How to turn your app idea into reality
You’ve got a fantastic idea for an app you know everyone will want, but where do you start turning your ideas into reality? In this article, we share the steps you need to consider taking your app idea from your eureka moment to a live app!
Get clarity in your app idea:
“I’ve got an app idea, where do I start?”
Having an idea is great. But before you start picking out colours and fonts for your shiny new app, get clear on your concept of what you want your app to do. Prepare a full description of your app idea by clarifying these points:
- What problem are you solving?
In 2022 there are 2.22 million available apps for iOS on the App Store and 3.48 million apps currently on the Google Play Store. This number of apps is constantly rising as 3,739 apps are added to the Play Store and nearly 1000 on the App Store Every. Single. Day.
There seems to be an app for literally everything, but that doesn’t me that your idea doesn’t fulfil a need that your ideal customers will value. Get clear about what problem you are solving and where the current gap in the market is for your solution.
- What is the main goal of your app?
Having a clear mission and values for why you are starting is project is always a good starting point to help remind you why you began this journey in the first place. But also understanding the main goal and purpose of your app is key to making sure you don’t get off track by adding more and more features that don’t achieve that goal and end up confusing your users.
- Who are your target audience/customers?
Knowing who is going to use and ultimately pay for using your app is key. Without customers using your app, there’s going to be little point in starting. The more you know about them the better. This is less about their demographics, but more about where and when in their day they encounter the problem you are trying to solve and what triggers them to look for a solution.
- What value does this add to your customers?
With millions of apps on the market already, understanding what value your app has for your ideal customers is important to validate your idea. Do you save them time or money, and does it make something more convenient? Think about the apps you use, what value do they give you?
- What is it going to look like?
Start gathering ideas for inspiration from other apps that you like, and the look and feel of what you want the app to look like. Start getting an idea of what features you want your app to have, but be prepared for this to change when you start learning more about your customers’ needs.
Determine market fit:
“Will enough people want to use my app?”
Once you are clearer on the concept of your app, you need to determine if there will be enough demand for your app to be sustainable and grow your business.
- Competitor analysis
No matter how unique you think your idea is, the chances are there will be something out there that aims to solve the same problem you are trying to solve. Being first to market or creating a brand new category isn’t always necessary. There were plenty of MP3 players on the market before the iPod for example. And don’t get put off my big companies with similar products, just because Google Meet exists didn’t mean that Zoom couldn’t exist and do better than existing competitors like Skype!
Find out who are your top 5 market-leading competitors on each platform and find out what they do well and not so well. Look for any gaps that you can fill or aspects that you can improve upon.
2. Talk to your ideal customers!
This is such an important step that so many people skip over because they are too excited about pretty UI designs and/or don’t know where to start with talking about their idea.
You might be scared of sharing your secret thinking someone will steal your idea. This is something not to worry about as everyone is generally caught up with their own ideas and too busy to build, and as you will discover when you do your competitor research, you’ll find out that many people have already come up with similar ideas anyway.
Set up interviews and ask them about their frustrations around the problem you want to solve. Ask them questions such as:
- What jobs to they have to do that makes them look for a solution to this problem?
- How do they solve this problem at the moment?
- What do they find annoying or difficult about the problem at the moment?
- Why don’t the current options fulfil their needs?
- What do they like and don’t like about the current competitors?
- Who do they ask and listen to/trust for advice about this problem?
- What do they search in Google when they are looking for something to fix this problem?
- What happens if they make the wrong choice? (What are the stakes?)
This isn’t an exhaustive list of market research questions you could ask and will depend on your business idea. Ideally you would want to start with 10 ideal customers to talk to, but when you start seeing patterns and hearing similar responses you’ll be able to start knowing when you are on the right track.
Remember this is a process you should be doing on a regular basis to make sure you are keeping your customers in mind as you continue to develop your app idea, develop new features or expand into new markets.
3. Know your Unique Selling Point
Make sure you understand and you are being clear about what makes your app idea unique and special to your target audience. What makes you different to all the other competitors out there? Why you? Make sure you focus on the benefits you provide than just another feature, as a competitor that solves the same problem can build the same feature removing your unique selling point.
4. Market Size
Are there enough ideal customers willing to pay for the benefit/service/product you are selling in your app, and continue paying, to make the business viable? Depending on your business model you may need millions of free users to get 1% of paying users, or you may only need a few large paying customers. Are there enough of them in your market and regions to cover your costs and make a profit?
To help you start planning your new app idea, here is a free project planning toolkit you can download:
Building the business case:
“How much will I need to build my app idea?”
- How much will it cost?
How much it will cost to build your app can be like asking “how long is a piece of string?” Depending on the complexity of your app and what features you want it to have, the average budget for an MVP version of an app is around £30K but with a more complex platform could cost £100K or more. Understanding the costs involved in building your app and having a budget, will help make sure you keep on track with your project and help stop things spinning out of control. Sometimes the thing we think of as simple are actually more complicated than you think.
- How long will it take?
