I've got a great idea for an app, what next?

You’re in the shower, driving on the motorway or trying to get to sleep at night and BOOM! Lightening strikes, the lightbulb appears and you’ve got it – the next big thing! You have got a great idea for an app. Everyone is going to want it, you’ll quickly have millions of users, you will eventually sell out to Facebook or Google for billions of dollars and retire to that villa on Lake Como you’ve always promised yourself. You know the one, next to George Clooney’s place.

It’s a great fantasy, but sadly almost never pans out that way. Don’t lose heart though, you can still turn your idea into a success – you just need to go about it the right way.

We specialise in app development, be that for phones or for the web. We speak to a lot of people about their ideas – some are amazing, brilliant, they could set the world on fire, some are perfect in their simplicity and others just aren’t that great. We are always very honest in our advice and give a straight answer – if it’s not going to work, we’ll say stop chasing the dream and come up with another idea. However, if it is a good idea, we have noticed a few key things that help it to succeed.

  • Stick to what you know – Build something that you would find useful. You’ll have a better understanding of how your app can solve the problem or make your life easier.
  • Talk to people about your idea – fight the urge to whisper in hushed tones in case someone hears your idea and steals it. That is not going to happen. Talk to people. Do they have the same problem as you? Would your app make their lives easier too? Get some reinforcement that your idea is a good one.
  • Keep it simple – You can always add to it later, but a simple app is easier, cheaper and faster to build. One of the main reason for failure is bloat – stick to one thing and do it amazingly well. Don’t be all things to all men.
  • Just ship it – digital products are not like physical products. Mistakes can be resolved quickly, often without people noticing, enhancements and updates can be released regularly and the life cycle is fast. Get it out there, get it in front of people and listen to what they say.
  • Web app vs phone app – rarely is there a real world benefit in building a phone app over a web application. Web apps are cheaper to build, work on all devices and can be updated without the user ever knowing. You can create most functionality on a web app – it’s only when you need things like the gyro, compass or accelerometer that you need to build an app – but even that is changing as new tools are released.
  • Get funding – app development is complicated and can be expensive. If you can’t fund the app yourself, get trusted people on board who can be a part of it. Spread the love. It’s better to have a 50% of something than 100% of nothing. Our experience of investment firms isn’t always great – some are great, others can be ruthless and mercenary. If you can keep it in the family – do so.
  • Ideas are worth nothing – don’t be fooled into thinking your idea is worth millions of pounds. Chances are someone else has the same idea anyway. Without careful execution your idea is just that, it’s an idea. If you Google ‘an idea is worth nothing’ you’ll be greeted by 35 million pages of re-inforcement!
  • Equity stakes are not that attractive to developers – We have all heard the story about the graffiti artist who took an equity stake in Facebook instead of being paid – he’s worth $200 million now. Yeah well that was a fluke. A one off. Developers are regularly offered equity in app ideas. The thing is, the development of an app is a lot of work – it far outweighs that 20% you were thinking of. If you offered 50% equity and guaranteed a big marketing budget, then it would be appealing.
  • It could be the big one – You would be surprised which apps make money. Apps that actually generate income are often obscure, useful, simple or just plain crazy.

How much does an app cost?

It’s a bit like asking how much a house costs – they come in all shapes and sizes, some have gold taps, four bathrooms and a sun terrace, others have organic roofs and composting toilets! However, forewarned is forearmed – for most apps, you’ll be talking multiple thousands of pounds, more likely tens of thousands of pounds. Think about how you will monetise your app to create the all important ROI….

Still got that killer idea? Great, what should you do next?

Write it all down, leave it a week and then re-visit it. Talk to your friends and family about it. If you have the skills, do a mock-up of it in Powerpoint or similar. Heck, sketch it out onto paper, that’s fine too. Don’t get hung up on colours, logos or layout, the designers will take care of that, just focus on the flow of the app and how a user would achieve their goals. Then talk to a few development houses – ask them if it’s a good idea, they should give you a straight answer.

Hope that helps to get those creative juices flowing, you never know, your idea could be the one…