Joshua and Kellen walk through a really basic checklist of things to do to translate your app idea into a reality. This is a ridiculously top level overview, but some helpful pointers, reminders and tips.
We should probably say hi.
Do we, do we really need that much 'hi' time. We can just repeat the hi from previous times.
Yeah, well we've got the intro music now. It's gonna take me a while to get used to the intro music. It just freaks me out because I'm so used to doing that intro bit that I really, really, really, really sucked at, which is why I've got the intro music thing now anyway, so I don't have to keep doing that and mangling it, but now I kind of get to the start and I'm thinking, "what do I say?" Now what do I do?
Then... no Wait. I already said, hi, I've already welcomed them. They're here. What am I supposed to do now?
Well, I guess you could just welcome them each time and then just deleted each time and you know, it'll just feel a little strange. But like we said hi, but only in my dreams. You know...
Oh, you know, I could actually get on with talking about getting apps done.
So uh, the topic for today is if you've got an app idea, what the heck do you do with it?
Which is a good topic.
It is. And actually it's quite common. I get a lot of clients who call me up, they say we've got this really great idea and they don't know what to do with it and they're actually starting to get quotes and things like that before they really know what they want to build in the first place. And we end up spending a lot of time just trying to help them get to "what are you building, do you know? I don't know what you're building."
That is a very good point. When you... When you mentioned the topic before, my first thought was, well yeah, you have to prototype and you have to figure out how much you want to build. But yeah, it's a very good point. Most people who come to me with app ideas don't actually have a fully formed idea yet. They have like the beginnings of the idea. They haven't really flushed in what it is that it's supposed to do.
Absolutely. And when I thought about it, I wrote out a quick list of stuff and actually mocking and prototyping is way down at the bottom of the list because the reality is building up the idea is much more important. Long term, obviously you have to put some effort into building the thing, but doing the prep work is going to make sure... Well it's not going to make sure... But it's going to make it more likely that your product is going to be successful anyway. So actually there's a lot of value in that that a lot of people seem to overlook or they just don't realize exists,
Which is kind of backwards from the average developer startup, which is kind of approaching it from the opposite problem of they think lots about that, but nothing about how to actually sell it or market it or do anything useful with it,
Which is also in my list way before development as well. Uh, so maybe we should start through some of this list.
The first item on my list is research... The boring stuff...
That really is a boring one.
It sounds boring, but actually it's one of the parts that I really like because this is where you're getting a lot of really great ideas. Particularly the first item I wrote down is look for your competition.
Who else is building apps to like this? First off, there might be the perfect app out there already and you may find that this isn't the best idea for you anyway, but the other side of it is you can "borrow" ideas. That's one of my favorite things.
That's actually one of the things. Even even when you start getting into later stages, when you're in a prototype stage and it's like looking at the competition and how they solved the problem is it's very useful especially because you'll. You'll see times where they did a really, really well and you're not going to come up with a better idea than that. Or you'll come up with, oh, they did this really poorly. I can see obvious places to improve here and that just gives you another value-add to your product and differentiator.
Absolutely, and actually some of the people who do come to me saying, I want to build an app, they've actually gotten to this stage. They have that idea because they were using a product and thought, actually I like the idea of this, but I really hate the way it does this, so I want to build something better and that, actually, is one of the best starting places because you have some idea what you're trying to achieve, which always helps.
Well, that's where I mean really when you look at it, that is where most software comes from. That comes from somebody having used the previous iteration thinking it kind of stunk and then wanting to build something better, but because they've actually used the previous one, they kind of understand the problem space and can build something that is better.
Yup. It's the same as any art form and I can't convince everybody of this, but I think development is an art form and... all art has been done before. It's just looking at it from different points of view and different combinations of things that have been done before.
I would argue that the one part fun, part of a development as an art is there are new technologies showing up and new techniques constantly. So it's kinda like being at the forefront of art. Like we were not really making it as quite as many advances in like paints as we are in technology.
So they do light painting now. Forget real painting, it's messy. Just get some lights out.
Oh yeah. I've seen the, the VR demos where they load it up and do like virtual reality sculpting and painting. That's kinda wild. That's definitely a new future.
Those things look amazing, but every time I see anything VR I think of Lawnmower Man. I was talking to some kid the other day about this and I said, doesn't it just make you think of Lawnmower Man and isn't, hasn't this all been done before? And they just looked at me like, what's a "Lawnmower Man"?
