Building a successful app is the culmination of hard work, constructive criticism, iteration and marketing
Back in mid 2015, we were two web developers aspiring to pick up mobile app development in our endeavour to redefine the social network scene. We know very well many developers build apps to pursue money, fame or the altruistic feeling.
But for us, we simply wanted a way to ice-break anonymously with like-minded people attending the same event/lecture or chilling at the same café because there are contextual topics to talk about without having to open up to another person – who is nearby – just yet.
Having experienced it first-hand, we realised to our dismay that the app-preneur journey is arduous and exasperating, not to mention ridden with countless challenges and dilemma.
This is in stark contrast to the smooth-sailing path to success portrayed by the glorious stories cherry-picked and published by the media. By sharing our experience, we hope that budding app-preneurs can learn from our mistakes and appreciate that careful planning and meticulous decision-making skills are just as essential as hard work.
Synergistic ideas makes hard work fulfilling
The most popular apps focus on satisfying specific needs while offering tremendous value to the users. WhatsApp made real-time messaging possible and cheaper than SMS-ing. Google made information retrieval efficient and easy. Facebook brings out our desire to show off our lives and stay in touch with our families and peers. In short, the more an app can fulfill the user’s needs, the higher the chances of its success.
While competition is stiff and ideas are a dime a dozen, we believe the best ideas you’ll enjoy working, while burning through the endless nights, are those that you are really passionate about.
It would be better for the users if your idea solves a pertinent problem. In our case, we realised the need to connect anonymously with people nearby at events (or any public places) through our observation of everyday life. For Ninja Van, the founder realised the inadequacies of the logistics solutions for e-commerce businesses. The list goes on and on.
Keep development hyper-lean
You own a start up and every resource is scarce. Time is of essence as we juggled with our day jobs and relationships. As such, going lean is paramount and that applies to your idea validation approach.
We used tools like Powerpoint and AngularJS to rapidly prototype a minimally-viable app that highlights the key launch features and used it to gather feedback. While using sketches or wireframes are recommended because they are deemed to be fast, our team found it hard to solicit valuable feedback because most users are not proficient at visualizing an ‘empty’ shell.
A mock up done entirely in PowerPoint in an attempt to nail the discovery location setting UI. The UI has evolved differently since then.
Hybrid or native?
Even with a team of two, we had a passionate, geeky falling out about picking one approach over the other. We ultimately chose to develop natively on iOS as “developers usually do their best work on it”, or so we heard. There were also solid evidences from market research that iPhone owners were more willing to try out new apps and execute in-app purchases.
What about hybrid? Two years ago, we would have recommended against it due to poor browser support and lack of a performant and modular client-end framework. Fast forward two years and hybrid frameworks like Cordova (or even Ionic) becomes viable because:
- Native development is not any easier than hybrid development. We ran into quite a number of technical issues and UI debugging is hard even with Storyboard. The most time-consuming of which was the use of variable cell height in a UITableView. We needed ingenious solutions like flipping a UITableView 180 degrees to get it to work! Madness!
- Hybrid development is a game changer that allows development of iOS, Android and web at the same time. This is especially important if your users expect your apps to be present on cross platforms.
- More performance issues and browser incompatibility issues have been addressed (with browser updates, standardized Android Webview like CrossWalk and more performant smart phones) and an increasing number of native features have been brought into the realm of hybrid app development.
In a nutshell, we’ll recommend native development for those seeking highly-customised app requirements like our one-click snap and post topic UI, buttery-smooth animation and newer/experimental technologies.
We would still recommend the use of cross-platform frameworks for conventional apps that retrieve and display information but do learn your native development so that you can stay abreast of cutting-edge development technologies and create your own extensions for hybrid frameworks when no one else is willing to do so.
Iterating for awesomeness. Marketing for awareness
The biggest mistake a developer can make it is to assume that his product is awesome. Everyone regards their child to be awesome. But you are not the one using or paying for the app. The target audience is.
When we had a working prototype ready (with some non-game stopper bugs) we sought feedback from our close friends who are more likely to take their precious time to review the app, give their honest feedback – some were so brutal we took it back to the drawing board – and suggested ways to penetrate the target audience. If you can’t reach out to your friends, you could also try networking sessions and treat someone to a cuppa for feedback.
Marketing is one of the key to a successful app proliferation and one that we are working on next. We hear developers who claim that with a great product, it will gradually be adopted massively. This mindset may have worked when apps were few and (thus deemed as) novel but today’s market is so saturated that every developer who yearns for his/her app to be adopted has to plan and execute marketing strategies to acquire users. We shall talk more about marketing as we bring Ignite out of beta and execute market strategies, so stay tuned.
We hope you enjoyed this article and learnt something for your upcoming app-preneur adventure!
The authors are creators of the Ignite app which enables you to share, discover and discuss happenings around you in real-time.
iPhone app: http://ift.tt/279x7Uy
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