How to Design an App Around Your Expertise

Apps are great – they make the life of a modern consumer much easier by allowing instant mobile access to the services or products that they require. Creating an app to ease customers’ access to what you’re offering is, therefore, at least worth considering.

How to design a successful app for your business

  1. Brainstorm problems. Don’t look for ideas – look for problems. If you want to build an app, first ask yourself, “What problem am I solving for my audience?” That’s where the money is – not ideas – but solutions to problems.
  2. Identify your audience’s need (or needs). Once you have one or two solid ideas for solutions to a problem, you need to do some market research to confirm whether these problems are really what your audience needs a solution to. This can be achieved the “old-fashioned” survey way, but in order to simplify the step, we recommend interviewing a prospective user in your target demographic.
  3. Draft a rough plan. After you’ve verified that your idea is marketable and your app can indeed be of service, you should have a plan on paper which includes the key features of the solution that you have in mind. Once you do that, start adding the details as they come to you. You don’t have to create the plan in a single sitting – ideas grow and develop, and it’s only natural that you’re going to have more to add to the plan as you proceed with the project.
  4. Edit the draft. Once you have your draft app outlined, don’t rush to have it coded. You need to put it aside for a day or two and when you return to it you will likely need/want to edit it. Editing it is most likely going to take you the same amount of time as writing it, if not more. You probably added several features that you aren’t planning to include at the launch stage yet, or those that are as of yet untested on your other platforms. Remove them from the draft at this point – you’ll have a chance to introduce them as your app’s usage increases. At this stage, you’re interested in incorporating the core features of the project only. We recommend you read the brilliant Getting Real: the smarter, faster, easier way to build a successful web application.
  5. Brainstorm for a design template. User experience is a very important part of digital technology – whilst it won’t save a poor app, it can make or break a good one. The subject of app design can – and has – taken up several books and is beyond the scope of this post. However, two tips:
    – One app, one problem; one problem, one app. Don’t try to create an app that does everything under the sun. If you try to help everyone, you end up helping no one.
    – Design your app around verbs, i.e. functions that users will want to perform. For example, an auction app would likely have such functions as “View Lot”, “Bid”, “Search” etc.
         A design template is important, and you should have at least a vague idea of what you want your app layout to look like before you hire your designer (developer). If you’re not sure where to begin, google “app templates” get some inspiration as to the designs/layouts you like.
  6. Find a professional to help you. Unless you know how to code – or you’re willing to learn – you need to invest in the services of a professional developer. Look for someone experienced. Ask to see their portfolio. You may find you have to work with both a designer and a coder. It costs more but the end-result is more professional.
  7. Create accounts on developer platforms. In order to sell your app via App Store or Google Play, you have to register with them; pay a modest annual fee; and pass their acceptance criteria. You can either register as an individual or a company, if you’ve created one. Your chosen developer should be able to help you with the process.
  8. Gather feedback and decide whether to incorporate it. There is a mantra amongst some coders of “release fast, release often”. That is, coders launch imperfect solutions, get feedback, make changes and launch again. It’s a popular method of developing as it emphasises action, momentum and results over procrastination, theory and stagnation. Get feedback from users but don’t feel obliged to include every suggestion. You need a clear vision for your app – improve the parts that are integral to the solution you’re delivering – put aside everything else. However, be open-minded. If your app is not as popular as you hope, is there recurring feedback that might indicate an area of real need where you should be focusing your efforts?

Takeaway points

  1. Create an app that solves a real problem.
  2. Sketch out your app design and layout on a piece of paper. Decide what features you want to include but keep it simple. Remember, one app, one problem; one problem, one app.
  3. Get regular feedback from users about how you can improve the software.

Action steps

  1. Write down a list of good ideas that can potentially help your target market based on your experience.
  2. Conduct customer development interviews. This is a fancy term for approaching potential users and asking them about the problems they face in their daily business. Listen to what they tell you and see if you can identify a common problem that needs a solution.
  3. Developing an app can be costly so it’s highly recommended you first test your idea with a landing page before committing time, effort and money.

Photo credit: PhotoAtelier via / CC BY 2.0

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