Mobile App Development - 5 Key Considerations

Harry Laos

Monday, 19th of August, 2019
These days anyone can build a piece of software, a mobile app or a website. All it takes is a small amount of financial investment with a developer or alternatively you can almost do it all yourself using drop and drag templates online.

Having said that, it's also very easy to get stuck in the weeds and lose valuable time building something that no one wants, that doesn't work or never gets off the ground. Afterall, as a business or startup, the most valuable asset you have is time, and this is something you can never get back.

More than 90% of mobile apps fail and there's several reasons why. Outside the obvious, these reasons aren't due to a lack of technology or financial funding. Instead these reasons tend to be more about the software's intrinsic ability to serve customers, solve their problems, and the go to market strategy to grow the business.

In other words it's about creating a great solution for a real world problem, and getting that in front of the right customers.

Building A Winning Mobile App

With an accelerating pace of technology it's never been easier to build software. This can be seen by an ever increasing number of apps available on the market. More apps means more competition, hence it's become more difficult than ever before to acquire users and stand out as a winner.

Although building a piece of software in itself is no longer a competitive advantage (as it once was during the 1990's dot com era), there are several fundamental principles which will never become outdated and stand you in good stead.

We look at what distinguishes a winning mobile app, website or software, from one that disappears amongst the noise of the internet.

Start Planning Your Mobile App Before Building It

It sounds obvious, but really common sense isn't that common. When starting out there are many considerations and it can become quite confusing. You will be faced with making decisions that will shape the future of your app from technical, design, business and marketing perspectives.

All are very important to consider and will affect the chances of success for your app well into the future. Hence the best way to get started is often with pen and paper, before diving into the build. Be prepared to plan, tear up the plan and then plan again, several times over. Every new plan is an evolution of the last and one step closer to a successful deployment.

Here's 5 key considerations which can be planned out during the early stages before you invest time, money and resources building a mobile app that misses the mark.

1. What Problem Are You Solving?

Over 90% of apps fail and one of the single highest causes of failure is an inability to understand your customer's problem and address a clear need in the market. This usually results in building an app that no one uses, no one is willing to pay for or simply missing the mark entirely and never getting off the ground. In rare cases it's possible to recover, however the lost time, money and effort can be fatal for a startup.

Before building any software become an expert at defining your customers problems. You can't solve a problem which you don't understand inside out.

Before building, ask yourself:
  • What is the problem we're solving?
  • What it the best way to go about solving this problem?
  • 2. Who Is Your Customer?

    Once again before building it's crucial to research your market and decide who is your target customer. Your mobile app is only as good as the users who vote for it's existence. A vote is simply measured in user engagement or revenue generated. If users love your app, use it regularly, engage deeply and report great reviews then you can be sure you're on the right track.

    Before building, ask yourself:
  • Who is my target customer?
  • Who are our competitors?
  • What is our competitive advantage in the market?
  • Why would customers be interested in using my app?
  • How can we maintain this competitive advantage over time?
  • What are our unique selling points that differentiate us?
  • 3. What Is The Solution Your App Delivers?

    You need to be able to clarify, sharpen and define the reasons why your app exists and how it goes about solving a customers problem - it's core solution. This leads into the reasons why a customer should choose to download your app over the next one in line.

    Consider the solution you are creating. How does your solution solve a customer's problem and what are the unique selling points being delivered.

    If you can't define your solution within one sentence (ideally 40 characters or less) then it's unlikely you're giving a customer enough certainty to choose you and give your app the chance to solve their problem in the first place.

    Before building, ask yourself:
  • What is the purpose of our app?
  • What is our solution to the problem?
  • How is this different from our competitors?
  • 4. What Is Your Apps Technical Foundations?

    It's important to speak to an expert about your idea to gain crucial feedback on how to build your app the right way. Usually this expert is a developer with specific experience in building mobile apps.

    This is an important step for several reasons. Firstly, it tests your ability to communicate your ideas, the problem and how your app aims to solve that problem. If you can't explain it to a developer, how can they possibly do a good job of building it for you? Second, it tests your flexibility and ability to pivot, as likely you will gain crucial technical advice which will upheave parts of your original plan.

    It's critical to get the technical foundations right from the beginning, since changing your mind about the platform, the type of code, framework or even adding/removing features, becomes very costly resulting in significant setbacks. For example, an ill conceived foundation has the ability to undo 100s of hours of a developer's time resulting in starting again from the beginning. Once again, this comes back to clearly defining the problem and how you plan to solve it.

    Taking the time to get the technical foundations right from the start means you can focus on what counts: solving customer problems, go to market and growth.

    Before building, ask yourself:
  • What is the prime function of our app?
  • What core assumptions does this rely on?
  • How can we create a lean MVP prototype to test our core assumptions?
  • How can we create a customer feedback loop to continually test assumptions?
  • What is my budget and time frame?
  • What is my distribution method and how will I get my app into the hands of my target market?
  • Am I developing an android, apple or multi platform app?
  • What programming languages will my app be built in?
  • How will this affect the cost, maintenance and ability to scale over time?
  • 5. What Is Your Monetisation Strategy?

    Software costs time and money to create, maintain and run on servers, hence an app needs a business model behind it to support its continued existence. Your app needs to have some form of monetisation strategy in place, even though this will likely change as you pivot over time.

    There are a variety of monetisation models ranging from advertising, sponsorship, freemium, in app purchases, subscriptions and so forth. Usually advertising in itself is not enough to sustain most apps. You really need to solve a problem for your users in a way that they're willing, able and continually interested in paying to solve it.

    The key metric to consider is making your 1st 1$ from a real user. This is to test the principle that a user is willing to pay for your app in the first place. There's only so much market research you can do to test this assumption and the true acid test lies in real world deployment.

    Hence, the question then becomes what is the leanest minimal viable product we can create to test the assumption that our users will purchase it and spend the 1st dollar?

    Summary

    Planning your mobile app before building is a fundamental practice which will help avoid the common traps of building an app that no one uses.

    Become an expert in your market and take the time to clearly define your problem, choose your customer carefully, develop the purpose of your app, map out it's technical foundations and have a monetisation strategy in place.

    Be sure to consult an expert along the way, whether its a developer or a founder who's been through the journey before.

    Once the fundamentals are understood and mapped out you're off to a great start. It becomes far easier to build an app that customers use, value and are willing to pay for, hence placing you in good stead in your journey towards success.

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