Kickstart Your Mobile Application

Download ebook pimg1

Chapter 1 Idea Generation

Get the ideas you have in your head out on paper. Define the what, why and how of your idea and formalise it using the Lean Canvas Business Model.

Chapter 2 Idea Validation

Will people actually use the app you want to build? The only way you will know is if you go out there and ask your customers directly.

Chapter 3 Protecting Your Ideas

There are legal measures you can take to keep your idea safe. Learn about copyright, trademarking, patenting and non-disclosure agreements.

Chapter 4 Build Your App

Start working with a trusted design and development partner who can start breathing life into your great plan.

The essential guide for kickstarting your mobile application

The mobile app is one of the most lucrative areas for innovators in the digital space.Disruptive innovators like yourselves are bringing their ideas to fruition every year, with the brilliant ones truly changing the landscape of their respective industries. Your idea could be next.

However, we noticed that there was no straight forward guide available for budding innovators. With no clear plan, it may be difficult to stay motivated since there will be lots of confusion and pitfalls faced. Armed with our ample experience in the mobile app development, and drawing from the experiences we’ve had with our clients, we thought it was time to change that!

This guide will be your companion resource throughout the entire process. We’ll start from ground zero, with idea generation and progress until post-app launch success. You’ll have a clear path to follow during your app development process, so you’re well equipped for success in the app space.

It’s important that from here on in, you’re looking at things from a customer’s point of view. Success in the mobile app market definitely means keeping the user’s needs and experience front-and-centre throughout the entire process.

Chapter 1

Idea Generation

3 Important Questions: What, How, Why

Businesses exist to offer solutions to customers’ existing problems. The more pervading
the problem, the more customers will flock to your app to solve that problem. Simon Sinek, bestselling author of Start With Why articulates this well. Here are the first questions you should ask are:

What problem are you trying to solve?

Commonly, you find that there are myriad of problems that you face on a daily basis and you may be able to think of ways a mobile app can be harnessed to make your life easier.

How will you solve the problem?

What is the solution are you proposing for the problem you have? How is it different to what is currently out there?

Why is it an important problem to solve?

Tap into your intrinsic motivations. Why are you embarking on this project? Why is it important to solve this problem?

Get those ideas out of your head with brainstorming

In order to answer these questions, brainstorming is the best way to go. Effective brainstorming is simply the dumping of all the ideas you have in your head out on paper. You may want to whiteboard, mindmap, post-it or list the ideas you have. From here, it’s easy to organise and toss around ideas that come to mind. Essentially, you are clearing the haze of your mind and making room for good ideas to form.
Answering these questions is not a simple exercise, and it shouldn’t be. Take a few hours of uninterrupted time to flesh out the initial ideas you may have. The most important thing to keep in mind for this process is to create a no judgement zone for your thoughts and the thoughts of others. Write down everything you can think of.

Ask for Feedback

In the idea generation phase, you may want to talk to family and friends who face the problem you are planning to solve. However, you should be focused on asking them questions surrounding what is important to them in a solution, not pitching them your idea. When talking to them, listen with a grain of salt, as their opinion may be biased towards validating your idea (you’ll conduct proper market research in the next phase).

Formalising Your Ideas

After brainstorming the answers to the questions above, it’s time to prepare for idea validation. This involves organising your ideas and forming a coherent scaffold.
At this stage, it may be worthwhile to narrow down each of your what, how and why answers to 1-2 sentences. From these sentences, you should cut this down further to a simple sentence. It might be difficult to cut down these already short statements, but what you are trying to essentially achieve is an encapsulating sentence – the ‘elevator pitch’ for your business.

Lean Canvas Business Model

At this point, you will also want to start the preparation of your business plan. One scaffold that might be of interest to you is the Lean Canvas Business Model. This business model was derived by Ash Maurya and designed to be completed within 20 minutes.

Customer Segments

Smartphone usage is universal, so you have the potential to reach an incredibly extensive audience. However, it is important to narrow down a segment of this market when you are launching.
You will be able to focus on delivering the most value to a particular group of people, who can vouch for your app to likeminded people. These are your early adopters and they are incredibly important for the growth and momentum of your app launch.
“When you try to market to everyone, you end up marketing to no-one”.

