So you’ve just had your “ding” moment and you want to build the next big app and follow in the footsteps of some of the internets big boys like Zuckerburg, Musk, Cuban and Thiel amongst others, or you just want to create something cool and see where it takes you.
Well there's many question you'll need to answer before you start. So here is some free advise to maybe help you along the way…
Already the same app on app store?
Before you spend many hours and £1000’s creating your masterpiece you need to check that the same hasn’t already been done, now I’m not saying you can't make the same and do it better but just look at any competition and see how your idea could beat it or be more useful. You may want to also check your own phone as they now come with many apps already loaded so creating a calculator, torch, converter or photo editor is pointless these days.
iPhone, Android, Windows or all 3?
This is a very important decision, its best to create all three that way you you have a wide market to appeal to, but this will cost you a lot of time and money as all three use completely different programming languages so its almost like creating 3 different apps!
Draw it out, make sketches, take notes
The idea is in your head at the moment but you need to get it down on paper or computer screen. Unless you get everything down and work out every single part of the app you will really have trouble later, what I mean by this is imaging the complexity of say the Facebook app, there are 100’s of options/buttons available from every screen and these all have a different use or screen displayed when you select them, this happens over and over as you navigate through the app, even the most simple app like say ‘Oii Instant Messenger’ has 20+ screens and options all of which needed working out before a single line of code was written. You can simply use some paper and draw it in pencil (use pencil as trust me you will be making many changes!) or I like to use Adobe Illustrator (Ai) which is very simple to use and will allow you to create all the boxes and text you like and also allow you to drag in screen shots and images to help you create the wireframes needed to code from.
Creating a set of wireframe drawings
Wireframe drawings are essentual to creating the app. A set of wireframe drawings are basically every screen in the app (without color’s and graphics applied) with detailed notes written around them and arrows showing what the buttons and options actually do and where they go. You will also need to do a spec sheet detailing every single part of the app describing how, why and what for, for all parts of the app.
Creating app graphics
Once you have your apps wireframes drawn out and are happy that every single option and function navigates the user smoothly through the app and more importantly doesn’t leave them at a dead end with no way of returning to a main menu without exiting the app! then your ready to start thinking about graphics, colors, font, logo and app name.
Graphics, Colors, Font
If you are a master in Abode Photoshop then great just get drawing whilst saving images as PSD files so they can easily be resized to look good on the small phone screens. However if you are not into graphics then get out your pencils and start to draw your logos and button styles. search Google for images and graphics that will work for you then save them into a file making sure your label everything as by the time you come to code there will be lots of information collected and saved. You’ll need to find a Photoshop designer and send your ideas along with any drawings so they can create the look your after. If your use an app programmer to create your app they will know a PSD designer who can do it for you. Choose your app colors carefully, Blue is very very popular as it looks nice on a screen but do you want to follow everyone in a sea of blue based apps? When you have chosen your app colors get both the RGB and HEX code as you need to know this for the app coding and building the social media and website to go with your app.
Choose a font that looks good on mobile devices, Facebook uses Helvetica/Roboto and Twitter uses Helvetica Neue, both of these look good and if these big apps use them then they are a good starting point for you. Here is a good place to check www.sitepoint.com
Look at your phones apps and through the app store and see the simple and easily recognizable designs that the big app company’s like Facebook, Revu, Instagram, Snapchat and Whatsapp use. You will have come up with a logo that says what your app is about, look good and un-cluttered on the tiny logo displayed on the device screen.
At this stage you have probably already thought a name for your app, but there are many things you need to take into account when you choose your app name; Is it catchy so people will remember it? Is it already taken? Does it say what the app does? As you can imagine there are 1000’s of apps already available and you can’t use the same name as someone else. The first place to check is via the app store on your phone, try entering the name and see what appears but unfortunately this is won't guarantee it has not been used as some apps are region based so it may not show up in your region, also someone may have already reserved the name whilst they are creating and coding their app with the same name, cleverly Apple only allows you to hold a name for 180 days before removing it from your iTunes connect account and banning you from ever reserving that name again, this is to stop people name squatting and selling them for ransom like what happens with website Domain names. If you are building an app and have reserved an app name with Apple and can see that its is going to be more then 180 days before it is finished then you can upload a binary of the app to give you some more time. Of course you need a developers account to be able to do this. Here is a good place to check Apple first steps
Build it yourself?
