iOS and Android App Development Concepts

App Concepts For iOS and Android App Development

So you have a great idea for an iOS or Android app. Just hire a programmer to code it, right? Not right-it's not that easy. If you don't clearly define exactly what it is you want from the programmer, you probably won't get it.

Before looking for an app developer to write the code, there is an important step in the process we will call concept design. The concept design fully defines and describes exactly what the app does at the functional and appearance level. This provides app specifics that will then be implemented with the Objective C code that the developer writes. The concept design defines for example, what the app does or how it responds when it receives an input (i.e. a user enters some numbers or presses a button), and what feedback or display will result in the input.

The following bullets discuss creating concept design documents; flowcharts and screen sketches that, in turn, lead to producing an app specification to guide the programmer into creating the app code.

To begin the process, there are a few preliminary design activities that are recommended you complete. They are:

  • A comprehensive description/definition
  • Basic Market Research
  • Evaluate Financial/Technical Feasibility

Preliminary Design

Before you spend a lot of time and effort fleshing out your idea with a detailed concept design, it is wise to consider exactly what your app is, does and what makes the idea workable on a basic level.

As with so many facets of app development, the amount of effort required here will depend on how lofty your technical and marketing goals are. The more basic your app the easier this phase will be, and vice-versa. For example, if you want a simple app for you and your friends, or for you and your staff, the only real question is whether or not you can fit it into your budget. Plus, if the app is pretty basic it shouldn't take long to put a concept together and request some proposals. In these cases, there is ver little risk in proceeding with the concept.

On the other hand, if you plan on making the app publicly available-even for free as a customer service or promotional tool-it will behoove you to make an effort to learn the who, what, and whys of the app scenario.

If you plan on marketing the app for revenue, then knowing he answers to these same questions becomes extremely important.

We are going to discuss the preliminary design review as if the goal is to market the app. To do so, we will use a somewhat oversimplified example to illustrate the process. If you have other goals for the app, then you can choose what parts of the preliminary review apply to your situation.

Clearly Define The App

The first step is to make sure you have clear definition and description of the app. You might think you have the app fully defined in your head, but getting things clearly documented is an important step. This might seem like a simple, straightforward step, but you shouldn't take it lightly. This is the information you will use when determining the feasibility of the app and when defining the functional details. It is also an important step in being able to communicate the app to others.

Start the definition with a brief statement that summarizes the app then move forward to more detailed descriptions. If you are not sure how to go about this step, a great starting point is to answer the basic questions like who, what, when, why, and how. Then brainstorm other questions that a potential user or customer might have, and potential questions a programmer might have about the app. Capture the information in a table or form. It is important to properly record this information instead of relying on your memory. Plus, sometimes the act of simply writing it down helps us realize oversights or generates new ideas.

Basic Market Research

If your plan is to make money by selling the app, you need to do your homework to verify that the potential to make a profit is there and that any expectation about sales and revenue are realistic. This step is especially important if you are investing significant funds into the app project. While it is a little out of the scope of this book, it is well worth noting that if you are launching a business based on an app or apps development, then you have to create a comprehensive business plan that addresses the market very thoroughly. But every app development should have its own marketing viability report.

Much of what is calculated for market research will be based on best guesses or anecdotal deduction, because many of your questions will not have answers available based on firm, objective statistical data. Obviously it is best to look for hard data, and use it as a foundation for marketing calculation when possible. But the main point behind analyzing the marketplace is to create an in-depth understanding and to know why and how you arrived at that number - including both the known and the unknowns involved. When you say you can sell a million apps, how did you get that number? If you have done your market research, you can answer that question in a very precise manner. Wild guesses are not market research.

Collect User Feedback and Information about Competitors

As part of the market research, get feedback from friends, coworkers, gadget heads; anyone whose opinion you value or trust. Consider them ad-hoc focus groups. Create a list of standard questions, like:

  • Would they find the app helpful or useful?
  • Would they buy the app?
  • How much would they pay for it?
  • Are there missing features they would find useful?

Another important facet of market research is to explore any and all existing apps that do similar things. However, just because there is an existing app doesn't mean you shouldn't proceed. The question is; can your app compete? Perhaps the other app is flawed or doesn't work right. Perhaps your app has features or advantages over an existing app. Buy, review, and analyze apps that do any kind of similar function.

Knowing the marketplace gives you a better chance of success, especially with a concerted effort to understand what your competition is doing wrong and what they are doing right.

It may be a bit out of the scope of this book, but this points bears mentioning: For many projects, doing some basic research ourselves makes sense. Realistically, however, if you plan on investing a lot of money to develop and market an app then spending some development funds to hire a knowledgable professional to provide market research would likely be a smart move.

Reviewing Financial and Technical Feasibility

The final step before sketching out the functional app concept is making sure the app is doable and does it make sense technologically. In other words, does it make financial sense and can it be done with current technology and methods?

Financial Analysis

The market research really comes in handy when making the financial analysis. Now you can at least make an educated guess as to how many apps you might sell over the next 1-2 years (which is generous for an app lifecycle). That, in turn, gives you a clue as to what price you need to sell the app in order to see a return. The other part of that return equation is the cost. Don't forget to consider sustaining costs as well as the development costs. You can keep sustaining costs very low, but if you market the app there are bound to be some expenses like web hosting and advertising. Of course, the more you plan to do after development in terms of marketing and support, the higher the sustaining expenses will be.

The point is that with a little research and exploratory calculations you can get a much better feel for where you stand in terms of prospects, price point, revenue, and profits than if you just guessed. This insight will be important as you start talking with developers to create the app and you understand how different development costs will impact the project financially.

While exploring financial feasibility, it is worth noting that there are also other ways to profit from apps besides selling them.

You can also find sponsors who may help finance the app or promote the app.

Technical Feasibility

After the financial evaluations, there may be some technical questions to answer as well. After all, not everything is possible even when in our current technology-driven world.

For example, you might consider creating an app for making reservations at restaurants in your city. It would be an easy sell to people who enjoy fine dining, but there is one problem. After a little investigation you learn that very few restaurants have the capability to make electronic reservations. At this point it is simply not a feasible undertaking because the technical capability is not there.

It is better to discover these things before investing significant time and money into a project that isn’t possible.

You might not be able to find definitive answers to every technical question, but if you do your homework you will at least be able to intelligently discuss technical concerns with the programmer selected hire to make sure they can be resolved before proceeding with the project.

Another issue related to feasibility is considering if a mobile device app is more appropriate than a web app.

In some cases a web app that they can run on-line with PCs or smart devices might work just as well. Since a web app would be simpler and less expensive to develop, it might be preferable if internet access is available.

Once you have covered preliminary design concerns like those discussed here (and others that are specific to your situation), you are ready to move on to the concept design.

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