Complete Guide On How To Create A Mobile App
Many entrepreneurs I know today have this one common question.
“I have an app idea but I don’t know where to start – how to create an app from scratch!”
To address the very same question, I have put together this complete guide to creating a mobile app startup to get you started. This is drawn from my experience working for more than seven years with entrepreneurs and businesses, helping them build and market their mobile app startups through my app development company.
I’ve helped many entrepreneurs raise millions in funding, get featured on the app store and top publications and win awards. All of this is a result of our high-quality consulting and experience.
So, 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 mobile app startup. If you’ve already gone through a step or some of these, feel free to skip to the next one. This is the comprehensive list of steps you need to tick off through the process of launching your very own mobile app startup. Let’s dive right in!
- Generate App Ideas
- Creating a prototype
- Analyse the costs involved
- Select the right developer
- What to do once you have selected the developer
- Designing the app
- Funding your mobile app
- Marketing the app
- Important Dos and Don’ts
#1 – Generate app ideas
There are currently more than 4 million apps available on Google Play store and Apple’s app store combined. Coming up with a unique idea for your mobile app startup, in a niche that is previously untouched, and managing to deliver a product that adds value to the already cluttered space of mobile apps is a huge challenge.
Getting started with the idea generation process is the first hurdle you would come across and the best way to overcome that is asking yourself the following questions.
Does it solve a problem?
Necessity is the mother of all inventions and the most successful ventures turn out to be the one that solves its end user’s problems. Identification of problems in everyday the environment and working on creating a product that results in the resolution of those problems is a great way to ensure the success of your product.
Is there a need for the product in the market, does anyone actually want it?
An in-depth market research is essential to figure out the existing market offerings. The market scenario should be examined to find out the existing gaps and products can be designed to fill those gaps. The product so developed addresses a need within a particular audience and has a demand within the market.
Does the idea have a unique selling point?
The app that you develop doesn’t need to be unique. The multitude of apps available at the app store leaves out the scope for an idea that is completely unique. What you need to ensure is that the idea that you are pursuing has scope in the marketplace and can work out well in its niche.
We’ve created a detailed list of 15 evergreen app ideas (you can steal) to launch your startup to get you off the ground quickly.
#2 – Create a prototype
Ideas without their implementation amount to nothing and the way you go about with implementation of the app idea can affect the success of your mobile app in the long run. The next step you need to start working on after ideation of app is the creation of its prototype which involves the following steps:
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, even for specific locations such as New York.
You could also build a landing page that broadly highlights your app idea and seeks 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.
After getting validation done and ensuring that you’ve got something that people want to use, now is the time to detail your product onto a document. Working on a wireframe can be as simple as jotting down the flow map of your app on a piece of paper, or if you want to go the extra mile, use prototyping tools 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.
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.” Those 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. These features are the exact ones that solve the problem for the user.
We spoke to experts on how to build an effective prototype, documented in this artice – Tips To Help You Build An Effective Product Prototype
#3 – Analyze the costs involved
Building an app requires money and understanding the costs involved in the process, before starting the work on actual design and development is critical.
There are many variables involved in the determination of the actual costing of the app. The platform you decide to launch your app matters. The level of complexity involved in the app development process matters. When you hire a developer, the quality matters.
These along with numerous other factors would determine how much it would actually cost you to develop the app and launch your mobile app startup. Let’s analyse each of these to help you reach a cost estimate. You can also refer to our detailed guide on how much does it cost to build an app.
Apps can be broadly classified into three types, native, web and hybrid. Native apps are platform specific apps built on specific operating system (Android, iOs and windows). They are expensive to develop and require app store approvals.
Web apps are basically just the mobile version of the websites so while they are low cost and have a short development cycle, they cannot be amplified via app stores or be downloaded by users onto their mobiles. Hybrid apps are the amalgamation of the best features of the two.
They function in a similar manner to the native apps and can be downloaded via app stores, they are not platform specific have a shared code base and use a single programming language across all platforms. Whatever you do, a platform like Buildfire will just not work for you if you’re looking to build a custom mobile app.
This is a no-brainer. The higher the complexity of the app, the more experienced development team would be required to overcome the challenges so posed and thus, higher the cost.
An app with a relatively simpler framework and design would be cheaper to develop than one with complex design and multiple layering.
Unless you are well versed in technology and possess highly specialized programming skills, hiring developers to design and develop your mobile app will be a necessity for you. You are faced with the following choices while making this decision, freelancers and software development firms.
Hiring a freelancer is a risky job with many downfalls. While this is the cheapest option, an unskilled or uncommitted freelancer can potentially throw your entire project down the drain. Software development firms are decidedly on the higher spectrum of the costs involved (depending on the size of the agency) they are a safer bet and come with highly specialized skills and pose minimal risk.
There is a huge range of developers to choose from and selecting one which matches your requirement can be a difficult task, which brings us to the next step.
#4 – Selecting the right developer
How to select the right developer to create an app? There are many factors to consider. You need to hire the best skill set available while still staying within your budget and ensure that the app developed meets your vision and it gets created within the allotted timeline.
