So you want to create a mobile app? That’s great! I personally welcome you to the world of mobile development, and I sincerely hope you never leave. The fact of the matter is, we need people like you, for you (the developer’s, designer’s and marketer’s) are the Da Vinci’s of our time, and the future of the world can and will be moulded on the fruits of your labour.
Why did I write this article? Well, as a developer, I came across many pitfalls and caveats while developing many of my own mobile apps, and I would like to help you avoid those common pitfalls.
(Stay tuned as I will be adding an ebook with about 20 more rules & tips to this post very soon)
1) Less is More
One thing we as developers, marketers & designer’s tend to do, is over think our mobile applications. We always want that one extra feature and no matter how far it takes us out of our way, we still end up implementing it, or at least we try.
The first iteration of an app should always only contain the bare essentials. In marketing terms it’s called MVP (Minimal Viable Product), which states that the first version of your product should only contain the essential functionality.
Now you don’t have to release the MVP. You could instead create the first version of your app, and then add another feature, and perhaps another after that (only when the previous feature is complete), before releasing your app.
2) Treat Competitor Apps as a Guideline, Not the Bible
We so often become jealous of our competitors success. Sometimes, to such an extent, that we drop our own list of features and scan their app for features to implement.
This kind of practice leads to building an app that we can no longer relate to, and perhaps one we are no longer passionate about. Why you ask? Because we did not discover what OUR users want. Because we are not sure why we even want those features. We are only piggy backing on someone else’s success and we believe that is justification enough.
With that in mind, analysing applications that have already been ‘tried and tested’ in your target market is one of the most efficient forms of market research. However it is important to take a competitors app(s) as a guideline, not doctrine. Analyse what features they provide and use this information as an insight into your target market.
3) What Makes You Happy?
A great technique to building mobile apps is to start out by creating something that will help you on a regular basis. You will be more passionate about what you are creating, as it is something that makes your life easier.
Not only that but you will also be building something that is useful for others, as the chances are quite high that along with helping you, the app will also make their lives easier.
When you create an app that you need, you are automatically inclined to feel passionate about it. And passion is key. Passion means that you can’t wait to use it and so you love creating it. And when other people feel your passion, they are likely to want the app just as much as you do.
4) Be Your Own Investor
Nowadays there are thousands if not tens of thousands of places you can go to gain the necessary funds to support the building of your application. However gaining funding is by no means the ‘make or break’ factor of your app, and while cash in the bank may solidify the security of the app being created, getting investment is certainly not a strict pre-requisite to building a world class application.
The only thing you need investment from, is your own schedule. It is you that will implement your idea, and so it is you that will spend time bringing your app into existence. You don’t need to apply for investment or get permission from anyone. You just need to understand that your time, is worth a lot, so by default, you do in fact already have a solid investment under your belt!
5) Courage Under Fire
When creating apps without funding, you may be faced with some constraints. You may be under pressure in one form or another, but that is a good thing. The pressure of constraints forces your to prioritise.
When you do not have the luxury of simply trying another user interface design / architecture / development process if it does not work the first time, you are forced to make educated decisions, and that is what drives innovation.
Striving to find the smartest, easiest and most efficient method to create your mobile application is essentially one of the most important steps you must always take when bringing your idea into existence.
6) Unstoppable Force Meets Immovable Object
What happens when a mountain gets in the way of a tornado? Well the mountain cannot be moved, and the tornado cannot be stopped. They simply go on to do what they were made to do. And so, we too should always ensure that we keep the momentum and keep moving forward with our application no matter what happens.
Set a deadline & follow the deadline closely. It’s as simple as that. During the creation of your application, If you envision something is going to go over budget, or over time, then decide on the most efficient method to wrap up that part of development, and let that be it.
Doing so will ensure that you do not fall behind, and will also motivate you as you save time and move onto the next stage of design / development / marketing etc.
7) What’s the Big Idea?
Ok so you’ve just began a new journey, one which will allow you to turn one of your idea’s into an awesome new app! All is well in the world and you are so excited. Perfect. You should be.
Just one thing, there are more than likely 101 things you want your app to do, right? There are probably way to problems in which you would like to describe your app as having solved them.