It can take years to learn to code in just one of the languages used and there are three to think about; Apple iOS, Android and Windows, so if you need it built soon then you just don’t have time, its best to hire a programmer.
How do I find a programmer?
Personally I use sites like Elance or Odesk, you sign up and pitch your idea, its very simple to find plenty willing to work with you but you need to weed out the rubbish first. www.elance.com or www.odesk.com
How to find a good programmer?
I find the best way to find a good programmer and weed out the time wasters is to add a sentence right in the middle of your pitch asking for the programmer to call you superman or batman when they reply, this proves that they have actually taken the time to read through your app idea pitch and are worth adding to your short list. Once you have your short list you can use the scoring system that Elance and Odesk both have, you can see all the previous jobs the programmer has done and the feedback they got. If your only language is English then you need and English speaking programmer, you also need one that will use Skype and chat at times that suit you, they must reply quickly, agree do the job at a prearranged price and time scale with completion milestones.
Writing an app description without giving the game away
This is very important, imaging you have the next big thing and you broadcast all the details to 1000’s of programmers, it will be stolen right away! A good way is to take your app idea and think of a basic way to describe what its about without giving the exact idea away, for example; if you were describing Flappy Birds then you could say “it’s an arcade game where the user taps the screen to control direction of an object through a maze, call me batman in your reply to this job, when the object reaches the end they win a prise and open up another level, the game will contain in game purchases and must work on android and iOS and intergrate with Facebook….” As you can see ive described the game without saying to much also i have added the Batman bit and told the programmer that it must work with different apperating systems and Facebook, so they get a good idea if they are good enough to create such a game or it's just not there area.
Choosing a programmer from your short list
So now you have a short list of potential programmers, look through their feedback, check out their previous work and defiantly try their apps on your phone to make sure they are smooth, well coded and not buggy. When you find one you like and have a gut feeling that they are right for you then send them a message and ask for a Skype call if they refuse or dither then go on to the next programmer you have short listed.
When you're on the Skype call make sure they communicate well and answer all your question quickly with good answers and no sarcasm or smart assed answers, ask them what they have built before and see if they are passionate about building apps, ask them to send you links for work or apps they have done, ask how they would go about building certain sections of your app idea to see if they understand and can do what you want done. Tell them that you will only agree to work with them at an agreed total price and time scale and don’t accept an hourly rate or you will get stung.
If all is going well and you get along with the programmer then your going to need to send them your Wireframes, graphics and app spec sheets, this is where you need to be careful as you don’t want the programmer to run away with your ideas, Once you have agreed to work together go back into Odesk or Freelance website (make sure every communication you make is through one of these sites and not through Skype or your own email) and send the Programmer an NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement), once they have returned it to you via the hire site you can then send them your details. To find NDA search the web for NDA Templates and adjust to your needs.
Before you send the details ask them how long it will take for them to get back to you with a quote they should be able to look through your details and let you know within 24 hours. When they return with a price make sure there is also a time scale for the fully finished project, all good programmers should know how long it will take they should also have a lot of questions regarding the app which is good as it shows they have really been looking into your job. If you are happy to proceed ask for the job milestones these are a break down of completed sections of the app, Some developers will ask for a small amount to start the project but i personally never pay more then 5% upfront.
Milestones and Beta testing
Once the project has started and the first milestone has been reached the programmer will send you a Beta version and explain what they have ready for your to trial, for iOS apps your mobile devices UDID numbers must be registered to your app developer account this is the only way to install the beta app and be able to test it, Android devices are much simpler you just email the beta to the device and click install as long as you have ticked the box in the setting to allow it. It is a good idea to have many different devices to use for beta testing, we use an iPhone 4, 5, 6, 6+, iPad and for Android testing we have several different quality devices in all different screen sizes as an app can look very different on different screens and types of Android so you need to check they all work and look OK.
Once you both agree that the app has been completed to the agreed milestone then you can pay the pre determined milestone amount, so if the programmer quoted a $5000 total build price with 5 milestones then you can release the first $1000 to them.