Problem

You must now write down the three specific problems your customer segment faces and how these problems affect them. You should also write down how the problems are currently being “solved”. What alternatives are out there that attempt to alleviate the problem? This will be helpful when you come to complete a more detailed competitor analysis.

Unique Value Proposition

How will you grab the attention of your customers? What is the solution you are offering for their problem? However, you do need to be careful about using marketing words that are overexuberant. Your unique value proposition should be specific and accurate. You are after something that is short, concise and engaging.

Solution

How do you plan to solve the problems you have identified? For each problem you have identified, outline how your idea directly mitigates the problem for your consumers.

Channel

In order to reach your audience, you need to define the channels you will use to market your app. This may be through avenues, such as organic and paid marketing. You can use this as a basis to create a more detailed plan surrounding how much effort and funds you will dedicate to nurturing each of these channels.

Revenue Streams

If you are looking to create a profitable app, you will have to consider how you will make this money. Consider your target audience when you are filling out this section. The pricing point of your product will be a differentiating factor, drawing in different types of customers. Looking at how your competitors or alternative solutions are priced is a good indicator of how much consumers are willing to pay for a solution to their problem.

Cost Structure

In the same vein of revenue streams, you will also need to consider what costs your business will incur building this app. Consider the fixed and variable costs that you are anticipating to facilitate the design, development, launch and operation of your app.

Key Metrics

How will you measure your success? Although it is important to include quantitative measures of revenue, signups and downloads, there is also value in considering the “why” you ventured to start your app. How will you measure whether you achieve your ultimate objective?

Unfair Advantage

“A real unfair advantage is one that cannot easily be copied or bought.” – Jason Cohen
This is where you you differentiate yourself from the competition. These unfair advantages may not necessarily be product related, but related to your own personal assets. For example, personal network, specialist skills in the area, etc.. Whatever you think really sets you apart belongs here.

Conclusion

Drawing this out will help you refine your ideas and you’ll have an excellent foundation for the aspects you’ll want to test in the idea validation phase. If you would like to dive deeper in the The Lean Canvas Business Model, you can learn more at leanstack.com.

Chapter 2

Idea Validation

Will my idea work?

At this point, you’ll have a well-defined idea that you’re probably very eager to start designing and developing, but let’s slow down for a second here. If you’re going to be putting in a lot of time, energy and money into an idea, you’re definitely going to want to make sure it will be worthwhile.

Why do most products fail?

In order to determine if your idea is a success, we must look at the opposite side of the coin. What makes an idea bound for failure? It’s the bleak reality that most apps are unable to get off the ground. In fact one-third of total apps receive engagement that lasts less than a minute (Source). But why do so many fail?

It’s quite simple – Your product doesn’t solve consumers’ problems.

If your product isn’t the right solution, your users will simply use your app once out of curiosity and then never use it again. The aim of your app should be to engage as many loyal users to the service you are offering.
At this point, your ideas surrounding the market are simply guesses. They are untested inferences about the potential of your app, but you’re going to want to work from something much better than assumptions. But where do we start?

Ask your customers

The only way to turn your assumptions into certainty is to actually interview your customers. Here’s where you have the opportunity to gain the most insight into your audience’s needs, so that you can build the perfect product.

The key to getting customer insights is to make sure you think like a scientist, NOT a salesperson.

This is much easier said than done, because you’ve got incredible excitement about your idea. But if you’re pitching the idea to the interviewees, chances are, you’ll just get nods of agreement for the sake of courtesy. This is not an accurate measure of whether your idea is the best solution to the problem you’re wanting to solve.

What am I looking to get out of the interviews?

You’re going to start talking to a lot of people, with lots of different needs and experiences. There needs to be a way to simplify the results you get. The most effective way to do so is to develop personas.

Personas are ‘characters’ that you develop, based on your interviews, that reflect the different types of users that may use your app.

Crafting personas offers a wealth of understanding into the customer base and your target audience. You will only be able to craft the best customer experience journey if you understand them. Personas and scenarios is the ‘secret sauce’ that will define your app. You’ll reap bountiful benefits by taking the time to creating these characters.

