The Breakroom

Recipe for Launching Your First App

June 6, 2016

By Cheryl Cicha

Food App Concept

You have a great idea for an app that may be a unique twist on existing software or perhaps just building a better mobile mousetrap. One thing’s for sure – there’s nothing like it in the App Store but you wish there were.

Where to begin?

Everyday I talk to people that have really interesting ideas for apps. Many have spent careers in other industries as vastly different as pro sports, security, automotive and food services – you name it. They recognize a gap and know there is opportunity but getting started can be daunting. Here’s a common generic to do list:

• Find a designer that can make the app look great
• Find a development team
• Make sure I have enough capital to get it shipped
• Figure out how to market it & decide on a marketing budget
• Investigate how the App Store and Google Play work
• What if it fails? What if it goes viral?
• Where will my data live?
• Don’t forget customer support, content monitoring, and …

Don’t bolt yet! There are proven approaches that you can use that have worked successfully for our own clients. Here is a pragmatic recipe for bringing your mobile app from idea to minimum viable product (or as you’ll often hear in the industry: MVP) that will save you time, money and probably some sanity.

Basic ingredients:
To vet the concept, find a way to get the idea out of your head and in a form others can understand. Create a requirements document or do something quick and visual. If you can make a rectangle you can draw your idea. Use anything from index cards (the real ones that you’ve probably had in the back of your desk since 1990-something), to a myriad of apps like balsamiq and Paper. When flushing out your visuals keep it bare bones, black and white. If the core concept doesn’t resonate it won’t be any better with a snazzy logo.

Show your bare bones “app” to a few trusted friends or to an experienced agency under NDA that is invested in your success (vs. I pay you x you do y). Do they understand it, think it’s valuable, have recommendations? Gently fold in criticism and improve on the idea. Not everyone loved it? That’s okay. Better to recycle a few index cards than spend thousands on development and get crickets at launch.

Once the idea starts to sizzle, engage a design and development team with expertise in mobile. This is critical – if it’s pretty but isn’t designed for the latest technologies or a native mobile experience, it’s spoiled; chuck the entire batch and start over.

Taste Test:
Using wireframes or a prototype, it is relatively inexpensive to test the idea on a small, independent target audience. This is a great time to make feature or user experience changes without throwing away gobs of code. There may be a few cycles through the last three steps until you narrow down the highest value features that make a great product people want to use. Your design and development teams should be working closely at this point even though very little code has been written.

Add Seasoning:
Start to think about marketing and monetization. If you’re not an experienced mobile marketer it may be worth looking to a partner that understands not only mobile marketing but your business goals, the feature set and it’s intrinsic value, target market, target budget, and KPI’s.

By now you are also working on the special sauce – your product’s brand and message. This can be done early with minimal investment in items like a logo, app icon, tagline, website, and a basic video that uses most of the design assets you now have in hand.

When the design and feature set are finalized it’s time to start development. Your dev team has been engaged in the process and now they have a detailed recipe for efficiently building the app as designed. If you’ve chosen a talented team, the artistry and effort required to make it look and feel great on users’ devices will emerge. Add a good dose of quality assurance, and finish it off with beta testing on a larger scale.

A quality team sets milestones, checks in with you often to let you know how things are progressing and informs you of challenges or further decisions that need to be made. You should also be seeing builds delivered to your device on a regular basis. Beware teams with whom you have little interaction. You could order a burger and after a long wait, end up with a bowl of bulgur.

There are several launch strategies we recommend to customers depending on their goals. One approach successfully used on MVP’s is a soft launch. Forego the pricey party and PR and enter the app stores in stealth mode. This gives you an opportunity to get feedback from a wider range of users and fine tune the product before making that big marketing splash.

Making an outstanding meal takes planning and time but that doesn’t mean it needs to break the bank. The early steps outlined here make for a quick, cost effective way to test your idea before a single line of code is written. There is a lot to consider in getting an app successfully to market but choosing an experienced partner that can guide you through the process, make strategic recommendations, and ensure design and development are working together is a recipe for a quality mobile product. Bon Appetite!

We stand ready to help turn the ideas of clients like yourself into great apps. Let us know how we can help.