What do I do with an App idea?

This is the first in a series of articles designed to assist startups without a  technical founder, or more experienced business owners with minimal experience in creating an App.

If you’ve got an idea to build an App and get it into the marketplace, and want to get over that point where you can’t figure out what to do next, then this series of articles is for you.  (If you want some pointers on getting your idea, don’t worry. Got you covered). If you don’t want to read all books, and watch the hours and hours of podcasts and online videos about designing and developing Apps, and startup development methodologies and philosophies, keep reading.

So you’ve got the idea — check.

Next on the list — you’re going to approach a mobile app developer and have them build the idea for you. They will need to be fast, honest, hard-working, efficient and ‘get’ your idea.

Easy, right? They’re all just buzzwords after all.

Not exactly. This is one of those rare moment where taking your time is going to be seen as being strategically productive. Stop..  Listen..  and Reflect.

If you want to build a deck, tune your car’s engine, or fly to visit a friend in Europe, you can learn to do these things yourself or hire a qualified person to do it on your behalf.

Weirdly enough, the same can be applied to application development. The market is saturated with apps. There are more than 2.2 million apps available on both the iOS App Store and Google Play store, with over 205 billion apps collectively downloaded from the platforms. With these statistics in mind, there is a high chance that your idea has already been attempted. But that does not mean that you shouldn’t go ahead with it. It helps to know ahead of time how you plan to make money, as this can affect the entire design of the product. Every app creator thinks that they have discovered the next big thing. And maybe they have! If you feel that your idea is completely novel — congratulations. But an app’s success is not solely dependant on it ‘being cool’, but rather on how refined the initial offering actually is.

Scope Out The Competition

Post-inspiration, it’s then time to do something real fun — market research. Reign in that excitement and begin researching all of the competing apps that exist in your proposed field. During this process you’ve got to be honest and examine two factors:

i) How the competitors have solved your problem ?

ii) Whether your app actually has the problem that you think it does (or is it just a non-issue) ?

It wouldn’t hurt to do a SWOT analysis on your competitors at this point. (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats): Find out the strengths and weaknesses in their app, their marketing approach; find out what they’re doing well and wrong, the opportunities that their mistakes are providing you with; and most importantly, how can you improve on their existing product.

Do this before you spend and invest any more money into your app endeavours. It becomes part of your product strategy and you’ll thank yourself later.

Once you’ve scoped out your competitors it’s time to examine your target audience. It’s important to talk to your potential customers before you spend money building anything. Why build an app that no-one is ever going to use?! Technology businesses fail because they can’t gather an audience or customers — not because they didn’t have a product. Question and analyse the values and needs of your targeted audience by entering their community and using the following steps to become a part of their conversation:

  • On which social media platform does your targeted audience converge? Reddit? Twitter? What are they saying?

  • On which platform do they voice their complaints and praises? What are they saying?

  • Who are the thought leaders within the community? What are they saying?

  • What are the pain points that your targeted audience is experiencing with your competitors?

The ‘specifications’

And it’s only after all this that you get into the App specification. The prime goal in the beginning is to ensure that you’ve got the great app that your targeted audience will actually want to download — and that its creation is done in a cost-effective manner. Why contact an app developer when you haven’t really stopped and really thought through things? As the quote says; “Time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted”.

If you want to dive into your project, make sure that you are diving into areas that will give you the best ROI. Dive right into your idea with great intensity, nitpick it, look at it from different perspectives; why would people want it and share admiration of it to others; what is the app really going to do; how will it specifically be used; how is it going to look; how are you going to get a return on investment for it; who is it for and why would they even find value in it? Keep questioning.

How to feel good about your idea for the price of a coffee

Everything you do in life is sales. So, before you spend even a dime on developing your app; before you work on how it looks, how it functions or who you’re selling it to – make sure it can sell. You’ll want to pitch your friends and family first. Thi si not  a bad start, but be sure to do some guerillia user research too. Think about where prospective users can be found and go there. Pitch it to the person sitting next to you in the coffee shop, and a stranger on the street. You want honest, unbiased feedback.

One comment about getting helpful feedback. By the end of the conversation,  they should be talking more than you. You should be able to pitch it quikcly and concisely, and then listen to their feedback and questions.

This brings us to the end of this article. So far you should have:

  1. Clearly identified the problem that your app is solving.

  2. Clearly identified who your app is targeted to.

  3. Clearly identified your solution in comparison to other existing solutions.

In the next article we’ll look at actually starting to implement your ideas.

And the last thought of the article is that Thomas Edison once said, “Nearly every man who develops an idea works it up to the point where it looks impossible, and then he gets discourages. That’s not the place to become discouraged.”