With the crazy success of unicorn startups like Uber, Airbnb, and Snapchat, just about everyone has an idea for the next billion dollar app. It is great living in a world where so many people are passionate about innovation and disruption. However, for app developers this means receiving ten calls a week about Tinder for pet dogs. While Tinder for pet dogs is a slight  exaggeration, I did receive a recent inquiry for a Whatsapp, Grand Theft Auto combination (I'm still undecided on whether or not they were joking). 

On a more serious note, we do receive a lot of inquiries that are very innovative and thoughtful. However, occasionally these ideas are simply not feasible, and this can be because of a variety of reasons. In this blog, I will look at some of the factors that you should consider before seeking out mobile app developers.

Does it exist already?

I know that this one seems a bit silly. However, you would be surprised by the number of times that we receive inquiries about app ideas that already exist! Most recently, I was contacted by a young man who wanted to build an online car trading platform similar to carsales.com.au. The difference being that his platform was purpose built for first car buyers. Having recently purchased my first car, I was aware of the fact that carsales.com.au actually have a dedicated search area for first car buyers! After passing this information on to the client, he told me that he was unaware and consequentially no longer interested in pursuing the app. 

We receive a lot of inquiries like this. And this means that both the client and myself waste a lot of time talking about an app that already exists. As a result, when someone contacts me with an app idea, the first thing I do is spend ten minutes on Google trying to see if it already exists. While ten minutes searching the web really only scratches the surface, it's reasonably easy to find at least one competitor for most apps. And this isn't because people lack imagination, this is because there are about 2 million mobile apps on the Android and Apple stores. 

If I can find an existing app that resembles the clients idea, I will inform them and ask if they are aware of it. I will then ask how they plan to make their app better or different. Often the client is unaware that a similar (or carbon copy) app already exists. Before approaching a supplier for any idea, I would highly recommend doing some research on the existing market. And if your idea has already been created, this does not mean you should stop pursuing it, you just need to figure out how you can do it better or more efficiently. 

Is an app the answer?

Mobile apps have a load of benefits, the largest being that they are portable and easy to use. However, not everything needs to be an app! Before pursuing your app idea, you should consider alternative delivery platforms. To explain what I mean, I am going to compare two highly successful unicorn startups; Uber and AirBnB. Uber started out as an app. This is because people order Ubers on the go - it is not something that you can book in advance. You pull out your phone, order an Uber, and that's it. Eventually, Uber added a website to improve the value of their service.

In contrast, Airbnb started out as a website. You log in, choose a place to stay and then book it. This can be completed days, weeks or even months in advance. With this in mind, it makes sense that Airbnb is a website. Eventually, Airbnb got an app made to expand the value of their service. The key takeaway here is that Uber is an app and the only way it can be a valuable tool is by being an app. Conversely, AirBnB did not need to be an app, and as a result, they built a website. 

Before turning your innovative idea into an app, I highly recommend considering whether or not it needs to be an app. Does it need to be portable, fast, sophisticated and ready to go on the fly? An app is likely the answer. Do you need a simple space to conduct e-commerce or provide basic information? Consider getting a website made, the app can always come later. 

Another good example is the first car buying platform that I mentioned earlier, given the fact that it was simply an e-commerce platform, it did not need to be an app. Services such as carsales.com.au started out as websites, and like AirBnB, they eventually built apps to add value to their service. 

Do you have a business plan?

Having a business plan will make you a far more attractive client to any supplier.. While a formal business plan is obviously favourable, it is also useful for you to consider a few key factors before getting in touch. These being:

  • What is the point of the app?
    • You should develop a clear and concise understanding of exactly what the app is going to do.
  • Why would people use the app?
    • Even if you are only targeting a niche market, it is still important to figure out if they would actually use it.
  • How will it generate revenue?
    • This is only relevant if your goal is to generate revenue from the app.
    • Revisiting the first car buyer concept, another issue was that carsales.com.au offer free listings for cars that are advertised at prices under $3,000. Cars in this price range would likely be in the first car buyer market. Given that they are offering free listings to this price range, they would probably not be generating much revenue from first car buyers.
  • When do you need the app to be launched?
    • You should set a realistic timeframe for the launch of your app.
  • Are you or a member of your team prepared to regularly keep in touch with the app developers?
    • It is important that you or someone that you trust is regularly in touch with the developers - this ensures that they are developing the app that you want.
  • What is the size of your budget?
    • You should set a realistic budget before contacting developers. This will reduce negotiations and speed up the development of your app. 

The Australian Government provides a straightforward business plan template that you can find here.

Is it technically viable?

While this is probably the reason why you are contacting a mobile app developer, it is still something that you should bear in mind. Going back to our Whatsapp, Grand Theft Auto combination, there is a reason why the latest Grand Theft Auto was released on gaming consoles and not on your iPhone. A smartphone would simply not be powerful enough to run a game as demanding as the latest Grand Theft Auto. Power is not the only technical factor that may limit your mobile app concept. Before consulting a software developer, I would highly recommend researching the technology that you want to implement into your app. 

How much will it cost?

Mobile apps are expensive to make. And the degree of skill and time involved in the development of an app is indicative of this. Imagine that your app concept is a house and imagine that the mobile developers are the architects, engineers, landscapers, plasterers, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, painters, interior decorators and the real estate agent who helps you rent it out. As a result, it is incredibly difficult for a mobile developer to give you an accurate quote based on a few lines of dialogue taken from an email exchange. To put this into perspective, you don't tell a builder that you want a two bedroom, one bathroom house and expect a price estimate. You must be clear on exactly what it is that you want and after a planning period you will be given a price estimation - the same is true for a mobile app.

Summary

Getting a mobile app developed is a significant investment both personally and financially. As a result, I highly recommend running through the list above (at a bare minimum) prior to consulting mobile app developers. If you think that you are ready to turn your mobile concept into a reality, please get in touch.

 

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