Empathy

After you interview your potential user base, creating personas become the true test of how much you have understood your customers. By putting yourself in the shoes of the user, you truly keep the customer front of mind when developing your product.

Focus

It is definitely important that you narrow down on who your users are. Even if your app has the potential to appeal to everyone in the world, focussing your efforts on one target market first, means you can craft a better experience for that market, creating loyalist users. Not only will they utilise your app often, but it will create momentum, by sharing it with their like-minded friends. After you’ve got a market locked-down, you can then look at growing into other markets.

Make better decisions

When you make a decision, if you can’t defend it with your personas’ goals in mind, it’s a sign you should re-evaluate your solution. At every step, the people who are using your app need to be at the forefront of your mind. Since you will develop the personas based on data and research gathered from interviews, they represent real users you can use to defend your decisions.

THE MAN WHO CHASES TWO RABBITS, CATCHES NEITHER. – CONFUCIUS

Who do I interview?

To formally start this interviewing process, you’ll first have to find people to participate. Since you’ll likely only have time to interview a few people, you will have to be selective with who you choose. There will be different places you can pull from to source interviewees depending on your context. Let’s take a look at where you may find potential interviewees.

Who to look for – if I have an existing business?

If you’re an existing business, with an existing customer base, you probably already have a lot of data about them. If you’re lucky, you may have all the data you need without conducting the interviews. Even so, it would be worthwhile to talk face-to-face with these consumers so you get to know your users first-hand.

Who to look for – if I’m just starting out?

As a fresh entrepreneur, it’s likely you won’t have much of a user-base to work with besides the one you have envisioned using your intuition. If you haven’t already, it is worthwhile to research competitors and observe their user base. You should observe the characteristics of people writing, consuming and commenting in the space you are looking to launch.
You can start with interviewing people in your network who fit the description of your target audience. Since you know these people, it’s a very comfortable place to start the idea validation stage.
If you can’t find anyone in your network who fit the mould, use the internet as your network. Look for people who engage with content that aligns with your idea. Reaching out to them might sound daunting, but if you’ve got a solution to a problem they want to solve, they will usually be very forthcoming to assist.
You may wish to conduct the interview:
– In person (over a quick coffee is always nice)
– Over video call
– Through a survey
Tip: SurveyMonkey is a great questionnaire tool, check it out here.

What do I ask?

Like a scientist, it’s time to test your hypothesis. In order to do so, you will need to prepare questions to guide the interviews you conduct. During this preparation, it is good to keep in mind the following:

Keep questions open-ended

Since your research is qualitative, your questions should remain as open-ended as possible. Not only will this ensure you receive a breadth of responses, but you will have more opportunity during the interview to ask additional questions, and direct the interview depending on their responses. It is important to always keep away from tangents, and most importantly stop yourself from asking specific feedback regarding your idea. Below are some questions to get you started.
All these questions centre on the interest of the user. You’re drilling down on the problem that the user is facing and gauging how to best solve the problem they are facing through your mobile app solution.

Encourage storytelling

The most valuable insight you can receive from doing this exercise is the development of empathy with your users. The most effective way to put yourself in their shoes is by listening to real-life experiences. Let your interviewees talk about their experiences. You will be able to observe emotional responses from these recounts and then pinpoint particular problems you should focus on during the development of your app.

What do I do after interviews?

To ensure that you are getting the most from your interview analysis, you must be conscious of confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias is your natural inclination to look for evidence that validates your pre-conceived beliefs and perceptions.

Again, keeping a scientist-like point of view will subside the influence of confirmation bias. An evenhanded consideration of all evidence will only improve your product, so let’s see how we can go about doing so.

