You do not have to be a hard-core tech enthusiast or know-it-all to want to make an app. What is more important is probably to understand first, why is it that you want to build an app? Is it because there is this huge mobile app movement taking us all in and you want to ride the wave, or have you really put in some thought and believe that you have a solution for a genuine problem? How do you answer this question is going to decide whether your app is going to be successful or not?
If this is the first time you are going to build your app. You are probably already losing a good amount of sleep over it. At Penguin Apps Builder we have had the experience and opportunity to work with numerous budding entrepreneurs and help them build and market their mobile apps. Hence, we are sharing our experience in the form of a beginner’s guide to building your first mobile app.
Take this guide as just that, a guide and pick what suits your strategy the best or take it all and follow it to the tee. The main idea behind it all is to at least get started.
1) Identify an Idea or A Problem
It’s great imagination that is at the core of every great app. The first step to take towards creating a mobile app that is successful is to come up with an idea or identify a problem that can be resolved by your app and decide what features that you want to include in this app. If you do not have a great app idea, then you need to get one! It might sound like it is easier said than done, but it is easy to begin. All you need to do is look around and find a problem, isn’t that easy? There are problems everywhere, all around us, all you must do is pick one!
A successful entrepreneur has the ability to solve commonplace or complicated issues in unimaginable ways. Just take a breath and look around you, all the products and services that surround you were designed at one point of time to solve a problem. You wanted to talk to loved ones who were far away, telephones happened. You wanted to stay in touch even on the fly and mobile phones came up. What’s next?
Look for problems in your everyday life and list them out in no particular order and do not leave anything out, no matter how silly they might seem at the time. Now go through the list and start coming up with solutions for each one of them. Now you may begin shortlisting the ones that make the most sense.
2) Set Out with a Clear Goal
Once you have zeroed in on a problem that you plan to solve in a sensible manner. A great idea is at the core of every new project that turns into a profitable business. However, at this stage, it’s not really a great idea to plunge into the details. The first thing would be to set some clear goals by defining the purpose and mission of your app.
- What would your app be able to do?
- What is the core appeal of the app?
- What is this problem that your app is going to solve?
- What part of someone’s life is it going to improve?
- What are you going to do to market your app?
No matter what your business, if you fail to develop any kind of clarity in goals, the business would not survive. If you do not have a clear vision, not only would you be frustrated, but even the employees would feel disoriented, hence inclined to leave. Hence before doing anything else, it is important that you sit down and build a clear picture of what is it that you want to achieve with your app.
3) Observe the Need
You must validate the idea or the solution that you are providing through your app, because if there is no need for the product you are developing, then nobody is probably going to buy it! Validation of your app idea goes on to prove that there, indeed is a demand for the product that you are designing. There are a number of tools available in the market that you can use, in order to validate your idea. Google Keyword Planner is one of the most efficient tools to find out how many people are actually interested in what you are building. Another great way to do this is by creating a stellar, professional landing page for your app idea that helps the visitors understand what is the idea that you are working on and then seek user interest by letting users signup through email.
4) Lay Out the Flow & Features
Once you have completed Step 3, and have managed to validate your app idea, you have some clarity about the viability of the idea. This is when you begin detailing out your app on a tangible medium, create sketches and even get into wireframing if you like. Begin by sketching your ideas out with pen and paper, the most primitive yet the most effective way to do this. Take a step to transform your wordy idea into a more visual medium. When you sketch out your ideas you are laying down the foundation for your future interface. This is where you would be conceptualizing the core features and a rough layout and structure of your application. These sketches would also help the entire team understand the project and can actually become your reference for subsequent phases of the project.
When you are making these sketches, make sure that they are as detailed as possible. Among these details, it is imperative that you also include the flow of movement within the app that the users are going to follow. This step is crucial when you want to explain to the developer how you want your app to function.
5) Weed Out the Non-Core Features
Now that you have the preliminary sketches and a clear flow with all the features visually in front of you, you must begin looking closely and evaluating all the features that you listed earlier and determine which are the ones that you can do without. As this is going to be your first time building an app, it is a good idea to offer only the core value of your app idea first. Make it a thumb rule to do away with the features which are merely “nice to have” and do not do much to add to the core value of the app. These features can always be added as a part of later updates. Not only will this cut the initial app development costs down but will also help you get to the market quickly without losing out on time.
