Have you ever had an amazing idea for an App and were overwhelmed with the idea of getting started? When I decided it was time to build an App for my business Moms Pump Here my first thought was I need to hire someone for this. There was no way I or my business partner was going to be able to undergo the process ourselves and maintain our sanity. I’m a serial entrepreneur with a love for science and my partner is a scientist. So you had two very driven and educated women in STEM fields with no coding background. I consider myself tech savvy but coding felt like a step up I was not equipped to put my brain through, however now that I have been through the process I am more than prepared to share what we discovered along the way.
Moms Pump Here started with a passion and an idea. It is and was the only online GPS tool for moms to find, rate and share nursing room locations to breastfeed and breast pump in the United States. Because of our own personal experiences as professional women who had to breastfeed or breast pump in the oddest, uncomfortable or dirtiest places and we were not alone, other women were experiencing the same things. We knew we had to do something about it. With some market research and tons of brainstorming we enlisted my husband, who runs a digital media company, to build the website and mobile web with the intention to eventually turn our database of locations into an Application (App).
Here are the three steps I consider to be the most important…and it’s not all coding!
1. Idea Generation
So now that you’ve got an idea of what you want to create have you put your ideas to paper? The first step is thinking about the need you are filling by creating your App. Is the need something unique or something that lots of other App developers have created? There is absolutely nothing wrong with creating something that has been done before. If the design is fly, there are no bugs, users love it and you market the heck out of it then you may just make some money. If it’s a new innovative idea there is a lot of space to define your niche.
Here are questions you will need to answer to form your idea:
o Define your target market: Who will be your users? (Gender, age, socio-economic groups)
o What do you want your App to do? Have you thought out your functions? Do you want to have in App sales, ads, pull information from databases, etc.? Will your App be multi-media or information based?
o What do you want your App to look like? You need a logo for placement on devices, a color scheme and images.
o Who is your competition? How would your idea stand out from your competition? You will need to download your competition’s App, test the App out, read through the ratings, and review your competitions social media and website.
o What is your budget? Your budget will have a big effect on how you will create your App and market it.
o Will you charge for your App (how much)? Will your target market buy it? Or is it free (with or without ads)? Everyone wants a return on investment. What do you want your ROI to look like?
2. Developing and Testing
Developing – When App development began there was no easy “do it yourself” website available to launch an App. Now there are so many to choose from that are cheaper to use than hiring an App developer. However, if you have the budget and minimal bandwidth hiring an App developer is for you. I found our developer by posting on my Facebook wall. My partner reached out to someone she knew and we compared prices to choose the best developer for our budget.
The two main platforms, Android and Apple, are widely used in App development. You can choose to create an App on one platform or create an App on both. Upfront, Apple is the most difficult to navigate but most lucrative.
Testing – Do not be hasty. Work through the bugs of your App by using an emulator or uploading your App file to your phone to test in real time. For example, rapper and entrepreneur, Jay-Z put out an App in 2014 named “Title.” The App was turned around so quickly, initially, to compete with “Spotify” and “iTunes” that it became the detriment to its marketing. Fans of Jay-Z were so excited to support him and download but quickly realized how buggy and unusable it was. They gave “Title” poor ratings in the App stores. His company eventually worked through most of the bugs but this was great lesson in patience.
Major Application (App) Platforms
After you have developed your idea which Application platform will you use? The two main platforms, Android and Apple, are widely used in App development. You can choose to create an App on one platform or create an App on both. (Note: You create developer accounts for each platform after the coding has been completed.)
Android (apk): Generated by Google and sold on the Google Play store the Android App is the easier of the two platforms to create. The coding platform the App is built on is called “Android SDK Manager” or “Android Studio.” The coding language commonly used is JAVA. Once you have created your Android App code (in a file format called “.apk”) you will need to upload it to the Google Play developers console to make it ready for sale on the Google Play Store. Creating a Google Play developers account costs $25. Users of the Android App cover a variety of phones from Samsung to Blackberry and Kindle. Android users also span the spectrum of the population and socio-economic groups.
Apple (ipa): Generated solely for Apple users and sold on the Apple App Store or iTunes, Apple is the hardest of the two platforms to navigate. The coding platform for Apple is “X Code.” The coding language commonly used is “C” and “C++” (pronounced C Sharp like the music symbol). Once you have readied the code (in a file format called “.ipa”), create your Apple developers account (in “iTunes Connect”), pay your $99 (an annual fee) and prepare yourself for a lengthy approval process. You will need to submit a DUNS number (which comes from creating a company and set up for the consumer to review the company). Apple does not make it easy for the developer. Almost every step in the developers console needs to be approved. The users are generally more affluent, knowledgeable and more likely to pay for an App than Android users.
Building Your App and Coding
When App development began there was no easy “do it yourself” websites available to launch an App. Now there are so many to choose from that are cheaper to use than hiring an App developer. However, if you have the budget and minimal bandwidth hiring an App developer is for you.
The whole App creation process, whether you choose to create it on a website or to hire someone, requires etiquette: patience and tech savvy. Coding is fluid just like the internet. It can break and have bugs. One feature may take a week or more to work through if it does not cooperate. If you are in a rush to turn an App around than be ready for all sorts of negative ratings and reviews when your App comes out due to unseen technical bugs. Patience will only help you to get it right and get great ratings in the App store. AND I could not stress this enough.
Before creating an App or hiring an App developer do your research. Read up on the processes, talk to others who have created Apps and make sure you have, at the least, working knowledge of the technology you will need. Additionally, the process or timeline to create a really good App can take anywhere from 3 months to 1 year.
To create an App yourself here are some websites you can refer to (“Googling” also helps):
Hiring an App Developer: When thinking about hiring an App Developer cost is the first thing that comes to mind. Usually your budget will determine your cost but a single App (i.e. just creating an Android App) will at the least cost you between $10K – $20K to create and this is only with minimal functions or features. You may even get lucky if you find a wide eyed kid just coming out of college to develop the App for cheap (but I digress about needing patience). Highly affective App Developers will have great customer service, patience (because clients generally are not patient), are knowledgeable about trends and coding platforms, and have an eye for design and functionality. Some App developers also use unique coding platforms to generate the code. Make sure to ask the developer for the name of the platform prior and do your research by reading through reviews about the platform on developer forums, which can easily be “Googled.”
Testing Your App
Do not be hasty. Work through the bugs of your App by using an emulator or uploading your App file (.apk or .ipa) to your phone to test in real time. For example, rapper and entrepreneur, Jay-Z put out an App in 2014 named “Title.” The App was turned around so quickly, initially, to compete with “Spotify” and “iTunes” that it became the detriment to its marketing. Fans of Jay-Z were so excited to support him and download but quickly realized how buggy and unusable it was. They gave “Title” poor ratings in the App stores. His company eventually worked through most of the bugs but this was great lesson in patience.
You can’t just build your App and expect your target market to download it right away. They need to know it exists first. When planning your App, marketing will need to be the second half of your budget. Here are some marketing approaches you can take:
o Viral videos
o Social Media Campaigns
o Promotional Events
o Hire a Publicist
o Create collateral and strategically place the collateral
o Word of mouth/Networking
As you can see there is so much to think about when creating an App. Your Mindset, Marketing and Money are key! After a year in development we launched the Moms Pump Here Nursing Room Locator App in May 2015 for nursing moms to download for free. Several months later through steady user growth, hiring a great publicist and creating a culture of emotionally invested moms the Moms Pump Here Nursing Room Locator App has about 10k downloads combined and over 20K moms in our network. There is still a lot of work to do to grow our users and scale our business to meet community growth but through it all we remained persistent and determined to create our product.