If you’re starting an app in 2023, you should be extremely excited. Having done app development for the better part of two decades, I have reason to believe that app development is entering its most matured and evolved phase.
Generative AI has come to a truly productive standard of operation. 5G networks are making the impossible possible. IoT, AR/VR, and so much more – a world of new possibilities is waiting to be unlocked.
App development in the wake of these innovative technologies gives upcoming entrepreneurs so much to work with. You could build an app that is so perceptive it feels like a mind-reader, so powerful it could solve world hunger, and so fast it could save lives. Sure, it sounds over the top but hey, it could be done.
When you aim for such greatness, you must start with meticulous planning.
Embarking on an app development journey involves so many things to take care of. Ideation, validation, market research, monetization strategy, building a team, and on and on.
Always begin by laying the groundwork in stone. There are certain steps every successful app business must take to ensure success. For your app to become a sustainable business that can bring in engagement and revenue, it needs to be rooted in solid research, clear goals and a strategic plan.
In 2008, the iOS App Store debuted with 500 apps. Today, the total number exceeds 7 million apps on iOS and Android platforms, spanning hundreds of genres and niches.
There are more smartphone users in the world than there are people in China. And where there’s a smartphone, there are apps.
142.6 billion apps and games were downloaded in 2022.
The mobile app market’s growth will reach a staggering $935 billion in revenue in 2023.
Today, let’s talk about how to start an app business and what kind of prep work you need to do, so that the money you spend on developing and marketing your app brings in handsome return on investment. What are the steps you should take before diving into development to ensure app success? We have answers!
Market Research and Idea Validation in the Current Landscape
Every product needs a market. And the market dictates all key decisions you make.
So when setting out to start a mobile app business, it is important to understand the product market fit. You need to know who are the key takers of your product and how many of them would be willing to pay for it. Everything from the design to the feature set of your app would be determined by the people you wish to see as the users of the app. Some of the questions you need to answer are:
Who are your target users – their age, gender and other demographics?
What are the problems these users face and how you plan to solve them with your app?
How big a problem is it anyway? Is this something they’d be willing to spend money on
What do they currently use in place of your app?
That last question leads us to another crucial aspect of market research – you need to get a feel of your competition. It’s okay if an app similar to yours exists in the market. That alone isn’t reason enough to deter you from building your app. However, you do need to know exactly what your competitors are doing, just so you can outperform them. Look for answers to questions like:
- Who are your primary and secondary competitors?
- How many apps already exist in the app stores that offer services similar to yours?
- What features do these apps offer?
- What is their unique selling point?
- What features do these apps lack? That is the gap you can fill to outperform your competition
- How good/bad are the ratings and reviews of these apps?
Answering these questions will give you ample idea of just what your app needs to succeed. Understanding the problems of your target audience and just how much they struggle with it will help you build a mobile app that perfectly serves their wants, needs and expectations. This way, your app would address all the user pain-points and give them something worth engaging with.
Once you begin mobile app development, one of the first areas you will have to figure out is the features your app contains. For example, you know that you want to build an app that helps users make online payments easily and securely. But you need to know in deeper detail just how many features this includes. Do you just make online payments through a linked bank account or do you also have a mobile wallet? Are there loyalty points and rewards? Is there an option to pay later on credit? Is there automated bill-pay or at least bill reminders? There may be features you may not even have thought of. Performing adequate market research will give you all the answers you need and give you a roadmap of all things you want your app to be able to do.
At the same time, thoroughly researching your competition will help you find out what they lack and offer a better solution to make their current users switch to you. Knowing what makes their app do well will help you improve yours and learning from their mistakes will help you avoid expensive ones during your mobile app development.
Choose your Technology – Native, Web or Hybrid App
It is possible you are the creative vision behind the project and have a team of developers to handle the technological aspects of mobile app development. Yet, knowing some essentials of technology requirements would help you better conduct the entire process of app development and strike the right balance of tech and creativity.
One of the main technological considerations you will need to make outright is if you want to build a native, web or hybrid app.
Primarily, mobile apps can be of three types based on technology. Native apps are apps built for specific platforms and are coded in the language of that platform. For example, Android apps are coded in Java or Kotlin. iOS apps are coded in Objective-C or Swift.
So in essence, you need to write two distinct sets of code, one for Android, and one for iOS, to build your app and make it work on both platforms.
Web apps are coded in HTML5. They open on the web, inside a browser and can hence be used on any platform, as long as it has a browser.
Hybrid apps are apps that use reusable code written in special languages, and can be used across platforms – be it Android, iOS, web or others.
So which would you use – native, web or hybrid.
You might think the answer is simple. But when you begin weighing the advantages and limitations of each type, the weighing scale wavers a great deal. This makes it difficult to choose any one type and the final decision boils down to a set of factors that best work for you.
