How to build an app: What you need to know before you start

How to build an app: What you need to know before you start

If you’re thinking about building an app here’s what you need to know before you get started

The idea of hitting the big time, alla Zuckerburg and Musk, is one we’ve all dreamt of I’m sure. And at Spritely we’ve met our fair share of entrepreneurs over the years with truly amazing ideas. But having an idea is only one component and as they say ‘execution is everything’.

‘Gartner study reveals that the mobile apps’ commercial success for the year 2018 was 00.01 percent, which is just one successful app out of 10,000 apps’

That’s a stark statistic and the decisions you make between idea conception and releasing your product or service to your customers could either catapult you to success or cripple your vision at the starting gates.

But don’t panic, we’re here guide you around the pitfalls of product development and steer you onto a path of iterative development to ensure you’re building something your customers need.

Tip #1: Validate, validate, validate

It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing your idea is a game changer, afterall, ‘I know it solves a problem in my life so surely everyone else will agree. Right?’ No, not at all actually. This level of validation is limited to your experience only and it’s a horrible reason to commit to spending thousands of dollars on your product’s development. And we see this mistake all the time.

‘So how can I validate my idea?’

Our motto is ‘Fail early and fail cheap’ which means spend as little money as possible to validate your idea as soon as possible. And there’s many creative ways to do this from google surveys, to a cheap Squarespace or WordPress website, to a video describing your product as a means of measuring engagement.

We call this an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and as we’ve described above these can take many shapes and forms. In fact the word product is a tad misleading because it suggests we need a functioning product to test our assumptions but that’s not always the case. And there are calls in the industry to drop the word Product for the word Experiment and we tend to agree.

Dropbox’s MVP

Online file storage company Dropbox famously tested the viability of their product with a low-budget video. They posted their video on their website, ran google ads to drive traffic and captured email addresses for a beta group.

And they did all of this before they’d written a single line of code. The success of this experiment gave them full confidence in their idea, and the rest is history.

More than one way to skin a cat

So as you can see there’s more than one way to approach this experiment. And how you approach it is only limited by your creativity.

When asked “how minimal should your Minimum Viable Product be?” Eric Reis, author of The Lean Startup and our verified ‘Lord of Lean Development’ responded with:

“Probably much more minimum than you think”

Sometimes minimum is too minimum

Quite often the concept of a truly lean MVP is a bit too jarring for some. Often its because a product has been in planning for quite some time and the founders are ready to leap. But even then we generally try to steer our customers towards a leaner alternative.

When we meet an entrepreneur that thinks they want to build an app, and they’re stuck on the MVP being a developed product, often we try to convince them to start with something more cost effective to help us get something to market as soon as possible. An example of this could be a WordPress website that uses 3rd party plugins to provide the core functionality. 

It’s not as lean as lean can be but at the very least it is cheap and easy to build so it meets our ‘Fail early and fail cheap’ standards and with a working product we can test viability pretty quickly with real customer analytics.

Tip #2: Get to know your customers

Once you’ve tested the viability of your idea its important that you identify your customers and get to work on understanding them at a deep level. A great way to do this is by reaching out to some of the people in the customer database you’ve acquired while testing your MVP and booking in a time to chat with them.

When conducting these customer interviews it’s important to go into it with a plan. Make sure you have a list of questions that probe their personality, their likes and dislikes and questions specifically related to the problems your product or service solves in their lives.

These customer interviews are a great way to help you map out and prioritise the roadmap for your business.

Tip #3: Implement your customer feedback loop 

Aligning your product or service with your customer is crucial to achieving market fit. Products that veer away or don’t evolve with its customers’ needs fall into obscurity. We have to continually remind ourselves:

‘We don’t have all the answers’

So staying in touch with our customers and listening to their feedback is more important than most business owners realise. We do this by creating a build, measure, learn customer feedback loop wherein we develop experiments (sometimes in the form of a product feature) according to the results from previous experiments.

A successful product development process is an iterative one that is guided by the results of these experiments. Just like a scientist developing a cure for a disease you will don your metaphorical lab coat and carry out controlled experiments with your customers to get the recipe just right. This is why we love our jobs /rubs hands together like Gargamel\

Stop guessing and ask the people that matter

Sure the odds are against you and your app idea, but as they say you never never know if you never never go. 

So from here you’ve got 2 options you can:

  1. Continue procrastinating and forever be left with that nagging thought of “Should I?” ????
  2. Make the jump and find out if you are indeed the next Elon Musk ????

If you like the sound of option B you’ve come to the right place. And remember:

“Until tested all we have are assumptions”


Have you got an idea for an app and you’re not sure where to start?

Get in touch with us today and we’ll steer you in the right direction.