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Making An App: Go Lean And Mean
App-making is a good capacity to develop in your business, since the app market is in a big boom right now, and there are still plenty of gaps left for new app-makers to fill.
While there isn’t a lot of movement in the top ten apps overall in the main app stores (iTunes and Google Play), there is plenty of movement within the app categories, and there are a number of utilities that still haven’t been “done right” for mobile.
When I talk to someone looking to make an app, I remind them that it’s most important to get a working app, even if it’s not feature-rich, out to the app stores as quickly as possible, for a number of reasons:
It’s one of the most popular buzzwords in the business world these days. Venture capital and seed money is hard to get, and even setting up a Kickstarter or IndieGogo campaign requires more than just twenty minutes of writing out an idea.
Most funders — and C-level executives within a business — want to see some kind of working prototype before they put their cash or resources into the mix.
That means that developing a mobile app capacity often needs to be done on a shoestring budget, and the first stage is to get a working app out rather than collecting the money to build a working app.
2. First To Market
Being the first to market isn’t a guarantee of success by any means, but it’s a much better bet than being tenth to market. The reality is that often the second to market, which has had a chance to learn from the first, does very well, sometimes even surpassing the first to market.
On the other hand, the guy who gets into an app niche a year late is going to have trouble building a following. Sitting on a great idea until it’s perfect just isn’t an effective way to make an app succeed. By the time it’s been honed to perfection, six other companies have gotten into the niche, and even if they’ve built inferior apps, they’ve already gotten customers used to them.
Getting a customer away from an established competitor, particularly from a large company, is hard. Unless they’re unhappy with what they’ve downloaded, once they’ve paid, it won’t be easy to convince them to pay for something else that basically does the same thing. In short, get into the market as soon as you can.
This might sound like a silly reason to rush to market, but the sooner you get out there, the sooner you can start getting feedback and improving your app. For example, you might think that your app absolutely needs to use its own mapping system, separate from Google Earth, but your customers prefer to use Google Earth.
Give customers a chance to give feedback before adding expensive features. You can build a virtual focus group into your free app, and get feedback to use for the paid version at no cost. Interviewing a real focus group put together by a marketing firm will cost you plenty.
Even if you don’t get feedback directly from users, using analytics can help you find out which features get the most use and where users are getting stuck.
How Do I Make an App Lean and Mean and on a Tight Budget?
There are a number of options for making an app on a tight budget. The most obvious is to learn how to develop. If you have the precise specifications for your app, you can use a service like vWorker or Odesk to connect you with a freelancer who can get your project built quickly and inexpensively.
Of course, there are also services that make it easier to make an app. The service most highly recommended for those who are good with HTML but don’t want to learn to code for iOS or Android is PhoneGap, because it’s an Open Source, Open Standards platform, meaning it’s always free with no strings attached.
There are some other excellent services like Andromo (monthly fee), iBuildApp (freemium), Conduit Mobile (monthly fee or one-time fee, depending upon level), Google App Engine (freemium), and AppsGeyser (free with ads — and my employer).
In short, don’t wait to find the perfect developer. Don’t wait to perfect every element of your app. Get a lean, mean version of your app into the market, and use it as the beginning of the process.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.