Ever heard the saying “ideas are cheap”?
That’s not to say ideas have no value. Quite the contrary, actually. Ideas are incredibly valuable. Everything starts with an idea, right?
What I take from this phrase is that ideas come in abundance and rarely are they totally unique. Do you think you’re the first one to come up with a particular solution to a particular problem? It’s unlikely.
Anyone can have an idea – there’s nothing special or precious about having one.
So what elevates an idea into something worthwhile and valuable? Action, of course!
It takes skill and time to recognize that an idea is a good one through things like testing, prototyping, experimenting, and following one’s intuition founded on personal experience.
In this article, I’m going to walk you through the various steps involved in getting the ball rolling on your mobile app idea so it isn’t left to gather dust with the rest of them.
This is the very first step to take after coming up with a great app idea and involves really getting into the nitty gritty of it.
Grab your laptop or sit down with just a pen and paper. Describe your app ideas in detail. If you’re unsure about some things, that’s completely normal.
This is a creative process that involves thinking more deeply about your app, the problems it can solve, and it’s overall structure.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you get started:
Think of this question as your mission statement or goal of your app. Describe in as much detail as you can what your app will do and even write down what features you have in mind when it comes to functionality.
Remember, your app doesn’t need to be 100% unique to be successful, but it does need to solve a problem, even if it’s just an improvement on what already exists.
No need to get super detailed here, but it’s worth thinking over what your app may look like to give yourself a general idea. Thinking about this will help later on when you start prototyping your app and getting it ready for user testing.
It’s very difficult to create an app for everyone. That will not lead you to success. Instead, think about specific users of your app.
What do they look like? Are they young, old, low-income, high-income, male, female?
Again, you don’t need to get into the details just yet. Remember, we’re just fleshing out the idea.
But thinking about your target audience right from the beginning will help you move forward in molding your app idea into something that’s marketable.
Now that you’ve taken some time to mull over your ideas and create a clearer vision of what your goals are, it’s time to start seeing if it’s worth pursuing.
This begins with analyzing if your idea is a good market fit. In the next section, we’ll get more into idea validation with things like user testing.
What you need to keep in mind when you have an awesome app idea is that there will be competition, unless of course your idea is completely revolutionary, which, sorry to say, is unlikely!
Here is how you can analyze the market efficiently:
See what real users are saying about your competition. The insights you’ll gain from reading user reviews is valuable and will help you further mold your vision for your app.
You can learn about what people love about the app, what they hate, and even what they wish the app offered, which will be useful when you take your app ideas back to the drawing board.
Roll up your sleeves and do some thorough research on your competition. The mobile app market is an incredibly saturated one, so see who your app is going up against.
This doesn’t mean you need to analyze the millions of apps out there, just the ones that fall into the same category as your app.
For example, if your idea has to do with social media, look at giant competitors like Tik Tok, Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat as well as smaller competitors too.
Once you get an idea of who the market leaders are, you need to come up with your own killer selling proposition, which should have some level of uniqueness to it, like a new feature or an existing feature that’s been improved or expanded on.
Whatever feature ideas you have for your app, work on enhancing them now that you see everything offered by the competition.
Which of your app’s features will stand out the most to users? What can you do to make those features even better?
Remember, this article is all about first steps to take when having a great app idea, so a full-fledged, interactive working prototype isn’t quite necessary just yet.
If you’re tech-savvy and want to create a high-fidelity prototype at this point, go for it! I’m just letting you know that there are easier and quicker prototyping methods out there for a quick start in validating your app idea.
Let’s take a look at the different prototyping methods:
This is your basic prototype that’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s a rough sketch on paper of what you have in mind for your app, from different screens to UI elements like buttons and a navigation menu.
The idea here is to reveal the flow and layout of the app to help with brainstorming and further planning.
This type of prototype is about using simple prototyping tools, such as Invision, to focus on your app’s functionality rather than images and color by creating a basic black and white visual representation of your app.
This is considered to be a low-fidelity prototype which is quicker to create and is great for confirming your app’s main concept and basic structure.
A hi-fi digital prototype is meant to look like the real thing. It’s interactive, you can add images and animations, buttons are clickable and users can navigate through it like a real app.
You can use online prototyping tools here as well that allow you to produce a high-fidelity prototype without having to code anything.
Not only is it a good idea to have some form of prototype of your app to present in the next phase of user testing, but it will help you see the possibilities of your app.
It takes all of the ideas you’ve had cooped up in your head and lays them out. This kind of visual representation will help you see your app for what it is much better.
It’s also a good idea to have a prototype if you want to bring in investors to fund your app.
User and usability testing are all about validating your app idea.
User testing involves getting out there and speaking with your app’s target audience to learn more about their experiences with other mobile apps and how your app can solve their problems.
This kind of “testing” is pretty informal. Think of it as having conversations with individuals one-on-one to essentially validate your app idea.
Usability testing is about seeing how people use and interact with your app. This is where having some kind of prototype comes into play.
Even if all you have are sketches of your app with1 various screens, you can still observe how users approach your app, what they want to do with it, and ask questions to learn about their thought processes.
Similar to user testing, you want to invite your app’s target audience to participate in this step to ensure you get the best and most helpful feedback.
Once you have your testers, you’ll want to present them with your prototype and ask them questions.
Here are some questions that will help you get the most value out of your testing sessions:
These are just a few ideas, but don’t stop there. Remember, the more questions you ask, the more valuable feedback you’ll get.
One of the biggest roadblocks in bringing an app idea to fruition is money.
High-quality apps cost a lot to make. They also take time, and time is money, right?
Here’s how much you can expect to pay for an app, according to Business of Apps:
Hiring a US developer costs roughly 100K a year, just to give you an idea.
With that said, it’s important to think about where you’re going to get funding for your app and begin taking steps to get that funding.
Here are some options:
If you have some cash to spare, you can fund your app yourself. One way to ease this financial burden is by bringing on co-founders to your project who can take on important roles and even contribute to funding the app.
Launching a crowdfunding campaign is another method for startups to get some funding and all you need is a rock-star pitch to get people to contribute.
Many startups get funding from angel investors. This is someone who will provide funding for a project in, usually exchange for ownership equity.
This is what you’ll need to bring an angel investor on board:
These are fixed-term programs for startups that offer things like education, mentorship, partnerships, and funding.
Being part of an accelerator will give you an advantage over bootstrapped businesses.
Just keep in mind that you’re not guaranteed a spot. You have to fill out an application and hope to get in.
If you’ve made it to the end of this article and still feel motivated to get moving on your mobile app, do it!
Remember, as you go through each of these steps, you’ll very quickly begin to realize whether your app is a dud or if it has some serious potential.
The worst mistake you can make, however, is thinking you have a great idea, skipping these steps, and going straight to development.
Starting on development right away will cost a ton of time and money. And even if you think you have both, it’s better to see an idea’s potential (or lack thereof) in the early stages so you can move on and try something else.
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