I want to share a little secret with you: everybody else has an idea for an App. Yes, it is true. I get contacted every other day by someone who has an idea for an App and want me to develop that App. Many times, they are non-tech people without the economic resources, investment plan or a company to support them. If you are one of those people, this post is for you.
Now, I don’t want to discourage you. I make a living by developing Apps, but if you are just an individual without resources and you think you have come with the idea for a killing application, before rushing to contact a developer and ask him to build it, let me tell you some reasons why your idea will probably fail (and hopefully how to avoid it):
You have no money, and no investors
An App is a lot of work. I am yet to see a MVP (minimum viable product) presented to me that is actually “minimum”. Most “original” App ideas nowadays are a variation of a social network, kind of a combination of Facebook and WhatsApp. Most non-tech people are not really aware of the effort and resources this kind of App implies, from a backend infrastructure (a server, database, and an API for communicating with this server), a good functionality analysis, a UX/UI design, and of course hours and hours of development for iOS and probably Android too. All that work requires qualified staff and lot of effort, depending on the App.
If you don’t have money, or at least investors to back your project, it’s not going to work. It is that simple. Contact some business angels, find investors or start a kickstart campaign, whatever you need to finance your project.
You don’t have a marketing plan
Your app is not going to work if you don’t spend some time and (specially) money on marketing. I know, I know, you have probably heard stories of Apps developed by some indie guy topping the App Store, like Flappy Bird or the Angry Birds, but believe me, you are more likely to win the lottery or being hit by an asteroid. It is 2014, and there are more than 1.2 million Apps in the App Store, and even more in the Google Store. Maybe in 2008-2009, the sentence “If you build it, they will come” was true, but not anymore.
If you want your App to succeed, be prepared to build a decent marketing campaign and spend some money on advertising. The top Apps in the App Store are not there for their beautiful design or their groundbreaking technology, the companies behind them are paying a lot of money.
You underestimate the developer
Now, I don’t know how many times I have heard, as a pressure strategy, that some nerd will develop your App for free in return for a share, or that a foreign developer will build your App for almost nothing, or maybe that the friend of one of your nephews has made a programming course and can build your App for $800, so how can I ask for such high rates. You must know that this is really disrespectful to a developer. I won’t work in building your Facebook clone during 3-4 months for $800, and no, the 2-weeks programming course of your nephew’s friend won’t allow him to build it. If you pay peanuts you get monkeys.
Also, when you tell me your idea, and I give you an estimate you find unacceptable, please don’t ask me not to steal your idea, implying that I will develop it on my own. You know, I am a developer, I develop Apps for a living, I don’t steal other people’s ideas. I have plenty of ideas myself (just not enough time), thank you.
So please, be respectful to the developer. He or she just wants to build your App, but we have bills to pay like everybody else. If you want to build an App that succeeds, you need to find a good developer that will build you a quality product. Ask yourself if it’s worth having another failed, terribly developed App in the App Store.
NOTE: If you are a developer, know your worth. It’s tempting to lower your rates and yield to the pressure, but trust me, that only leads to a lot of frustrating work for hardly enough money to make a living. If you are a good developer, and you know you can deliver a quality product, make your rate reflect your value.
You have no business knowledge, plan or resources to build a product
Building a (successful) piece of software is not just throwing some lines of code and “yada yada bum!”. It is a complex process that requires lot of different abilities, and ideally a team of people working together. Yes, I can write the iOS App, and I can write the backend server, the web services and such, but someone has to market the product, someone has to design the product, and someone has to take the decisions. A serious App would require a process of refinement, feedback from the users, pivoting and changing the App, and a process of corrections, updates, improvements and enhancements.
If you plan to build an App, you cannot just ask the developer to create a business model for you. You will need a business plan, resources, contacts and probably a team of people.
Probably somebody had that idea already
I have a list in Wunderlist called “brainstorm”, where I would write all the App ideas that come to my mind. From time to time, I check the list and look in the App Store for Apps matching the functionality of the Apps I have in my list. 8 out of 10 times, there are one or more Apps implementing that very same “original” idea of mine. When you have a great idea, one of the first things you should do is a quick search in Google or in the App Store. If there exists some other App that implements your idea, you have to find a differential factor that will make your App stand out against the rest, specially if that previously existing App is well stablished or well known. And that differential factor must really add something that will make the difference.
You don’t know the business area of your App
If you have come with a great idea for a travel App, do you know something about travel agencies? something regarding travel legal conditions, requirements, passengers rights and duties? Take for example Apps like Uber or Airbnb, that have faced (and still are facing) all kind of problems related to their area of business, and they do have a cohort of lawyers and a team of professional on many countries working for them. You cannot rely on the developer to solve these problems. You better have a deep knowledge of the influence area of your App, or be joined by someone who knows it well.
You thought about the present of your idea, not about the future
An App is a living entity. Once you release it to the world, you would probably need to fix bugs, correct bad-thought decisions and improve the user experience. If the App is a hit, you would need to add new functionalities, or improve it, you will need to adapt it to recent OS versions (a new iOS version comes every year with tweaks and changes that need to be done to your App), you will need to contract faster and more reliable servers to accommodate thousand of users. If you want to keep on with all these changes, you need a way to get more money, or a way to monetize your App. Have you thought of a way of monetizing your App? If you rely on monetization to keep on releasing and updating your App, your App must take this into account from the very beginning, and it would reflect in the design and development of the App.
Now, contrary to what you may think, I am an idealist kind of person. I think that a great idea can turn into a great App, but if we are going to build it together, I want you to take into account that just an idea is not enough on itself. You need a serious plan, money, resources and a marketing campaign for turning it into a reality. And you need to be ready to pay the developer for his/her time, effort, expertise and knowledge.