October 28th, 2013
Smartphones have put software development within the world’s grasp, and more and more people are coming up with great ideas for apps of their own. If you’ve got a strong app idea, we suggest you think about five big things before you plan to start development: design, demographic, budget, talent, and timeline.
Before you pitch your app to potential investors or developers, be sure that you have a strong concept of the app’s design. When we say “design,” we’re not just talking about the look of the app; the design is everything from how it looks to what it does. It helps to write everything down in an Application Design Document that you can then present to an interested party, so that the full concept of the software can be realized. Be as detailed as you like, and be open to revising.
Have a strong idea of who you intend to use your app (and remember: “everyone” is not a viable option). Whether the goal is a large or small demographic, be sure that the app is well-thought out toward that target, and be sure to have enough of a quality, targeted experience that the download is worth their time, effort, and/or money. This is also the best time to decide which mobile platforms the app should be developed on.
Whether you’re building the app yourself or you plan to hire out a developer, it’s good to have a budget in mind. Experienced agencies, studios and freelance software developers will likely charge anywhere from $5,000–$100,000 per app, depending on the needs of the app and the experience of the developer. Some independent developers might take a pay cut in exchange for profit sharing depending on the app’s viability, though be mindful that doing so is a huge risk for them, and most developers won’t be comfortable with that option. Keep a budget set for marketing, as mobile app stores have become very high-competition sales environments, such that advertising and/or paid user acquisition have become very important to the success of a mobile app. It is extraordinarily rare for an app to go “viral” without a strong financial push on the marketing side.
Look for a designer and/or developer who fits well with the personality of your concept. Shop around, talk to a lot of potential partners, and carefully look at their portfolios of work to make sure that you’re confident in their abilities. This is also the time to consider budget, as a freelancer looking to expand their knowledgebase will charge much less (and provide a much different outcome) than an experienced digital agency with a full staff.
Have an idea of when you’d like to release your mobile application. If it’s time sensitive, account for that within the budget (in that a shorter timeline often equates to a larger budget). Apps, depending on their scope, can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months. If your app is self-contained and fairly concise, you can expect a much shorter development cycle than if your app is “the next Facebook,” and will require a full staff of experienced developers working on it full-time for a year to complete to your design specifications.
Ultimately, the lesson here is that it’s very important to have a strong concept of what you want to do and what you’re capable of. If you feel confident that your app concept is financially viable and is worth the time and effort to develop, then start organizing and researching the production process to make it happen!