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6 questions to ask yourself before starting your new app project

By Andrew Ward By Andrew Ward Mar 08, 2018

Given the amount of time, energy and money that goes into launching a successful app, do you want to make sure you’re doing everything you can to ensure its success?

Here is a simple checklist of things you can think about before starting development on your app to ensure that it’s a hit.

1. Does your idea add value to the world?

Value proposition books

Anyone can come up with an idea, what sorts the weak from the strong is the value that the idea brings once implemented, and how that idea is executed to deliver that value. It could be that your app solves a problem, saves time, enables a new way for people to interact, or saves someone money.

If you’re struggling to work out your app’s value, then we would recommend that you conduct a simple a need-feature-benefit analysis.

For example, let’s take a look at the value that the taxi-app Uber adds from the perspective of a customer by thinking about the market need, the features of their app, and the benefit that their solution brings to the customer.

Need: The customer needs to be able to travel from point A to point B.
Feature: An app that connects the customer to taxi drivers, allowing them to book directly.
Benefit: Cost effective, no need to carry cash, can be picked up within minutes and can get to their destination quickly.

If you can identify one or more strong benefits, then there is a good chance that your customers will see the value in what you are offering. We’ve made a video on how to identify your value proposition should you want to know more on this topic.

2. Do you have a clear business objective and business model?

Business model discussion

Assuming your app adds genuine value, how do you plan to make money? An app can cost thousands of pounds to develop so you want to make sure that your idea can sustain itself. Here are a few ways that you might make money from your app:

  1. Sales via the app store.
  2. In-app purchases and pay-walls.
  3. If the value the app brings increases sales of other products/services.
  4. In-app advertising and sponsorship.
  5. Data, analytics and insights as a service.
  6. Software as a service (subscription model).
  7. Referral commission.

This list is by no means an exhaustive, in fact, Oliver Gassmann thinks there are a whopping 55 business models that will revolutionise your business should you want some further reading.

The way you make money from your app may change over time, and you might decide to launch an app based on one business model and then change approach later. For example, you might want to launch a free version of the app initially and then build in premium features once you’ve built up a solid user base.

Think about which revenue model might work for you and estimate how many customers you will need to break-even on your startup costs. This will help you to identify whether your idea is profitable enough to sustain itself.

3. Are you clear on the absolute essential feature list?

essential feature check list

You want your app to be perfect and have the best launch possible, and it’s tempting to build your app from day one with an exhaustive all-encompassing feature list.

Don’t fall into this trap.

Each new feature you introduce will likely increase the cost to build your app and will delay the go-live date. How can you know which features are most valuable to a user until you’ve launched something to them to play with first? Should you have spent a significant amount of time building a feature that users don’t engage with, or use in the way you might expect, then you’ve created waste.

Instead, keep your feature list lean. Launch a minimum viable product (MVP).

Your ‘minimum viable product’ should deliver enough value to the user for them to use it while also only containing the minimum number of features possible to test your early assumptions.

For example, imagine if you were building a new social media platform. It may seem obvious that you need to build instant messaging functionality for the first version, but what about in-app tools for allowing businesses to advertise on the app? In this example, until you’ve built a decent user base, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to build advertising tools that businesses would use to advertise to these users. So, there is probably little point in building these advertising tools into the launch version. You’d be much better off launching just the social media tools first and testing that people use and like the app first.

If you’re struggling to decide which features are most important then map your ideas onto an impact-effort matrix:

Impact-effort martrix for app features

You map the impact of a solution against the effort to implement it. High-impact low-effort features go into the top-right quarter and should normally take the highest priority.

4. Do you have a post-launch marketing plan?

Inbound app marketing list

“Build it, and they will come” is a myth in business and app development is no different. A 2016 study by Business Insider found that marketing and discoverability was the toughest problem faced by those launching the app. Though the way you get traction for your app will vary based on your business model, here are the bare-essentials that most apps will require:

    1. A logo and app icon.
    2. A website with a clear landing page.
    3. Compelling sales copy for your app-store listing.
    4. Run digital marketing campaigns on at least one platform.
    5. Conversion tracking and remarketing.
    6. Identify your target traction channel(s).

There are 19 marketing channels that you might use to launch your new app. The channels that are right for you might depend on your target market, value proposition and business model. Here is an overview of each:

    1. Targeting blogs.
    2. Publicity.
    3. Unconventional PR.
    4. Search engine marketing.
    5. Social and display ads.
    6. Offline ads.
    7. Search engine optimisation.
    8. Content marketing.
    9. Email marketing.
    10. Viral marketing.
    11. Engineering as marketing.
    12. Business development.
    13. Sales.
    14. Affiliate programs.
    15. Existing platforms.
    16. Trade shows.
    17. Offline events.
    18. Speaking Engagements.
    19. Community building.

These 19 traction channels are covered in more detail by Gabriel Weinberg in his best-selling book Traction. Knowing how you plan to approach your marketing might also affect which features are a priority for your minimum viable product launch.

5. Have you researched the competition?

Research the competition

It’s rare that an app idea is completely original, but it doesn’t have to be original to become successful. Looking at what the competition is doing is a great way to learn about what’s working, what isn’t and how you can differentiate yourself.

Sign up for an account on a competitors app and see how it works. Write down what you like about their processes and what you think you can improve on. In the same way that you’ve outlined your value proposition try to identify what theirs might be. If the main supplier in the market differentiates on price, then it might be a good opportunity for you to set yourself apart on something different, such as quality.

Customer reviews are another great way to scope out your competitors. You can find these in the app store listings and if you perform a Google search for each company. Take note of what customers have to say, both positively and negatively, and use that to influence how you approach your app.

6. Have you asked friends or colleagues what they think about the idea?

show and ask your colleagues

Friends and colleagues are a valuable source of genuine feedback and new ideas. The challenge is that they don’t want to hurt you, so might not be completely honest if they don't like what they hear. You must prime them first.

Ask them for ugly baby feedback.

Nobody will tell you if you have an ugly baby. But your best friends might if you ask them explicitly “please tell me if my baby is ugly, don’t hold back, I need to know”. The same applies to your app idea.

Look out for “it won’t work because” objections and don’t be discouraged by them. The reasons something won’t work are often the reasons why people haven’t been able to solve the problem in the past. I could give you hundreds of reasons why you wouldn’t be able to send a sports car into space, but that didn’t stop Elon Musk!

Every objection represents an opportunity; if you don’t know about them then you could be in trouble, but, if you can identify objections early and come up with innovative solutions, then you create powerful barriers to entry to your competition.

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