Yeah. I was about to say that we were kids when lawnmower man was out. So I think you might be pushing the age... probably pushing the edge of what he's capable of remembering.
I know... I know he probably wasn't born yet, but just from my point of view, we've done VR. It's been here and they're all acting like it's brand new. It's like emoticons. They've been here forever and now I get OS updates with emojis...
Not security patches or brand new features. No, there're 12 new emojis we're going to release a whole brand new OS. We had these forever. My beeper had emoticons. I mean come on...
But now we have more and they have color....
I kinda enjoy the squirt guns to be honest. I find them relatively amusing so...
I must admit I have started to become a little bit more partial to them, but I always was and kinda get out of it because they've been around forever and then just suddenly overnight. It seems like everybody needs them.
Well. I think a lot of people didn't really understand like uhhh... Electronic communication's really hard to do the "say a phrase with a smile" is really difficult to do in an email or to do in text. So emojis help a lot for that kind of thing, it's like, here's, here's my statement and here's an ever so slight bit of emotional context to go along with it so you know, I'm not yelling at you and here's a funny squirt gun because something is going awful and you need to put out a fire.
But that's where it all goes wrong because they start with a smiley face and then they had the squirt gun and then the next thing you know, there's a penguin and a biscuit and you don't know what's going on because what the heck does smiley face squirt gun penguin biscuit mean? Is this something that I should be worried about? What's going on here?
That might be a communication problem in the opposite direction. Maybe you're just getting too old.
You have a kid that likes biscuits. They can explain.
Oh yeah, they explain to the end of the earth everything under the sun. This is why I'm running out of hair.
What's my excuse, then?
You're just fricking old.
Anyway, back to the topic. Um, so yes now and uh, one of the things that I like to look at then is who is using the competition because the next big thing you really need to do is validate your idea, and I've talked about this before, but this is a key area where you're actually trying to figure out who you building the app for and how are you going to talk to them because those are more important than just about anything else
That's going to play into your marketing is going to play into how you figure out what features you really need to build, what your minimum viable product is and how you're going to compete with your competition. Once you do build the app,
It really is. From a business perspective, that is by far the most important thing that you need to do, but it's also one of the more boring ones. Yeah. I've had conversations with people who are, depending on the level that they've already invested into it... If you're creating a hobby project or something, I'm always fine with people like, yeah, build your prototype, build, do the some of the fun stuff too. While being prepared for that, that's fine, you know you can do things out of order, you don't have to do all the hard and boring stuff immediately, but that is coming and that is something that you need to do before you build an actual product. People aren't going to want to use it if they haven't, you know, you haven't done that kind of thing if you haven't worked with, if you haven't actually talked to the people who are going to use it that it's not gonna work quite the way you want it to.
Absolutely. I have seen applications that completely ignored all of this stuff because it was a pure labor of love. They just wanted to build the thing and they turned out amazing because of that, but they weren't working completely in isolation most of the time. Sometimes you do just get a pure bit of genius and somebody comes out with something amazing, but usually they're talking to other people. It is a labor of love because they love it and they talk to other people about it all the time and they're part of that community already, so they're already doing these things. They just haven't consciously made an effort to do those things.
Oh yeah. That's like the best case scenario where they're, where they're passionate about it, so it's easier to get other people passionate about it and to like review it and to get feedback and to do that back and forth. That's, that's always kind of like the best case scenario for this type of thing. When you can get an idea that others can share your enthusiasm for cause, then you get that feedback and you get enthusiastic feedback.
Absolutely, and you're already part of the target audience which gives you a bonus when you can just talk to yourself. As we know. I do that all the time. I talk to myself. I'm very interesting. You should talk to me to people!
Yeah and you even record you talking to myself.
I record me talking to myself... Yes, because I'm just that awesome at it.
Practice makes perfect.
Another point to keep in mind is these steps, while I think there's a particular order, some people should go through them. The reality is everybody has their own different skillsets. A developer approaching this might approach it completely differently than a nontechnical person. A project manager might approach it completely differently and what skills you have will depend on who you need... Or will change who you need.. To enlist to help you. Because most of the time you're never going to build an application completely on your own.
