From Idea To App Store

Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg was recently crowned the highest-paid CEO in the United States, pulling in $2.3 billion for himself in 2012, according to GM Ratings. That’s a lot of dough, but app creators have been making a name for themselves recently: Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey’s net worth is $1.3 billion according to Forbes, and even Sean Rad of Tinder—that mobile romance app besotted with crazy stories—is starting to turn a profit. You think you might have the next big idea, but how do you get it off the ground?

Narrow down your idea
Set a goal for what you’re trying to accomplish with your app, and make it a simple one. The simplest ideas are often the best: think of it as building the better mouse trap. Instagram took a small idea—sharing photos—and capitalized on it by making it easy. However, with over 500 apps launched every day through the iTunes App Store alone, standing out is impossible if you just copy another application. Instead, draw inspiration from everyday problems. What’s an easy solution to, say, booking a taxi? If that’s not enough, you can also try to fill a very specific niche—no idea is too small, because there’s a hardcore audience for everything. An app for improving your free throw may sound useless to the average Joe, but people don’t download a single app to help them with every single thing, they download multiple apps, each for very specific uses.

Get some early feedback
You don’t want to sink thousands of dollars into the development of an app, only to find out that it can’t turn a profit. Testing ahead of time is the key to seeing if you’re onto the next big thing. Create a website that mimics the site you’ll use to distribute your app: it should mention things like key features, a bit of mock-up graphics and some links to your social media and other marketing tools (take a look here for a good example). You don’t necessarily have to have it finished, but do put a button that says “purchase.” Create a small advertising campaign to drive visitors to the site, and track the number of hits you get. Instead of sending visitors to an app store, allow them to sign up for updates on the development of your app. This way, you’ll know how popular your app idea might get when it actually launches (or if you should kill the idea now). Repeat this step for your various ideas until the numbers justify further investment.

Create a design
The graphical user interface for your app can make or break the app, so this is where you have to start paying. If you don’t have a dedicated team for this (and, let’s face it, not many of us do), rather than just telling a graphical designer what you want, you will still have to come up with a few visual solutions of your own first. The upside for simple apps is that they don’t need to have a hundred moving parts—a few screens will do. Think about the key functions your app requires, about how many buttons will be necessary, and how each part of the app links to the other. If you need to do more than one thing at once, figure out how to incorporate tabs or pull-downs. Also note that people’s fingers are a lot larger than you think, so spreading the functionality out is a good idea. We suggest literally drawing each screen out to get an idea of the flow you want—the designer will take your idea and make it visually appealing. However, a decent amount of Photoshop experience can go a long way when it comes to making simple, table-based graphics, so consider saving a few bucks doing it yourself. Note that the best way to keep your app fresh is to make sure the graphics can survive the market for two years, which is about the lifespan of most apps. You will also need to make sure that you have the same design in multiple resolutions, in case you want it to work on older devices as well as new, high-definition gadgets.

Getting the code written
All of us aren’t coding experts, so let’s just assume you’ll be hiring a coder to take care of the actual app development. Pending your having done your research, and having decided what operating systems you want to debut your idea on, costs for app creation are relatively standard. Simple, table-based apps can run between $1,000 and $4,000 according to Blue Cloud Solutions, with extra costs associated with using things like GPS trackers and other bells and whistles. In-app purchases can also add an extra $1,000 to the cost, while web service integration and social media can cost up to an extra $5,000 and $1,500, respectively. However, game development can soar up to $60,000 due to the specialized code required.

Launch the app
App stores have a fairly transparent process for submitting an application. iTunes, for example, will allow you to create an iTunes Connect account, which handles all the necessary applications. Generally, iTunes requires developers to pay them $99 a year, plus a 30 per cent royalty on every app they sell (yes, it’s that much). However, if you’re truly onto the next blockbuster app, that won’t stop you, will it?


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