10 Questions to Answer Before Developing a Mobile App

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1) What Is the Purpose of My App?

Can you explain your app in 30 seconds? If the premise is too complicated, try to narrow the focus. You can always expand your mobile app, or develop a new one, once the main aspect takes off and you gain a user base.

2) Do I Need A Custom App?

Some app development companies have affordable app templates that may fit your needs. The cost will be significantly less, however a subscription fee is likely and you will not own the source code. If you business requires something simple a turnkey app may be the way to go.

3) What Platform Should I Choose?

The platform you choose for your app really comes down to a business decision. iPhone, Android or Universal? Native apps cost more but provide an amazing user experience. Universal apps reach a broader range of people, but will likely need to be re-developed once a large user base is established.

4) How Do I Choose a Developer?

Narrow your choices and interview a few mobile app developers. Ask them to provide you with a breakdown for all modules incorporated into your app. Get a cost and time quote. Review their portfolio and go with your gut!



5) What is the Potential Competition for the App?

Have you done extensive research for mobile applications with a similar premise? Ensure you find out how many users they have, and what the likes and dislikes about the current apps on the market are.

6) What is your USP?

Your app doesn’t need to be a completely unique idea, but it should have a unique selling point. What sets your mobile app apart from the competition? What will make people want to use your app over the others?

7) What is My Budget?

Quality does come with a cost. Ensure you know what your budget is for your mobile app, and talk with your developer about what to realistically expect within your app in return for your set budget. Have a bit of a slush fund for unexpected changes as you begin to see the app take shape..

8) What is the Visual Design of My App?

Do you have logos and a color scheme designed already? What is your taste when it comes to graphic or simple design? Where do you envision the placement of the buttons and menus on your app? It is a good idea to have all the visual aspects of your app thought out before development begins.

9) Do I Need a Wireframe?

Are you presenting your mobile app idea to investors or partners? Wireframes are visual representations of how a user will interact with your platform. Beyond the visual, wireframes are a resource to have the feasibility of your design and function tested before development begins. It is a good idea to have your developer draw up a wireframe to ensure your idea is technically sound.

10) What is My Marketing Plan?

Developing the app is just the start. Without a marketing and media plan, your app may not be seen by your target market. Start your mobile app marketing plan when you are still in development. This way you have a game plan when the app is complete, and you can hit the ground running.

Avoid being a Mobile App Horror Story

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Recently I met a new client who had already hired a app developer for his project. The problem was, after thousands of dollars and months of delays, he has nothing to show for it. And this could very easily happen to you!

I am running into more and more clients everyday that have had bad experiences for a range of different reasons. Some have dealt with larger companies here in the city and ended up with a useless app, other have hire ‘coders’ and ended up way over budget with lengthy delays.

The big question is, How do you choose an app development company?

#1 – Portfolio

Never hire a app developer without a portfolio! This might seem like common sense, but most people end up hiring the first company they reach out to and buy based on personality! 75% of the time, they don’t even bother to do a bit of research to see previous apps they have built.

Three simple ways to understand their portfolio:

  • Does their website have a portfolio of apps? If they do not have any apps to show you, then this is not a good sign from the start! Every developer is proud of their apps no matter the quality. Lots of time and energy is put into every app (no matter how small), which makes it a success story when it gets published!
  • Are the names of the apps clear, and can you find them on the app store? Some developers just show a picture of apps they have copied from other websites. I have seen a few local companies trying to break into the market by using a bait and switch technique, pretending to have apps they have built when really they are just images they have copied.
  • Take 5 minutes and install 2-3 of their apps! Just by installing 2-3 of their previous apps, you can get a good feeling for their quality of work. Also you can quickly see how their finished products come out. Is this final product something you want, and something your company would be proud to publish?

