When I set out to create my iPhone app, iKidNY, I had no background in technology nor did I know the steps to take to accomplish this fairly compliacted task. So many people I meet say “I want to do that”, “I want to create an iPhone app!” Well, you CAN! Here are the steps to take:
1) IDEA – Make sure you have a viable idea. There are over 150,000 apps in the iTunes store. Is your idea different? Has it been done before? What need(s) are you filling? Will it help people or entertain them?
Do your research – scour the iTunes store and make sure your app doesn’t already exist. Or, if a similar app exists, how is yours better or more attractive to users? Where would your app fit in to the app marketplace? What category and audience are you targeting? Of your target market, how many have iPhones? You are going to want to run some back of the envelope numbers and make some projections.
2) DRAW IT OUT – Start putting pen (or even better – pencil) to paper. What will your app look like? How many pages will it be? What functions will it have? Try to create the bones even if it’s very rough. Make several drafts as you perfect it along the way. After you complete this process, you may realize your idea is not a great one after all.
3) HIRING A DEVELOPER – Now it’s time to go and find out how much this thing will cost! You can visit a website like Guru to get a free quote for the technical development from iPhone app developers around the world. Make sure you have a one-paragraph summary of your app idea (keep it vague for now). Once you get your quotes back, you will want to narrow down your choices. Do you want to find a developer that’s near you or is price the most important thing? Do they have experience developing iPhone apps? Which iPhone apps have they developed that are in the iTunes store. I would download them all and use them.
Are the developers providing you with an hourly rate or a flat fee? I would be cautious of hourly rates unless you are quite sure how long it will take, because just like any construction, it always takes longer than you anticipate. Does the developer live in a big city? Usually the guys a little further out are more affordable since their cost of living is lower. Would you prefer someone in the U.S. to do this for you or is price more important? Would you like to have an individual develop your app or is time more imporant to you (some are big shops with lots of developers working on one project). How much time will they have to devote to this – will they do it full time or part time? How long do they think it will take them and how much will it cost?
You can also get a quote from a development shop such as mob.ly. They develop great products but it will cost you.
Once you have determined all of this, you will be able to narrow down your developer options to 2 or 3. You will then want to send them a non-disclosure agreement so you are protected (you have a great idea, right? You don’t want anyone to steal it.) – you can download a simple template off the Internet.
When they have signed your NDA, you can send them some more details on your iPhone app idea. This is your when you send them the long version. This should be at least 1-2 pages and should have as much detail as possible. Include everything you can think of. You don’t want them coming back to you later saying you never talked about that and having to make the choice whether to pay more and go over your budget to include it, or skip it. Put as much in there as you can the first time around.
When you receive your responses back from your 2-3 developers, look at them in detail. Make a chart and size them up against each other. Negotiate with them a bit. They want your business. Think long term – you will likely need updates down the line – would they be responsible for doing this? How many updates will they include? Again, you want to think in DETAIL and as LONG TERM as possible.
Call them on the phone (or meet in person if you live in the same city). You are going to be working very closely with this person so you want to make sure they understand your vision and that they are someone you trust can accomplish this, and someone you can work with. After this back and forth, your choice should be clear.
4) GRAPHIC DESIGN – Will you need graphic design for your iPhone app? If so, you will want to get a quote for that as well. You can post for flat flee graphic designs on a website like crowdSpring and get quotes (but you have to pay in advance) or tap into your network of friends on Facebook or LinkedIn. See who you know who already does graphic design and if they want to get involved. They might even agree to work for equity if they think it’s a good idea. Either way, get a quote.
5) OTHER FEES – Development and design of the iPhone app will not be the only fees involved. Try to make a list of every possible cost you can think of. You will likely need a simple support website – how much will that cost? Will you want marketing materials like postcards and business cards? Will you do mailings by post and/or by email blast? Will you have any legal fees – do you want to incorporate yourself?
5) BUSINESS PLAN – Now you are ready to put all of this in writing. By putting it down on paper you map out your business’s plan and how you will accomplish getting your app out there and actually turning a profit. Believe it or not, it’s not an easy thing to do.
Your business plan should outline what your app idea is, what need it will fill, who the target audience is, how much it will cost (estimates on who you will hire), how long it will take to develop, how will you market it, and what time investment will you have to make during and after development?
Your business plan can be short or extensive – it’s up to you. This is a tool for you!
6) CONQUERING THE iTUNES STORE – It’s not as hard as you think. You can enroll in the iPhone developer’s program on the Apple website. For $99 you will become a bona fide iPhone app developer. You can complete everything online from there. Just make sure you allow yourself extra time since you never know what will happen. iKidNY got rejected the first time for missing a silly alert. That little mistake cost me another three weeks (quite aggravating when you have a launch date set and press in the pipeline).
7) MARKETING – Your app has launched. You are now in the iTunes store and you are officially an iPhone app developer. CONGRATS! Pat yourself on the back, because this is no easy feat. But now… the toughest job of all begins. People have to know about your app in order to download it.
I would highly recommend generating interest BEFORE your app launches (although not too early, because you don’t want someone to beat you to it). Have a press release ready so that when it launches you will be ready to send it out. Make a list of publications in which you would like to see your app. Read papers, magazines, and blogs, making notes of who would write about your app and gathering their contact information in a spreadsheet. Use social media sites to get the word out there and tell everyone you know! Word of mouth is a powerful thing.
UPDATES – You are all launched and your app is selling up a storm, but your job is not yet done. You will have user feedback and fixes to make. Expect to have at least four updates a year (probably more).
9) NETWORKING – Use Twitter and Facebook to your advantage, getting the word out there about your app on a daily basis. Follow people that would be interested in your app. Get involved with companies and individuals in similar industries, and grow your network and following that way. Make sure people find out about you and your app. Also, try to find out if there are groups of developers that are involved in the same genre of apps – for example iKidNY is a part of Moms with Apps group. These groups work together to promote each others apps and learn from each other. You will have to continue to market and network to get and keep your app on to one of the top 100 lists or even better on the “new and noteworthy” list. Being seen in the iTunes store is not an easy task and you will sell lots more copies if you can get on one of Apple’s coveted lists.
10) CONGRATS!!! You did it! Now on to your next million dollar app idea!