Building An App. When, How and Why?
Hi, I’m Matt from Rocket Expansion!
Today, I will engage a very special guest on an all-time hot topic – ‘App development.’
App Development has always been a point of interest for those in the Tech-world, but in recent times, building apps has moved to a whole new level.
Building an app isn’t always simple, cheap or fast.
It helps to understand the app building process more fully before diving in. So I’m going to show you exactly how, when and why you should build an App.
To help me with this, we have Greg Gunner, from Co-Foundry development house. Co-Foundry has built apps for international airlines and 150 million dollar software products.
Greg, has also built very advanced websites & apps which have over two million users, so he’s very qualified to lead us through this – Welcome Greg!
What Is An App (Really?)
Firstly, we’ll outline a few definitions since ‘app’ is a word that gets thrown around a lot.
So maybe you can just tell us in an easy to understand way, what really an app is?
At the end of the day, an app is just a short version of the word “application.
App’s serve the purpose of making things simpler.
A good example is Uber. It’s an app that tries to connect the user with a driver who can provide the service of transporting them.
In the old days, you would call a travel company’s call center and say: “I would like a driver to pick me up at such and such address”.
Eventually someone would come to fulfill your request. Then there would also need to be a billing cycle in which payment for the ride was collected.
These days, the Uber app, now serves to shorten that transaction and order time to the shortest possible cycle.
They replace long processes with easy to understand software functions.
Using the power of technology, App’s have accelerated that, do it with greater efficiency, and save a lot of time (Uber versus Old Cab Taxi’s in this case).
What is the difference between a Website and an App?
There are many platforms out there these days – From facebook to AirBnb.
These are websites right? Some are called App’s ,some Websites and others Web-Apps’s – What is the difference?
A website could be seen as an app as soon as it starts providing some functional purpose, that helps you perform an activity.
As such, an e-commerce store, for example, technically is an app.
In this case, you could be:
- Running your browser,
- Buying something
- Adding into your cart or
- Going through a checkout process or whatever
So yes – from that perspective it is functionally an App.
It helps you solve a problem and again, in a short period of time .
The difference is that a website is more of a generally central content platform. It is not necessarily an App because there’s no functional purpose to it.
An app always has a functional purpose that provides the user some solution to solve problems.
The Purpose of an App
What is the main reason a business should actually want to build an app?
That typically comes down to what problems they’re trying to solve. They’re mostly centered around making processes quicker and smoother..
A business should always try to get tasks completed in the shortest amount of time.
A business should look to software to help streamline its processes and lessen the time spent in completing a particular cycle of action.
Building apps sounds great and rather attractive to those looking to generate millions of dollars, but this typically requires time and investment into the project.
How can you know if your app will be used?
We actually get asked this question all the time as developers. Often, people have an app idea that they believe is fantastic.
The reality is that when you’re interested in building an app, it is important that the app be usable the moment it’s in a person’s device.
This will test the real purpose and outcomes of the App – based on how the user interprets it.
This is also the first true moment you have of validating whether the app is viable.
When looking for app development solutions, you need to think of the shortest set of features the app can have to validate it. It needs to serve its primary purpose.
Testing the purpose
To test this, the company should build a prototype. A ‘prototype’ is a visual demo that gives you an idea of what the real app will be like.
It does not do what the real app does, but it helps you test out the idea of what the app should do.
Another option is to build a ‘minimum viable product’ or MVP.
An MVP is a product with enough features to attract app users customers and validate a product idea early in the product development cycle.
When looking for app development solutions – you really want to be thinking in ‘bite sizes’.
It is best not to copy big companies that have app’s with multiple features. These are costly and backed by big investments.
If the extra features aren’t valuable to the user, businesses have to cut them out. A good example is Google with ‘Google Wave’.
You’d think because it’s a social media product, surely it’s going to get adopted – but not necessarily.
You have to disabuse yourselves of the mindset that having a great app idea will also guarantee the ideas success in business.
The only time it becomes successful is when you validate that idea in the user’s hands or on their computer.
What is the Cost Range?
Don’t think that building the app is going to be cheap.
If your app is similar to many others, perhaps you might be able to cut some corners and get ‘pre-boxed solutions’.
However, you want to do something unique.
Be prepared to go along a custom development line in order to produce the required outcome.
Validation of app’s takes time.
Be prepared for a longer term gain. Good apps require continuously spending on the app’s development to evolve that product, to the user requirements.
People often buy 5 or 10 dollar apps.They don’t realise that app development cost over a hundred thousand dollars in developer fees or more.
This is not even an uncommon number for apps to be developed.
