Many entrepreneurs I know today have this one common question. “I have an app idea but I don’t know where to start.”
To address the very same question, I have put together this complete guide to build a mobile app startup to get you started. This is drawn from my experience working for more than five years with entrepreneurs and businesses, helping them build and market their mobile app startups.
Take from it what suits your strategy best, or follow it to the hilt. The important part is to get started.
The following guide focuses on a step-by-step approach to building your first mobile app startup. If you’ve already gone through a step or some of these, feel free to skip to the next one.
Step #1 – Validate
The most important step after you know you have a mobile app startup idea that could resonate with your audience is to actually validate it. Until your first set of customers buy from you, your idea is still a hypothesis.
You can validate your idea by using the Google Keyword Planner tool to look for the number of people seeking out what you’re trying to do. You could also build a landing page that broadly highlights your app idea and seek user interest through an email signup.
Or simply build a minimum viable product (MVP) that offers the core value of your concept to gauge user interest.
Step #2 – Wireframe
Validation of your mobile app startup idea means that you’ve got something that people want to use. Now is the time to detail your product onto a document, or if you want to go the extra mile, use a wireframing tool such as JustInMind or Proto.io.
When putting your idea down on paper or online tool, remember to be as detailed as possible. Include the flow of how the user will navigate the app as well as all the features envisioned. This will help your developer to clearly understand your expectations.
Step #3 – Remove Non-Core
From the flow and features document or prototype you prepared, start looking closely at features that you can remove. Offer only the core value of your mobile app startup idea. Do not build features in the first version that are “nice to have” that can always be added later as an update.
To get to the market quickly and to keep the costs in check, build only the ‘must have’ features into your first version of the app. Must have features are those exact ones that solve the problem for the user.
Step #4 – Design
I have heard many entrepreneurs saying they want a very basic design and want to focus on just developing an app. They are so wrong!
Design is not just about how your app looks, but it’s about how a user will experience the app.
Vinod Khosla of Khosla Ventures best explains it: “Design is a way of making technology useful.” You should put design at the forefront of your mobile app development.
Step #5 – Brief
Don’t let pricing alone be the factor for decision-making. After all, you only get monkeys if you throw peanuts.
Make sure the brief of your mobile app startup includes the background or context of your idea, who the customers are and why should they care, a typical use case in detail, features, wireframes/prototype and the monetization plan.
Step #6 – Hire
Seek a development company that has great design talent and a solid development team. While hiring a developer, go online to check on their credibility and the apps that they have created.
If you really liked an app they created from their portfolio, chances are, they could be the right one for your product.
Above all, don’t throw peanuts.
What to do once you’ve selected the development partner
While the above points put you into fifth gear to get started, there are some important steps that you must take next to keep the boll rolling for your mobile app startup.
- Create Developer Accounts: You must register for a developer account with the respective app stores to be able to sell your app through their platform. Google’s Android charges $25 a year and Apple charges $99 annually. You have the option of registering as an individual or as a company, if you already have one formed.
- Integrate Analytics: Analytics help you track downloads, user engagement and retention for your mobile app. Make sure you use tools such as Flurry, which is available for free, and Localytics has a free and paid version.
- Get Feedback and Iterate: Once your app goes live on the app store, the first set of customers’ usage and behavior will give you insight into how to improve and enhance your app. Enhancements and changes are constant, so keep an eye on user feedback and keep building.
Important Dos and Don’ts
When consumed with the idea that could launch your mobile app startup into success, one tends to have an oversight of many things important that can help them get through the journey of ups and downs.
These important Dos and Don’ts will only make you aware and conscious of those things. Keep these in mind and you’d have a far better chance of success than most.
#1 – Don’t quit your job just yet.
If you’ve got a mobile app idea, start working on it while you’re still in a job. You need to keep paying those bills. Keep in mind what Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Work Week advises: “People tend to think it’s employee or entrepreneur, but there’s a broad spectrum and you can very slowly and methodically move from one end to the other.”
Getting some traction only validates the demand for your product and gives you the confidence to replicate your marketing efforts on a much larger scale. If you are in the market for investors, having some traction when you take your working prototype to them will be a huge benefit in your favor.
Take a decision at the appropriate time when you feel it is necessary to scale your business.
#2 – No one comes if you just build it.
Nothing could be further from the truth than thinking that your job is done the moment your app is live on the app store. Building an app is the easiest thing in your journey to build a business. Getting customers to use your app consistently is the toughest part.
Have a clear marketing plan that will focus on getting your first 100, 1000 or 10,000 customers. These early adopters will define whether your mobile app is a cut above the rest or not.
Sign-up for the free email series on 52 actionable mobile app growth hacks to learn tactics focused purely on customer acquisition.
#3 – Don’t ask friends for validation.
Asking someone for feedback on an imaginary product would get you an imaginary kind of a response. Don’t ever take someone’s advice who doesn’t have to bear the consequences of it. Believe in someone who’s used your app. Better still, seek advice from people who’ve paid to use your app.
#4 – Don’t raise money before you have a validated app.
Raising venture funding is one of the toughest things to do. When you want to build a mobile app startup, focus on building the product and getting customers.
Your Plan A should always be to get to market assuming you wont secure a VC before you launch. Your startup ambitions should not be dependent on a VC, but your determination to become a successful entrepreneur.
The overall costs of building a technology-based venture has drastically come down from the days of traditional software companies. Demos and version 1 are built at hackathons within days.
Venture capitalists look for ideas that are validated (tested by users) and exhibit growth in user signups and retention before they even begin to think about investing.