Ten Steps to Get Your Idea into the App StoreThe time has come: you've got a great app idea and you want to take it to market. But how?
Check out this excerpt of the 10 steps from idea to launch presentation team Incipia recently did for startup entrepreneurs in the Detroit metro area. You can also view the full slide deck here.
Step 1: Research and BrainstormYour idea is probably pretty good. But in the startup world, what you don't know can hurt your chances of success, so be sure to do your homework.
Also, you'll need to come to grips with the fact that there is competition. The horse was the competitor to the car. MySpace was Facebook’s competitor. The hyperloop competes with the BART, plans trains and Uber. There are always other products/services that cover similar ground to at least some of what your idea does, so learn how they work and ensure your app works even better.
Additionally, it's better not to be a copycat. Invest your time, energy and money into something that is new and rings true to you, the product owner to build something great (the world doesn't need more Samwer brothers).
Follow these 3 steps for competitive research:
- Find 3 competitors.
- Matrix their features against your idea so you know what is necessary to compete and where you may be able to differentiate.
- Talk to users of your competitors and people you know would be your users to see what they like/don’t like. Also, ask them whether they would pay or switch from a competitor based on your differentiator features to understand the true value of your trump cards.
Step 2: DocumentNext, make sure that all your ideas and research is captured in some cohesive, sharable text form.
- Create a feature list, which is a bulleted list explaining what you want people to be able to do, such as sign up, add favorite recipes and share recipes with friends.
- Imagine 3+ user stories of potential people and how they would interact with your app.
- User stories are only tied to the semantics of an application, not the presentation. For example, they would never include information about the way a login button looks, or where a login button is located on the screen, but rather that the user "has the ability to log in."
- Get a little more descriptive and add more detailed business requirements of how the app should work.
- Business requirements are a further refinement of your feature list into how the actual functionality in your app will work (maybe that’s signing up with gmail or facebook or share recipes through email, facebook and text). Usually, this is where the app team can step in to help out, but you can get this task started for them.
- It’s a must to have user stories and a feature list at the least, because they will help inform the business requirements, which will serve as a vehicle to obtain an estimate for design, development, and marketing costs.
- By getting everything down on paper, it’s also a great way to find areas of your idea that may be problematic – this isn’t only a smart step to take early on, but it’s considerate to anyone who you want to discuss your idea with in terms of getting their help.
- You may even find that documenting may wind up completely changing your initial idea! If this happens, it’s not a bad thing at all; it just means that you are really thinking things through and have a more informed idea.
Step 3: DrawWhoever you ask for help, whether that’s a designer or a developer, will appreciate that your thoughts are organized in some way, shape or form other than in your head; and visually is the best way for you to explain what you’re thinking.
The designer will probably end up re-doing your designs with their eye for mobile-specific UX, but that’s okay and it’s also okay if you don’t have great drawing skills – it’s better than just text, believe us! The point is to convey your idea to the app team in the most effective way possible.
Step 4: Design WireframesWireframes are what a UX designer will do with your feature list, user stories, and the business requirements.
Wireframes are really only meant to represent the way that a user can navigate through an app, as well as “bare bones” information on each screen. These are the designer’s first take on how the flow of your app will work, and aren’t supposed to include colors or any sort of styling.
It also works the best if a professional designer is the one to come up with the wireframes, as she/he will end up using them when it comes time to create hi-resolution mock-ups.
Wireframes will remain useful to you, regardless of the timeline. They can even be repurposed if needed, which means that their value is fairly independent of other steps in the project.
Be careful not to rush this step! This is basically the first tangible deliverable that involves anything related to a mobile application (as business requirements are usually platform-agnostic).
Additionally, it's important to get all your feedback on how you want the user experience to be to the designer during this stage, because changing the way the UX works after this is done or after development has begun is painful. Again, don’t critique how the wireframe looks because that’s not the purpose at this particular stage.
Step 5: Design the UITo create the UI (or user interface), the designer will work on making the app look and feel good and producing hi-resolution mock-ups; the UI is meant to represent the branding of your application through specific colors and fonts.
