In the past 10 months, I have got so many requests from the fellow entrepreneurs to create the initial product for their startup, half of them are from India and the others are from outside India. Most of entrepreneurs are from engineering background and already working with a startup or a MNC, a few of them quit their company and jumped into this journey in full time, a few of them are into business development and marketing.
Even a nearby provisional store shop owner approached me for creating an app for online grocery delivery. And almost everyone is bootstrapping.
It is awesome to see that people from every sector understands and trying to utilize the technology but most of them jump into the app market before clearly validating their idea and they end up in creating one another app with just 100s of users. Nowadays everyone wants to create and grab the market through their on demand service based startup or an uber for abc or a tinder for xyz. And almost everyone wants to just clone one another app which is already popular in the market.
Here I have listed a step to step process from my experience, on creating a successful app along with the tools that will help you to run the process smoothly. Take a hot cup of coffee or a bucket of popcorn before reading further.
Here is a list of steps you need to follow before creating an app.
Have a solid idea or a problem
Most of the successful apps in the market created out of a problem faced by the people around or the creator understood the market very clearly. If you have an app idea already, move on to the next step. Do you really face a problem in your day to day life or do you want to solve something in a bigger scale? Think about the provisional store guy. He found that all his customers are having a smartphone and also everyone wants door delivery. Right now, he is handling it by taking orders through phone and he spends most of his daytime on phone because of it. He wants to get rid of it and assign the work to a boy that he is planning to hire. He even posted a notice in front of his shop for hiring a delivery boy. He understands the market and tries to solve his problem and at the same time. This is a sample scenario on how do you plan to create an app.
Don’t worry if you don’t have an idea. Problems are there everywhere waiting for someone to solve it. Every successful app solve problems in a really bigger way than our imagination. If you are searching for app ideas in google, this is the time to stop it. It will never work in that way. Each and every object around you is created to solve a problem.
List down all the problems you face in your day to day life. For example, I still recharge 6 different wallets for my on-demand delivery services on travel, food, ecommerce and entertainment in India. I don’t want to recharge all 6 different wallets all the time. It is such a time-consuming work every time. There is no service to provide a common platform to solve this issue. Oops, did I leak a million dollar idea? There is nothing in talking about your idea outside. The execution process matters more than your idea. Go to the next step.
Whenever a new idea strikes your mind, note it down in a paper or in a tool like Google keep, Evernote, Trello.
Validate your idea
This is really an important phase before jumping into creating the app. For example, let us say you want to create online food delivery startup based out of Bangalore and you need an app to go online. Now, how do you validate your idea? Most of the time, you will have direct competitors and a very few ideas will be completely new to the market.
When you create a product, there should be customers not just use your product one day but who is ready to use it immediately. You should first analyse, existing market players in the same segment. Analyse the market size from the competitors and check their user base. There are many services to find a competitor product. If you find too many competitors, it means that your idea is already validated through them. Don’t worry about entering the market late. Think Google is not the first search engine.
If you are creating a product which doesn’t exist in the market already, that is awesome. Create a launcher page with subscription option. Use a simple google form or wufoo forms listing down your features and the questions, send it across your friends and families, facebook community users, local startup network events, meetup groups. Engage with different kinds of group and get feedback from them both online & offline and also make sure you are talking to appropriate targeted users. For an app which targets college students, you need to figure out where do students engage mostly and try to get their feedback.
This is where most of the entrepreneurs make mistake generally. Once after they validate the idea, they will immediately start looking for developers to build the app. When it comes to app, UI/UX is more important than the actual functionality. User should love the app on first sight. After validation, you should first think about the features on your app and the UI/UX involved in it.
There is a lot of tools for app prototyping like invision app. But even before going to use a tool for it, sketch your idea in a board or in a paper using pen. And make sure that you cover all the details and UI in it. UI Navigation design is more important for user experience(UX). And don’t ever mirror iOS designs, icons to Android/Windows and vice versa. They are completely different platforms with different UX patterns. There is a lot of prototyping, wireframing apps you can use before going on designing with a designer. I suggest you to use, pen and paper in the initial stage than online tools for prototyping and wireframing.
If you take most of the top applications on store, they have started with a small set of features and improved on top of it. You can’t release the stable version on your initial release. It is a continuous process. Make sure you first version has the core feature without any functionality issue and keep the UI simple and clean.
You don’t need an awesome UI. Once your wireframe is ready, find a designer who can bring life to your wireframes. Design as per the user navigation and complete the designs for core feature first. For example, if you are making an app similar to Instagram, give importance to home screen listing screen, camera screen, applying filter screen, sharing screen. That completes the main flow inside your app. That is simply enough for a good demo of your app. Think your app in that way.
Similar Tools for prototyping: Mybalsamiq, Atomic
You key to success is based on hiring a best developer to implement your app. Don’t be haste while hiring a developer. When you make a mistake on your first hire, the mistake will grow exponentially on further hires. You don’t need a rockstar developer but you need an all rounder with talent. You need to make sure he/she fits your culture. You don’t need people who show attitude or ego.
