We’ve all been there. In the midst of a regular day’s activities, an idea hits and we think, “That would make a great app!” And then, for most of us without the technical ability to create an app, we continue on through life and the idea remains just that.
Perhaps even worse is when, months later, we see a similar app with the same idea being sold at breakneck speed for $1.99. And we think “Why didn\’t I actually try to develop that app?”
From Idea to App
The thought of producing a brand new app can be daunting, especially if you’re the one with the great idea and not much else. Tech savvy developers can produce as many apps as they choose, but that doesn\’t necessarily mean that all the great ideas have to come from them.
App developers can help turn an idea into a working and marketable app. They can provide all of the expertise anyone would need in order to have a product that is ready for download. But the technical side is only part of what makes a successful app. Marketing, persistence, and patience are the other ingredients.
The first step after coming up with an idea is to create mock ups of what the app should look like in different stages of use. This can be done using Microsoft Office PowerPoint or any similar program. Verbally explaining an idea to a developer can only go so far—aspiring app creators need to provide visuals of what they want to create. The more detailed the mock up, the better first round development will be.
“It’s not a linear process,” says Bobby Gill, co-founder of Blue Label Labs, a start up app development consultancy, and the brain child of Gill and Jordan Gurrieri, both former software engineers at Microsoft.
“It’s more of a loop. The first version is really only to test the idea.”
Initially developers will only need to see what Gill calls the ‘minimal viable product’. Apps will go through several phases of development before it starts to resemble the original idea, and each phase can take up to three months.
“Whatever you think is going to happen, isn’t,” says Gill, adding that clients should temper their ambitions. “Your perspective rarely translates [in the first version].” The more patience one has, and the more developmental phases an app goes through, the better the end result.
The goal is to get an app through two to four stages of development, where it will be impressive enough to interest real investors. Once an app has investors, it can be put in front of higher level developers that will help produce a final product good enough for wide spread marketing—and selling.
Beta Test with Friends and Family
Consultancies like Blue Label take apps through the initial stages of development, getting it to the point where creators can confidently approach investors. But to get the proper feedback, its important to get the first version of the app into the app market from the get go. The trick, however, is to not market it, and instead, to simply have friends and family use it. As improvements are made, the app can be updated.
It can be extremely detrimental to market an app when it’s a beta version. A one or two star rating can kill an app. “Reviews are big, and people are vindictive online,” says Gill.
While getting an app on the Android market is much easier, the pinnacle of app success is getting it on the Apple market. Apple has much higher standards for its app store, and is able to charge for most apps, whereas the majority of Android apps are free.
You might think this means people are more likely to use the Android market, but with an Apple store app, even if it costs $1.99, the consumer knows they are getting a solid, fully developed product.
There is also an “app culture” with iPhone users. Gill advises all of Blue Label’s clients to aim for the iPhone app store. “People on iPhones are more willing to try a new app,” he says, adding that apps for social networking or other, progressive products are also a better fit for iPhone users.
Building an app for Apple can be easier because it means one phone and one system, whereas the Android market requires an app to be compatible with multiple types of phones and systems, including high-end smartphones like the HTC One, large-screen phablets like the Galaxy Note 2, and older devices like the Droid Razr.
In the very beginning stages of becoming an app creator, its best to start with the Android market until you’ve mastered the art of investor relations.
With Android you should consider making the app free, since most Android apps are. You can then incorporate advertising and generate revenue without charging the users. You can also try creating a “freemium” app, which means offering a limited version for free, and then charging for updates. Once you’ve enticed a customer with a bit of the product its much easier to convince them to spend money on the rest of it.