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Creating A Mobile App: Coding Is The Easy Part

Thinking of Developing a Mobile App?  Focus on Business Issues

Make it easy.  Make it relevant.  Make it interesting.  Make it pay.  That’s what thirty+ years of business, consulting, marketing and mobile app development experience tells me about successfully creating a  mobile app.

Some tough news: less than 99% of the Apps that are being developed are selling in a big way (more than two hundred [200] downloads per day) according to Forbes magazine.  Mobile App Development

Second, as the average cost of getting an “install” is now over $1.20 per download, according to Mobile App marketer Fiksu, getting users to sell other users has become even more critical to your App’s success.  (It might help to know that, for a $1.99 app, the developer is getting about $1.40 [the Store takes 30% of the sale] so there isn’t a lot of money left there to fund development and operations.)

The good news: there’s still plenty of room to create an app that could have significant market value.  What I counsel my clients to keep at the top of the list is the business case for the App and making sure that the design goes beyond just digitizing analog content.

Coding Is The Easy Part

Creating a mobile app is hard work.  Yes, writing the actual code becomes the easy part.  But, interestingly and not too surprisingly, that’s where most folks, including many of my clients, go first. Whether it’s a lawyer trying to position himself with a ticket-fixing app or a guy trying to address greenhouse gas emissions.  

For the inexperienced inventor, this proclivity looks like a two-step shuffle: 1) I’ve got an idea for an App.  2) I need to find a programmer.  

It’s a knee-jerk reaction in many cases mostly because the inventor doesn’t know that there are other parts of the process that are more critical.  Unfortunately, the programmer can’t help with that: s/he will, perhaps, help you design and, of course, do the programming.  For a fee.

What’s the hard part?  The question ought to be: “What are the harder parts?”  There are at least three things that are more difficult than the programming: 

  1. designing the app
  2. finding a market for the app
  3. grit

I’ll share some insights on these three areas.


Grit, or perseverance, comes up first for me.  As you do your market research, due diligence and design, you’re going to find obstacles. Other people have tackled the problem in a similar way.  Or, the “Stores” might have restrictions on how you want to design your App.

creating a mobile appThe design you come up with might be lackluster, boring, by comparison.  Your creativity and inventiveness will be tested.  A support network of believers will be critical.  

In the face of long odds, you’ll need grit and determination to keep going.  Dan Pink, the sales guru, would also call this “buoyancy:” the ability to keep afloat despite discouragement and rejection.

Designing the App

Here’s the critical question that will push the design and functioning of your App: “How will your user’s life be changed for the better as a function of using your App?”  That will help you develop a vision that will keep the idea of the App alive in your heart and mind.  

For utilities like a Google Maps App, let’s say, I can tell you, from experience, that I’m much more confident about traveling: I know that the App is going to get me where I’m intending to go.  Most of the time.  So, I get an emotional benefit out of a utility App.  It’s important to pay attention to that potential.  

My best example for a well-designed and well-executed app can be found at http://unstuck.com.   It’s both web and mobile based and is, visually, compelling.  While the business case for this app might be to sell the owner’s consulting services, it’s pretty easy to see there’s a measure of altruism in what they’re offering.  And, because a business is behind it, it’s easy to see that they can invest the kinds of resources that an individual couldn’t.  Creating a  mobile app

Design, it should go without saying, is critical since many of the paths you might choose are not reversible.  For example, if you decide to create a native (everything sits on the mobile device) App, there isn’t a lot of coding that can be re-used if you find that a hybrid (some functionality on the mobile device, some on the Web) is a better architecture.  

How do you pick the architecture as you’re designing?  Since most folks, except for the pros, are completely ignorant about this — and most programmers don’t really know the questions to ask — most apps get created as native.  The answer?  More education.

Finding Your Market

This should be your first task: if you can’t find the business case for going forward, it might not be wise to proceed. I’ll admit that it’s one of the hardest things you’ll do because you’re, usually, so emotionally invested in the “idea” of building an app (I was) that you just don’t want to do this.  So, get it out of your system: lie down on the floor; kick your feet and have a good tantrum: “I don’t want to do this!”  Then, get over it. And, go do the research.  See http://comscore.com.

Among the things you can do: look at your would-be competitors and figure out how they’re marketing their Apps and why they’re getting, or not getting, downloads.  Create a starter website (your “funnel”) and run a Google Adwords or a Facebook campaign that speaks to the problem you’re trying to solve and see what you get.  

Another relatively cheap thing that you can do is to buy an email list (http://leadferret.com) and, using your website with Google Analytics as your entry point, see what kinds of appeals get responses and actions.  Offer a prize, if you have to.  Do an “A/B” test.

Finally, it wouldn’t hurt to create a prototype using one of the many (http://keynotopia.com; http://proto.io) tools available and show it to your friends and family.  If you get a lot of responses, like “I don’t get it,” go back to dreaming and the work of finding something that’s compelling or a design that’s more appealing.  

A Good IdeaScreen Shot 2014-05-12 at 4.08.03 PM

There are many who say “a great app sells itself.”  I would agree.  But a “good” App might get you part of a living, too.  

The number of “great apps” out there?  Not a ton, according to the market.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.   

This post was originally posted on Daftblogger.

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