10 Things To Do Before Developing a Mobile App

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Emil Waszkowski
10 Things To Do Before Developing a Mobile App

You’ve been thinking about a mobile application that fully addresses market needs? Want to build the product, but there’s one thing that stops you: you have no idea how to change the concept into a functional tool. Wondering where to start and what steps to take to create the application in the most effective way? Read on to learn the essentials before you ask a software house for help.

Here are the top 10 things you can’t overlook before developing a mobile app. Each of these tips is based on agile development approach and focuses on business analysis. Learn about the must-know rules to make the most out of mobile.

Ready? Let’s go!

1. Competitor analysis

Knowing the product concept is a great place to start, but you can’t go further without doing a thorough research and analysing competitive solutions.

Here’s the simplest way to do it.

One of the most effective methods is to use a well-known search engine. Google will help you find almost everything you’re looking for, so just enter the right keywords in the search bar and voilà! Let’s say you want to create a weight loss app, you can start your research with these keywords: ‘healthy diet apps’, ‘best apps to lose weight’, ‘nutrition mobile apps’ etc.

The next step is to read all the articles about similar apps without skipping the comments section. Try to find those applications in the most popular app stores and browse the ratings, reviews and user comments. Pay close attention to things that users are focusing on the most. All this will help you create the list of the most and least needed features. You will also see what features currently existing software solutions lack.

Performing such analysis is a perfect way to polish your business model, as well as to understand the pros and cons of existing applications. The more you know, the better product you will create. There’s, of course, a risk that something will escape your notice, but it’s a great first step, which allows you to gather proper information quickly (and it’s free).

All this information also provides a huge value for the product team — they will not only know the product idea better but they will also be able to recommend some improvements straight away. Competitor analysis gives you valid knowledge and helps avoid mistakes in the early stages of your project.

2. Defining user personas

Establishing user personas for your business will make it easier to determine the application features, as well as promote the product when it’s ready. User persona is a fictional representation of your ideal app user. That’s why it should come with a detailed description that includes demographic data, interests, goals, and challenges matching a specific user. To identify the needs of your audience, define 1-3 personas illustrating the best recipients of your product.

Knowing your potential customers, you can determine how your app can solve their problems and help them achieve their goals. Having the weight loss example in mind, you can assume that your users’ problem could be managing their meal plan and its calorific value. The solution could be provided by a mobile application featuring meal plans with recipes, a reminder to keep eating regularly etc.

Let’s assume that one of the personas is a 35-year-old male working in the office, spending hours at a computer workstation. Imagine how he can use your app and benefit from it.

For instance, meals should be easy to make and the best scenario is when the user can prepare food for the whole week and easily reheat it in his office microwave. You can prepare several various scenarios, it depends on the determined goals.

Design functionalities of your application to best suit the needs of user personas. Read the blog by HubSpot to find out how to create personas (with a handy template) and what to focus on.

3. Figuring out if the world wants to buy what you have to sell

One of the ways to quickly confirm that your project meets the needs (or solves the problems) of your target audience is to create a landing page. Craft unique and brief product description and focus on benefits, not features. The thing is to show how the product solves potential customers’ needs. Include a form to make it easy to leave an e-mail address for all visitors who want to stay in touch and get information e.g. about the beta testing.

The next step is to generate traffic to your site. You can do this by running Facebook ads that target specific audience. After a few days you should have a list of e-mail addresses belonging to people interested in your product. If you get the right number of leads read the next tips included in this article.

Note that collecting a group of testers who are even willing to pay for your product is a strong argument for a potential investor. See how the companies like Dropbox, Buffer or AirBnb used this approach —> click.

Are you afraid that someone will steal your idea? Rest easy, you don’t have to put all the product details on the landing page. All you need to do is show examples of your mobile app interface and convey how your potential users can benefit from using it. Still, you’re the only person that has a complete product vision and knows its development strategy.

If you’re not yet convinced to run a landing page, and are still concerned about someone stealing your project, find a market research agency. This solution doesn’t have to be expensive at all, and it can significantly help to confirm the needs of your target audience. To stay assured that your ideas are protected, sign an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) with the agency.

It’s also good to discuss the idea with people you trust — especially if they possess business experience. To organise your ideas and keep the research results in one place, you can use Lean Canvas, a modified version of well-known Business Model Canvas.

4. Choosing the right app monetisation strategy

OK, you’ve conducted a market analysis and you already know that your idea solves a real problem of a specific target audience. You’re sure they will want to download the app, pay for it and make in-app purchases. Now it’s time to decide how to make money using the app.

There are four basic ways to monetise mobile applications and your choice should depend on the category your app belongs to. Here are the most common models:  

  • Freemium — Customers can use the basic version for free, but with some limitations. There are extra, paid features in the application that improve its usability. This model is commonly used for apps that boost productivity, sports apps and games.

  • Paid app — Users are charged for the initial download. Paid applications are usually ad-free. This model is mostly used for mobile games, educational apps and mobile tools.  

  • Ad-supported apps — Users don’t pay either for downloading the app or extra features. The revenue is generated by users that click the ads displayed in the application. This type of monetisation is commonly used in social, entertainment, news, and gaming applications.  

  • In-App Purchases  — Users are using an app for free, but also have the option to pay for extra items in games, movies, e-books or music tracks — depending on the app content.

If you want to know more about what model to choose and how to determine the price of your application this article might help.  

