Creating and launching apps is a thriving business — more than 1,000 apps on average are submitted to the Apple App Store and a lot more on Google Play Store per day. In 2015, the App Store had more than $20 billion in gross revenue. This climate of rapid growth makes app development an appealing prospect for many savvy entrepreneurs.
But what does it take to create a successful app, and can it be done without an extensive tech background? The answer is yes, if you follow a few essential steps and best practices.
Launching an app starts with brainstorming and continues even after putting the app on the market. First, however, it’s important to establish some context. There is an app for almost anything — hence Apple’s famous slogan, “There’s an app for that.” But in general, apps fall into three categories.
Apps cater to a specific need, make a task easier or exist for pure entertainment, according to Entrepreneur. Knowing the type of app you want to develop is your starting point. After that, the process tends to move quickly. This guide provides the insight entrepreneurs need to make it through the app development process from start to finish.
Brainstorming, research and development
To get your development team off to a good start, you’ll need to have a brainstorming session. It’s important to ask yourself some key questions:
What do your competitors look like?
What industry are you looking to target?
Who is your audience?
How will your app stand out among others on the market?
The answers matter, because you need to make sure your idea is worth the investment before you get too far along in the development process. This is the stage in which you’ll create a solid business plan as well.
Have a monetization strategy and figure out whether you’ll develop for iOS or Android, because this will determine many of the technical aspects down the line, as well as whether you will need to apply to the App Store or Google Play.
This initial research and planning makes everything else much simpler down the line. Note that, according to many experts, developing a cross-platform app isn’t advisable due to inconsistency and potential bugs.
Once you know your platform, you’ll be able to learn more about your target audience and what they’re looking for. You can also find helpful prototyping tools online so that you can create a wireframe. When your initial concept is solid, decide how you want your users to interact with the app. The user interface determines what your app will look like, and small design details can make a big difference.
Next, you will find a company to design and develop your app. Don’t be afraid to outsource development. Some of the most successful products were outsourced at first, including Skype, Alibaba and Digg, Entrepreneur contributor Rahul Varshneya points out.
Choose a provider that understands your specific requirements and budget. Later down the line when your app is gaining traction on the market, you can put together an in-house development team, Varshneya says.
When you have a working version of your app, you can run beta tests. Most teams conduct closed testing before launch, meaning they put together a group of users to test app functions, help find bugs and identify areas for user interface improvement. Make sure you have all of your bases covered in terms of devices as well: Each type of mobile device operates differently, so you’ll need to make sure your product works on smartphones, tablets and more.
Developing a marketing plan
You may think that you can wait until after launch to come up with a marketing plan, but it takes time to develop interest in your product. Find ways to get people talking about it so that you’ll have a satisfying sales start on launch day. Of course, marketing tactics will vary based on your specific budget.
Depending on the type of app you build, you’ll need to use different tactics. For example, game-based apps should be heavily marketed on various social media outlets. Try to get third-party endorsements from tech bloggers and other types of press coverage as well.
Building a user base is crucial in terms of generating revenue, so a solid marketing plan will help you gain visibility. Once you have a user base, read reviews often so that you can identify areas of improvement.
Applying and launching your app
Before you can put your app on the market, you’ll need to apply. Both the App Store and Google Play have specific guidelines and standards, as well as a unique application process. Do extensive research to prepare your app so that you have the best chance of admission.
The application process can take as long as a week and may require changes to your application, so be prepared. Create a developer account with Apple or Google by registering and paying an application fee. The actual uploading process should be done by your development team to avoid mistakes.
Next, it’s time to prepare press releases and ensure that your support team is ready to get to work. On launch day, they’ll need to monitor performance and resolve any issues quickly.
Building on success
After the launch, you can look for ways to expand in your segment of the market. Evaluate your app’s success to determine who your buyers are and why they chose your product. If they aren’t who you expected your audience to be, it’s time to tweak marketing efforts. Identify strategies for ongoing success, including new ways to innovate and achieve even better results.
You may want to include new features in the next version of your app or change design aspects to improve user experience. Launch day is only the beginning, and if you remain agile and open to new ideas, your app can achieve ongoing success.
Following this guide will help you move through the app development process and create a high-quality end product that is targeted to the right audience and marketed effectively. With detailed planning and careful strategizing, savvy entrepreneurs can capitalize on the booming app market and launch an app that is valuable to both users and investors.