How to Make an App: Full Guide For 2022

August 11, 2022

Introduction

What do you think about when someone mentions software development? If you’re like most people, the first thing that comes to mind is coding. 

Software development encompasses a wide range of skills and knowledge related to writing computer programs. It can be as simple as translating a business plan into code, or it could involve designing algorithms and deploying them in high-traffic web applications.

The primary purpose here is to show you how to create a top-notch application that’ll set your business up for success. Today, we’ll discuss the fundamentals you need to consider when building your product. You’ll find industry-proven strategies to deliver a fantastic build of a product best suited for your start-up.

Whether you are building an app from scratch, without coding (No-code), for mobile (IOS/Android), or even for the web. A plan is mandatory for the success of your application and business.

Imagine you're riding a car and you don't have a clear road map or strategy to reach your destination; not only would you waste fuel, time, and energy. You'd waste money as well.

Building an application is not easy. There are some key things you should consider before starting to build your application: 

  • What problem is your application meant to solve?
  • What experience are your users  meant to have with your application?
  • How is your application unique? How is it different from the alternatives?
  • Who are your users and/or customers?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • What key metrics will you track?
  • What marketing channels will you use to launch your application?
  • What are your cost? How will you make money?

You can dive deeper into these questions with our FREE STARTUP LEAN CANVAS TEMPLATE.

Every project has a unique set of challenges and requirements.  It is your responsibility to consider these challenges and plan accordingly.

 

Today's startup community is full of experimentation. Most will tell you all you need to do to make your product successful is an experiment.

 

We disagree; experimentation, when done correctly, is immensely valuable.  However, it's not nearly enough. Experimentations alone can not do the job of creating a winning product. You will find product success at the intersection of user adoption, business value, and technical feasibility. How you get to this point of intersection is done with thoughtful planning.

 

When you have a strong application development plan, you significantly increase your chances of building a successful application and de-risk your business.

 

In 2018, Gartner conducted a study that showed of the 5 million mobile apps available as of 2018, less than 0.01 %, i.e., 500 apps, were profitable.

 

Now that’s a bummer! And it isn’t the reality we want for you.

 

Knowing the probability of success, what does an investment in a product look like? Well, as it relates to custom software development, see the breakdown below:

  • Wireframes/Prototypes ~ $10k
  • Development ~ $50k - $100k
  • Quality developer ~ $75/hr-$150/hr
  • Hours a Week ~ 35
  • Average Duration ~ 3-4 months

 

These costs are on the lower end of the spectrum.

 

In retrospect, a $100k-$200K investment with a .01 percent success rate becomes the gamble of a lifetime. If you don’t know this by now, better investment opportunities exist.

 

As you think about cost, I want to drive the point home to never compromise product quality over product scope. 

 

This is an unfortunate business reality that must be understood. The market will never return to you for more if the initial product doesn’t meet expectations. This means the best approach is to start with a limited scope and then build on it over time, as resources permit. Another key takeaway in this discussion about cost is that you should be partnering with developers who are experienced and knowledgeable in your specific domain so they can understand how to avoid costly mistakes from day one. Never forget that good and bad developers are costly. The difference is where you realize that cost.

If you have never built an application, this article may be a lot to take in, so we offer first-time founders a FREE PRODUCT STRATEGY SESSION.

 

In just 30 mins, we will go over the core steps you need to take before you jump-start your application development. During this meeting, we will emphasize a clearly defined problem and business goal, which are critical in devising your product development strategy.

The App Development Process

We want you to know that what is shared here isn't a fireproof approach. However, it's an approach we have collectively studied, practiced, and operationalized since our inception.

We have supported our clients in their product development journey from an idea to million-dollar valuations post-launch.

Hence the steps in this article are data-driven practices that have worked for other tech businesses, and we believe they will work for you too.

Step 1: Strategize

Establish a data-driven strategy

  • Have a Business Goal: An over-arching business goal will direct your efforts. The fastest and easiest way we help our clients stabilize their growth is by asking them the fundamental question, “What problem are you trying to solve?” It is from that point we move on to the next step in the process, which is;
  • Building a strategy around the goal: Break down the goal into smaller units known as strategies. The strategy then becomes the point of action, your tactical plan to operationalize your innovative idea. We always recommend our clients to sit down and work their ideas backward; in mathematics, this is called “Backwards induction,” clearly defining the required steps to deliver on their vision. That’s the whole point of having a strategy; to make your business goal actionable. Your plan defines how you'll deliver on your customer value proposition; this is the thing that makes you different.

A product strategy will help you de-risk your business and increase your odds of success. Read about Michael Porter's competitive advantage strategies to help you develop the right plan for your tech start-up.

The key takeaway is that you want to know your customers better than they know themselves.

Step 2: Research

As you start your market research, the following steps are useful in providing direction to get you the most accurate information for your start-up.

