What You Need to Know Before Building an App

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Mobile Apps

Photo Credit: Eduardo García Cruz [flickr]

There are a lot of great app ideas out there. Here are a few things to consider so you are confident and prepared to ensure yours stands out from the crowd. Yes, the following may seem like a lot of work, but you will save valuable time and money in the end.

A lot of great ideas come and go. First, find a place to record and sketch out all of your ideas.

Do Your Research

Try to gather as much information as you can about the industry you are entering so you are not blind-sided. In addition to understanding market trends, explore the top web and mobile apps already in the space. Don’t forget about apps under initial development (i.e. Kickstarter & Indiegogo), so you’re not beginning a race that has already started. Break down the categories your app falls into to structure your browsing. For mobile apps, generally speaking, start with Utility, Productivity, or Immersive. Find the top respective apps in Google Play and the iTunes App Store. How are they succeeding? What is lacking from the experience? You can even head over to www.producthunt.com to see what kind of ratings users are giving these new applications and services. Maybe they’re failing for a good reason that you need to address and capitalize upon, or avoid altogether.

Remember not to be discouraged by what you find. You may be surprised or impressed, but stay focused, resilient, and always inspired. If you’re reading this, you have the desire to build and create. Always be critical of your idea, but use all that you find to improve upon your vision.

Know Your Users

Understand the community you will be supporting. Who is going to get the most value out of your product? Find potential users and inquire about desires and struggles. Conduct user research through online surveys, opinion polls, and interviews (to name a few). Identify wants and needs, but figure out the reasons why they want so you can provide them with innovative solutions.

Choose a Platform Wisely

How users will consume your content will influence the initial platform. Choose a platform that most effectively reaches and presents content to your target users. If your app involves a lot of reading or filling out forms, use web. If your app experience is quick and simple, useful while on the move, or used in remote locations, use mobile. Remember that web apps can still provide a quality experience through your mobile browsers. Where mobile apps need to be discovered and downloaded in an app store, web apps offer significantly less friction to adopt.

Start Small

An MVP is a “minimum viable product” – keyword minimum. When starting a new software project, creating an MVP can be the most productive use of your limited time, money and creative resources. It’s easy to be dazzled by fancy technology. Try not to fall into the trap of adding bells and whistles to your MVP at the cost of important core functionality.

Expect to learn a lot when building your MVP. Sometimes, your app emerges with a completely different feel and you realize that your time needs to be spent redesigning your UX/UI. Other times, everything looks and feels like you envisioned, but your users are not impressed.

These are the pivotal moments in the development of your app that can help you find a successful path. Get crucial feature sets in the hands of your users (including yourself). In doing so, you will sometimes find ways in which your idea falls short of your expectations, but discovering these shortcomings early on in the process will make any necessary adaptations much less burdensome compared to the massive undertaking it could become further down the road. Fast iterations of this process, called “sprints”, are a fundamental concept of Agile Development.

Get Coding

You can either hire freelance developers, find a third party development agency (like Bonzzu!), or code the app yourself.

Although development agencies will be at the upper price point, you can expect to get a quality experience developing your idea to its fullest potential, as well as better-written and more resilient code, and a network of engineering talent to push ideas and iterations forward. Remember, you get what you pay for in software.

Likewise, simply building a functional application probably isn’t all you’re looking for either (at least it shouldn’t be), because you’re not setting out to build this app just for fun. Presumably, in addition to building a working application you’re hoping that it will actually accomplish key business objectives; i.e. make you money! So besides their superior coding prowess, development agencies like Bonzzu also come with the business acumen necessary to translate your idea into a profitable product. By thinking in business terms and utilizing a partnership approach to the building process, Bonzzu is able to take your company’s business model and translate it into the technical specifications necessary to improve user satisfaction and generate revenue.

Estimation and Expectations

Which brings us to project estimation. Simply put, once the business requirements are gathered from the client, we start by estimating both the budget and the projected schedule, and then make adjustments as needed. At Bonzzu we estimate projects using an Agile Development approach. In the end, there’s a chance we go over…and a chance we finish early. We’re not afraid to admit it, it’s simply how software development works. Inevitably, there are unforeseen obstacles and the unknowable difficulty of integrating with 3rd party services. Our Agile methodology aims at providing transparency so you will know about delays early to get the most out of your money.

Your project estimate will tend to increase if your app includes:

  • 3rd party services & APIs
  • Pioneering new and generally unprecedented software features
  • The need for an administrative interface to support your service
  • Hardware integration
  • Restructuring existing software
  • The need for a backend server (practically always required; just know it’s coming)

Finally, your happiness and confidence in the current state of your product and business are correlated to the expectations that you set for yourself. You must be willing to adjust your expectations as speed bumps and pleasant surprises come your way. Entering the development process with the expectation that everything is going to go smoothly is very dangerous. Come with an open mind and expect the unexpected. Remember, discovering the ways in which your vision fails to meet expectations is an opportunity for growth; a blessing in disguise. Learn, realign your vision, and execute!


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