How to build an App

How to build an App

How to build an App

15 minute read

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Introduction

Isn't it disgusting?

To invest your hard-earned cash into building an app, you’d check and later discover its crap.

And the truth is, victims aren't entirely faulty. Would you know you’re hiring a noob to build your brand's product?

Before I show you how and what it takes to build a successful product, I’ll say something. If you need custom software development services and you’ve not tried Dusseau and company, LLC, we won't say you're neglecting a rare opportunity because you're probably just hearing about us.

We discovered a trend amidst our Consumer-to-Consumer (C2C) and Business-to-Business (B2B) clients for whom we’ve built software. Most clients aren’t aware of the opportunity to prioritize strategy for better product results. Understanding the right approach to web and mobile app development is crucial.

The main purpose here is to show you how to create a top-notch product that’ll liberate your brand.

Today, we’ll discuss the fundamentals you need to consider when building your product.

You’ll find industry-proven strategies that will deliver you an amazing build of a product that's best suited for your start-up.

The product development journey

A trend is spreading. They're saying experimentations are solely enough for start-ups.

Imagine you're riding a car and you don't have a clear road map or strategy to reach your destination; not only would you waste fuel, time, and energy. You'd waste money as well.

When a clear product-building process is planned, you significantly increase your chances of obtaining your product dream. Experimentations alone can not do the job of creating a winning product.

Of the entire 5 million apps sitting around Google Play and the App Store, how many do you think are successful?

Gartner already answered. A Gartner study showed that of the 5 million mobile apps available as of 2018, less than 0.01 %, i.e., 500 apps were profitable.

Now that’s a bummer! And it isn’t the reality we want for you.

Knowing the probability of success, what does an investment in a product look like? Well, as it relates to custom software development, see the breakdown below:

Cost Breakdown

  • Wireframes/Prototypes ~ $5k
  • Development ~ $36k - $80k
    • Quality developer ~ $65/hr-$125/hr
    • Hours a Week ~ 35/hr
    • Average Duration ~ 3-4 month

In retrospect, a $36k-$80K investment with a .01 percent success rate becomes the gamble of a lifetime. If you don’t know this by now, there are better investment opportunities out there.

Here is how you can increase your odds of success

Never compromise quality over scope

What makes your product different?

Without a Unique Selling Point, your business will appear stale. What makes your brand special?

In a bid to help our clients further clarify the problem, we often ask the question:

How is your product different?

This helps in clarifying the problem and assists in finding the most appropriate solution and increasing your business, market relevance.

When you can differentiate your business from the rest of the market, you increase your chances of offering value and generating sustainable revenue.

To add value and generate revenue for your tech start-up, you’ll need to incorporate these steps that work for the most successful tech companies.

This article may be a lot to take in if this is your first rodeo, which is why we are offering you a free 30-minute consultation.

In just 30 mins, we can go over the core steps you will need to know before you jump-start your product development.

A clearly defined problem and business goal are critical in designing your product development strategy.

The product development process

We want you to know that what is shared here isn't a fireproof approach. However, it's an approach we have collectively studied, practiced, and operationalized since our inception.

We have supported our clients in their development journey from an idea to million-dollar valuations post-launch in a matter of months.

Hence the steps in this article are data-driven practices that have worked for other tech businesses, and we believe they will work for you too.

STEP 1: PLAN IT

In establishing a data-driven strategy, your tech start-up will begin to measure the success of your app before, during, and after you release it.

How to establish a data-driven strategy

  • Have a Business Goal: An over-arching business goal will direct your efforts. The fastest and easiest way we help our clients stabilize their growth is by asking them the fundamental question, “What problem are you trying to solve?” It is from that point we move on to the next step in the process, which is;
  • Building a strategy around the goal: Break down the goal into smaller units known as strategies. The strategy then becomes the point of action which is your tactical plan to operationalize your innovative idea. We always recommend our clients to sit down and work their ideas backward; in mathematics, this is called “Backwards induction,” clearly defining the required steps to deliver on their vision.
    • That’s the whole point of having a strategy; to make your business goal actionable.

