Ask the Experts

How Do I Get Started Building A Mobile App

I want to have an app developed, but am nervous because our company has no expertise in this area. How do I get started?

Lost On Where To Go

Do Your Homework Before You Jump In

Dear Lost,

I’m glad to see that you are looking to enter the world of mobile apps, the final frontier. That is of course until something else comes along (see radio, TV, the internet etc.)  Building an app is no simple task though, well, let me correct that, building a GOOD app is no simple task.  It takes a great deal of planning, from who the app is for to what it will do to how they will hear about it.  In many cases, it mirrors a business plan of releasing a new product.

So how do you get started?

The first thing you want to do is define the scope of your app:

  • Who will use your app?
  • Why will they use your app?
  • What will they gain from using your app?
  • What will YOU gain from them using your app?
  • Why will they continue to use your app?
  • What will your app do?
  • How will they find out about your app?

Once you come up with all of these answers, and define your general business plan surrounding your app.  You’ll want to find a competent, proven development team to help you build your app.  In fact, any development team worth anything can help you do the above step if you don’t know how to answer those questions.  I won’t go in to all of the details on how to find a development team as I’m saving that for another day, but you want to make sure to vet them out properly.

Once you have picked out your development team, they should work with you on wire-framing and architecting our your application.  That includes figuring out how the app will work, what happens when each button is pressed, and the basics of functionality of your app.

Once this is pretty well set, they will work on designs with you. Designers should work with whatever color scheme and pallet you want, though keep in mind that they are designers and have a professional eye, so don’t ignore their advice.  Also, colors and designs is highly subjective, so if you have more than one person on your side making decisions, this can slow down the development process, so try and make decisions quick in order to keep things on schedule.

After the designs are set, and the full scope of work is defined, you’ll move in to the development phase.  This part can be slightly misleading, as many people and companies will want to go with a less expensive, even off-shore development team because it’s all kind of behind-the-scenes “magic” that you don’t really see.   Be careful about that.  Going with a developer that is less-experienced, or the “cheapest option” often results in shoddy code, rejections from the app store, and an inferior product, that while it may look great, has many bugs and errors that degrades the user experience and can result in a failing app.

Keep in mind that mobile apps are great for small businesses, entrepreneurs, and Fortune 500 companies.  They give you a great way to be in your customers hands at all times, whether it is to learn more about your products, order from your restaurant, or play an interactive game.  But there is a difference between simply building an app, and building a good app that people will use, enjoy, and tell their friends.  Take time to do your homework and research before getting started and going down the wrong path.

Best of luck!