Seek a development company that has great design talent and a solid development team. While you hire 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. Here are a few things to keep in mind while making the decision.
1. Don’t be fooled by the price
Entrepreneurs base their budget off of a variety of different factors. A lower cost option may actually become more expensive if the app has to be redesigned multiple times or doesn’t turn out like you meant it to. Choose an app developer that will create the best product for you, not a product at the lowest price.
2. Think about the whole picture
Building a new mobile app is a tricky process with a lot of coding involved. While this is an important aspect of app design, you need to choose a developer that goes beyond coding and also considers crafting a user-friendly design. Consider the interface of the app you are creating and choose an app developer that is committed to app design that users will enjoy.
3. Choose someone familiar with the interests of your business
As you choose a developer, look for someone that shares an interest or has experience with the subject matter of your business. Throughout the development process, they may be able to share creative expertise that aligns with your business. Developers that are knowledgeable in your field will have insight that will positively contribute to the planning of your app.
4. Be sure to check references
Get real feedback from other clients that have worked with the developers you are looking into. This will give you a general idea of their company and help you to find the perfect mobile app developer for your needs and the needs of your business. You may want to stay clear of developers who are not very forthcoming with references.
5. Consider the timeline of the project
As you choose a mobile app developer or development company, ask for an estimated timeline on the project. Some companies pick up multiple app development projects at a time so you will want to be sure they will have the time and resources available for your app project. This will help you be prepared for any challenges that may curtail your app development team’s efficiency when it comes to creating the app.
#5 – What to do once you’ve selected an app developer
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 ball rolling for your mobile app startup.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. Get Feedback and Iterate
Once your app goes live on the app store, the first set of customers’ usage and behaviour 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.
#6 – Designing the app
I have heard many entrepreneurs saying they want a very basic design and want to focus on just developing a mobile 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.
App design can go a long way in ensuring user retention and improving on the app performance matrixes. Here is a list of things to keep in mind while designing your app interface.
- Follow the recent trends: Google’s material design framework is a great platform to get to know the recent trends in app designing and keeping up with the changes in the design sphere.
- Minimalistic and consistent design: minimalism helps ensure that the user’s focus remains on the content and distractions by additional design clutter is avoided.
- Pay attention to the basics: Efficient use of typography, use of vibrant colour gradients and the ability to combine multiple points of functionality and aesthetics in user interfaces is the key to a successful design.
- Keep the human aspect in mind while designing: keeping bigger touch targets, utilizing thumb reachability enabling gesture control are some subtle features which can potentially enhance user experience.
Check out the extensive mobile app design guide we’ve created for more details about various design elements.
#7 – Funding your mobile app
Raising money and obtaining funding is a crucial step for any startup and the same is going to apply to your mobile app startup. Higher amount of funding secured means more resource availability and higher chances of startup success. Knowing at which stage to apply for funding can really affect your chances of actually receiving the funding. Let’s get started.
The initial funding of the startup occurs at the MVP stage through the use of individual assets and by making use of the internal cash flow. Friends and family can be a source of capital at this stage.
2. Angel investors and Seed funds
These are capital investments by individuals or groups interested in the investment opportunity in your startup by investing capital in return for a convertible debt or equity stake in your company. This type of investing occurs after the launch of the initial version of the app after it starts receiving some form of traction.
3. Venture capitalists
Venture capital is a form of private equity capital provided to the startup companies showing early stage, high potential. Successive rounds of financing or funding a business are termed Series A, Series B and Series C financing.
The investment from venture capitalists are typically huge ranging in millions of dollars. In order to ensure their return on investment, the capital infusion take place only after the startup has achieved sufficient traction and displays a growth in scale.
Once you’ve got all the above things covered, you need to prepare a brief to share with your potential development partners to get an estimate on timelines and pricing.
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.
#8 – Marketing the app
The marketing plan of the app includes your branding strategy, PR, pre-launch efforts, outreach, app store optimization,and content marketing, all directed at amplifying your overall web presence and increasing app downloads.
The marketing strategy needs to be in place right from the conceptualization stage. Formation of a brand identity among the customers results in greater customer retention. These are the things that you need to keep in mind while devising the marketing strategy for your mobile app startup.
1. Conceptualize the brand identity
Define the logo, colours, and tone of the content and keep it consistent through the different platforms. This would ensure creation of a brand identity and will help differentiate your brand from the plethora of other apps present on the app store.
2. Content marketing
Curate content for your target audience and and reach out to them via social media/ emails to keep them engaged. Engage in SEO for the landing page of the website or blog to ensure maximum outreach. This helps in creating a buzz about your app and attracts potential users for your mobile application.
3. App store optimization
Having an app store optimization strategy in place is the best way to reach users in an organic manner. Both Google Play and Apple’s app store have a set of guidelines that you can follow in order improve discoverability, rank higher on search results and get more downloads. Check out our detailed guide on app store optimization.
4. PR strategy
Reach out to the influencers in the niche your app belongs to in a personalized way and ensure them value in return of app promotions. Paid acquisitions are also a great strategy to follow if you have resources available to you.
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 a mobile app.
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 mobile app.
Raising venture funding is one of the toughest things to do. When you want to create 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.