So, you’ve got an idea for an app, but you’re not sure how to get started? You’ve come to the right place.
In this post, we’re going to list 5 steps that you can take to build your idea into a functional app. We’ll start right in the beginning and give you step-by-step actionables that are broken down into bite-sized chunks. Each of them will take you closer to your goal of building your own app.
To give you an idea what you are in for, here are the 5 steps:
- Do customer research
- Validate your idea
- Plan your MVP
- Build your MVP
Step 1: Customer Research
Customer research is perhaps the most important step in any app-build process. It’s where you convert your idea into a reality. Its the foundation for what could be a business. You have to do it right.
The first step of any customer research is properly defining your customer. Creating a customer persona is a great way to do that.
Customer personas generally include:
- Psychographic characteristics (Personality, lifestyles, interests, ways of thinking, opinions, values)
- Demographic data (Age, gender, income etc.)
- Other information as it relates to your product (Buying power, spending behaviour, time online etc.)
Once you’ve got your customer persona, you need to find out where they hang out, both online and in person.
Great tools to help find your target audience online include:
- Twitter (Use hashtags!)
- Facebook Groups
Once you’ve got your customer research nailed, and you feel like you fully understand who you are targeting, you will be in a better place to execute on the next step of the process: Idea validation.
Step 2: Idea Validation
Idea validation is where you take your idea and you try to figure out if people actually want to use it.
Idea validation is so important because it’s essentially a test of your ‘guess’. That’s what your idea is… a guess. You’re taking an educated estimate on something and essentially saying “I bet other people would pay money for that”. What we’re doing in this step is testing that hypothesis.
In order to validate your idea, you will need to ask questions and do potential customer interviews. These interviews should be structured in a way that helps you understand people’s motivations and desires. You want to understand their problem and the gap in the market your app could fill.
Here’s a great template for an idea validation interview:
- Tell me about yourself
- What do you use/do for [insert topic]?
- What challenges do you experience with this?
- What do you wish you could do for this topic?
- Is there a tool out there that you already use to help you do all or some of this [topic]?
- What would make that tool 10X or 100X better for you?
- If there isn’t a tool for it, what would you want from one that would pay for?
- How much value in terms of hours or money saved would that create for you?
The responses to these questions will help you understand if people will pay for your app and if they consider it a valuable solution to their problems.
If you have a hard time getting people to respond to your idea validation interviews, you can turn back to your good old friends Reddit and Facebook. If you’re an engaged member of those communities, even better – people are much more likely to be receptive.
In my experience, that absolute best way to conduct customer interviews is in person. You get a real feel for how your idea resonates with your potential customer.
After 10 interviews with (the right!) people, you should have a good idea of what’s going to make your app successful.
Step 3: Plan Your MVP
Now things are getting fun! This is where your idea starts becoming an actual product.
Your work done in step 1 and step 2 will put you in good stead here. You want to try and take your learnings from both of those, and build a minimum set of features which are required from your app.
When I design my MVP’s, I generally follow a top-down approach:
- Start very high level. What are the core functions required to make your app a success?
- For each of those core functions, what are the sub-features which are needed to make them work properly.
- List all other “nice to have” features which might not fit into any of those.
Now you start ruthlessly refining. Cut away any functions that are not needed to fulfill on one of the core customer requirements that you gleaned from Step 2. You need to be ruthless here. If you try and include too much from the beginning, you will spread your efforts too thin and probably end up designing a product that doesn’t solve anyone’s problems well enough.
A great reference which I use in this process is Picasso’s simplification of complex images:
It’s a design principle that Apple employed under Steve Jobs which has resulted in the cult-like following that the multi-billion dollar company enjoys today.
Start simple, and then expand from there!
Once you’ve got a well-defined plan for how you want your product to look, it’s time to start building.
Step 4: Build Your MVP
Now before you skip over this section and think “Ah, I’m not a technical person” or “I’m not a developer, this isn’t going to be my job”, don’t!
With tools like Builder.ai available in the market, you are as much a part of the build process as you are in any other aspect of your business. Builder.ai works with you to create rapid prototypes that you can use as a go/no-go reference and then goes from there.
Here’s the typical development cycle:
- You take your plan from Step 3 and convert it into a prototype using Builder Now. Because of the prebuilt frameworks and components, this will take you a matter of hours – not days or weeks.
- You can also select other apps or products that you like, which the build team will take inspiration from.
- You can tweak and refine your prototype at any stage – no coding required. If you can drag and drop elements on a Microsoft Word document (even that’s probably more complicated), you can use Builder Now.
- The Builder.ai team takes the reigns and converts your prototype into a functional app.
- Add and review features and progress at any stage using Builder Studio.
Builder.ai makes this process as easy as that. You’ve got full control, and there’s full transparency. You know what is going to be delivered, and at what price.
All that’s left to do now is launch that product!
Step 5: Launch
Launching your app is almost the culmination of all that you’ve done so far. After all the hard work, it’s time to release the product into the world and see how it performs.
You should be using your customer validation interviews to identify your launch channels. We established where your potential customers hang out, so that’s where you can go and talk about your product and put it in front of customers.
Here are 4 tips for launching an app:
- Make sure you have a great landing page, and that you have a launch funnel ready to go.
- Drive traffic to your landing page using paid advertising if you can – this will help to ensure you have a large enough user base to start with.
- Once you’ve launched, make sure you’ve got your customer support and help desk team ready to go.
- Get reviews! Reviews are a great customer acquisition tool that will entice more people to try out your app. Social proof is a powerful thing.
Once you’ve launched, your job isn’t over. Collecting user feedback from the people interacting with your app is super important. How you do this is up to you, but I like to use a survey creator like Typeform or something similar, and reach out to the users of my app manually.
This feedback is invaluable, and I use it to make continuous improvements.
One of the most important things to remember when you launch your app: It’s a work in progress. Trust that the process you have been through so far was thorough, and that there is a customer out there. Take feedback as it comes, and use it constructively.
This is a very high level process on how to build your app, and a lot goes into each of the steps which is not detailed here. I’ve tried to keep it as concise as possible.
Remember that as with anything in business, building an app is a journey. Remain flexible to influences and ideas and don’t get stuck on one idea. And also, have fun!