Making an app. Everyone is making an app nowadays. Some people make a meme out of it, some see it as a business opportunity either to fill in the existing niche or to expand their company’s reach to those users that the company’s missing with their existing strategy.
Today’s article is going to kick-off a series in which I’m going to describe what is needed when you have an idea you’d like to turn into reality. The entry barrier will be made as low as possible, so even if you’ve never dealt with anything technology-related and were always a consumer — you’ll still be able to get not only how much effort it is required to develop a functional application, but will also have a handy guide for when you’re speaking to a development agency and listening to their presentation about their services.
Many will promise you golden mountains in a blink of an eye time just to close the sale. And if the company has no implemented standards — they will most likely burn through your budget without reaching their initial promises. Don’t get me wrong, estimating and delivering, especially an innovative solution is a tough task, so both sides of the cooperation should understand the basics.
In my career, I’ve had a chance to work both in-house in startups and as a part of an outsourcing team. In the latter, working as a Client Relationships Manager, I’ve spoken to a multitude of startups that were shocked when I’ve explained that developing an application, be it web or mobile, is not as simple as hiring a developer and letting him code for two weeks. UX/UI design, manual and automated testing, hours of calls with a project manager in order to detail each and every functionality, just to make sure that everyone in the team has the exact same understanding of what is being developed - that’s the reality of software development.
But, enough of a chatterbox. Let me present you a list of 11 steps that you need to be prepared to — if you’d like to start making an app of your own.
Table of content
Today, I will cover the first 3 and will keep releasing bi-weekly chapters from now on. Hope you’ll find it useful. Lets kick-off our endeavour.
1. App description
Developing an app is not a simple task. It will take you quite some time to finish even an MVP, so it’s important to have an outline of your application written down. I know, as a founder, you are probably too excited to write down on paper something that you can recite if you’re woken app at 4 AM, but it’s going to be beneficial in the future.
According to CB Insights, no. 1 reason for failure, noted in 42% of cases, is a lack of market need. In order to mitigate the risks of your idea falling into said 42%, you need to make it clear: what the hell are you doing, why the hell are you doing it and for whom the hell are you doing it.
One of the greatest tools that will allow you to not spend too much time working on this — an elevator pitch. It looks fairly simple, but in reality, the illusion of simplicity vanishes off the second you’ve read the rules of crafting an elevator pitch and started to try to cram in your idea into a few sentences. It becomes a hell of a task, but don’t get demotivated. Once you smash it and clean your idea of all the chaotic layers — it becomes so much easier to proceed further.
Also, if you’re going to raise funds — you’ll need it anyway.
Being a witness to a number of situations, where a startup was getting lost in who they are and what they are trying to achieve the second step on the list becomes relevant.
2. List of features and functionalities
In order to give your idea to developers, be it outsourced or in-house, you need to describe you app in a more technical language. In a perfect world, you’d describe you app using User Stories, but if you’ve never done it — it might not be the most pleasuring task.
The good news is that most development agencies would give you a dedicated project manager that takes care of crafting User Stories for you. What you need to give them is a list of features you plan your application to have.
Now, you need to know the depth at which you need to describe your application. It’s not enough to say you want a user to be able to log into the application, if you expect the user to be able to log in with Facebook, Google or any other authentication method. Implementing each of those take time and most importantly — money.
After you’ve masterfully laid out the full scope of application you want to develop, here comes one of the crucial parts for the upcoming months.
3. MVP scope
I’ve seen this too many times to blame it on some kind of coincidence: startups with a rather limited budget, let’s say 30k USD, coming to us wanting to develop, without a doubt — an amazing idea, but on a full-blown scale that in reality requires over 2k hours on development itself, without even mentioning the designs, project management and testing costs. And even though you can definitely find someone who would do it with 15 USD/h rate, the chances of you just burning through that cash are extremely high.
The money is not the only problem, though. Time is also there. 2k hours is around 7 months of development. If you don’t limit your MVP scope to max of 3-4 months, you risk having too much at stake to lose — if your idea turns out to be a failure (9 out of 10 new startups fail, according to the data: https://www.failory.com/blog/startup-failure-rate).
You need to identify a set of core features that would allow your application to become a usable product for those early adopters, who’ll be a great source of feedback and might even change the future trajectory of your business.
If you’d like to get inspired with a few cases of how well-known companies tackled their MVPs, I’ve written an article comparing a 15+ examples of successful MVPs, feel free to give it a read as well: https://softwarebrothers.co/blog/15-examples-of-successful-mvps/
To sum up: first things first, you need to put down on paper a brief description of your idea, next, write down the scope of your application and then cut it down to have the most important, core features, with which you can launch and test your idea.
A few years ago, I’ve conducted an interview with the founder of InfoGym, you might want to get acquainted with it as you can find there a few interesting insights into the way they developed the application, which then become the most downloadable app in Singapore: https://softwarebrothers.co/blog/the-infogym-story-interview-with-tor-ivar-vage/
To give you a lil’ teaser of what to expect in two weeks: I’ll dive deeper into how to deal with such business-important parts as defining user personas as well as user flows, how to create and test a wireframe and why you can’t skip this step, how a design stage can influence the development process, sometimes in a very negative way and last but not least, I’ll tell you a few words about something we call a workshop. But for now, feel free to let me know if you’d like to add something else or maybe conduct an interview for our blog and tell us about your success/failure story.
And if you have a business inquiry — drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org