Find Patterns to Narrow Down Personas

After collecting the data, you will need to start organising it in a way that makes sense. Qualitative data is harder to analyse compared to quantitative data, but the principle is still the same – find patterns and cluster similarities.
As you comb through the results, you are bound to notice that similar experiences have been recounted. Mark these similarities as you analyse, and eventually you’ll find that there are interviewees whose correlation is greater than others. Cluster these interviewees together as “one character”, and you’ve got yourself a persona. We will need to a do a little work on these to formalise your personas, which we will cover in the next section.
On the off-chance that you have not been able to find any meaningful connections between
interviewees, there is a possibility that you either have too broad of a target market or have not collected enough data. This is not to say you need to go back to square one since it is completely dependent on your own situation.
If you feel like your results are representative enough of the user base, you may want to proceed. However, you must be certain that you have narrowed down your customer segment since the investment forward is hefty and your audience is your number one focus.

Characterising Personas

Now that you have clustered the similar traits, here’s where you put your empathy to the test. Characterising your interviewees involves creating an imaginary user who encapsulates a segment of your target audience.
In order to solidify these characters, you should develop a persona report that can act as a reference. You will need to be very specific with the details and you can find a whole bunch of templates on the internet that can be filled out.

Do you have a good product?

Here’s where you can finally take a look back at your initial ideas and see how you can improve it to craft a better experience for users. It is time to ask:

Does your product actually solve customers’ problem?

Take a look at the personas you have crafted and ask:

Have I identified the right

Does my solution directly alleviate
problem?

the problem?

If this exercise has challenged your preconceptions, it’s definitely a good thing. It’s likely that your solution is not the perfect one for your users’ problem, but knowing this early means that you’ll be able to iterate on your first concepts to build the best app possible, without the huge time investment.

66% of successful startups, drastically change their first plan. Source

IT’S GOOD TO LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES. IT’S BETTER TO LEARN FROM OTHER PEOPLE’S MISTAKES. – WARREN BUFFETT

Who am I up against?

In your lean canvas, you would have identified some alternatives that exist for the problem you identified. Now it’s time to do a more thorough competitor analysis that will allow you to further improve your product. It will also allow you to identify the weight of risk associated with your venture. Pinpointing these risks from the outset means that you know where to work first.
You may be inclined to believe that having competitors is an obstacle. But there is a lot to be learned from the competition. In fact, having no competitors is undesirable. If you have no competitors, you’ll be the lone soldier who has to make the mistakes and navigate the space by yourself. This is a very expensive and draining road. Even if you can’t think of any direct competitors, try and find competitors who address a subset of the problem or a similar problem.

Investigate who the competitors are

To begin, you will need to identify who is actually competing in your space. As recommended, the lean canvas is definitely a sound starting place for competitor analysis.
To broaden your search, you should consider an exercise in writing down a list of search
keywords you would use to find your app on a search engine. After compiling this list, put yourself into the shoes of the consumer and note down the search results that emerge from entering those keywords.
As part of your research, you should also take note of community discussion and customer
reviews. As always, users’ thoughts and opinions should be considered, especially in identifying where you can help disgruntled consumers by making your app better.

Analyse the market

As you find your competition, you should take note of a few things:
The obvious place to start is to ask why they compete with your product. It might be that they solve the exact problem you do. But, if they solve a subset of the problems you have identified in your canvas, note this down. The more focused the reason they compete with you, the better.
It is also important to identify the strengths of your competitors. Try and identify what their unique value proposition is. What would draw you in as a consumer? It is tempting to mould your idea to directly copy something that a competitor is doing, but this is a dangerous trap. Copying eventually leads to a loss of interest. Differentiating your product from the competition as a unique solution is important. Instead of directly copying, emulate. You should ask why the things they do work and take away those lessons.
The next question to ask is where the gaps in their business may be. If you compete in the same space, it’s likely you are solving the same or similar problems. Our goal here is to see where you can bring more value to customers. Ask yourself – how can I create a product for these customers that is a better solution?

What do I do with this competitor analysis? Iterate.

You’ve reached the end of another stage with lots of information. Hopefully, you have come back to a lot of insight into the market you want to enter. This should allow you to improve your solution to further serve this market.

What are Investors Looking for?

Although it would be nice to think that money is not required in this process, you will need some money to get the ball rolling. It’s time to start finding investors and pitching to them. Venture capital firms, angel networks and incubators are some places you may want to look to find investors, but what will make you stand out? Below are a few things investors look for when evaluating your product potential.

