If you didn’t know, I’m the go-to guy when it comes to web, mobile web, social media and apps, in my network.
Cats who know me, know that I’m all tech’d out, so my advice is solicited fairly frequently.
Last night was no exception.
You see, I got a call from a friend who was interested in building an app.
They actually sent me a text and then followed it up with a call – as if the distinction makes a different.
What do you care?
Just recount the story already fool!
Anywho, my friend is a member of the PTA where our kids attend school, and had (what she thought) was a great idea for an app that could be used as a fundraiser.
I listened patiently, as she rattled off her pie-in-the-sky idea.
I say ‘pie-in-the-sky’ because most ideas are just that: ideas.
Very few folks take the necessary steps to turn an idea into reality.
And since I didn’t want my friend wasting her time (and mine) pursuing a pipe dream, I got to the nitties.
Do you have your idea written down?
What are the basic features and functions of your app?
Will it be a native app, pull in mobile web pages or is it a hybrid?
Do you have a mock-up, wireframes or drawing which models your app?
How is the data being managed?
What’s your back end?
iOS, Android or both?
Is this something you’re planning on putting into the App Store, or will it be distributed privately?
Is it going to be a free or premium app?
What’s your timeline?
And the coup de grace…
Do you have a budget?
Now a lesser man (or woman) would have been flummoxed by my barrage of questions.
But old girl hung in like a trooper.
Although she didn’t have a written plan, wireframes or a mock (it came to her as she was driving through Colonial Williamsburg with her kids) she did have many of the answers I needed to vet her idea.
And as I walked her through the various things she need to do to get her app off the ground, it dawned on me that most people don’t know what it really takes to create an app.
So rather than allow you folks to live in ignorance, I’ve decided to outline the top five things you need to do to build an app.
1. Write your idea down.
I don’t know why people think that writing their ideas down isn’t important.
There’s nothing worse than listening to someone blabber about their unformed idea for an app. If you’re serious about building an app, and you want serious advice about it’s feasibility, then take the time to outline exactly what it is you want to build.
While it’s good to be able to articulate your idea orally, this isn’t Shark Tank. Folks are going to want to be able to work from a document and not from your oral pitch.
More importantly, by writing it down, you can see whether you’ve covered all your bases. By listing out what the app does, how it works, etc., you can determine whether your idea is fully formed (or not) and what you’ve still got to work on to make it complete.
2. Sketch it out.
I can’t stress the importance of visualization when it comes to building your app. Sure, you’re no Picasso. But you’re also not going to be showing your sketches at the MOMA, so get over yourself.
Sketching out our app is a simple way for you to render your app in a way that lets you map out landing pages, button placement, navigation elements, even ad space.
When you sketch out your idea, you form an appreciation for the spacial considerations you’ve got to take into account when you’re developing anything for mobile. It will help you focus on the absolutely essential elements of your app, which need the real estate, versus the wants, which will invariably make your app look messy or cluttered.
3. Understand your data.
When you’re developing an app, you’ve got to figure out what information you need from your users or what information you’re planning on sharing with your users.
Where is it going to be stored? How is it going to be accessed? Do I need an API? What about web services? What information exists natively (versus information sitting on the web)?
Regardless of the answer to these question, having a complete (or at least well-formed) understanding of what’s happening with your data is crucial to getting it built.
4. Define the user experience.
What your app is going to do, how it’s going to function and the set of features available, are all parts of defining the user experience.
Focusing on features, flow and function, will help you understand your app and move it from concept to reality.
5. Set a budget.
Regardless of how outlandish or reasonable your app idea is, it’s going to require some moolah to get it developed. If you’re a developer and know how to code for iOS and Android devices – well bully for you. Everyone else, you’re going to have to pay someone to develop your app for you. And it’s going to cost you something.
Now you can go the offshore route and build your app on the cheap. This invariably translates into many sleepless nights working with your foreign (=basic mastery of the English language) development team, potential delays and cost overruns. But when you’re paying in rubles or rupees can you really complain? No.
Or you can go the domestic route and pay market rates. This means lighter pockets, but the ability to work directly with your development team and give/get feedback in real time. Whichever way you go, you’ve got to plan on setting money aside (or raising money) to get your app built. Starting the process off with money in the bank or a clear idea of what you’re prepared to spend, helps move things from idea to reality.
So the next time you think you’ve got an idea for the next killer app, don’t just talk about it, be about it!