Remember if you start making changes to the orignal plan the programmer is in their right to ask for more money and it can extend the timescales espically if they have already completed that part of the job, this is why it is very important to get the drawing and design totally correct to start with.
Keywords and Descriptions
While you are waiting for the programmer to do there part it is a very good idea to get started on the app store keywords and app description, this is required for the app store both must sell your app in the best way and get people to find and notice your app.
If your app requires push notifications, i.e alerts to the user in the form of a ding niose, on screen symbol or little red number in the top right hand corner of the devices screen app logo, then you will need a Push Notification server to send these alert, its not massively expensive and most thrid party server companies are free upto 1 million messages a month or around for $20 a month for unlimited messages to unlimited devices. Apple Push Notifications
App hosting server
You will need a server to host your app, the app stores are purely portals for users to find and download apps to their devices. All apps are required to be hosted on the developers servers somewhere in the world. To start with you can use shared cloud hosting which can be as cheap as $20 a month and will be ok for the average useage apps but if it starts to get very popular then you will need to look into getting your own private servers which are expensive and will require a good cash flow from either yourself or your company or the app generating its own revenue.
You need to create a developers account with the Apple, Google and Windows to be able to create apps for their devices. For Apple you need iTunes Connect which is $99 a year. For Android its $25 a year and you’ll also need a Gmail account. For Windows its $19 per year for an individual developer. Something to think about here is your company name and your choice of email address, an email address is required to be displayed on the app store to allow user to contact you if any issues or advise, so you don’t want anyone from around the world to be emailing your private email as that would get very annoying. The best solution is come up with a company name or use your app name if you only ever intent on building this one app and buy the domain name for it and create an email address like firstname.lastname@example.org .
Does it cost me to put an app on the app store?
Besides the yearly developer account cost there is no other charges and you can add as many apps to the stores as you like, but remember the app store will take 30% of all money you ever make from your app!
App store checks apps before released to the market place
Before your app or an updated version of your app is released to the market place Apple checks it throughly for bugs, viruses, spam, banned content, quality, incomplete screens and various other issues this can take approx 8-10 days, Apple will email you the checking progress and outcome hopefully you get the email stating that it is ready for release. For Android apps are not gererally checked and can be on the store within 24 hours of realese. Check this link for more details appreviewtimes.com
A Website is required
Once your app is released
Once you have seen the email that the app is available through app store you can log into your iTunes developer account and view graphs and table showing your installs and the regions that it is popular in. Check out www.itunesconnect.apple.com
Social Media is a very important part of life so it is a very important part of getting people to know about your apps, the most important ones are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Revu, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr & Youtube. Once you have decided the name for your app or company and bought the domain name its very important to immediately secure this chosen name in all the social media sites, that way once you launch the app its very easy for potential users to find links to and information about your app.
Getting the world to know about your app
This is a very tricky one, there is no right or wrong formula, take a look at the 4 week craze of ‘Flappy Bird’ It starts with just a few Twitter and Blogger mentions and it starts to climb the charts which then gives it more social media mentions and so on this shows the importance of good social media accounts full of images and information about the app. Also there are many Bloggers out there that love a scoop and if your app is good they’ll get on Twitter, their Blogs and magazines and tell the world about it, this is a great way to spread the word. Another way is to pay for adverting on Social media and blog columns etc but it all depends on your budget.
How to make money from your app?
It can cost $1000’s to create an app and then cost even more to host it and use Push Notifications, so you need to think about how to generate money for all your hard work. When you first launch a new app you want people to try it and then tell their friends about it and slowly the word gets about but in reality no one will pay up front for an app they don’t know if they even want. So the best way is a free to install and use app! this way if they don't like it, its a simple delete, but if your app is good the user will want to upgrade to either the extra features or added levels via in-app purchase’s, this is a great way to get users interested and then start to see all your effort paying off.
Another way to gerenate revenue is with App advertising, either along the bottom of the app or between different screens but I find these don’t really generate much revenue and annoy the user immensely! But if your app is good then you could be cheeky and offer an option to pay to upgrade which removes the ads, this way you get much needed revenue.
Well i hope you have got some useful information from this page and it answers some of the questions you may have.... Now be a star and install Revu app on your device and find out just how awesome it is to find many of the Programmers and Designers you will need to create your app dream.
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