If you have good experience on hiring remote workers through elance.com or upwork.com go for it. Hire a developer with more experience rather than looking at the developer’s paycheck. Otherwise try to find a good developer from friend’s network. If you have enough time, hire a developer/intern directly from college. When you expect more quality, it is always suggested to hire an experienced developer.
At the end we just need to just Get Shit Done!
Invite beta users
Once your app is in a condition to show demo, get as mush as early users you can adopt. The way you distribute your app/build will be the key for your success. It will be awesome if you can find your beta customers for free of cost. It is really important at the early stage of a startup. Keep a list of all your early adopters. Here is a list of places that you can make it possible.
- Write blog posts and post infographics if possible relevant to your idea/startup. If you are bad at making inforgraphics, go to elance.com, upwork.com to get a quality post. Make sure you publish the article in all relevant social media.
- Join as much as relevant groups possible. Join Google+ communities, facebook communities, LinkedIn groups. When you post about your app in these groups, make sure your post doesn’t look like an advertisement. Otherwise most probably you will be kicked out of the group. It is better to post it like asking for suggestion or help in improving so that users will be interested in checking out. If you don’ know how to write content, go to fiverr.com and spend 5$ to get right content for your startup.
- Post articles in hackernews/quora and build your reputation. When your reputation grows, you will get more visibility and more chance for a user to click on the link that you are posting. Give more importance on the quality of the content that you are posting.
- Go to your competitors social media links especially twitter and facebook, find out unhappy customers. Try to find out the actual pain point from the customer and try helping them to resolve it.
Have marketing channels
Marketing is really important for the success of your app. Think about candy crush app, the idea behind candy crush app is from the very old bejeweled app that we were playing 10 years back. It is all about how do you roll out your app to get more users. If you have some budget for marketing, you can get paid app installs through Ad networks, facebook ad campaigns.
Always keep your press kit ready. Here is a short list of mandatory things for your press kit.
- Brief information about your company along with logo/brand info
- Founder’s details with headshot photos
- Where was it founded along with date/year
- Where do you operate it currently/business area coverage
- Product/service information in detail
- Pricing strategy in detail
- Details about your clients
- Details about your employees with photos
- Overall market statistics
- Short video from the founders or the product demo
Here is a small list of places to post your app for marketing and also bringing users on board. Link: Startup marketing
Create developer accounts
Based on the product/service you are offering when your app is in a beta stage, you may need to create developer accounts on the appropriate channels. Mostly on Apple’s app store, Google’s play store or Windows app store. Create account and add your developer into the console. If you have good experience with those, you can post the app yourself on store. All the stores are designed in a way that it can be used by non-developers too.
Same like the need to optimize your website for search engines, it is very important to optimize the app description on the store. You need to choose the right keywords in the title and description so that users can find you easily. For example, you are creating a clone of Instagram, if your app doesn’t show up when they search for “photo effects”, then your app literally doesn’t exist.
Analytics decides your actual success of the app with live insights. Having 10k active users is greater than having 1 million users without any user engagement. For example, when you create an app similar to Tinder, track user engagement on every screen, keep a track of all the events fired inside the app. For example, keep track of
- Number of active users per day
- App open/close per user/per day
- Number of likes/dislike counts per day per user
- Number of mutual matches he/she gets per day
- Number of matches a user gets per day
- Amount of time spent on the app per day
- Opening/editing profile page
And make your course of action plans based out of your analytics.
For tracking analytics, you can use google analytics, flurry, apsalar or hasoffers.
And at the same time, use analytics for tracking your bugs/crashes too. You can use crashlytics, crittercism or hockey SDK. It will be really helpful to understand the issues faced by the client.
Reiterate product and go for better marketing
Your analytics will be your main dashboard for your feedbacks. Keep tracking in all the app stores for reviews and ratings. Respond to customers in a professional way to resolve the issues reported by them. Get feedback from all the users and create a list of them. You DONT need to implement all the suggestions as a feature. Always keep your product simple and clean.
This sums up the steps involved in creating your first app. Oh wait, did I miss something in this list? Are you thinking about the budget? Think about building a better product before thinking about building an app within your budget. Here is a little calculation, that will help you in deciding your budget.
Think you are creating a clone like Instagram.
Budget for servers: ~100$/year from AWS/Linode/Digital ocean
Budget for developers/designers: Think the app developer will spend one month time. Excluding holidays you can consider 20 days in a month and on an average of 8 hours of work per day comes at 320 hours of work per month. If you take a minimum of 10$ per hour, the budget comes up to 3200$ per month. This is an average estimate, this will vary based on the complexity of the application and also based on region. The same amount you may need to spend for your server side developer also. You can estimate half of this budget for a designer on their work. In that case, the design must be an exceptional one.
All the best for your app’s success!
[Author- Karthikeyan NG, Co-founder and Chief Developer at Look Mobility. He is a Web/mobile/IoT apps developer, Traveller, Technology Enthusiast, Blogger]