6) Conduct A Thorough Research
At this stage research includes:
- Explore whether there is an app already doing what you intend to do.
- Seeking inspirations for your app design
- Looking for information on the technical requirements for building the app as you want it to be
- Figuring out how you will be marketing your app
- Finding ways to earn money from your app or monetize it.
While conducting this research, your hopes of revolutionizing the world with your app might get a little dented. With millions of apps already published on all the popular app stores coming up with something that has never been done before might be really tough, if not impossible. However, that is no reason to get discouraged and demotivated. Keep yourself focused on your own project and work out ways that you would be applying to acquire more and more users. Study your competitors and understand what their key features are, and what were the critical mistakes they made. Learning from your competitors’ mistakes is one of the cheapest ways to learn!
Look into the technical aspects of your app and try to figure out what your particular requirements are. This step would offer clarity about the feasibility of the app idea from a technical standpoint. Marketing your app is going to be quite a real conundrum for you and you better conduct enough research so that you know which marketing method suits you and your app the best. Finally, when it comes to making money from your app, it would do you well to have a solid plan. The objective behind building an app is making money with it, if you do not want to start doing it right now, you must at least have a plan for it.
7) Design is Supreme
There are quite a few developers who began developing their apps with a basic design and focused just on the development of the app. This can prove to be quite a fatal mistake. The design is more than the mere looks of your app, it is about how a user would interact with your app and experience it. A good design is what would make the technology of your app actually useful. Hence when you are looking for a professional for the development of your mobile app, find one that lays a fair emphasis on the user experience and design of the app.
8) Find A Designer/Developer
Most of the people who have great app ideas are non-technical people who need the right kind of developers helping them realize their ideas. While looking for an agency to help you do that, find someone who has great design talent and a strong development team. Before finalizing a partnering agency make sure that you thoroughly research them for their credibility and go through the apps that they created. Once you go through their portfolio and like what they have created, the chances of you working well with them are high.
9) Create Your Own Developer Account
If you want to build an app and publish it, then you would have to register for a developer account with the app store that you intend to launch your app on. Google Play Store charges the developers a one-time fee of $25 and Apple App Store charges an annual fee of $99. If you already own a company or a brand, you can even register as a company, else you can register as an individual.
10) Employ Analytics
If you build an app but have no idea how to measure any relevant metrics including the number of downloads, engagement & retention of the users, and other such factors, there is no way to know what is helping the app and what’s hampering it. There are a number of app analytics tools available for free or in various paid versions and can help you in a great way. It is therefore advisable to look for an app analytics tool that can help you understand where your app needs help, and where it is doing well. This can further help you introduce relevant tweaks & updates that are sure to improve the app experience.
11) Ask for Feedback & Apply Wisely
After launching or publishing your app on the app stores, you are bound to get some feedback from your initial app users as they begin using your app. Not all of them are going to be 5-star reviews, in fact initially you are only going to receive quite a few negative reviews. These reviews, feedbacks, initial customer usage and behavior are great for getting an insight into where your app could do better. Making improvements and changes to the app through updates is going to be a continuous process, and for that, it is important that you keep an eye on the feedback you receive from your users. However, be careful that you do not end up taking each and every suggestion and apply them on your app, without considering whether it makes sense for most of your users or not.
12) Build on The Product
Remember when we told you to weed out all the non-core features? Now is the time to get your sketches out and build on your app by introducing some additional features. The analytics that you integrated into your app and the feedback you have been receiving so far would help you pick which features are relevant enough for you to consider including in your app’s new version.
13) Market It Well
Building a near perfect app is not going to be enough unless your targeted users can actually see your app. Make sure that you have a certain budget allocated to marketing and promotion of your app. The strategies can be based on the strategies of your customers, but make sure that you take into account the analytics you gather, and the feedback you have received from your app users.
Now you have gone thru all the tips, do you think it’s time to take the first step?