On March 31st of 2009, ‘Schoolhouse Rock!’ aired its final episode. If it were still around, there might have had an animated short on building and launching apps on its way. While it’s not as general interest as, say, ‘how a bill becomes a law,’ apps are rapidly becoming a cultural staple and knowing how they happen is becoming necessary – no matter what industry you’re in or what your interests are. Sooner than later, ‘how an idea becomes an app’ won’t sound that niche.
Let’s follow the road map and see how an idea becomes an app. Don’t worry, this article doesn’t come with a sing-a-long.
Simply enough, the first thing you need to build an app, is an idea. When deciding to develop an app, it’s important to first identify why you’re doing it and what purpose it will serve. The best apps will do something a website can’t (or do what it can, better) and will have a strong hook. Who are you hoping to reach with the app? Will it take advantage of smartphone features (i.e. camera)? Kicking around these kinds of questions can help you come up with the right idea for your app.
You have the perfect idea and it’s time to figure out what that idea is going to look like. Pinpointing the right aesthetic can be the difference between a ‘meh’ app or one that catches fire and blazes across the mainstream. You’ll need a logo, color scheme, and even a font type (NO wingdings). This is the stage where you put a ‘face’ on your idea. It’s the beginning of a greater process, but it gives your idea legs and starts to establish the broader concept you’re going for.
User Interface and the User Experience come next. User Interface takes the concepts put forth on the style board and starts developing them. This is everything that the user of the app will see when they’re engaging with it. Again, what an app looks like can make a big difference. This can include more minor things – like buttons, and major things – like navigation layout. The User Experience is developing how the app is going to behave when in use. This is also pivotal to how successful the app can be. You want the UX to be as easy and enjoyable as possible. Any confusing navigation or other frustrations can dissuade someone from a download, or from engaging with your app.
Once you’re confident that your app looks and behaves the way it should, it’s time to do audience research. This is the stage where you find out how to reach the audience your app is intended to reach. You’ll need to identify what kinds of devices your audience is using, how often they download and engage with apps, and how you can market your app to them, so that they’ll use it. This is a stage where you can gather information on how much your audience is willing to spend on a download or in-app purchases, for example.
After you’ve done your homework, it’s time to program your app. This is the most technical stage and you’ll need – huge curve ahead – a programmer to literally write your app into existence. Choosing the right programmer is essential. A well-built app will have fewer bugs and a smoother launch.
Now that your app is a reality, it’s time to test it. During the beta testing stage, you’ll want to see for yourself what your users will see and experience. Does it look good? Is it easy to navigate? Enjoyable to use? Would you download this app? The app may be tested by a small group of people and it’s important to gather feedback from those in the beta testing process. This is the right time to catch what’s not working – before you push it live. Once you go through the app store approval process, making changes after the fact can be an enormous headache.
Marketing & Promotions
It’s time to tell everybody why they need to download your app and how it will make their lives easier. There are a number of ways to get the word out, so a great place to start is wherever your audience is. That’s another question that should have been answered in your audience research. You want to illustrate the need and then extol what makes your app amazing. If you effectively communicate that to your audience, you’ll see engagement from the start.
Submission to App Stores
While the app store submission process will vary depending on whether you’re looking for approval from the App Store or Google Play, the general principle applies: you’ll need to satisfy a set of criteria designed to ensure that only quality apps are put out. This is the necessary step in which you’ll have to double-check that your app is up to the right standards and you’re fully ready for a launch.
You’ve been approved! Launching your app is the only thing left to do. Once you’ve launched, you’ll continue to get feedback on performance and user response. You’ll be able to make changes or updates if need be, and you now officially have an app.