Creating a Solid App Strategy and Monetization Plan
If the goal is to make money from your app, you need to learn about app monetization – which means the different ways to earn revenue from your app.
There are a few different ways to monetize your mobile app:
In-app purchases: one of the most popular ways to earn money through apps is by making your app free to use, and adding on some advanced features that are optional, paid and value added. This means that people could choose to pay for these added features, or continue to use the free version.
Paid downloads: while not very popular for all kinds of apps, some mobile apps charge a one-time download fee, making it their primary (often only) source of revenue from app.
Ad-revenue: one of the commonest forms of mobile app monetization, ad-revenue works when another app, or product or service offers you money in exchange of displaying their ad on your app. The higher the number of active users on your app, the higher ad-revenue you stand to earn.
Subscription: if your app can provide continued value to users, they’d be willing to pay a fee every month or every year. This is the subscription model and is becoming increasingly popular these days, with apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Spotify in the play.
Which one (or two) of these app monetization options you choose will depend on the type of app, your target audience and several other options. Be sure to do your research and weigh your options as well as analyse what your competitors are doing to guide your decisions on mobile app monetization policy. Once again, this is one of the things you must figure out before stepping into development.
Creating a Pre-launch Buzz and Marketing Strategy
You’d think you only need to worry about marketing once the app is ready to ship. However, having an app marketing plan well ahead of time lets you hit the ground running when you’re ready to launch.
Marketing a mobile app consists of two stages – pre-launch buzz and post-launch ongoing marketing.
Essentially, in the pre-launch buzz, you want to spread the word out enough so that you have some takes as soon as the app is launched. So you could create a blog where you talk about the problem and say that a solution is coming soon. Or you could do some advertising on platforms where your target audiences hand out. One of the most effective strategies of course is using social media to create a buzz and attract some early users.
This is important in many ways. Early users open the road to active user feedback, helping you fine tune the app performance while your development team is still at momentum. Secondly, early users leaving ratings and reviews that sets the ball rolling to attract more users.
Ongoing marketing is essential to keep the momentum going so that you continue to acquire new users, increase number of active users, and also make up for any users you lose along the way.
You can advertise your app on social media, YouTube, and other apps where your target users are likely to hang out. If your app has wide relevance, you could even consider advertising in TV, media and print. For a more niche audience though, avoid spending money on mass advertising and focus on your niche audiences.
Mobile app marketing can take diverse routes and figuring out which way is best for you is something best done ahead of time.
Legal and Regulatory Considerations in App Development: Safeguarding Your App’s Journey
As an entrepreneur, it’s crucial to navigate not only the technological challenges but also the legal and regulatory landscape that surrounds app development. Ensuring that your app adheres to intellectual property rights, data privacy regulations, and user protection standards is a paramount responsibility that demands careful attention.
Your app’s unique concept, design, and functionalities constitute valuable intellectual property. Establishing copyrights, trademarks, and patents, shields your creation from unauthorized use, imitation, or infringement, safeguarding its market differentiation and exclusivity.
Also. complying with data privacy regulations is ethically and legally binding. Regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) dictate how user data is collected, processed, and managed. As an app developer, it’s essential to implement robust data protection practices, provide transparent privacy policies, and obtain user consent as required by relevant regulations.
Following app stores’ guidelines is essential to ensure your app’s visibility and distribution. From design standards to content restrictions ensure your app’s growth and reputation and long-term success in a competitive app ecosystem.
Understand the Process of App Development
But you have developers for that. Why then do you need to know the ins and outs of wireframing, prototyping, coding and securing an app?
Simply because to be able to get the job done well, you need to know the job. If you are the brains of the business and have a technical co-founder you completely trust, you could possibly afford to leave it to the co-founder. If however, it is upon you to oversee the development team, familiarize yourself with the process of app development for best results. It’ll help you steer the project forward effectively.
So the most basic steps of mobile app development can be recapped as:
- User research and use cases
- Mapping of features and functionalities
- Minimum viable product
- Programming and coding
We’ve already talked about user research and app features. The design is quite self-explanatory. The next crucial aspect of mobile app development is developing a minimum viable product or MVP.
An MVP could be a prototype which shows how your app will look and work, so you can show people your vision and plan. This will help you gather early feedback, conduct user research and most importantly, show to investors so they can fund you for development of the idea.
Prototypes are the closest you get to seeing the app in action without writing a line of code. The design team usually handles the requirement.
Once you have your funding, you can get started with coding the app which must be followed by testing and launching.
The real work of starting a mobile app business begins much before the first lines of code are written. The above steps lay a strong foundation for starting an app and making it a success. Be sure to follow these and you might be the next Uber.