developing an app

How to Start Developing an App

Laura MacPherson
Laura MacPherson July 2, 2020

A concept is just the first step toward building a successful app. Because there are so many apps available today, you’ll need to be sure that yours stands out and solves a significant need, with a solid monetization strategy. Before you start building, you’ll want to lay the necessary groundwork to be sure your concept has strong odds of success. Here’s a step-by-step process that will walk you through how to start developing an app. 

Identify the Pain Point(s)

The first thing you need to know before you start developing an app is who you’re building it for and why they need it. If you can’t connect these dots, your prospective users won’t be able to either. The app you build must demonstrate value to users by solving a specific problem. To determine whether the pain point is significant, check Google Trends for keywords related to the problem and do Google keyword research to see how often people search related terms. The higher the search level, the better your chances are that the problem needs solving. Additionally, you’ll want to speak one-on-one with prospective users. They can share valuable insights into exactly how they’re experiencing the problem and the impact it has, as well as what they need in an ideal solution. 

Learn About Your Users

What you learn from your online research and your interviews with prospective users will provide a foundational understanding of your users. Next, dive a little deeper to learn more. What do they value when it comes to using an app? How about their goals related to the problem your app will solve? What do they fear or experience discomfort about, related to using an app or specifically dealing with the problem? How will your app fit with their life and their work? Again, there’s no substitute for speaking with real people who fit your target user profile to learn the answers to these questions. But you can also use surveys and online research.

Once you’ve collected your data, create a user persona. This fictional representation of a user group helps you gain an intimate understanding of your users. Through this lens, you’ll be able to better achieve product-market fit.

Research Your Competitors

While you’re learning about your target users, find out what other solutions are available for them. Check app stores and marketplaces to see what solutions already exist and what users like and don’t like about them. Check reviews to learn specific, helpful details. By identifying your potential competitors, you can learn what they’re doing well and what opportunities you can exploit. Really dig in when you research your competitors to learn not only how their apps function and what they offer to users, but also to understand their monetization strategies and marketing approaches. 

Gather Requirements

Once you have validated your idea, you need to gain an understanding of how your new app would fit into their current way of doing things. Conduct interviews and focus group sessions to get insight into their processes, workflows, current tools your app will need to integrate with, and priorities. Further build out your user persona(s) with what you learn. Start considering a user interface that will be appealing and allow users to quickly adopt the app. During this step, you are shifting to view the project from the lens of your users.

Decide Your Monetization Strategy

Before you even start building your app, you’ll want to consider the monetization strategy because it can have an impact on your design. There are a number of monetization strategies, and the right one to choose will depend on your app and how it will function. It’s a good idea to also consider your skills and experience when determining a monetization strategy. Monetization is one of the most important aspects of your business plan, so you want to make sure to choose the right strategy or strategies for your startup.

Solution the App

Brainstorm potential solutions and formats of solutions that will address the user’s problem(s). Solicit feedback from users and stakeholders to see which of the options is the best fit. While you do this analysis, start to consider what business processes will be required to support your app. For example, how will you deliver any service components? What will you need in order to implement the monetization strategy? You’ll want to automate or streamline as much as possible to ensure that you can support these functions efficiently once the app is in production and available for sale. A great idea that can’t be supported makes for unhappy customers.

Design Your Marketing Plan

The last consideration before you start building your app is your marketing plan. You may build a great app, but if no one knows it’s available, it does no one any good. How do you plan to get the word out and where will your target audience find the app? Consider your persona(s) and where they would look. Yes, the same personas that you are using to drive the development of your app can also inform marketing. You’ll implement your marketing plan tactics well before your app launch so it’s a great idea to map out a plan before you begin to build it. This plan will evolve over time, but a successful app depends on a strategic marketing strategy. 

You wouldn’t consider building a house without a solid foundation, and these activities will provide just that for your app. Then, once you have your foundation for how to start developing an app, you can get caught up in the excitement of seeing your idea come to life.

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