App Development: Where Do I Even Start?
You have a brilliant idea for app development – now what?
Aha! You’ve done it! You’ve found the source of the ticking! You’re ready for app development!
You’ve come up with an idea, a solution, so ingenious that it must be in the hands of every consumer or business immediately. An app that finds the best picture out of its 10,000 duplicates and deletes the rest or a CRM tool that tracks a customer’s anniversaries and automates sending flowers. Beautiful.
Well, after developing several hundred apps, Cros Apps (with convenient HQs in Los Angeles and Walnut Creek) put together a convenient guide on where to start product development and app development.
Researching is an important component of app development
The gist is this: research like you’ve never researched before.
Find an app to develop about which you’re passionate.
Maybe it’s a problem you’ve encountered. Or perhaps you realize you can make the world a bit better by creating an on-demand composting app.
Whatever it might be, understanding the space you’re entering is essential to know whether your application makes sense. Your familiarity with it gives you the ability to sanity-check your idea—whether you noticed the problem through personal experience, extensive research, or it was just an idea that, like an overtly aggressive pigeon, smacked you in the face.
If you had the need or want you’re looking to address, would you use your product?
Check if anyone else has already attempted to found, solve, or develop your app. Then do it better.
Ah. This one’s a biggie, both humbling and didactic.
We all like to think we’re one-of-a-kind wunderkind with one-of-a-kind ideas. And you are—don’t get us wrong. But in this overpopulated world, chances are someone else has already encountered the problem you’re setting out to solve, and that’s a good thing. A possible indication there’s a market for your solution.
However, that might carry the implication someone has already tried to solve that problem or develop your app. So what does that mean for you?
That means you get to learn from them.
Questions to ask yourself here revolve around:
→ Has anyone else set out to create a similar thing?
→ If yes, then how?
→ And if not, then why not?
* * *
If someone has developed a similar product, how did they do it?
Suppose someone has created something similar to your idea (or attempted to). In that case, how did they try to do it? What does their app look like, and what needs does it set out to fill?
Maybe it’s similar, but not the same. Perhaps it reminds the customer of their impending anniversary but doesn’t automatically send flowers. Maybe it tracks caloric intake, but not the caloric output one breathes out throughout their remarkably sedentary day (I heard about a TED talk that said fat is burned through exhalation. I cling on to that notion with my dear life.)
A different approach to the same problem is a legitimate, unique offering and could absolutely fill needs not yet addressed. At the same time, learning lessons from an existing product could be an excellent resource for you as you embark on your app development journey.
For instance, you can examine its go-to-market strategy, branding, and UX. What is the app’s workflow? Is it intuitive and helpful, or cumbersome?
Or maybe your products or solutions really are very similar. But you know to differentiate yours in technological or product build, business model, or target market. Any of these advantages in the application development process can forge your path into the market, regardless of who and what is already out there.
There is a lot to learn from others when you’re entering a space, be it sparsely populated or saturated. Download their apps, investigate the competition, and take notes.
There is, however, also the legal aspect to creating a similar app—the matter of patents. If your app involves proprietary technology, you can search the USPTO’s patent database to see if something similar is out there and how to differentiate yours (both to give you a unique edge and to avoid any sticky situations.)
If no one has tried to develop a similar app, then why not?
This is not at all to imply that if there is no similar product out there, you shouldn’t create one—far from it. On the contrary, it’s wholly possible yours is a marvelously novel and original idea that could disrupt an existing market or create a new one.
However, there are lessons to be learned when asking this question as well. What are the major barriers, has anyone attempt to circumvent them, and if so, how? If not, then why not?
There could be several obstacles in entering your market: Is there one major player in the field that is eclipsing the rest of the potential smaller players? What is the overhead? Perhaps it’s the complexity of the product that might have overwhelmed others?
These are all questions to ask yourself as you begin this process, so you can best prepare to meet them and build partnerships (more on that below) that can help you beat them.
Market Validation and A Lot of It. Validate that market and well.