Again this is a case of “how long is a piece of string?” The more you plan in advance, have thought through what you want and not make too many changes, the more likely you are to stick to completing your project within the timeframe you want. If you have any major deadlines, such as investment pitches, demos at conferences etc make sure you mention this to your development team before you start so they can prioritize the most important features.
- What is your route to market?
With the millions of apps already on the market, our attention distracted more than ever, and our phones already clogged up with 100’s of apps we rarely use (like my very neglected duolingo!), you need to think about how are you going to get people’s attention to even download your app in the first place?
Getting customers to pay for the first time and receive a good enough experience to return and do it again, is a huge hurdle for any app. Think of the first time you ever used an app like Deliveroo or Uber, trusting a company you have never used or may never have heard of with your bank details to deliver any service is a risk. How are you going to make your customers trust you enough to pay you?
Make sure you create a budget and plans for marketing from the get-go. Building an audience who is excited about your product before it even launches is an important step that often gets overlooked.
With the average app costing £30K to get an MVP built (without marketing or other business costs), it’s important before you begin to know where you are going to have the budget to complete your project so that you don’t end up with a half-finished app that doesn’t do what you want. When you have an idea of how much you are going to invest in the project, then you need to know where you are going to get the money from. This could be one or usually a combination of bootstrapping with your own personal funds, getting outside investment, crowdfunding, government grants and business loans. Each has its pros and cons which you need to consider and will impact your development roadmap.
To help you work out what budget you need for your development project we have created a free budget spreadsheet which you can download here:
Creating a prototype:
“I have a clear concept and plan for my app idea, now what?”
Now that you have a clearer idea of how your app idea is going to work, how it’s going to solve the problem for your target customers and how you are going to fund your idea, the next step is to turn those ideas down into something more tangible. While creating a functional prototype is something your app development team can definitely do for you, having some ideas about how your app will work on paper or in a prototyping tool could potentially save you weeks of valuable time at the beginning of your project. Just be prepared for changes throughout the process as you learn more and get insights from your customers and your development team.
We use Figma as a prototyping tool to create interactive prototypes of your app so you can test out your ideas with potential clients about how they would use your app and understand how they would get to the end goal. This is called a User Story and creating user stories for how you anticipate users to interact with your app. Getting feedback from potential users to test your assumptions is an important step to prevent you from wasting time and money going down the wrong path.
Here is an article with the pros and cons of some other prototyping tools to choose from.
Choosing your app development team:
“How do I choose the best team to build my app idea?”
Choosing the right software development team can be one of the most important decisions to make especially at the beginning of your journey and if you have limited experience in software development projects. It can feel like they are speaking another language and all you want to know is that they will deliver what you expected.
Knowing what tech stack you need for your project needs can help reduce the search, however, when everyone seems to say their tech stack is the best, how do you know who to trust?
Some top tips for looking for a development team:
- Ask questions about why they use a certain tech stack, what are the pros and cons, can they answer your questions in a clear non-jargon way that you understand, or are they just using tech-speak to make them seem clever?
- How do they communicate? Do they get back to you quickly and answer your questions clearly without any BS? Ask how they will keep you informed throughout the project.
- Check out their case studies and reviews in places like Clutch to get a sense of how they work and the work they produce. Have they done similar products in the past? If you have contacts within other companies who have worked with them, reach out and ask what it was like working with them.
- Find out how they work, do you set a fixed project and deliverables in a traditional project management style, or do they work in an Agile way delivering small tangible iterations so you can learn and make adjustments for a better outcome?
- What is their capacity like at the moment? If they can’t start on your project within a few weeks or a couple of months are you prepared/afford to wait? Sometimes waiting for the right team is the right decision depending on the knock-on effects it has on your business plans.
- How do they test your app and make sure there are no bugs before it gets launched?
- What happens after the project is finished? Maintenance and support are often overlooked but are essential to make sure your shiny new app keeps working as you expect with regular updates and security. Does your app development team provide maintenance and support packages?
- Do you like them and get on well? If you feel like you can have an open and honest conversation with them that is the best start to know that if there are bumps in the road, you can work it out together.
If you are choosing between different development agencies, we have created a comparison scorecard to help you make a more informed decision. You can download it for free here:
“I’ve got lots of ideas I want to add to my app. What happens next?”
Congratulations you have your app idea out in the real world! But this is just the beginning!
App development is a continuous cycle of iteration and improvements.
You need to keep learning from your customers, ask for feedback, and get ideas from them about what they would like to do next. Use various analytic tools such as mixpanel, to track if there are significant drop-offs at particular points in the user journey on your app or if there are important screens that none reaches. Test if you can make it easier and quicker for your users to reach the end goal and become loyal regular users. Also, check your assumptions if there are other features in your app that your customers value or don’t know about. Keep up to date with mobile trends and what new competitors are entering your space.
Building a good relationship with your development team can help you plan out your long-term product goals and ensure that the right features are built at the right time. Informing your development team about your long-term plans for your app can also help make decisions on which technologies are going to be best for your project in the long run, potentially saving you time and money in the future.
At GearedApp we love hearing about new app ideas. Feel free to reach out to a member of the team for advice, we would love to help you start your journey to turn your app idea into reality.