If it ever seems like everyone has an app and anyone could build one, that’s because it’s true. Building an app is a bit like building a house. You have access to all of the tools and information that you need, you just need to put in the time, energy, and money.
This article won’t give you all of the information that you’ll need to build your app. What it will do is give you a view from above on everything that you need to take into account when you get started.
The first thing that you need to consider when thinking about building an app is demand. When you make your app, will people want it?
If you already have a business that the app will be a part of, you already have your answer. The demand for your app will have roughly the same demand as your current goods and services. That’s because some people that already use your business may not care about the app but sometimes a good app can attract people who didn’t previously engage with your business.
If you don’t already have a business, you need to ask some more questions about the problem that your idea for an app will solve. A “problem” in marketing terms isn’t the same as a problem in other contexts. In marketing, your “problem” is your “why.”
Problems can be anything from “people want to learn new languages” to “people need to measure things” to “people like to have things to do when they’re bored.” Of course, all of those problems already have apps that solve them. That brings us to supply.
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In marketing – and economics in general – the other side of demand is supplied. In the case of apps, that means your competition.
When you identify a problem that your app idea would potentially solve, look into your favorite app stores for other apps that solve that problem.
You may be discouraged by how many you find but don’t give up yet. Your app idea doesn’t have to do anything that no app has ever done before, it just has to do that thing in a new way. If there are a million apps out there that already do what your idea is, you can still be the million-and-first and still be successful. You just need to offer something in your app that the other million don’t.
Consider Your Audience
This is the earliest phase at which your market research can – and should – start. Use word of mouth, social media, or whatever methods you like to engage with the potential users of your potential app.
Think about the problem that your potential app would solve and ask users if they have that problem and if so, how they currently solve it.
This is already a huge first step. If your app idea solves a new problem, you may find that no app has previously solved that problem because no one really has that problem, or because they don’t use apps to solve it. Again, this doesn’t mean that your idea is necessarily worthless. It just means that to make your app successful you have to convince them that the problem is worth solving and that your app is the best way to solve it.
On the other hand, if you find that people already face this problem, you may find that they don’t have a good way of solving it. This means that your potential app idea may have a huge market.
Finally – and most plausibly – you may find that the problem that you have identified is common but that most people already have a solution. Once again, this doesn’t mean that it’s time to give up. It means that you can use the responses that they gave to research your potential competitors to solve second-level problems – that is, problems with their apps.
You can even have your responders identify these problems for you. Send out another questionnaire with the added questions: “What do you like about the app that you are using? What do you not like? What would you change about it if you could?”
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Start Putting Things on Paper
Now that you know exactly what problem your app idea will solve and exactly how your app idea will solve it, it’s time to get back to the drawing board. Or rather, the writing desk.
In the introduction, we said that we weren’t going to tell you everything that you needed to know to build your app. That’s largely because you don’t need to know everything. To return to the house analogy, you could build a house by yourself if you really wanted to but you probably don’t. It’s okay to ask for help.
However, if you aren’t going to do everything yourself and you want the finished product to look anything like your current vision, you’re going to need to develop enough resources to communicate exactly what you want to everyone who has a hand in building it.
The first step is a problem statement that outlines everything in the first sentence of this section. As you gain more details, you can draft what’s called a “whitepaper” that outlines everything about how and why your app does what it does. You can also start working on your “elevator pitch” – a two-minute description that you could use to explain what your app does and why it does it. You can use this on potential partners, designers, funders, and even potential customers.
If you need help with writing requirements for your mobile app, we created a useful guide and template. You can download them free of cost.
That brings us to the question of how you can recruit the people to do whatever you need done – again, assuming that you’re not doing everything on your own. At this early stage, “recruitment” should read “estimates and quotes.” Before you start looking to onboard people, you should be thinking about how much you’ll need to pay them.
How you recruit will largely depend on your geographic location. If you live in a big city, chances are you can just look up what you need in your favorite search engine and find professionals in your area who can do it for you.
If you live in a smaller area, consider looking into institutions like nearby universities. The staff may be able to help direct you to resources ore recommend experts and services. For example, many university professors have colleagues in the industry or keep in touch with former students that might be able to help you. Depending on what your app does, a university might be interested in developing it for you to give their students hands-on experience in the field.
If you live in the middle of nowhere, you may need to look for help over the internet. Job platforms like LinkedIn, Alignable, and UpWork can be good places to start.
Start User Testing
As soon as designers are working on your app, it’s time to think about user testing. User testing involves getting early versions of your app out to potential users so that you can be sure that your app is really what your audience wants to use.
You can even begin before your app is ready to use by developing paper prototypes. These images of what you want your app to look like aren’t very interactive but they can be effective for testing things like layout, color schemes, and even basic commands and page navigation.
As soon as you have any form of your app that actually works on the intended device, you have what’s called a “minimally viable product” or “MVP.” MVP can be built easily and used for more user testing, to show to potential partners and investors, or even to launch beta.
Consider a Beta
Once you have at least an MVP, you can think about a beta launch. A “beta” is a temporary launch of an early version of your product that you can use for large-scale user testing and to drum up interest in your app before the full version launches.
The two main kinds of beta are “closed beta” and “open beta.” In open beta, your app is available online or even in an app store, you just mark it so that users know that it’s not the final version. Open betas are good for high visibility of your early app but they can also provide you with too much feedback and so be difficult to process. In closed beta, the beta version of your app is only available to people that you personally select. This gives you a much more manageable pool for potential feedback.
The beta stage isn’t just for drumming up support and getting in a final round of user testing. It’s also to iron things over with whatever app marketplace you’re going to use to make sure that everything is in order for the big launch.
Plan the Launch
Finally, it’s time for the launch. Your launch should be a huge event.
If you already have a business, consider having a launch party at your physical location. Think of something like a grand opening. Consider having special extended hours that day, having refreshments, or having special sales.
If you don’t have a physical location, you can still drum up a lot of excitement with posts on social media.
However you do whatever you do, the launch should be a big event that gets the word out: your app is finally available.
After the Launch
Once your app has launched, it’s time to pat yourself on the back and then get back to work. Your app will probably need some kind of maintenance. Even if it’s a pretty low maintenance app, you might want to issue updates and patches from time to time.
Keep an eye on the comments section of whatever app marketplace or marketplaces that your app is available on. People are likely to point out issues or compare your app with other apps in the space. Keeping up on these can help to keep your app competitive.