Good designers will be very intentional about which colors they choose to use for various functions in an app. For example, delete buttons (or other buttons of a destructive nature) will often be red, as opposed to a green or blue.
Another benefit of having hi-resolution mockups is that they will enable you to get you the most accurate estimate on time and costs, before actually getting down to development. This is because they’ll significantly reduce ambiguity that may lie in the business requirements or even wireframes.
Step 6: Develop a PrototypeThe prototype is the most basic form of your app that satisfies all the core functionality.
It’s a good thing to keep in mind that a prototype is not meant to be 300% bulletproof – if there are obscure workflows in your app that do not behave exactly correct, it is probably still OK to move onto other things that are more important in order to finish the prototype (just make sure to jot that feedback down for step 9).
On that same note, it’s also important that the level of polish demonstrated by a prototype should be intentional. That could mean that you don’t care about little details in the UI because various pieces of functionality are far more important, or it could mean that a large part of the app’s success lies in how smooth it feels because it’s functionality is simple. It's your call; just be intentional about it.
Step 7: QA TestQA stands for quality assurance, and it means to make sure your app won’t crash or break when it goes live into the app store.
Quality Assurance testing should be handled by one or more people who are solely focused on it – this means that the developer(s) should not be responsible for all of the testing, which is because they won’t do nearly as good of a job as a QA tester, who isn't preoccupied with development or biased by knowing how the app's inner guts work.
Sometimes adding a new feature can break a feature that was already there, so it’s important to catch issues as early as possible. This can be accommodated by regression testing, which is when you test the app to make sure that things still work.
As the product owner, you don’t have to be too involved with the ongoing QA testing of an app, but it’s important that you make sure it is going on, and that the QA and development teams are in constant communication with one another.
3 of the most important aspects of QA testing involve:
- Making sure all the UX flows work (e.g. signing up & signing out).
- Making sure all UI items work (e.g. buttons).
- Using the prototype for several days and if the app crashes, documenting the steps leading to the crash.
Step 8: Fix Bugs and Prepare to DeployBefore an app is submitted, it’s a good idea to reserve some time at the end solely for fixing bugs. You can think of this set time as a “sanity check” to make sure that the app will work as expected for all of your brand new users.
This is when everyone who is involved should be testing, or as we like to say, "hammering on the app as much as possible." Take screenshots of your application to use for the app store listing (in both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store), come up with a description and make sure that all of the elements or the app listing are squared away.
Step 9: Invest in MarketingNaturally, it's important to get the marketing right, so that you will see a return on all the effort put into your idea up until this point. It's best if you have a marketing budget, but if not here are a few ways to get the ball rolling for free:
- 1 month before launch:
- Build a splash page that people can visit to get more information such as teaser pictures, text and a video, but leave the content sparse to keep anticipation high. Write some blog posts to build awareness and gain SEO traffic, too.
- Capture email addresses using mailchimp from people who visit the site so you can let them know when your app is ready for download.
- Create a couple social pages to post content regularly to. But don’t go overboard! Make sure you can manage them all. Instagram is the number 1 B2C app channel, but Facebook and Twitter are popular as well.
- Talk to publications or influencers beforehand to ask for their support in spreading the word and try to get a shout out for launch day.
- Use the right keywords in your app listing to increase chances of getting ASO installs (not just brand name but descriptive words like recipe or cooking instructions).
- On launch day:
- Send an email out and post on social letting people know your app is live, with a link to download it.
- Ask all your friends to download and rate your app. Downloads and ratings not only improve your app’s visibility, but also encourage others to download it via social proof.
- Change the content of your landing page to provide more information about your app and your live download link.
Step 10: Launch!Pop some champagne – and then get back to the grind collecting feedback, spreading the word and adding features ;)
Incipia is a mobile app development and marketing agency that builds and markets apps for companies, with a specialty in high-quality code architecture and keyword-based marketing optimizations. For blog/video or speaking requests, business or press inquiries please contact us or send an inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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