I’ve had tons of potential clients that would like to build something like Uber. The reality is an ‘Uber’ has probably taken two years or longer to build.
In the current uber app, one may easily think that the app is easy to build.
However, there’s a lot of research and development which is why the app can cost millions of dollars to develop.
What makes a successful technology tool?
How can non-tech-minded businesses fully understand what it takes to build a successful technology tool?
The best example is when building a house.
When building a house, you have to have the architect’s drawings. The developer will need the ‘plans’ and drawings from the architect to do this.
They have to have some instruction about where to put what, not to mention the multiple people that have to be organised, such as
- The electrician
- The plumber
- The Person doing plastering and roofing
They all have to be coordinated and planned.
Failure to do so can result in you not knowing what’s going to happen.
The best way to achieve a goal is to plan it. Remember, if a similar idea has been done before, there still has to be a plan for this idea.
There are tons of different variants of an app that all have to be planned. The plan has to be visually laid out and understood, specifically so that everyone involved is well informed.
How can you ensure return on investment?
How can a business make the best use of investment capital to get a return on investment (ROI)?
It comes to this whole mvp concept ‘minimum viable product’. You want to break your idea into bite sizes.
Let’s look at the uber example again.
People order an uber because they want to travel. That’s the first problem you wanted to solve.
You want to be connected with a driver, not necessarily do bidding between the drivers.So the first problem is connecting you with the driver and getting you somewhere.
That would be the first minimum viable product version.
They improve the app by looking at the feedback. This begins to inform the business as to what they should do next.
You might have this great fantastic idea of a new type of car et cetera.
So fine, you go through all this engineering and building, and eventually you have a car at the end of a year or so.
Remember, you haven’t yet validated that the process is working. After about 10 to 12 months you could find the idea to be terrible.
The idea is that you start first with the smallest version, like a skateboard. Invent the skateboard design and get it into some users hands.
Then they start testing and realise that it actually needs some handles, so you put a little handlebar etc.
Then you test it out again. You’re not getting user satisfaction, but you’re getting some feedback to validate what you’re looking for.
Then you move on to bigger things, like a bicycle.
You do this every single time, focusing on what is the goal – to transport.
The aim is not to try to go for the biggest design or the biggest features.
First you’re focusing on each element and how it fits and supports the purpose of what you deliver.
The key is to break that idea down into ‘bite sizes’ and do that with each step.
Next, have it used by the company employees when the app goes live. Continue to focus on having a strategy that will deliver a far more accurate product.
At each step, you’ll generate returns. If used frequently, it’s purpose will be achieved.
The ROI from the first release might be less than expected. Still, by the fifth or sixth release you’re likely to recoup your spend on costs.
How well will the product get used? That is your goal – To get the product used as much as possible.
Waiting too long to test that out will risk all of that financial investment.
How Valuable is the User Experience (UX)?
Talk about user experience, can you tell us a little bit about this?
About 20 to 30 years ago, Software was very much driven by the developer.
He or she would choose where the buttons went et cetera. Training staff for this would be a difficult task as it would involve many manuals and set-up.
This makes the process time and resource consuming.
For example, Microsoft Word would come with a manual on how to use the software.
Since then, our industry has grown in understanding. These days, we’re always trying to develop software around user needs.
Your user experience should be driving your design decisions such as:
- Where buttons should be
- How the layout should function
- How the flow should be driven or,
- The feedback data the user’s information.
If software is developed this way, there will be no need to take time training developers.
It should be natural for the user to get through the app without needing to think much.
Apps should be driven how they will be used and how easy it is.
The most important thing to note is that if the users aren’t using it, it can amount to a waste of effort and resources.
Easy Usability is everything.
What gold can you leave us with?
What golden nugget could you share about approaching app development successfully?
It’s hard to put it down to one particular rule, pick or golden nugget. I think the most important thing is user experience and validating your idea.
If you follow that, you will likely plan correctly.
This will make you want to get the product out on time and build it into phases.
This will help avoid having ‘big massive castle ideas ’, which can derail you from your goal.
People have an idea and they know they’re almost under the surface. They don’t want to validate it because they don’t want to find out if it’s a bad idea.
They want to build the app and put it out there, and be happy about it.
However, it is really important to understand that it’s about the user.
Even though you have a great idea, the idea is not great until the user is validating it.
Much like Digital Marketing, you focus completely on your customer.
You have to tailor everything to customer service and customer experience as the business gets more referrals.
If you want something to grow, make sure you’re doing it for the right person.
Awesome Greg! Thank you so much. That has been super helpful and fantastic