      Your plan defines how you'll deliver.

    • on your customer value proposition, this is the thing that makes you different
    • execute against your value change
    • the key activities you need to provide to reach your ultimate business goal
    • A product strategy will help you lower your business risk and increase your odds of success.

      To help you further know and develop the right plan for your tech start-up, read about Michael Porter’s competitive advantage strategies here.

You want to know your customers better than they know themselves.

STEP 2: STUDY IT

Having a goal and a strategy is half the battle won. The other piece of the puzzle that needs to come together is to know who your customer is. In content marketing, we call this "buyer's persona.”

To unveil your customer's buyer's persona, you need to understand who they are clearly.

A few tips to help you in doing that is by asking questions such as:

  • What piques their needs and interests?
  • What goals and challenges do they have?
  • Are they individuals, startups, small and medium-sized businesses, or corporations?

You need to clearly define who they are to understand what and how to offer a solution that solves their problems.

Without defining your customer, you will end up with a product and service but with no one to offer it to.

How To Find Your Customer

Conduct market research based on your business goal and mission.

Market research is simply gathering information about consumer needs and preferences.

Convert the data from the market research into applicable information that your prospects can use to solve their problem.

How To Conduct A Market Research

As you start your market research, the following steps are useful in providing direction to get you the most accurate information for your start-up.

1. Define the problem

When defining the problem and setting the research objectives, it helps list the probable causes of the situation alongside the decision alternatives to maintain focus. For example, the symptom may be that product sales are below target objectives. The list of possible causes may include a recession in the economy, low incomes, a new product launch from a competitor, or a change in customer needs.

As a researcher of your start-up, your responsibility with this kind of information is to narrow down the possible causes of the symptoms’ probable causes. For example, assume that you've identified the cause of the low sales of your product because of a new product launched by a competitor in the market. After identifying the actual cause of the problem, the next course of action is to determine how to gain back the market share lost as a result.

As the owner of your tech start-up, you get to decide the best alternative to the identified problem, which could be an array of options, e.g., change the price, do more promotion, improve the product, etc.

2. Pick a research strategy

This is the aim of your research. It's the answer to the question, “What do I want out of the data collected?”

With that in mind, your research objective can fall in either of these three categories:

  • Exploratory research: This is gathering preliminary information to help define the problem and suggested theories. For instance, what are the possible reasons for a decline in our sales?
  • Descriptive research: It involves describing market variables by answering who, what, when, where, and how questions. For example, what is the market potential for a product?
  • Causal research: This means testing a theory about a cause-and-effect relationship. For example, will an increase in our advertising budget increase sales?

3. Collect the data

In collecting the data about the market, structuring a questionnaire with the following points will help you get the most out of it.

  • Size and type of market, i.e., is it new, saturated, or mature?
  • The main customers and their characteristics, e.g., What do they buy? How much do they buy? At what price? Where are the prospective customers located? Why do they buy? What are their attitudes and perceptions toward our product(s), our advertising, and our promotion? What is the buyer’s readiness stage? Which benefits are sought? How loyal are customers to our brand and competitors’ brands?
  • The suppliers and channels of distribution used in the market?
  • The main products sold?
  • The competitors and their size, price, product, distribution channels, communication, and sales promotion methods used.
  • The government policies regulating the market, e.g., taxes/duties/import restrictions
  • Potential customers for the product?
  • Do current products meet customers’ needs and if not, do new products need to be developed?
  • How are businesses perceived in the market?
  • Are there legal implications? What is the patent situation? What are the product standards? What about trademarks/copyright and protection of intellectual property?

3. Analyze your findings

From the collected data, it's time to analyze and interpret the data to conclude the findings. This step is more of a science than an art. Feel free to contact us to learn about the different ways you can analyze consumer data.

