HOW TO: Start “an App For That”

Categories Articles, How To, iNoobs, iPhone

This is a post by Xavier Veyrat – Entrepreneur, graphic designer, UI & UX designer – Co-founder of Hot Apps Factory and creator of App Cooker.

I would like to thank Inspired Magazine for letting us write our first article and let us share what we learned from 1 year and a half of hard work on App Cooker. I think we have some interesting points to share so let’s get started! Most of this knowledge comes from the Human Interface Guidelines, Apple’s introduction to iPhone videos, our sweat and some common sense.

There are two reasons for you to make an Application: for fun or for business. If your App is made for fun, just do it and don’t read this post. If it’s the other and you want to maximize your chances to make a living from your Apps, this is for you.

Be old-fashioned, don’t be foolish

Before getting hardcore on the design, the code and the communication, have a look at the type of application you want to do. Basically, we think there are two big categories: games and the others. If it is not a game, have a look at your competition, it is called “benchmarking”. Type the keywords of your idea in the App Store and have a look at the results. If you are serious about your idea, buy the apps of the competition. Even if you think you have the best idea out there, there are tons of brilliant people just like you who already have the idea or are currently working on the subject. Use them for a day or two, look at their functionality and pick up the top three. Then go to their App Store page and look at their reviews, this is where you can find some gold nuggets that might change the face of your App. You can use  Discovr Apps which has a great way of letting you discover similar apps (it isn’t perfect but much better than what the App Store provides). Another search on Google to find “work in progress” could also save you a lot of time.

Games are another world. If you want to benchmark similar games to your idea, you must have a solid bank account and this long process might affect the originality of your game. If you have a great concept for a game, the only way to stand out in this overcrowded category is to be original. Try to resist looking too hard at what’s already out there. This might unintentionally influence your direction and stifle your imagination and creativity. After this preliminary work, comes the most important moment in the life of your project, this is where you will have to confront the idea to the actual App.

The Idea VS the App

Having the idea is great but as soon as you get it, you start thinking that “this” would be nice to have and “that” feature would be awesome. The key thing here is to remember that you are going to make an App for a mobile device. That means a limited memory. That means you can’t do everything you want, which means you have to narrow the scope of your App to its core functions. We have seen a lot of developers and designers starting their ideas coding or drawing inside Photoshop and this is wrong, really wrong. Spend some time to define and refine your idea and you will reach the end of your project sooner.

So how do you select what’s in and what’s out? Well, this is where common sense and gut feelings start to play a role. With the exact same idea, you might find numerous ways of doing the App because the key features selected may not be the same from one team to another. This is the human factor. A great way to be sure that you manage to define your App idea correctly is to describe it in this form: “Differentiation” “Solution” for “Audience”. For example, “an easy to use” “photo editor” for “photographers”. This Application Definition Statement is the most important thing you have to do when your start an iOS project. Once you have clearly defined it, stick to it and ignore all the features that doesn’t fit to it.

Why should you start this awesome iPhone or iPad project?

Now that you have a clear idea of your App you are ready to code right? Nope, not yet… There is one more step to do before getting in the design and code process, it is the business model. How many developers have started an App and when they arrive on the App Store they are lost when it comes to set the price and their categories? Often they end up doing this part in seconds because they want to see their app on the store, trashing all their hard work in seconds.

Before everything, think about your business model and test some scenarios to evaluate the revenue generated from hard sales or a free App with in app purchase. There is an App for that called Price Cooker that can help you do the maths in a neat way. Don’t underestimate this part, changing from a paid app to a free app with in app purchase is not 1 hour of coding, but more like 1 week (in the best case scenario). Estimate the time you need to do the App, PAY yourself and look at the sales volume you will need to cover everything. When it comes to pricing, I am one of the believers that unless your company name is Rovio and you can sell millions of copies at $0.99, you should price your App higher than this. That way you will still have scope for promotion and more than anything it gives an indication of the quality of your App. There are countless Apps with nothing inside at $0.99 and customers are starting to realise that.

Do it the right way

When you get your idea clearly defined as well as your business model, it is now time to get your hands dirty. Here are some basic rules that may drive the way you work on your project.

  • The design process should be 60 to 70% of the development time.
  • Communicate about your App as soon as you get a Beta and get people involved in it.
  • Communication is the key to selling your App
  • Don’t think you have the best App on the App Store, the best App is the one that sells the most…
  • In this shadowy century, standards are higher than ever people only want products they will love.
  • Give love with your App, here at the Hot Apps Factory we strongly believe that targeting the heart of our users will always reap greater rewards than targeting their pocket.

As Jobs said during his speech at the Stanford University “stay young, stay foolish” and I would add “share your great ideas with people, you may not have the time to develop all of them”.

Hot Apps Factory is the publisher of App Cooker, the most advanced app design software on the market. App Cooker assists developers, designers and general app enthusiasts through the complete process of planning and prototyping new app ideas, available exclusively on iPad.