#2 – Experience

Many app developers I have run across this past year do NOT have the experience in the industry, which sadly will lead you astray. The problem is that you will be the one paying for the lesson; in time and money. Very recently I ran across a local charity that was building a API for donations, the problem is that it was developed with 19 year old principals which are rarely used today in the app industry. I am sure in 12 months time when they will realize this, they will regret the advice they were told before the project.

Two quick ways to see if they are experienced enough:

  • How long have you been in the IT industry? If they have been working totally different industries and only recently got into IT, they might be lacking the hands on experience you need. While it’s important that they have many years in the industry, its also just as important to make sure they are up to date with all the new technology changes.
  • How many languages and platforms have you worked with? Over the past 20 years I have worked with over 50 different languages, because almost every platform has its own languages. While transition from one to another is not difficult, having that experience sure helps ensure things are designed correctly from the start.

#3 – Developers

Does the company have developers here in town, or are they all overseas and outsourced? Just from asking this question, you can quickly understand the company better. If they are a new firm, and all their developers are outsourced, then they might not have the experience or knowledge needed for your project. While this can put hurdles into your project, at the end of they day you are most likely overpaying for something you could get cheaper for the same quality.

Two easy questions to ask:

  • Am I able to meet with your developers? I personally feel that meeting with your developers is a key part of your project. They are going to be the ones creating your app, so why not open lines of communication just to enable better transparency.
  • Are your developers outsourced? While this is not always bad, it will add additional delays and problems to your project. One very common issue is time delay when you have problems. Imagine having your app live, and then some problem brings it to a screaming halt, and now you have to wait 12-24 hours before they can get ahold of the developer to fix the problem.

#4 – Templates

MOST companies I see around town are just reselling template apps. While these may work for smaller companies, they are a far cry from a custom apps! Any development company that is selling templates and has no custom apps to show you, may not be the best company to develop your custom app.

Two things to look out for:

  • All their apps are the same! Companies that have no development experience, will only be dealing with template apps. Almost all their apps with be the same looking, or have very similar layouts.
  • Source Code! Ask if you will own the source code when your app is done. Almost every template app does NOT have source code, only the finish product. The problem with this, is not you are tied into that developer for life. And if you want changes in your app, only they can do it. Once you move to a different developer, then all of that is a waste and you must start from scratch.

While there are many great companies out there, over the past 12 months I have seen a large influx of startup getting into this industry. I hope you are now able to distinguish the difference and have a better insight of what to look out for when you talk to a app developer. Hopefully I can educate more people, and avoid more of these horror stories I am hearing more often.

App Ideas & NDA (Non Disclosure Agreements)

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Do I need a NDA?

Many clients come to me with ideas about apps they want to create, and most are worried about protecting their idea. And more often than not, the term NDA (Non Disclosure Agreements) comes up. It’s usually the first and usually default step someone takes to make them feel more secure. There was a great article written about NDA’s by Dan Shapiro a few years back, I really suggest you read the whole article What You Probably Don’t Know About Non Disclosure Agreements . My favorite except from his article really boils down NDA’s;

It’s almost never going to happen that you actually sue someone for disclosing a secret and prevail. It’s just too hard, too complicated, and frankly too easy to lie your way out of getting caught. How are they going to prove they didn’t just think of the idea themselves, or hear it from a different, third party that wasn’t covered by an NDA? Remember that if you have 99 people sign an NDA and 1 person doesn’t, that person can publish your idea in the Wall Street Journal – and to add insult to injury, when they do, the other NDAs all become invalid since they only apply to confidential information.

I believe if you want true protection, you should invest some money in patents. They are very complicated and hard to get approved but if your idea is truly unique, once your patents are approved then you have some real leverage with enforcement.

Unique Idea

99% of ideas are not new! Every single day someone comes to me with a “revolutionary money making” idea, however these are almost always based on existing products or ideas. They only take a small twist on the idea, or apply it in a new and interesting way. The most important factor you need to account for, is execution! You can have the greatest and newest idea in the world but with bad execution, nothing will come of it. Even a old idea can become successful with proper execution. Two great examples of these are POOL NOODLES and PHONE FINGERPRINT SCANNER.