Market Engagement

You will need to prove to investors that there is a market out there who are interested in your app. The interviews you have done will provide a good case for this. It definitely helps that these people are not simply family and friends, but real consumers.
It must be noted that quality, not quantity is valued here. If you have few users, but a higher rate of retention, that is a much better indicator of long-term success. Investors care much more about the engagement user have with your app.

Money Matters

The primary interest of investors is to receive a sizeable return on investment. You need to know the ins and outs of your business’ financial information, down to the cent. Your revenue model and cost structure should be refined and detailed.
This proves that you are thoroughly prepared and have the technical skills to run your business.

What’s Your Unfair Advantage?

Investors are meeting with a myriad of eager entrepreneurs, so you’ll need to prove that you stand out in the crowd. Ask yourself again, “What do I have that is not easily copied or bought?” Make sure you highlight this when you are pitching.

Work Ethic and Drive

You may think you are simply pitching your app to an investor, but you are actually selling yourself as well.
Good investors understand that ideas come and go, but they are really entering a longer-term investment.

WE SHOULD INVEST IN PEOPLE NOT IDEAS. A GOOD IDEA IS OFTEN DESTROYED BY BAD PEOPLE AND GOOD PEOPLE CAN ALWAYS MAKE A BAD IDEA BETTER. – SIMON SINEK

Chapter 3

Protecting Your Ideas

Keeping Your Idea Safe

In the interest of making sure your app idea is safeguarded against theft and duplicates, you will need to consult a solicitor who specialises in intellectual property to organise these affairs appropriately. Below are some things you may want to consider discussing with your solicitor.

Copyright

This is a relatively inexpensive way to protect your app. Copyrights will only secure you against complete copies of your app. It will not protect against close alternatives.

Trademark

Trademarks are directly associated with the branding of your app. Again, these are relatively cheap to obtain. Acquiring a trademark means that you are protected if another company uses similar branding (e.g. name, logo style) to yours. Usually offenders will do this with the intention of confusing and tricking consumers into purchasing their alternative.

Patenting

Patenting your app will protect your app against most intellectual property infringement attempts. However, this process is much more expensive and time-consuming than other intellectual property measures. Depending on how long you want to hold your patent, the process may take from six months to several years.
You may want to consider applying for a provisional patent, in which you have a year to see if your idea is commercially viable and worth the application for a full patent. This is a cheaper process, which is examined faster.

Non-Disclosure Agreements

When selecting your app developers it is in your best interest to be selective of who you choose to disclose your idea to. You should determine if the developers are trustworthy before you tell them about your idea. After you establish this, a nondisclosure agreement should be signed. If this agreement is breached, you are able to sue them. A reputable app developer will offer to sign a nondisclosure agreement before asking about your idea.

Find out about Intellectual Property in Australia here.

Chapter 4

Build Your App

Now that you have done all the preparation, it’s finally time to get started with an app developer who can turn your idea into an actual product. There are plenty of app development companies out there, but you’ll need to consider what’s important to you and your business to make the best choice.

Time, Quality and Cost Tradeoff

In product development, there is a trade-off you will have to wrestle with – namely between time, quality and cost.
Essentially, you will inevitably face an ultimatum in dropping one of the three, since it is impossible to achieve all three at once. You will need to decide what you value most in order to make this decision. Keep this at the centre of your mind when you choose your app developers.

Understanding Your Project

App developers will need to understand your product before they are able to give you a quote for your app, but you should provide a briefing document that outlines the following:

Lean Canvas Business Model

This will give your app developers a good snapshot of your business.

Marketing Plan

This includes your persona reports, but should also include a specific strategy surrounding how you will reach your audience.

Specifications

What features are necessary? What are the user goals and how does the user achieve these goals?

User Experience

You may want to start with presenting rough hand-drawn sketches of the app’s skeleton. What is the the general user journey you envision for the app?

App Development Buzzwords

When you’re talking with app developers, here are some definitions you’ll find helpful when you’re trying to understand their language:

MVP

Stands for Minimal Viable Product. Eric Ries defines it as a “version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.”

