Apps are increasingly becoming a vital part of how businesses deliver services and goods to consumers, in fact Gartner predicts that by 2017 apps will generate more than $77 billion in revenue and be downloaded more than 268 billion times. For anyone that wants to capitalize on this massive growth market, where do you begin? What resources do you need? Is there a DIY solution, or must you spend exorbitant amounts of your resources on creating a professional app?
Whether you're an entrepreneur, small business owner or you just have an idea for an app, your first course of action should be to determine whether or not there is market demand for your app -- and you can do this through your own primary research with little to no cost incurred, save for the effort you devote to educating yourself. Speak with your customers and trusted associates, visit online marketplaces and determine if there is an existing app that is similar to what you have in mind: How many downloads does it have? How are people using the app? What are they saying about it in the comments? Are there pitfalls or gaps that can be exploited? You can take all of these cues and more in determining whether or not you or your business should pursue the development of your app.
Once you have reached your conclusion and you're ready to take the next steps, where do you go from there? To help guide the first-time app developer, I've created a few helpful tips below that come as a result of my own experience in what was once an uncharted territory.
iOS or Android?
This is most likely going to be one of the first questions you ask after you've made the decision to build an app, and it's an important one. If you ask around some people will give you an answer based on their own personal bias, (do they own an iPhone or a Droid device?) but what's important to think about is who YOUR audience is. When you check your web analytics are you seeing more visitors from Android or iOS devices? Talk to your customers! What are some of their favorite apps and why? Once you do a bit of your own market research you'll feel more comfortable with making this important decision.
To Be Free, or Not To Be Free?
Although this will depend on your marketing budget, when in doubt, go free. There are plenty of avenues for monetizing your app, like in-app purchases, iAds/AdMob, etc. but the most important element when launching your app will be engagement, and if you're working with a limited marketing budget it will be easier to engage users with a free app.
Do NOT Try To Get Sneaky with Apple or Android Rules
The wisdom of crowds -- when you're browsing two similar apps and you see that one has 1,000 downloads and the other has 20, you're naturally inclined to choose the app with more downloads. While there are ways to create the appearance that your app is more popular than it really is, I cannot stress this enough: DO NOT attempt to break Apple or Android's rules and pay for downloads to inflate your numbers. This could lead to any number of damaging outcomes, the least of which is getting your app yanked from the marketplace and doing long-term damage to you and/or your brand's reputation.
What's It Cost?
The development of a professional Android or iOS app can run anywhere from $1,000 - $200,000+. Now, if you have the budget allocated for using your resources to create a $50,000 app, that's wonderful! However, I, along with most entrepreneurs I know do not have that kind of budget, and the options which enable anyone to create a professional, personalized app for FREE are an industry game-changer and worth looking into.
I Built It, I Published It, Am I Done?
No! The mantra, "if you build it, they will come" does not apply here. In order to maintain a consistent user base you will need to monitor how your app is being used and what your customers are saying about it. Tweaking your app based on these signals will be important to the growth of your user base and brand.