STEP 3: BUILD IT

With the business strategy and customers under your belt, the next step is to develop an app that will drive your business strategy and add value to your clientele.

Here are some key phases to building an app from scratch.

  1. Discover and Frame
  2. Design and Prototyping
  3. Testing It (Technically, this step never ends)
  4. Build It
  5. Funding
  6. Prioritize

Discover and Frame

In this step of the Application Development process, data from the market research is gathered to explain your audience’s problem (prospective customer) and provide the blueprint to the answer.

The meat of this phase is covered in the market research section, but here is where we began to build your product puzzle using the information collected during your research. Some of the key deliverables here are Technical Specifications, Product Requirements document, baseline architecture, data model, etc.

Design and Prototype

This stage of app development is premised upon a strong understanding of the intended users and the business environment. That’s part of why we emphasize product strategy and market research.

The design phase is the step where the business model of your start-up is expressed visually. We begin with low fidelity designs and avoid colorful designs or images because we want to focus on the skeletal framework of the app, which is the user flow and the organization of information, which is what your users experience, We also have the wireframe, which is a way to prioritize informational layout, which is paramount in this phase of app development. The wireframe highlights the user flow and the user journey driven by best practices and the targeted user of the app.

It’s important to note that not all user flows and user journeys make sense for everyone. Hence the importance of aligning the app with the expectations of the end-user demographics. For example, a younger generation will expect to see certain things from the app instead of an older generation whose expectations will vary from the younger generations in terms of what they want. It is those varying expectations that we factor in during the low-fidelity wire-framing development.

Once we’ve established the low fidelity wireframes and are confident of the outcome of this first step of the design phase, we proceed to the high fidelity prototyping. We give the wireframe by introducing colors, sample data, and copy in this step. Copy is crucial because we want it to be as close as possible to the production app. Afterward, we make the high-fidelity experience clickable, thus converting it into a prototype that allows testers to interact with the app.

The point of a prototype is using it to run tests, e.g., testing user flows and organizational layout. Some people disagree with this and see it as a waste of time, but we find it fundamental to do so and advocate the development of prototypes for testing. Testing will save you a ton of time and resources. Through testing, you get feedback that will let you know what needs to be adjusted before moving further along with the app development process.

This stage can get intensely interactive, and that’s the point. The more feedback, the better the outcome of the app under development as it offers you many opportunities to make the necessary updates while at the same time increasing the chances of your app meeting user expectations

Testing

The point of testing is to get your product in your target user’s sight to get an early understanding of what they’re looking for. At Dusseau & Co., we use this phase to define the results we want to measure. There are several items to focus on in this phase, and so we advise our clients to focus on validating the product market demand.

Our recommendation around obtaining feedback is to go with one-on-one reviews instead of a survey approach. This is because surveys tend not to give the pulse or feel of the first adopter's interests. With one on one, it's easier to pick up on non-verbal cues such as body language.

Note that when preparing for your test plan, you want to be ready. This means determining ahead of time who to target and when to meet. The goal here is to get a random sample of your target users.

We help our clients’ in this phase by creating interview scripts that contain questions tailored to obtain the intended user’s feedback. At the same time, the questions need to be open-ended to enable the user's feedback to be free, allow for an open channel of communication should they want to get back to you, offer a safe space for the user to share their thoughts candidly. With that, you tend to obtain the most valuable information.

Always remember this as it relates to testing; one should never test their product with people they know or themselves.

Coding

Learn to code

This may sound hard to do, but it's possible. You can learn how to do the coding by yourself. It all depends on the kind of app you’re developing.

Though it may take longer to launch, you may encounter more issues along the development process, but the benefits of doing it yourself are worthwhile. Some founders don't know this, but if you have ever heard of the app Credit Karma, their founder built their MVP by himself.

He taught himself how to code using online resources, and today CK has a $4 Billion Value.