You're going to have some help, particularly if you're planning on doing this as a business and my next step was to try to figure out who your team is and it might be that you need to find developers. United might need to find somebody who's really good at marketing because if you're me, I really suck at marketing so I have to find somebody to help me out. If you aren't great at project management, building an app is a lot of project management and you really should have somebody who can keep things on track and make sure you're doing the right things.
That's probably your next phase there to start to figure out who you need on your team and start to find out what that's going to involve. If you aren't planning on hiring a few people or bringing in freelancers or hiring an agency or whatever it may be, you should probably know how much that's gonna cost you now before you move much further into your or your plan here.
Yeah, and from the opposite direction. I mean if you are a developer you can get pretty far by yourself, but you're going to find that you're missing lot of these bullet points off of your list there, that things that you really are going to need help with. It, it, it, it's a huge bonus to be able to bring in another person.
Even even even at the development level, even when you're not talking about sales and marketing, just having somebody else to bounce ideas off of to validate your ideas is a step above just doing it yourself. It's kind of the same kind of feedback you would prefer to be getting from customers, but just having more input is is already better than...
Two heads are better than one
Exactly, and then when you start talking about marketing and sales and talking to these new folks and the customers, that's. Yeah, more people definitely you'll want help and you'll have to figure out who you can get on your team.
Speaking of two heads being better than one, if anybody does happen to be listening to this, I have seen a few hits. I know you're out there somewhere. Somebody is out there somewhere listening to this. If you prefer the two of us together versus just me droning on and talking to myself, let us know. Drop us a note. We might make it happen more often.
Yeah, hopefully with slightly better audio quality from me soon.
It's not too bad.
Yeah, it's... At least I don't have trains going by.
Alright, so, I do have the trains going by, but luckily I think we cut most of those out so nobody else has to listen to them.
So what's next on your list?
Next, is developing your plan for marketing. So if you are a lead developer it. This is where you probably want somebody else to help you because the reality is marketing is a huge thing and understanding what you're doing and getting it done earlier is quite critical to actually succeeding.
You can build a really great application... I've done this myself. I've built what I think are really awesome applications and then did really rubbish job of marketing it and nobody ever saw it anyway, so it was completely a waste of time no matter how great it was.
Yeah. And one thing that I think is important to keep in mind too, with like a, if you're a developer and you think of marketing, like a lot of developers are kind of like us. They have a lot of varied skills and we have a pretty good idea of conceptually how marketing should work and it seems like that should be really easy.
But like with most things, there's a lot of details that you have to learn. You have to a lot of, lot of edge cases, uh, just within the marketing world of like where do you post it? How often do you post it? How should it be formatted, what pictures work what don't.. Like... There's just so many little things that you have to learn to do it that it really does take. It really does help to have an expert basically.
Um, it's not something that you can just kinda... You, you can get kind of close on your own, but you're never going to get the same experience or the, the same efficiency of marketing as you will with somebody who actually knows what they're doing.
There's tactics versus strategies. And uh, there's just the skill of actually being able to communicate with other people, which some developers are fairly decent at that, but actually this is a whole new level when you're talking about marketing, getting onto the social networks, participating in communities, and while some developers can do those things really well, having somebody to help guide them and direct them can save a lot of time and can have much better results.
There's also the enthusiasm gap. People who are in marketing usually at least somewhat enjoy that job compared to developers who are probably the opposite direction of interest.
A lot. Not all but a lot. Yes, absolutely true.
So then once you've gotten to this stage, the next step is go get some money because you're probably going to need it one way or another, either for marketing or advertising or paying your developers or paying somebody else to help you with your project plans or whatever it may be.
There's a good chance you're going to need some money to get this thing going. It might not be a huge amount. I have seen people with shoestring budgets do a really great job and deliver exactly what they wanted to, but in a lot of cases there's at least some money involved. So whether you're getting investments or going to the Bank of Mom and Dad or taking it out of your savings, make sure you've got the funds that you need. Otherwise you're cutting yourself short.
And there is one thing I wanted to kind of mention on that one was I was kinda thinking about this topic earlier, is that one of the best case scenario is you can do is find a customer sponsor. A customer that's actually willing to pay for that kind of development. It generally works out of... They're getting a lot of free dev labor and they're kind of kind of helping prop you up while you're developing the product and they just happen to get a free year, really discounted version.
