At times, you just know that you have chanced upon a good app idea. And then, all goes to waste – because you spend too much time procrastinating on how it can actually be transformed into a mobile application (or whether doing so would be even possible). The notion of learning the basics of iOS/Android programming, and then getting down to make an app, is hardly practical either. A unique, interesting, and (most importantly) practically viable app idea is worth its weight in gold – and in this week’s AppBoard Tuesday (ABT), we will guide you on how app ideas can be systematically transformed into efficient mobile applications:
- Make sure your app idea is complete – You cannot work with a half-baked, one-liner app idea (say, ‘I want to make an iPhone app for travelers’). Jot down the features that you want the application to have, and think about the manner in which end-users will benefit from it. Make sure that your app idea has one core focus (which would be the main ‘purpose’ of the app). There is also the small matter of deciding whether you should go for a native app or a mobile web app. With the surge in the worldwide smartphone usage rates and the emphasis on user-experience, opting for native applications would be smarter.
- Decide on the platform – If you want your app to have maximum reach, you should optimize it for the Android platform. On the other hand, if you wish to earn more revenue (mind you, that’s not a given…and the costs would be slightly higher), you need to hire the services of an iOS app company. Cross-platform mobile app development is important – but ideally, you should start off with a single platform. Once that one is successful, you can always create versions for other mobile platforms.
- Look for a mobile app company – If you do not have time to kill (and then some!), trying to give shape to your app idea all on your own won’t be a smart option. There are literally hundreds of good mobile app companies listed on the internet, whose services you can avail of. Do some research on the web, create a shortlist of 3-4 app development firms, and ask for free app quotes from each of them. Have a chat with their respective representatives as well. Depending on the quoted expense, the track record of the companies, and your first impressions about them – select the one that seems the most suitable.
- Be wary of shady clauses – Unfortunately, like in any other professional field, the domain of mobile app-making has its fair share of fraudulent companies (on the hunt for quick bucks and getting one up on unsuspecting clients). Before signing/agreeing to any contract document, ask about things like the estimated deadline for the completion of the project, the total costs and when you need to pay (run a mile from companies that charge all the money in advance!), the intellectual property rights of the app, and when/what upgrades will be released in future. The best Android or iPhone app development companies will never charge you extra for app upgrades.
- Include wearables in your app development plan – Okay, this one is (mainly) for those who wish to create iOS applications. Along with the iPhone version of your app, request the company to make a custom version for Apple Watch as well. It won’t be a tough ask to find a firm that has started out with WatchKit app development (it might have already released a few Watch apps). IT software and app developers feel that wearable technology is the future of mobile tech, and your app idea should include provisions for that.
- Know how your app idea is being worked on – Xcode, Eclipse, Android Studio, Swift, JSON – these might all be just random words for those of you who have an app idea, but are from a non-technical/non-programming background. That does not, however, mean you cannot understand (and indeed, ask the app company to help you understand) how the app is shaping up. Request for primary wireframes (low-fidelity sketches) and mockups to be shared with you on a regular basis. Suggest feedback and tell the developers on the job to modify anything that you do not like. You are the client, you are the one paying the big bucks, and you have every right to be a part of this ‘idea-to-app’ journey.
- Be careful about the app UI and designs – There are two ways to go about this. If you have professional-level expertise in working with tools like Photoshop, CorelDraw and Spine – you might take care of the designing/animation aspect of your mobile app yourself (make sure you let the app company know about that from beforehand). Alternatively, you can delegate the entire app development process (development and design deployment) to the agency you have hired. Make sure that the coding and the designing is not done by the same team (if it is, it’s time to look for another company). Check the screens, layouts, proposed touch behaviors/gestures, and the in-app navigation. Even a small glitch in these can ruin an otherwise nice application.
- Brace yourself for some initial disappointments – Mistakes happen, miscommunications crop up, the app prototype deviates from your initial idea – even if you hire the best mobile app company in the world. Never be hesitant to send in feedback and suggestions on the design prototypes (in case you do not feel that the screens are not quite pixel-perfect) – and keep at it until you are completely satisfied about the features/visual elements of the app. If possible, visit the offices of the company which is working on your project for a one-on-one meeting. It takes a bit of time for the developers’ way of working to become completely in sync with your way of thinking – allow some time for that.
- Know the tradeoffs – Think of a triangle. It has the app development cost figure at one corner, the quality factor of the app at the second, and the scheduled project completion deadline on the third. With competition among iOS as well as Android apps being fierce, you cannot possibly compromise on the quality factor. This means there will be a small tradeoff between the expenses and the time factor. If you are not in a tearing hurry to release your app, the final cost figure will remain within your budget.
- Find out how you will earn – Ah, now we come to the point that all (okay, most) people with an app-idea are interested about. Inquire the Android/iPhone app developers on the job about what monetization strategy will be used in your application (you can choose from in-app purchases, mobile ads, or paid downloads – the first among these being the most popular). In addition, make sure that the mobile app analytics will be monitored by the company (i.e., the way the app would be used by people). Ignore these factors – and you might end up spending big money on a piece of mobile software that does not yield adequate returns.
- Be a part of the app testing group – The initial builds of your app will be plagued by bugs, screen freezes, crashes, and other problems. Professional developers would systematically remove these problems (most IDEs offer real-time code testing options for agile development), and then move the app to the final testing phase. Apart from the in-house testers of the company, you should also install the app on your own smartphone/tablet – and check it out. Testing the app in the cloud is also important. Look out for the speed of the app, its bandwidth/memory requirements, and whether it is causing excessive battery drain. Factors like these can (and probably will) get your app rejected at the store.
- Make sure that the app is well-marketed – How many personal contacts do you have? 50, 100…500? You cannot possibly ask each and everyone to try out your new Android/iOS application – after it is released at the store. In the absence of proper app marketing, general awareness among smartphone-users about it would remain low (can’t blame them, there are 1.5 million+ apps at iTunes and Google Play Store). Do some marketing on your own – and make sure that the app is being publicized by the developers, via press releases, social media posts, emails & newsletters, and app review channels (the genuine ones, of course). The end-users can give a positive rating to an app only if they are aware of its existence!
When you contact an app company with your idea, ask about the devices the application should be optimized for. This is comparatively easier on the iOS platform, where new apps should be usable on iPhone 6/6 Plus, iPhone 5 (and maybe, iPhone 4S). The task is way more difficult for Android, where there are so many vendors – each tweaking around with the plain-vanilla version of the OS. You need to focus on maximizing the reach of your app as much as possible (read: optimize for all popular devices). After all, everyone should be able to check out your app idea!
That, folks, brings us to the end of yet another edition of AppBoard Tuesday. In an earlier edition of ABT (in October 2014), we had given a more general overview of how ideas can be transformed into apps – you can go through that too. Feel that there is something else required to move from the idea to the deployment stage? Let us know, and if your point is valid, we would include it in this list.
AppBoard Tuesday will come back next week, with another mobile app-related topic. Till the next time, love thy apps…and make sure that your app ideas do not go to waste!