POOL NOODLES: Initially used in construction to fill gaps and holes, the inventor added a bit of color and persevered 6 years before they became a huge success. A great example of a old boring idea, but executed properly in a new market.

PHONE FINGERPRINT SCANNER: Motorola originally had finger print scanners on their 2011 Atrix phone, years before iPhone received theirs. A great new idea, executed poorly by Motorola led to failure to gain any traction in the market.

Based on these two examples, you can understand my belief in finding the right team with the experience to properly execute your idea. This will be the difference between success and failure for your app idea!

Mobile Website VS Mobile App

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Many people are confused over the differences of mobile website compared to a mobile app. And many belive that by having a mobile website, they are taking care of their customers mobile needs.

In reality there is a very large gap between a mobile website and smart phone app. One is basic and “stupid” while the other one is dynamic and “smart”.

Speed & Access

The main thing you are going to notice is speed. And when mobile users are trying to get information; they are on just leaving, on their way or right around the corner and need that information ASAP!

Mobile websites are at a disadvantage here because they have to load every page of information from the internet. Even here in Las Vegas, internet can get very slow when your on the strip with tens of thousands of other people. Sometimes when your in large buildings, under ground, or a parking garage your network might not work until you get a stronger signal. This makes mobile websites very slow and sometimes even non responsive. Any delay will turn visitors away and loose you customers.

Mobile Apps can work 100% offline and have instant response time! So no matter where your customer is, they can get the information they need immediately even without a phone signal. By having all the information already preloaded on their phone, customers can quickly jump through the app and find exactly what they want…immediately.

Customized Experience & Relevant Information

Mobile websites are static and must provide access to all information. Which makes them cluttered and not very friendly to use. Its hard for customers to find what they need, and if they do they need to load each page to find the information they needed.

Mobile Apps can by dynamic and smart. They can remember the users previous use, and store only the relevant information the customers accesses most. This way you can have the information pre-loaded and ready for the customer, even before they know they are looking for it.

Data Capturing

Mobile websites can only record a minimal amount of information about the user. Making it hard to track or learn more about your customer. You are limited to access times, estimated location by state and have no way to connect with them once they close your website.

Mobile Apps have a million features that you can put to use, to track, locate, tag, remember every customer! The most common is user preferences, allowing the customer to customize their experience and make it their own. When they have control, they are more likely to use your app and use it more often. However you can take this a step further and track and data gather from your customers. You can implement GPS to know where they are using your app. Data tracking to know how often and when they use your app. Networks so you know who they are using the app with and who they are interacting with. The sky is the limit!

Push notifications

Mobile websites have no way for you to market to visitors unless they willingly signup for your newsletter and verify their email address.

Mobile Apps have integrated “push notification” options, which 93% of people “ALLOW” by default. This means that you can now send popup messages to almost all your users phone at any time! Instantly turning a visitor into a marketing campaign!

The Mobile Movement: Understanding Smartphone Consumers

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This video presents key findings from “The Mobile Movement: Understanding Smartphone Consumers,” a study from Google and conducted by Ipsos OTX, an independent market research firm. The findings come from research conducted at the end of 2010 among 5,013 US adult smartphone Internet users. Google commissioned this research with the objectives to better understand how smartphones are used in consumers’ daily lives and how smartphones have influenced the ways consumers search, shop and respond to mobile advertising.

Over 400+ million mobile devices in use today.

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As of October 2011, there is over 200 million Apple iOS devices and over 190 million Android devices in the world. Thats over 400 million users you can reach through mobile applications.

Applications are quickly becoming the new tool for people on the go, as people stop using websites and rely more on applications for the information they need.

For many businesses that provide dynamic information, an application can provide a much needed boost to business and creating repeat customers. You can immediately and directly increase customers and repeat business.