5. Goal setting

When you’re contacting the software house, tell them about all the necessary application features and, above all, define its purpose clearly. It will make understanding your vision and creating a plan to make the product that fully meets your needs much easier for the product team.

There are similar solutions on the market already? That’s even better; show them to your team and explain how your product will differ from the competition. The more details, the better. This will help them understand the subject, plan the application development process and evaluate its scale.

6. Product specification

Another thing that should be included in a product brief prepared for an agency is a product specification. It can be delivered in many forms, but one of the best ways is to create an application mock-up, which is a visual presentation of app functionalities on each of its screens. The screens should come with a brief description containing the main goals. If you’re looking for useful tools that will help you create mock-ups, read one of the Mockplus entries.

Mock-ups are the best way to quickly test information architecture, app navigation and functionalities before the programming phase. You’ll have everything to make a complete specification for a software house. This will help them accurately estimate the costs associated with application development.

Don’t know how to design mock-ups or have no time for that? You can create so-called user stories. It’s like telling about your application from a user perspective to describe how the user (persona) utilises the product.

A user story idea is based on a single sentence identifying user’s need, such as the following: “As a [user], I want [what?] so that [reason/value]”. Putting yourself in user’s shoes makes it easier to understand their needs. For instance, you can say: “As a new user  I want to register an account and be able to save my workout sessions”. To know more on how to create an effective user story read Roman Pichler’s entry on that topic.

Make sure you have general description of the app functionalities and then focus on the details. A specification prepared that way and a short workshop organised by the software house make it much easier to estimate project costs.

You can also contact us to share the app idea and benchmark against your competitors. We will then walk you through the entire specification development process — from preparing application screens linked together as clickable mock-ups, through API documentation, to functional requirement specification and the first sprint backlog. Use our form to identify and specify all the essential elements of your app.

7. Figuring the costs

Having an idea for a reliable software application is a great start but implementation presents a whole different issue. Besides, what about the costs? The answer is the ever-annoying “it depends”. We can, however, estimate the costs based on our experience over the years.

For now on we can say that preparing the first version of a single application with basic functionality (so-called MVP — Minimum Viable Product) for one platform, costs about $30.000. The work could be divided into two months, but remember that good software houses are basing their work on the Agile approach so you pay just for the effectively worked hours (the work is split into so-called sprints).

Your budget should include such things as development and maintenance, servers, marketing and customer service. Note that it’s important not to ignore marketing expenses. Keep in mind that the amount you’ll spend on promoting your app should be close to development costs.

The best way to determine project viability is to estimate revenue. You can do this by analysing your competitors — find out how many times and how often their application was downloaded. This data and the right monetisation model is what you need to easily calculate revenue using the App Revenue Calculator.  

Note: When calculating profit margins, keep in mind the app store charge commission that can reach up to 30% of revenue.  

8. Choosing the right agency

When choosing a software house to work with pay close attention to their experience and approach towards working with a client. An experienced company employs Agile Methodology and Time & Materials pricing model (read more about Agile and T&M) while creating an innovative product. This approach allows you to pay only for the performed work and to avoid getting a non-functional product. 

Remember that the software house should provide you with final cost estimation. Usually in the initial phase there is no sufficient data, so it’s surely impossible to determine a specific price. But you should consider given price as a reference point to track and control the expenses on an ongoing basis.

What’s more, if you don’t have a specification prepared, the agency should offer you proper workshops and an application design, which stays in line with your business goals and the best UX practices. You should also pay attention to the technology stack (software and programming languages used for application development). It’s good when, apart from creating mobile applications, the company can also design web apps. This is important when you need an admin panel for your application.

Before you make a final decision check out the agency’s portfolio, their references and ratings (e.g. on clutch.co). Make sure you don’t forget to ask for the CVs of the team members who will be working on your product.

Finally, keep in mind that the software house, that is confident in their knowledge and the quality of their services, should offer you a free trial. If, for any reason, a cooperation doesn’t work out, you can usually terminate the contract after two weeks.

9. Promotional strategy  

Even the best products will not succeed without a proper promotion. It is important to know the target audience before implementing the app. First, create a website and define the USP (Unique Sales Proposition) — it could be one sentence explaining what your app is and what it stands for.

Remember about the ASO (App Store Optimization), which is a process of improving the visibility of your app and make it rank higher in an app store’s search results. At this point it’s important to research your competition again to get a full picture of their activity. It will help you get noticed on the market.

It’s important to make a step-by-step plan to have a ready-to-use product before launching it in an app store. Some say that marketing expenses should be comparable to development costs. This is not a major rule, but there is a proverb: “You have to spend money to make money”. Agency that specialises in mobile app marketing should help you determine your budget. Wondering what to focus on? Here’s a list of mistakes to avoid prepared by Kissmetrics.

10. Development and maintenance

Launching a new product on the market is just a first step in the whole process. Now it’s time to focus on implementing your strategy, measuring the effects, as well as learning, and quickly and effectively responding to changing situation. You’ll need to constantly improve the product, so it’s wise to ask a software house for help with prioritising and turning the MVP into a final product. A well-experienced team will know how to use reporting and analysis tools to get the best results.

As you can see, making a functional application is a process that is almost impossible to run without a detailed specification which will also make it easy to estimate the costs accurately. Remember that to keep ahead of the competition you’ll also need a good strategy.


Want to build an application but don’t know where to start? Don’t hesitate to drop us a message at hello@futuremind.com. We’re always happy to help!  

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Emil Waszkowski

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