Find a technical co-founder

This is easier said than done. Finding a suitable technical co-founder means finding someone that you can work well with, trust, and believes in your business idea in the same way you do. Your technical co-founder shouldn’t be your friend but someone who has the skill set for the job and is committed to the business.

Build your internal team

We've witnessed founders who have hired developers for perfectly viable sweat equity. However, their commitment can be a little shaky as equity in an early startup, albeit a non-revenue generating early startup, can be worthless. If you have the funding, you can build out an internal team. However, you would still need a technical person to vet their skill set, but it's still an option worth considering.

Work with freelancers

You can work with freelancers. One of the limitations with freelancers is that they generally have multiple commitments going on. Additionally, suppose you do not know exactly what you want to build and how you want to build it down to the finest detail. In that case, freelancers can be very expensive in the long run due to the back-and-forth communication and misalignment of expectations.

Even with all this, you still would need someone with technical skills to assess their technical skillset. We have advised companies in the past to hire top talent to flush out your product roadmap and requirements and then go with more cost-effective developers to implement.

Hire an Agency

Hiring an agency is a smart option. Agencies can provide you with end-to-end services. The benefit of working with agencies is that you’re guaranteed highly skilled teams and professionalism.

Funding

Acquiring financing can be a challenge.

There are different options to funding your business, with the most common being self-financing, which is simply paying out of your pocket.

There are friends and family, venture capitalists, and angel investors.

It can be an easy way of acquiring funds with friends and family, provided they return on investment.

Venture capitalists are investors who work on behalf of very wealthy people. Hence, their appetite for investments is limited and specific to performance metrics and business milestones, which may not be viable for early-stage start-ups.

Angel investors are perhaps the most suitable of the options listed. They are wealthy people who invest on their behalf. Though hard to find, they’re a viable option.

Point to note:

As a black-owned firm, it wouldn’t be right to not mention the challenges that minority founders face with raising capital to fund their business.

Studies show that venture-backed companies aren't competitively funding minority companies:

  • Black founders only represent 1%
  • Hispanic founders 1.8%
  • Middle Eastern founders 2.8%
  • Women founders 9%
  • Asians 17.7%

This data can be discouraging for minority founders. Still, we specifically like to work with such because we believe in making the most out of every dollar in terms of resources and development time.

Our goal is to save on costs and to support minority groups.

Prioritize

The consumer data collected during your research and testing phase determines what and when features are built.

Our framework for prioritization is very different from most companies, but first, we define the activities required for a user to be activated within your application. Then we describe our hook. After that, we figure out what product features best align with an activated user and your hook.

In some instances, as a developer, you may want to prioritize the remaining features by time, cost and scope.

At other times the features can be prioritized by value. For us, using value is determined by your end-user.

Another way of prioritizing by value is determining whether or not a feature of the app is a value add. This means that the end-user will pay for it. Alternatively, if the part is a non-value add, the feature isn’t necessary for a given user journey.

For technical founders, you might come across them using what is known as a complexity matrix.

This matrix is broken down into four categories, i.e.features are:

  • Highly valuable but not complex
  • Highly valuable and complex
  • Not highly valuable and not complex
  • Not highly valuable and complex

Lastly, we have user stories.

Using user stories to prioritize features means that each user story and user flow has a set of required features so that the user story and user journey are considered complete.

The biggest challenge in the different approaches to the MVP we’ve listed here is for the owners who find it hard to avoid doing everything.

Anytime we pick this up from the owner, we always show them Twitter’s MVP.

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Building an app is difficult, but possible

There’s so much more we can say about application development for your tech start-up, but the key points have been shared in this article.

From differentiating your business to developing a strategy;’ knowing your customers through market research, and finally, the app development process.

We want you to succeed, and we’re committed to walking that journey with you every step of the way.

Feel free to reach out to us for consultation through the link below.

I wish you the very best!

Let's start your next project together