Step back, take the underlying concept or problem your app aims to solve for the user, and make it your mission statement. An app without focus is an app without meaning.
8) Half a Feature is Better Than a Half Assed Feature
When deciding what features to implement in our application, we often give ourselves to much to handle. While we may be quite optimistic at the start, we end up creating an incomplete feature, simply because we took on too much.
Luckily this is easily fixed. All we have to do is break our feature down into smaller features, and then take the top half most important features of that feature and implement those. Rinse and repeat until you feel strongly that you will complete the feature in question.
Once this process is followed, we can ensure that our feature is complete enough to makes a positive difference in our app, and not scare away users by being half-implemented or error prone.
9) Get Used to Saying No
Throughout the life cycle of your product, functionality suggestions and shiny new feature requests will inevitable crop up on a regular basis. You will no doubt greet every one with open arms, as you are delighted that people are actually giving you feedback about your product in the first place.
However, you should be very careful here. Sure, suggestions are great, but take them for what they are.. suggestions. You cannot implement all of them, so you need a system that allows you to rank or choose the most important of the bunch.
Once you have selected the most important features or suggestions only and left behind the ‘low hanging fruit’, you will have not only upgraded your product as a whole, but you will have avoided implemented features or making changes that may not have yielded the best results, just because someone using your product has suggested them.
10) Uncover Hidden Costs of a Feature
Even after saying no to a new feature, you still may find yourself being convinced. In such cases, you need to be exactly sure of what you are getting yourself into, i.e. you should be fully aware of exactly what work this feature will need to undergo, in order to be marked as complete.
There are a number of steps to completing a feature;
1) Try to avoid it!
2) If this is not possible, then it is essential to first establish the value of the new feature, if you have not already.
3) If you don’t find a good enough reason to create it, scrap it.
4) Create initial sketches of feature.
5) Research best implementations of feature, currently in the target market.
6) Decide on technologies/frameworks you will use and what they are capable of.
7) Create screen prototypes.
8 – 20) Code -> test -> tweak -> test -> code -> tweak -> test
21) Update FAQ (if necessary).
22) Update screenshots (if necessary).
23) Update product intro / tour / video (if necessary).
24) Update terms (if necessary).
25) Update pricing structure (if necessary).
27) Be prepared to hit steps 8-20 again.
So, as you you can see from the steps above, sometime you may think that a feature is really straight forward, but it actually turns out to be a bit of a headache. All developers should be aware of this simple fact, however it is not written in stone in the sense that, your feature may very well be easy to implement. You should trust your gut instinct and make educated guesses based on knowledge your already have.
11) Is it a Feature You Can Handle?
Apart from deciding if the feature is actually worth the effort , you need to ensure that you can actually stand by and support this feature for the life cycle of your app.
Do not say that you will give away a free life time account when a user shares the app (for the first 1000 users to do so), if it will cause you to lose a lot of sales that you cannot afford to lose and essentially be the downfall of your app business as you cannot afford to go on. No that is an extreme case, but the premise is there. Similarly, do not offer 24/7 customer support, when everyone goes home at 5pm.
Only offer that which you have the power to offer.
12) Flip the Switch
Ok so it really is great when you get to a point when you know exactly what to implement. But what about the features you know you should definitely not implement? How do you discover those?
Simple. Ask the user what they would not like to see in the app, if it is obvious what direction the app is moving in. Ask them what current features they use the least or if they could remove one feature what would it be? What get’s in their way the most? Here, your job is to find out what they don’t use i.e. what features are you spending time and effort on maintaining that the user’s don’t actually want.
Ever heard the phrase ‘less is more’? Well it definitely comes to fruition here. After you have taken the time to find out what user’s don’t want in the app, you will have an unordered list of features. So sort them based on most wanted. And get to work.
There you have it. 12 exceptionally important rules to follow when creating mobile applications.
Please feel free to comment with your own rules and tips on this post.
(Again, stay tuned as I will be adding an ebook with about 20 more rules & tips to this post very soon)
Here’s what to do next…
- Leave a comment below telling me which point surprised, inspired or taught you the most.
- For those of you who enjoyed the article and would like to read more on the topic, check out 7 Attributes of Extremely Powerful People.