Just about everyone carries a cell phone nowadays, even in developing countries and rural areas. Lots of people own at least one cell phone and one tablet, sometimes several of each.
The International Telecommunications Union or ITU estimates that over four billion people use the internet frequently, and most of those connect with a mobile device.
Pew Research also makes it clear that apps for mobile devices represent an enormous potential market. A recent Pew Research study found that over 5 billion people own mobile devices. Unsurprisingly, the study found that 76 percent of people in advanced economies owned smartphones.
Astonishingly, though, 45 percent of all cell phone owners in emerging economies have smartphones.
Considering that the bulk of the world’s population lives in emerging economies, the fact that nearly half of the people in those countries own smartphones shows the extent of mobile usage today. This is an incredibly vast market for businesses to tap into.
However, before you run out to start developing the next groundbreaking smartphone app, you need to take a serious look at what goes into mobile app development and consider a few important things.
Solve A Problem:
There’s a lot more to creating an app than a clever idea. There’s a saying that people don’t buy steak, they buy sizzle. For example, when you’re shopping for a car, you’re not looking just to buy a machine. You want to buy transportation. The solution is more important than the form it takes.
No matter what else your app will do, it needs to solve a problem.
You may only be looking to develop an app for internal use for your own business. In that case, the only real value to the app will be in the solution to a problem. Do your outside salespeople or technicians need to update their progress and receive assignments when they’re in the field?
That’s the problem. You need an app that lets them check-in and automatically update customer service, ordering, the finance department, management, and also download information like addresses, customer complaints or service orders, prospects for business, etc. That’s how the app provides a solution to your problem.
If you want a lot of downloads and a big market, you have to know what problem the app will solve, who needs that problem solved, and how large that market of people who need the solution is.
It’s important to look beyond the needs of the business to solve the needs of the user. Otherwise, your app isn’t going to succeed in the marketplace, no matter how cool it looks or sounds.
Identify how your idea will provide value for the end-user. How does it solve their problem? The only way you can fully understand the answer to that is to know your market. The only way to know the market is through market research.
Understanding the needs of your target audience will help you focus on designing the features and functionality that are valuable to the end-users.
What tasks do they need to perform daily? How will your app make their life easier? These are questions you have to find the answers for. Otherwise, you can waste a lot of time and money just to end up with an app that doesn’t meet a need and, therefore, doesn’t get downloaded.
Even worse, it will get bad reviews and cripple future efforts to fine-tune its usefulness.
Read studies on the market sector you are targeting. Identify your ideal customer and build some example profiles of that person’s likes, dislikes, needs, and activities.
Conduct some consumer polling, ask questions of your potential customers, and compile the results. Categorize the results into target features and functions you’ll incorporate into your design.
You can even look at apps that are similar to the ones you want to create. User reviews can be a goldmine of information, as you can find out first-hand what users like or don’t like about an app or its specific features and design.
Remember, solve problems, and the rest will follow.
Once you understand your market and have a grasp of what problem you want to solve for them, it’s important to decide what platform you’re going to develop the app to run on.
For the most part, mobile devices run either on Apple’s iOS operating system or on Google’s Android platform. Which platform does your target market prefer? Is there a clear-cut, large majority on one platform or the other? In that case, the choice is simple.
However, if your target audience is evenly split between the two, you may have to choose based on factors like the software used to develop the application, cost of licensing, and which platform will better provide the features to run your solution efficiently.
There are many apps, web development frameworks nowadays that will help in developing applications, but the licensing can be quite costly for Apple’s iOS at times.
In some cases, you’re only allowed to sell the final result on app stores for one system. You may be restricted from selling on Apple’s iTunes, for instance, without paying extra.
You could be stuck selling only on Apple’s store and unable to sell the same application to Android users because of licensing or cost issues.
In such a case, you may need to develop two separate applications with similar features but different names and graphics, for instance.
You’ve researched your market carefully and identified your app’s target audience. You have a list of features and benefits you will provide to them that will solve their problem in an elegant way. You’ve decided which platform you’re going to provide their solution on.
Now you have a software package that will develop for your chosen platforms, and you have a tentative design ready to start development.
There’s still one major hurdle that’s been touched on earlier but not addressed directly. This is the stage where you now have to ask yourself a simple question.
How much is this going to cost?
You need to understand, in detail, what amount you’ll have to spend on hardware and software to develop the app. You need to account for office space, design work on graphics, software licensing costs, and mobile devices for each platform you’re developing for so you can test the app while you work on it.
Beyond these financial needs, you need to consider your marketing effort, how you’ll train your team, videos, and graphic materials to explain how it works, and most likely, you will need to develop a web site to act as a headquarters for the public to come to.
There will be networking costs, printing, and customer support. You’ll need to account for beta testing and beta distribution, as well as a plan for updating and troubleshooting bugs.
Before you start developing the app, you need to have a clear picture of all expenses that will go into it. Otherwise, you run the risk of running out of resources with a half-finished product.
Besides accounting for expenses, you also need to have an idea of how you will profit from the app.
Will the app generate money as a paid download, or will it work as a way to bring people in as inbound sales leads? Is it a shopping app that helps increase revenue by simplifying the sales process?
The app can generate revenue on its own as part of the development process by licensing to other businesses, for instance. Try to account for that amount as part of the overall operating budget once the app is in production.
How Will You Build It?
This is the tricky part. Can your team build it in-house, considering the budget restraints you’ve laid out? Are you able to train your team on the development software, create the website, and develop operating guidelines so the team can hit the ground running?
If you can’t answer these questions positively, you may want to bring in an outside team to assist with the development. This is an extremely technical field, and it’s going to take a long time to develop this kind of app. Consequently, it might also cost a lot more money.
The third solution is to find skilled professionals outside of the company to develop the app according to your requirements. If you have no need for further apps in the foreseeable future, this might be a great way to get a professionally developed product for a fraction of the cost of training your in-house IT team.
How you chose to build the app will boil down to your unique technical and business needs. Write down all your requirements, and the pros of cons of the methods mentioned above to determine which way suits you best in the long run.
Now that you know how to get an app up and going, you’ll still need to remember to add updates and continue to provide long-term value to the product.
Your new market of customers will become a loyal legion of users that will add to your revenue as you continue to solve the problems they need to wrestle with.
As long as you communicate with that market, identify problems they need to solve, and keep the application working the way it should with regular fixes and updates, you’ll have a winner on your hands.