SOLUTION DESIGN

This is the first stage of app design and development. After requirements are gathered and understood, a user experience specialist will work with you to design the bare-bones of app’s interface with a wireframe.

WIREFRAME

This is the app’s skeleton. It is usually a black-and-white derivation of the app screens, defining the element interaction and user flow.

NATIVE APP

This is a mobile application that you download from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store, that uses iOS and Android proprietary development tools.

HYBRID APP

This is a mobile application that you download from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store, that uses web development tools.

OFFLINE/ONLINE DATABASE

This will determine if your app’s data is available offline or requires a data connection in order to access. As the names suggest, an offline database will not require a connection, whereas an online one will.

LIVE SERVER

You will need a live server if you require the response time on the app to be in real-time (e.g. live chat). Without a live server, there is a wait time or manual action required for a refresh.

Working with your new partners

When you have chosen who you would like to work with to build your app, it’s time to make sure the knowledge transfer process is as seamless as possible. Along with the original brief that you provided you will need to ensure a few other aspects are covered in the handover process.

Do your app developers understand your purpose?

Share with your app developers the vision for your app. What do you want to achieve creating the app? It’s important to have everyone on the same page here so that there is a palpable goal to work towards.
Your app developers should also have a copy of your persona reports you developed detailing the characteristics of who your app should be targeting. This will be a paramount reference during the solution design phase and visual design phase of the process. Considerations around user experience, app flow and app aesthetics will be heavily influenced by who the app is targeted to.

What features are on your wishlist?

Share with your app developers the vision for your app. What do you want to achieve creating the app? It’s important to have everyone on the same page here so that there is a palpable goal to work towards.
Your app developers should also have a copy of your persona reports you developed detailing the characteristics of who your app should be targeting. This will be a paramount reference during the solution design phase and visual design phase of the process. Considerations around user experience, app flow and app aesthetics will be heavily influenced by who the app is targeted to.

Functional Features

Functional features are those that outline specific behaviours your app should be able to perform. Examples include login, booking, search, and displaying profile information.
You can further split functional features into the core and noncore features. This is especially important if you are developing an MVP.
Your core features are your ‘must-haves’. You will want to put some semblance of an app in front of some potential users as soon as possible. As a result, it is important to prioritise the features you will need to deliver some value to customers, so that you
can gauge its validity as a viable app.
The non-core features will be the ones that you would like to have but are non essential, so can be held off until after initial user testing. It is good to raise these at the beginning, so you can find out the technical feasibility of such features, and your specialists can keep these features in mind when designing the user flow. However, for the first stage of your product, you do need to be careful about not bloating your app with too many features. You’ll increase the cost and energy if you try to copy the features other apps have and let grandeur visions get in the way.

Non-Functional Features

Non-functional features determine how the behaviours should be facilitated by the app, defining the overall qualities your app will have. Here, you will have to consider issues in usability and accessibility. Examples include text-size, use of colour and type of navigation.
It may be the case that you are unsure about these features at this point, and you will usually be establishing these with your solution design specialist, but if you have general ideas surrounding this, it will aid this conversation.

How do you plan to measure success?

In order to properly design an interface that optimises your app’s potential, it is important the user experience specialist understands the project success metrics and priorities. Would you like to offer in-app purchases? Would you like to maximise sign ups? These priorities determine how your app is structured and how the user flow is designed.
Your app developers can also help you identify some useful analytics tools for your app’s success tracking. However, to choose the best tool for the job, they will need to know what you want to get out of your app.

Have you sorted out your branding?

You will need to provide your app designer the logo and brand palette. This will define the overall look and feel of the app, which is integral to the overall quality of your app. If you don’t have your branding ready prior to starting with your app developer, you can work out it out simultaneously with solution design.

It’s the start of a great journey!

Having prepared and planned thoroughly, you now have the foundations to building a sustainable business, nurturing your humble ideas. With your tenacity and hard work, you are now definitely well on your way to bringing your app idea to life.
Most importantly, at every stage of your growth, ask where can we improve this? Set up robust feedback loops which you can constantly learn from so that you continue to serve your users with your product. There will be concepts that work and ideas that falter but you must always keep moving forward through iteration.

Good Luck!