Portrait of Alfred Bernhard Nobel (1833-1896), Chemist, from Flicker Commons
DesignCrowd designer, Joshua Borja, and startup marketer / DC insider Jo Sabin, take a look at the phenomenon and recommend some steps to get you on the path to creating your own app.
So you've got an idea for a (really cool/awesome/going-change-the-world/pay your rent) app?
App design is trending at the moment; people are jumping at the chance to become the next 'app-reneur'. Fruit Ninja, the simple-yet-addictive game created by Halfbrick, has over 300 million downloads to date, and at $0.99 a pop, the dollars add up to mind boggling figures! It seems easy, doesn't it? Come up with the idea and then get other people to build it. However, there is a lot of planning involved with creating the app; and in my mind it's just as demanding as creating a small business. In this post, I have done the research and set out six easy tips for creating your own app.
1. Brainstorm a unique idea
This creates the solid base for your project - the idea that you will build upon to create a super app that everyone will want. Ask yourself these questions:
- What problem are you solving?
- Is there a lucrative unmet pain point you can solve for customers?
- What devices will your app be accessed on - should you prototype a web app (cheaper and faster) before you go mobile?
- Is your product idea location-based?
- Who are your competitors?
- What makes you different from everyone else?
- What will be great and new about the app?
- What features are need to have?
- Why will people use it?
- How much effort are you willing to invest (time, money, people)?
- Build that solid base, without the foundation of a strong idea, the whole project may crumble under the weight of everything else.
2. Create a clear and concise action plan and brief
So you have your idea. Now what? Just like any designed object, you need to have a clear and concise brief so that everyone who reads it will understand what you are trying to create. Before we get to the graphics and functionality, think about your business strategy. Consider how you can validate your idea and test it before you spend your savings building an app no one wants.
Without knowing exactly what you want and being able to communicate it in a written format - in 140 characters or less is best - then scratch the idea and move to the next one. Get drafting and get you idea on paper. Then share it and get feedback from your community.
- What kind of budget do you have?
- Think about your target customer (outline who are they, behavioural characteristics), will you charge for your app? Or is it free?
- How will you fund the development process?
- Who's going to help you make it and can you pay them?
- How will you promote it once it's built?
- Are you prepared to fail if you launch and you don't get the traction you expect?
You need to know exactly what you want your app to do and the content you need to create it. For the more basic apps, you need to think what graphics do you need to create and what functionality do you want on the app. It gets more confusing if you want to produce a game. What are the game mechanics? If you have an amazing brief and clear direction, you will end up spending less money as many designers work on an hourly rate. Here are the App Design Strategies that Apple promotes to their iOS developers to get you started on the quest of creating the perfect brief.
3. Bringing your concept to life with code and graphic design
These few things should happen very closely, as one can't live without the other. You can end up with the most beautiful looking app with no functionality or a functional app with really bad graphics if you aren't careful. You need to find developers and UI/UX designers who share your vision and can bring it to life for the iPhone or Android marketplaces. This stage can get expensive, developers and coders who use lean startup methodologies expounded by thought leader-developer-founder - Eric Ries, are your best bet to develop, test, iterate ideas will help you get the best bang for your buck. What your looking for is a minimum viable product you can validate and then scale. And be prepared to pivot if you can't validate the idea, the next iteration of your idea is just around the corner so be persistent. In fact you should read up on his blog posts and apply his ideas to your whole business concept. In a nutshell his approach is about getting to failure faster so you can build a sustainable awesome product loved by your customers.
Will it be pretty? Sourcing kickass graphics for the app
According to a few sources online, a nice but simple app will take about a week's worth of time. If you are looking at a traditional design agency, you would have to expect about $6,000 for the graphic design alone.
If you design with DesignCrowd, you can set up a design contest for a minimum of $240, in which you can expect around 15 designs to choose from with a money back guarantee. Increase the budget and get more submissions. If you are creating a game that is graphics driven, you'll require multiple graphics and this will take a lot longer to create and require a bigger budget.
Coding for the app
The coding is much more expensive and more time consuming that the creation of the graphics, usually taking twice as long - the more graphics involved the more that is involved in the coding. You can find app coders online, or if you want to try your luck with DesignCrowd, you may find someone who is able to create the app and code it using ActionScript 3 with Adobe Flash. To do this, I would create a freelance project on DesignCrowd stating that you want coding done and see what comes up. Set the budget at about twice the amount of money that you have set for the Graphics and you should be set to get a few responses.
4. Testing of the project and debugging
Once you are happy with what the coders and designers have produced it's time to compile and test it out on your iOS device. If you have a bunch of friends that are willing to be testers it makes your life a little easier and development a little cheaper. Remember you also need to have real potential customers testing your app too. If someone finds a bug within the app, note it down and see if other people are having the same issue. If someone is finding it difficult to navigate around the app, ask them about what they think will fix it. Keep in touch with your coder and designer, as they will need to be able to fix things up when you need them to be fixed.
5. Making it liveYou have your app, and now you are happy that nothing is wrong with it and are ready to take that leap into making your project live. There are guidelines which can be found here which outline the minimum standard that you will have to abide by. If your coder isn't an iOS developer, you will need to shell out the $99/year to become one so you can upload the app to iTunes. Your app has to meet the criteria of these guidelines and once approved the app will appear on the iTunes app store.
6. The front end is just the surface
Creating an app looking from the outside into the realm of the app creation may look simple and easy to do. However, there are a lot of things that go on behind the scene and it can get very complex and expensive (time, money, attention). Streamlining the process by which we mean taking an agile approach to developing the business and product concept is very important and will give you the greatest chance of success. Idea, execution and a testing mentality is crucial, keep the feature set lean until you've proven the concept. Expect to spend about $2,000 - $6,000 on a simple app, for a complex game say $10k+ easily. If you can design and code and have the time to do things yourself, all you would have to pay is the $100 iOS developer fee and you are good to go.
To hear first hand what app creation entails, watch Dave McKinney, the CEO and founder of FilterSquad, share his story of getting an app to market (researching, testing, launching, funding and more). He had a #1 chart topping song on iTunes in multiple territories, and then applied his learnings marketing on the iTunes store to create an app called Discovr that, as the name suggests is a streaming service that help its users find new apps, music, films and friends streaming service.
Good luck with your project and share your tips and resources for building apps in the comments below!