Today, everyone has an idea for the next great app. The proliferation of mobile devices and a culture that promotes the entrepreneurial spirit create fertile ground for the seeds of development. But where do you start? Granted, a valid idea is important, but the concept is only a starting point. The work to bring an app to market can be at least as difficult as coming up with an idea. So, where DO you start?
Many times, the difference between a serial inventor and a serial entrepreneur is follow-through. With an idea in mind, bringing an app to market requires traditional, commonsense business practices.
Document the Idea
While creating the idea is often the fun part, to do it right building solid and thorough documentation. There are dozens (maybe hundreds) of tools for creating a prototype – basically a mildly interactive visual that could be used to demonstrate the app idea. Select a good prototyping tool (I like AppCooker) and build a version of your idea that at least shows basic functionality. AppCooker allows you to import graphics easily and create interactive triggers in the screens of your prototype. It also provides some basic tools that help you think about pricing and marketing your app.
Build a Business Plan
Unless you are prepared (and equipped) to build the app, marketing the app, sell the app and support the app entirely on your own (and even if you are); build a business plan. The only time you don’t need a business plan is when your app idea is a hobby or a project to teach yourself to program. If you want to introduce your app to the market and make money in the process, you need a model that guides your spending, your marketing and the overall business practice – that guide is a business plan. Potential investors will expect to see a business plan.
Shake the Money Tree
Every development project takes more money that the inventor ever imagined. Experienced tech entrepreneurs will tell you to plan for twice as much money as you think you will need. Your business plan should establish a model for the money picture, but unless you are independently wealthy, you’ll need to spend a lot of effort on finding money. The business plan will help you see the money you will need to develop, market and operate until the app starts to generate some revenue.
The challenge with this phase is that you’ll have to tell people about your idea in order to get them interested. Before your share information, ask your audience to sign a non-disclosure, non-compete agreement. Anyone who is unwilling to respect your idea with this type of protection is a bad risk in many ways.
Research the Coders
Even the simplest apps demand a variety of programming skills. Unless you are an experienced multi-platform computer programmer, you’re going to need someone to understand your idea, create your graphics and write the software that brings your idea to life. Because of the popularity of mobile devices and the thousands of app ideas, there are numerous options for getting your app written.
Employ Programmers – possibly the most expensive proposition is to hire the programmers you need and employ them to develop your idea. This development option seems the most common when the app idea begins with one or more entrepreneurs who have programming experience. This route can offer the greatest degree of flexibility and many times produces results faster than other models.
Partner with an Agency – today, many traditional agencies have expanded their teams to add specialties like iOS and Android programming. With a capable agency, you can often get a full development team with significantly less cost than building your own department. This approach offers moderate flexibility and moderate speed but requires considerably more oversight and communications
Freelancer Networking – finding independent contractors to write your app can give you results at the lowest prices, however, the challenges with this approach are manifold. Freelancers work at their own pace, are not necessarily committed to the project and can have capability gaps that aren’t apparent until the project stalls.
When an app idea reaches the development stage, the stakes are very high. Selecting the right path for development then leads to finding the right partner for development. Be diligent in researching both the method and the people to develop your dream. And make sure you own the code through every stage of the work.
Build a Timeline
The problem with ideas is that they often stay ideas. In order to get your app into the iOS and Google Play stores, you’ve got to set a deadline and pursue it ruthlessly. While that doesn’t mean that your timeline is set in stone – adjustments will always be required – it does mean that you have solid goals in mind for development, testing, marketing, release and future version. When everyone knows the expectations it is easier to create and follow reasonable expectations.
Bring a product to market can be one of the most fulfilling experiences of any entrepreneur’s career. When that product is technology-based, the excitement and the pitfalls can easily be multiplied. The adage prior preparation prevents poor performance is especially appropriate to a project that requires a solid concept, a plan for making an idea into a business and the development of code in a mobile world. Count the costs and the rewards then pursue your idea with the passion that spawned it.