Validate it so well you know it better than you know how to do your Morty Smith impression.
While there are different approaches to assessing market validation, we turned to one outlined by Harvard Business School. They should know a thing or two about it.
There are a few points to think about here. You’ve already done Step #1: holistically outline the key goals of your venture. But then it’s essential to understand your product hypothesis and the assumptions you have revolving around it.
At Cros Apps, we’re not big fans of baseless assumptions. One of the reasons we tout a philosophy of a bajillion percent research is because assumptions are often the downfalls of great ideas. Assumptions could lead a founder astray regarding their target demographic and how to best cater to them. This ties into your product, go-to-market, pricing, and business model.
You might be a Metal Music Fan who really loves the pastel palette. But go to a Pierce the Veil concert, and you’ll see that most other metalheads do not have Baby Blue mohawks. Know your audience, and double-check your assumptions about them before you begin investing resources in, for instance, incorrect UX.
How do you learn your target audience?
By getting to know them up close and personally. For starters, find out related search terms and related search term volumes, conduct customer validation interviews, and put out surveys. Who is your audience, and what else do they like or want? What are their pet peeves? All of these are essential answers to have.
Assessing Market Size and Value for App Development
Assessing your target market size and potential market share goes hand in hand with knowing your target demographic and eviscerating assumptions about them.
Once you’ve narrowed down what your average user looks like, ask yourself: how many of them are there? How much are they willing to spend and on what?
That’s your market value. You can find these answers by looking at how much they’re already spending on related products and services. If this information isn’t readily available, you might anonymously call competitors and companies with similar offerings and inquire about their transaction volumes (we didn’t make this one up—that’s a suggestion from Forbes.)
Knowing your Total Addressable Market (TAM) vs. Available Market vs. Market Value can help you assess market growth and opportunities—not to mention, everyone, including potential investors and your mother, will be curious about these numbers.
From there, you can ask idea and application development questions such as: where are the vulnerabilities in that market? What are the persisting pain points? And in that, what would be the value-add of your product? Proper market validation can offer significant clues to informing a fitting business model and app development.
Choosing the Right Application Development Partners
Ah, we’ve reached the crux of the whole thing: the execution. You’ve done your demographic research, your market validation, and you’ve checked your assumptions to an exhaustive (exhausting) point. Excellent. Good job. Now comes the part where you choose the correct Application Development team. Making a good call here is hugely important.
So who are the right app development partners? Well, let’s answer another question first: who are the wrong partners?
The wrong application developers are those chosen under a cost-minimization mindset, as opposed to one of resource-optimization. That is, developers selected for giving a founder the lowest quote for a prototype-building, one-time project.
It’s actually far more cost-efficient and strategic to fund a small initial scope of work but to develop it well and create an excellent minimum viable product. This MVP should be aligned with the big-picture and long-term vision of the app, both in tech and product build.
The alternative is that founders choose developers for one-time, prototype-building projects. Unfortunately, this situation easily creates a shoddy minimal viable product (that doesn’t gain traction) or one without scalable infrastructure.
This situation is perilous because especially early on in the application development journey, resources are limited. Your product might not be generating a lot of revenue yet. So if one chooses a developer by cost-minimization, they might endanger the prospect of getting users, funding future iterations, and receiving investment based on those users and iterations.
We know these situations well. We know these situations better than we know how to do our Morty Smith impression. We’ve rescued too many excellent ideas from this trap.
So who are the right app development partners?
Especially early on, you want an experienced, long-term partner. One who can help you mitigate technical, product, and domain risk as you begin application development. A partner who will be able to contribute knowledge and ideas while maintaining a remarkably transparent communication channel.
Coincidentally, hi, we’re Cros Apps. We happen to be experienced, long-term app development partners.
Looking to develop an application in Los Angeles, New York, or literally anywhere else?
Have an app, but you’re in a slight pickle? Doing super well but looking to scale or revamp?
We’d love to help. Find us at crosapps.com.