You have an amazing app idea - now what?
You ever feel like you have this million-dollar app idea and no clue on how to get the ball rolling on it? Of course, you have, everyone has their app idea phase or experienced friends and family going through their own app idea phases. Unfortunately, it’s very rare that anyone gets the ball rolling on these ideas. The inspiration and burst of energy towards building it fizzles out and the idea becomes nothing more than a story about that one time you thought of this great idea.
A lot of people assume they need to get straight into development and contact someone they know who has the skills. Developers get reached out to pretty frequently for this and most of time the requests for the time and work towards building for free can get ridiculous. With this post, I hope to provide some insight and direction for those who really want to see what it would take to pursue their ideas.
There is no wrong or right way to go about this.
This is very important to keep in mind. Everyone has different resources and time available. The people in the best position for this are the ones who have capital and can put aside a budget. The next best thing is whatever is most effective for you. If anything, you should prioritize your own happiness and sanity. If at any point you feel that you’re compromising either of those, you should find a new approach or drop it altogether.
I asked Twitter what for an opinion on the best way to approach. The answers are wildly different:
Some people suggest learning how to code, others suggest marketing techniques, others are more focused on potential user feedback and maybe even design. I’m going go touch on these approaches.
Learn to code
I personally don’t know if I would suggest this myself these days. On the other hand, this is the approach that I took. I had an idea phase, I also wasn’t happy with my job at the time (not enough pay or growth). It made sense for me to take a stab at learning how to code myself. This is definitely the most difficult approach, however, there is way more potential and a bit of a safety cushion here.
Pros of learning how to code
- Life altering skill
- Don’t need to pay other devs
- Better understanding of what it takes to build apps and the processes around development
- If your idea doesn’t take off, you now have skills to get a sweet, high paying job and work on someone else’s idea
- Next time you have that next great app idea, you already have the skills to try again.
Learning how to code is pretty much the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. I was fortunate to be in a position that allowed me the time to figure out how to do become an engineer. Not everyone has this luxury. It took me 2 years to get my first engineering job. That’s because I pretty much had no network or no direction on what to learn and how. While working at a bootcamp called [Resilient Coders](https://resilient coders.org “Resilient Coders”), I saw Black and Brown people learn how to make full stack apps in 20 weeks and secure salaries ranging between 80-115k.
Cons of learning how to code:
- Learning to code is hard as fuck
- Launching a product usually takes tons of time even if you have the skills, you’ll have to add the time it takes to learn on top of that.
I know the pros seem to outweigh the cons here, but the fact that becoming an engineer is so difficult, I’d say that bullet point by itself would pretty much outweigh the entire pros list.
Fortunately, there are tons of resources on the internet for learning and great communities out there as well.
This is one of my favorite ways to get people started. A wireframe is the blueprint of how a website or app will look. They are pretty much the skeletons of an app experience, you don’t usually see colors, logos, branding or anything of the sort. It’s all about the key elements of the app. You can communicate the flow of an app from start to finish. It’s definitely worth researching more on wireframing and user experience design. You don’t need any kind of special tool for this, I usually wireframe with pencil and paper. You can present these wire frames to friends and family to see what they think. It feels a lot more productive to show people this rather than giving them your 20 minute elevator pitch. Wireframing is a low hanging fruit as far as getting something done and making some progress towards launching your app.
This is a really big topic, there’s tons of research to do. The reason why you might want to do research is because this could help you determine whether or not your app idea is valuable or if you even want to pursue it or not. Here’s a list of things you might want to research in no particular order:
- The industry the app is catering to
- Apps that are similar to your idea
- The problem you’re trying to solve
- The solutions people find for the problems you’re trying to solve
- How much money goes into this industry
- The obstacles you might come across with your app (laws in different states could get in the way)
- If the market is there or not
- What kind of users would want this app
This list barely scratches the surface, to be honest. Each topic leads to another list of things go research. This could be very overwhelming, however, I promise you that you will learn so much about … So much. There are processes and practices for helping you make the most out of your research. I actually recently signed up for 30x500 by Amy Hoy so I can learn how to gather this kind of information in an effective way.
It might help you to Google User Persona, which might be a good entry point for this aspect of launching an app.
Starting here is what surprises most non-tech people the most. Only one person mentioned marketing in my tweet, but I’m talking about it because it’s such an underrated aspect.
Many assume that you can’t market something that doesn’t exist, or they’d feel fraudulent for doing so. It’s reasonable thinking. How can you possibly get people on board if you’ve got nothing to show?
You’d be surprised at how often this happens. How many times have you seen a wait list for a product launch? In many instances, not a single line of code has been written or it just started by the time these mailing lists go out.
The big idea is to gather a following surrounding your product before the official launch. This is also a good way to validate if you’re really onto something. You have people interested. You can ask them questions about what they’d like to see, how they’d use the app and ask for help in promoting it before launch.
There are tools out there like Lead Pages and Convert Kit that help you start this process.
This approach is the most effective. You don’t need to learn anything super technical to get things going.
I would recommend learning more about building mailing lists, marketing copy and content creation as an entry for marketing. I would also follow @NerdNomadMom on Twitter as she posts really great content around this stuff.
There’s a catch
I’m sure I’m forgetting more approaches to launching your app, but there’s a catch here with everything I’ve mentioned so far.
I’ve talked about each topic as a first approach towards making your epic app idea a real thing. The catch is:
At some point you’re going to have to do all of the above
Everything mentioned has to be done to some degree at some point. If I were to put these in order for you, it’d look like:
- Do some research on the problem you’re trying to solve
- Create a landing page to build an email list and market your app idea. Make sure you speak on the problem you’re solving using previously mentioned research
- Make some wireframes that properly communicate the experience of the app based off of the research you’ve done and user feedback you’ve been getting from the replies to your mailing list
- Find a developer to build it for you or maybe learn a bit about coding yourself and try to get things done. There are no-code tools out there that allow you to build websites and apps that may be of help if you really had to.
This is a very high level playbook to going from 0 to launch. I haven’t talked about receiving Venture Capital funding, which is a possibility, because I have no idea how that works and I’m not interested in that stuff anyway.
If you’re here because you are in the middle of that app idea phase, I hope this was enlightening for you. There’s a lot to learn and do and I wish you the best of luck.
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me!