But that's kind of like the best case scenario because you're constantly getting feedback from somebody actually using your product and they're also paying it to help invest in funded so you can sell it to other people, so that's another source. They're a lot harder to get, but if you can't find one.
I've actually done that before. In fact, I've actually had clients pull together multiple of them that wanted the same thing and paid to build it and not necessarily for cheaper and in fact sometimes because they're early adopters, it's something they desperately need so they're willing to pay more and help you fund that development so that people down the line can get it a lot cheaper and from their point of view, they're getting something that they need desperately right now, so it's not loss to them. But for you it's really great benefit.
Exactly. We did a lot of that at uhh previous places where I've been, and it's the customer kind of pushed the product and a lot of directions, but that was actually the bonus was that we, you know, we, we actually got validated solutions to things and things that we knew that they needed and that they could tell us why they needed and also helped, you know, they were also paying for the product. So it was, it was a win win.
It's always good to have customers before you even build the product.
Absolutely. And My, uh, my old boss was a very big proponent of that, which I kind of prefer to at least have a prototype before I sell it. But you know, if the customer is willing to take it on faith, that is perfectly acceptable.
My next step is actually mocking and prototyping. But these two quite often, particularly if you're going out for a real investment, you probably do need to do some swapping around here. You need some marketing materials and some prototypes to show ummm in most cases at least or something.
In fact, in if you're going for really big investment, you actually need to be able to start showing some growth trends in usage or whatever it may be. That's going to prove to them that not only is this a great idea but you're actually starting to implement it and you are starting to expand already because that's what they're really looking for is growth.
Yeah. And for like the smaller scale stuff, you're... I mean you can do the hit up the meetup groups. You can do basic networking, but it's Kinda the same story though. You have to have something to show. You have to have something to talk about, you know, depending on the scale you're talking about and the scale of investment you're hoping for, you know, not just, not just monetarily, but you know, involvement of just finding developers or even co founders. It's the more you have and the more you can show and the more you can talk about it, the more likely you are to get, get that involved in that back.
And if you can do all those things, then you're at a stage so that you're starting to get that app done. Realistically, uhh, there is an infinite amount of small little details and tasks and other things that are involved there. But, roughly, most applications will follow a path. Something akin to that, if not exactly like that.
Probably with less of our rambling. Well, maybe not. I know I ramble a lot when I develop applications.
Well, I know that having talked to a lot of people with app ideas, they, they do ramble a lot and that's kind of fun actually because it shows their enthusiasm for, for their product and for their ideas. And uh, I've been to a few meetups that are focused entirely on like app ideas and those are almost the most fun just because everyone's so excited to show you random, neat things. Some of them are silly, some of them are brilliant, a lot of them are probably not going to work, but they're all fun.
Yeah. I do love to hear other people's app ideas. Some of them are.... Yeah....
So what else have you got on that list?
Actually, that's pretty much it. You've got to go build the damn thing now.
That is a very important step and at that point you do need to go find yourself an actual developer or if you are the developer started hacking away while also showing hopefully your partner or marketing department or something, showing them constantly what you're building so they can try to sell it.
Absolutely, and throughout the entire development process you need to be involving anybody who should be involved, including your trusted inner circle customers, the ideal clients that you want to be talking to you. You should be showing them things, getting their feedback as early as possible and as often as possible without annoying them to death because they should be guiding your development more than you should in a lot of ways.
Yeah, and that's. I always work out... Kind of bringing back to anybody to bounce ideas off of is an improvement and the closer that those people that you're ideas off of our to your actual, you know, your ideal customer, the better you are. So you know, start with anybody you can and then just kind of keep moving closer and closer to the people who will actually buy your product.
Buy your product...
Yeah. Give you money. Actual, I guess if assuming your product is for sale or however your business plan is going to work, at some point you're going to have to talk about it
When it comes down to it, yeah... whether they're paying or not, customers are customers.
Alright. I will put some transcripts up at gettingappsdone.com.
Please be sure to check out my website at joshua.info to learn more about me and why you should pay any attention to me at all.
And if you'd like to know why you should pay any attention to Kellen, please check out his website at piffner.com.
And don't forget to subscribe to the podcast and be sure to check out our website and if you do have an app idea as we say, we love to hear about app ideas, so drop us a note and let us know what those ideas are. We'd love to hear about it.
Until next time, thanks for listening.