are using your app, how much time they are spending in the app, how often they return and which features they use most. Also, make sure you implement an open feedback loop so you can continue to evolve the app to assure it is in line with your customer’s needs. Remember to put the customer at the center of every decision you make.

The customer experience is the next competitive battleground”  Jerry Gregoire, CIO at Dell.

We’ve got ample experience in web, iOS, and Android app development. If you need help architecting the app user experience, development, design or just need a sounding board, check out our mobile apps portfolio or shoot us a line to book a meeting.