Define The Problem

Defining the problem and setting the research objectives helps list the probable causes of the customers situation. For example, the symptom may be that product sales are below target objectives. The possible causes may include a recession in the economy, low incomes, a new product launch from a competitor, or a change in customer needs. As a researcher of your start-up, your responsibility with this kind of information is to narrow down the possible causes of the symptoms probable causes. For example, assume that you've identified the cause of the low sales of your product because of a new product launched by a competitor in the market. After identifying the actual cause of the problem, the next course of action is to determine how to regain the lost market share. Finally, as the owner of your tech start-up, you get to decide the best solution to the identified problem, which could be an array of options, e.g., change the price, do more promotion, improve the product, etc.

Pick a Research Strategy

This is the aim of your research. It answers the question, “What do I want out of the data collected?” With that in mind, your research objective can fall in either of these three categories:

  • Exploratory Research: This is gathering preliminary information to help define the problem and suggested theories. For instance, what are the possible reasons for a decline in our sales?
  • Descriptive Research: It describes market variables by answering who, what, when, where, and how questions. For example, what is the market potential for a product?
  • Causal Research: This means testing a theory about a cause-and-effect relationship. For example, will an increase in our advertising budget increase sales?

Collect the Data

In collecting data about the market, structuring a questionnaire with the following points will help you get the most out of it.

  1. Size and type of market, i.e., is it new, saturated, or mature?
  2. The main customers and their characteristics, e.g., What do they buy?  How much do they buy?  At what price?  Why do they buy?
  3. Where are the prospective customers located? 
  4. What are their attitudes and perceptions toward our product(s), advertising, and promotion? 
  5. What is the buyer’s readiness stage? 
  6. Which benefits are sought? 
  7. How loyal are customers to our brand and competitors’ brands?
  8. The suppliers and channels of distribution used in the market?
  9. The main products sold? The competitors and their size, price, product, distribution channels, communication, and sales promotion methods used.
  10. The government policies regulating the market, e.g., taxes/duties/import restrictions
  11. Potential customers for the product?
  12. Do current products meet customers’ needs and if not, do new products need to be developed?
  13. How are businesses perceived in the market?
  14. Are there legal implications? What is the patent situation? What are the product standards?  What about trademarks/copyright and the protection of intellectual property?

Analyze Your Findings

From the collected data, it's time to analyze and interpret the data to conclude the findings. This step is more of a science than an art. Feel free to contact us to learn about the different ways you can analyze consumer data.

Step 3: Build

With the business strategy and customers under your belt, the next step is to develop an app that will drive your business strategy and add value to your clientele.

Here are some key phases to building an app from scratch.

  • Discover and Frame
  • Design and Prototyping
  • Testing It (Technically, this step never ends)
  • Build It
  • Funding
  • Prioritize

Discover and Frame

In this step of the Application Development process, data from the market research is gathered to explain your audience’s problem (prospective customer) and provide the blueprint for the answer.

The meat of this phase is covered in the market research section, but here is where we began to build your product puzzle using the information collected during your research. Some key deliverables are Technical Specifications, Product Requirements documents, baseline architecture, data model, etc.

Design and Prototype

This stage of app development is premised upon a strong understanding of the intended users and the business environment. That’s part of why we emphasize product strategy and market research.

The design phase is the step where the business model of your start-up is expressed visually. We begin with low-fidelity designs and avoid colorful designs or images because we want to focus on the users experience (UX) of the app, which is the user flow and the organization of information; we also have the wireframe, which is a way to prioritize informational layout. The wireframe highlights the user flow and journey driven by best practices and the targeted user of the app.

It’s important to note that not all user flows and user journeys make sense for everyone. Hence, aligning the app with the expectations of the end-user demographics is important. For example, a younger generation will expect to see certain things from the app instead of an older generation whose expectations will vary from the younger generations in terms of what they want. We factor in those varying expectations during the low-fidelity wire-framing development.

Once we’ve established the low-fidelity wireframes and are confident of the outcome of this first step of the design phase, we proceed to the high-fidelity prototyping. In this step, we give the wireframe by introducing colors, sample data, and copy. Copy is crucial because we want it to be as close as possible to the production app. Afterward, we make the high-fidelity experience clickable, thus converting it into a prototype that allows testers to interact with the app.

The point of a prototype is to use it to run tests, e.g., testing user flows and organizational layout. Some people disagree with this and see it as a waste of time, but we find it fundamental to do so and advocate the development of prototypes for testing. Testing will save you a ton of time and resources. Through testing, you get feedback that will let you know what needs to be adjusted before moving further along with the app development process.

This stage can get intensely interactive, and that’s the point. The more feedback, the better the outcome of the app under development, as it offers you many opportunities to make the necessary updates while at the same time increasing the chances of your app meeting user expectations

Testing

The point of testing is to get your product in your target user’s sight to understand what they’re looking for. At Dusseau & Co., we use this phase to define the results we want to measure. There are several items to focus on in this phase, and so we advise our clients to focus on validating the product market demand.

