So you’ve identified a problem and think an app could be the solution. What are the first steps you should take? And what do you need to consider along the way? Follow our simple guide to planning your first app and make your vision a reality.
Turning an idea into a working app can feel like an overwhelming task – that’s why it’s important to plan properly and make sure you have all bases covered.
Your first consideration should always be validating your product. That is, making sure your assumptions about who your product’s for and why people might buy are correct. And the key to validation is research.
This research can broadly be split into three categories – market research, finance research and tech research.
‘Plenty of startups have failed just because the conditions weren’t right when they launched.’
1. Market research
This stage is all about making sure there’s a need for your product and a defined user base ready to buy it.
It covers finding out more about your competitors, potential users, market conditions and potential for growth.
This is arguably the most important stage of research. Here’s what you need to work out:
Product market fit
Validating a product seems easy – it’s just about finding a problem and fixing it right? Well, yes and no. It’s also about finding out if there’s space in the market for your product.
Take the time to examine your product-market fit before all else.
Sometimes it’s less about the fit and more about timing. Plenty of startups have failed just because the conditions weren’t right when they launched.
When you’re trying to work out what’s going on in the market, free tools like Google Trends and Google Keyword Planner are a good place to start.
There’s no sense in launching a product that’s similar to an existing product, unless you can significantly improve an aspect of the offer. Look for a niche market that isn’t being catered for.
Chances are, if you’ve had an idea for something, others will have too. Save yourself the stress of losing out to a new competitor and do as much research as you can into what is – and will be – out there when you launch.
Potential for growth
It’s important to realise that your product doesn’t exist in its own little bubble – markets adjacent to your own could impact your business in unforeseen ways.
That’s why it’s vital to stay ahead of tech trends and gain a realistic idea of what growth potential your business has.
This may seem like a lot to think about at this early stage but don’t worry – we’ll be looking at this market research in more depth in next week’s post.
‘Planning out how you’ll fund each step will save you a lot of money – and heartbreak.’
2. Finance research
Next, it’s time to consider the cash side of things. It’s worth spending a fair amount of time researching this area as it can be the trickiest to get right (not to mention that everything rests on your product becoming profitable eventually!).
Here’s what you need to consider:
It can cost anywhere between 3-15k for a basic app, and hundreds of thousands for an advanced app with lots of functionality.
Whether you’re financing this idea through your own savings, a loan, investment or grants (or a combination thereof), planning out how you’ll fund each step before you get going will save you a lot of money – and heartbreak.
Time to profitability
As soon as you launch you’ll start receiving your first feedback from real-life users. Dealing with bugs, implementing new features and making improvements will all be necessary for the growth of your product.
It can take a while for the money to start coming in, so you need to work out how you’ll fund further iterations and how you’ll survive that in-between period – before you go live.
There are as many as 30 different app revenue models and figuring out how you’ll make money is no easy task. An experienced mentor can help you find a strong starting point and teach you the warning signs for when things aren’t working financially so you can switch things up quickly.
If you’ve tested your prototype on potential clients already, why not offer them pre-launch access for a reduced price? That way you can test your MVP and monetisation model without the risk of launching fully.
Figuring out how much to charge for an app is all about finding the sweet spot between how much the app costs to update and maintain and how much users are willing to pay for it.
Competitive analysis will show you what your competitors are charging. You may choose to undercut this to drum up interest, or charge more to indicate that your offering is superior (you need to be able to back this up though!)
‘A good question to bear in mind is ‘what would work best for my users right now?’’
3. Tech research
Once you have a solid understanding of your market, you need to work out what kind of tech will best help you get the job done.
If you have a techie background, you may already have a strong idea of what language or platform to go with. But it’s worth challenging those ideas and shopping around before you commit. If you’re not techie-minded, you’ll need to take on a digital agency that can help you make an informed choice.
Here’s what you need to work out:
The right stack
While it’s good to start with strong, scalable technology if you can, often it’s best to just go with whatever’s easiest. There’s not much sense investing all your time (and money) in the tech until you’ve proved the concept with your MVP.
Choosing the right tech can feel overwhelming. A good question to bear in mind is ‘what would work best for my users right now?’
Older technologies will be more established and reliable, but risk getting shelved one day. As with your market research, it’s worth doing some tech research and finding out how future-proof your choices are.
Depending on how confident you are with your chosen tech, you may want to ensure the right infrastructure is in place too. Is the vendor still providing support? Does your tech have a thriving community that can help out if you need advice?
Recruiting and partnering
You may have found the perfect tech for your product – but are there enough developers with that specialism in your area? Or, if you’re thinking of hiring a digital agency, is there a suitable specialist to take on your project?
For most mainstream technologies this won’t be a problem, and even if it is, you always have the option to hire remotely. But it’s well worth considering before you commit to lesser-known tech.
It’s easy to get carried away with features in the planning stages. That’s why it’s important to remember that every feature costs money to scope, develop, test and deploy. And it’ll cost to maintain it too.
Building and testing a prototype before creating your MVP allows you to try out ideas and get feedback without commitment. Our simple guide to choosing features has more info.
‘Every app is different and you’ll need to research industries that intersect with yours.’
Of course, this is a very general overview of what you’ll need to consider. Every app is different and you’ll also need to conduct in-depth research into industries that intersect with yours. For example, if you had a revision app in mind, you’d also need to research trends in the education sector.
It may seem like a lot of work up-front, but if you want to give your app gets the strongest possible launch, it will all be worth it.
Did you find this useful?
For more in-depth advice on planning and building an app, get in touch with us to arrange a chat.
Keep an eye out for our upcoming guides on choosing a technical partner, executing your vision and launching your app – all on the CookiesHQ blog.