How to build an app in eight steps
Wednesday, December 10, 2014/
I wouldn’t have to work another day if I received a dollar for every time someone told me they ‘had an idea for an app’.
And I’d live like a king if I got one for every time an aspiring ‘apptrepreneur’ buckled when I asked: What is the commercial model, how are you going to finance it, and do you know how to make an app?
Apps are like restaurants, the customer doesn’t see all the prep that happens in the background before they are presented with the final product.
Out the back is the kitchen. It holds all the ingredients and the chef knows how to make the perfect combination, communicate it to the waiter and present the final product. When an order is placed, the kitchen checks the order is in the right format, i.e., the hamburger is on the menu that day and they have the stock to make it. The chef then proceeds to create the product and deliver it in perfect condition.
A patron does not see any of this; ideally, they see a pretty menu at the table in the restaurant and receive the perfect product in a few short minutes from placing the order.
Despite being the founder of two apps, I am not very technical. So I’m going to explain to those who are like me, what it takes to build a good app.
Three tips before we start building:
- Apps cost a lot of money to build, maintain and expand functionality. So be prepared to keep funding or find funding very quickly!
- You don’t need impressive revenue figures from day one to get the big guys interested, but you do need a clear model on how your app is going to make money. There are some extreme outliers to this, take Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp for $20 billion as an example. However, this isn’t a definite, so ensure you have a very clear plan on how your app is going to make money!
- There are various parts to building an app and you might need several people to do so. You need someone to build the app (an iOS and Android version) and someone to build the ‘backend’. The backend developer builds the database, which is what the app talks to, and works in a specific technical language such as .net or Java.
Steps to building an app
1. Developing the idea
Firstly, ask yourself if your app is solving a problem. So many apps I’ve seen have been based on great ideas, but don’t solve a problem anyone has. Test the idea with friends and ask for honest opinions. This can be tricky because your friends don’t want to put down your idea, so honest feedback is key here.
Imagine you spent thousands of dollars and months of time to develop an app that you soon find already exists. It would suck! Do your research, talk to people in the space, and be sure no one else is doing the same thing.
3. Have a business plan
Treat your app like a regular business. What is your business model, plan and strategy on how it’s going to make money?
4. Work out costs
You need to be financially prepared, or at least be sure that the cost of building your app can be loaned. You should develop a very detailed handle on how much the app is going to cost to build. Some very basic apps can cost over $100,000.
5. Sketch it
Lay out what you anticipate your app to look like and what you want it to do. A road map is a great way to visualise every step of the app and how it interacts. Here is the very first wireframe of Clipp and next to it the version 1.0 of the app.
6. Build the backend
Here’s the part you might need to outsource. You can look into app development studios like Project Create. There is also always the option to get an app developer on the team and offer a stake in the company.
7. Develop the consumer-facing skin
Once the app’s backend is finalised, it’s time for the fun stuff! What do you want your users to see when they open your app? What is the personality and voice of your brand? It’s a great idea to start with several ideas and develop your favourite from there.
8. Test it and have others test it
Your app needs to work, and the best way to find out is by putting it in the hands of people who don’t know a thing about its development. You’ll quickly find out what’s wrong with it! It’s very important you continue to evolve your product, watch people use the app and ensure it’s intuitive, we made some big changes to Clipp 2.0 from 1.0 which made a huge difference to our conversion rate.
Hopefully this will give you a starter’s guide to building your app. If you have any questions, hit me up on Twitter @mrgregtaylor.
Greg Taylor, creator of eCoffeeCard, and creator and co-founder of Clipp.co, the bar tab app.
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