Our recommendation for obtaining feedback is to go with one-on-one reviews instead of a survey approach. This is because surveys tend not to give the pulse or feel of the first adopter's interests. With one-on-one, it's easier to pick up on non-verbal cues such as body language.

Note that you want to be ready when preparing for your test plan. This means determining ahead of time who to target and when to meet. The goal here is to get a random sample of your target users.

We help our clients in this phase by creating interview scripts that contain questions tailored to obtain the intended user’s feedback. At the same time, the questions need to be open-ended to enable the user's feedback to be free, allow for an open channel of communication should they want to get back to you, and offer a safe space for the user to share their thoughts candidly. With that, you tend to obtain the most valuable information.

Always remember this as it relates to testing; one should never test their product with people they know or themselves.

Click here for a copy of a test script we created for a client in 2018.

Coding

Learn to Code

This may sound hard to do, but it's possible. You can learn how to do the coding by yourself. It all depends on the kind of app you’re developing.

Though it may take longer to launch, you may encounter more issues along the development process, but the benefits of doing it yourself are worthwhile. Some founders don't know this, but if you have ever heard of the app Credit Karma, their founder built their MVP by himself.

He taught himself how to code using online resources; today, CK have a $4 Billion Value.

Find a Technical Co-Founder

This is easier said than done. Finding a suitable technical co-founder means finding someone that you can work well with, trust, and who believes in your business idea in the same way you do. Your technical co-founder shouldn’t be your friend but someone with the skill set for the job and is committed to the business.

Build your Internal Team

We've witnessed founders who have hired developers for perfectly viable sweat equity. However, their commitment can be a little shaky as equity in an early startup, albeit a non-revenue generating early startup, can be worthless. If you have the funding, you can build out an internal team. However, you would still need a technical person to vet their skill set, but it's still an option worth considering.

Work with Freelancers

You can work with freelancers. One of the limitations of freelancers is that they generally have multiple commitments. Additionally, suppose you do not know exactly what you want to build and how you want to build it down to the finest detail. In that case, freelancers can be very expensive in the long run due to the back-and-forth communication and misalignment of expectations.

Even with all this, you still would need someone with technical skills to assess their technical skillset. We have advised companies in the past to hire top talent to flush out their product roadmap and requirements and then go with more cost-effective developers to implement.

Hire an Agency

Hiring an agency is a smart option. Agencies can provide you with end-to-end services. The benefit of working with agencies is that you’re guaranteed highly skilled teams and professionalism.

Funding

Acquiring financing can be a challenge. There are different options for funding your business, the most common being self-financing, simply paying out of your pocket. There are friends and family, venture capitalists, and angel investors. It can be an easy way of acquiring funds with friends and family, provided they return on investment. Venture capitalists are investors who work on behalf of very wealthy people. Hence, their appetite for investments is limited and specific to performance metrics and business milestones, which may not be viable for early-stage start-ups. Angel investors are perhaps the most suitable of the options listed. They are wealthy people who invest on their behalf. Though hard to find, they’re a viable option.

Point to note

As a black-owned firm, it wouldn’t be right to not mention the challenges that minority founders face with raising capital to fund their businesses.

Studies show that venture-backed companies aren't competitively funding minority companies:

  • Black founders only represent 1%
  • Hispanic founders 1.8%
  • Middle Eastern founders 2.8%
  • Women founders 9%
  • Asians 17.7%

This data can be discouraging for minority founders. Still, we specifically like to work with such because we believe in making the most out of every dollar in terms of resources and development time.

Our goal is to save on costs and support minority groups.

Prioritize

The consumer data collected during your research and testing phase determines what and when features are built.

Our framework for prioritization is very different from most companies, but first, we define the activities required for a user to be activated within your application. Then we describe our hook. After that, we determine what product features best align with an activated user and your hook.

In some instances, as a developer, you may want to prioritize the remaining features by time, cost and scope.

At other times the features can be prioritized by value. For us, using value is determined by your end-user.

Another way of prioritizing by value is determining whether or not a feature of the app is a value add. This means that the end-user will pay for it. Alternatively, if the part is a non-value add, the feature isn’t necessary for a given user journey.

For technical founders, you might come across them using what is known as a complexity matrix.

This matrix is broken down into four categories, i.e.features are:

  • Highly valuable but not complex
  • Highly valuable and complex
  • Not highly valuable and not complex
  • Not highly valuable and complex

Lastly, we have user stories.

Using user stories to prioritize features means that each user story and user flow has a set of required features so that the user story and user journey are considered complete.

The biggest challenge in the different approaches to the MVP we’ve listed here is for the owners who find it hard to avoid doing everything.

Anytime we pick this up from the owner, we always show them Twitter’s MVP.

Building an app is difficult, but possible

There’s so much more we can say about application development for your tech start-up, but the key points have been shared in this article.

From differentiating your business to developing a strategy;’ knowing your customers through market research, and finally, the app development process.

We want you to succeed, and we’re committed to walking that journey with you every step of the way.

Feel free to reach out to us for a free consultation.

We wish you the very best!

Never compromise quality over the scope.

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