1600 new apps per day.
Estimates vary, but one source shows over 50,000 new apps per month posted into the iTunes store.
That's a lot of apps.
While many of those are games, others are the hopes and dreams of a developer looking to solve the next business problem. Maybe this one will stick. Maybe this one is the one. Maybe this one will actually be profitable.
If you are considering writing an app of your own, those numbers can be overwhelming. What can you do to compete?
Apps are an entire business model shrunk down to the palm of your hand. The entire project, from idea to planning to coding to releasing is complex enough for a book. Or three. But, like the old saying goes a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
So let's take five steps.
Step 1: Focus on a Single User
Who are you writing this app for? Pick one person. Give them a name. A title. A backstory.
What problem is your app going to solve for them? How are they solving that problem now? Are there other apps trying to solve the same problem?
Step 2: Embrace Moores Law
Moores Law states:
Processing power for computers will double every two years.
For app developers, this means you shouldn't be building your app for today's hardware. Your app will take some time to build - where will the hardware specs be when you are finally done?
Build for what's next. Look at the current hardware and software specs for mobile devices, and use Moores Law to project where they will be at the end of your development cycle. Build your app to scale along with the abilities of the device it gets used on.
Step 3: Prototype
Don't be in a hurry to fire up your code editor.
Start on a whiteboard. Or with pen and paper. Sketch out the flow of your app. Be less concerned about where a button might go on a given screen than deciding if the button needs to be there and what it does.
Keep it as simple as possible. The buzzword in the startup world is "MVP" - or Minimum Viable Product. Recall the single user you created earlier. Be able to tell the story of how that one person would walk through the app.
When you think you have it nailed, get input from others. Make sure they are as close to your single user as possible. Find the same type of person, who works in the same industry, who has the same problem to solve. Put the paper version of the app in front of them. Let them walk through the app while you provide the feedback or answers that the app is supposed to do.
The better refined your idea becomes during this stage the better your chances are that the final version will actually be useful.
Step 4: Create Metrics
How will you tell if your app is successful?
Sure, there are download numbers. But what about past that?
Think through what your app does and what actions users need to take within it. Figure out how you will know if they are engaged. Choose points in the interaction to get feedback.
Know these metrics before coding begins so the means for gathering and aggregating the data can be baked in to the code, rather than lopped on later.
Step 5: DIY or Outsource
Once you know what you need to build and how you will measure its success you can think about how development will proceed.
Will you create the core technology yourself? That's a model that many successful tech companies used to find success. There's a lot to be said for a CEO who actually wrote some of the initial code.
Or you can outsource the work. That's not uncommon either. We recently wrote questions to ask a potential software development partner.
Developing an app is definitely a journey of a 1000 steps. We're happy to help with any aspect of that journey - whether it's brainstorming in the early phase, finding users to test your prototype, or taking on the development portion of the app. Just contact us to get started!