How to Build an App: Ideation to Installation

Below are steps I and many others have taken in developing mobile/web apps. From Ideation to installation. The process I talk about is from the app Giggin I created, a music gaming app that allowed users to share music in the form of a quiz. Think Snapchat for music and gaming lovers. Giggin would gain thousands of downloads in over 25 countries in a 2 year time frame.

Often people say they are waiting for the right idea to build something, but in fact people already have the ideas they need and simply need to act upon them. Execution is key. Act on the ideas you already have instead of waiting for the perfect ideas and the perfect time. Once you have thought out your idea, the nuts and bolts of it will form as you begin to build. From ideation, you then form a team to work on the areas you cannot. For instance for my app Giggin, I needed developers and designers. While I would undertake some of the development and design, its best to have people focus on specific areas of the app while you can oversee and orchestrate.

Richard Branson says entrepreneurship is simply having ideas and having the resources to make them happen. It can be hard to utilize one’s resources because we often don’t know where to look. I started with my university and friends, talking with professors in the Computer Science department asking them to refer me to top-notch developers. While they gave me a few names, most were uninterested or unable to build what I was asking. So from there I sent out an email to the department of Computer Science, which would reach everyone at the university studying CS. No luck from that experiment either. I then posted a portion of my idea to blogs, outsourcing sites, craigslist etc., to see who was interested and could do the work. After interviewing with a number of companies and individual developers both inside and outside the US, I found a company called Infobeans out of India. The price of outsourcing work overseas versus companies inside the US is cut by more than half the price of what it would be in the US. While communication would be tougher, due to India being ahead by 12 and half hours as well as a language barrier, I figured I could work with it. I was still studying in Colorado and had an internship in PE in NYC that summer, though the time difference allowed me to wake up early before work and school for 1-2 hour video conferences every day going over the development and implementing my design. The 5-6 month process would pay off in the end.

While I sketched out and built most of the front-end design for Giggin, I also used 99designs to digitize some of my sketches for the interface and logos. 99designs is a design website that takes your ideas and shoots them out to hundreds of designers around the world. Designers then submit their work, then giving you access to the designers to talk with designers to tweek them. At the end of a 30 day period, you pick the designs you like most from work submitted by dozens of designers. In addition to the development and design work, I had to partner with Apple to utilize their music service within my app, a strenuous dialogue that took months for them to finally approve.

Throughout the dialogues between designers and my developers, I was as well building a marketing plan. I worked with friends, my university, as well as other university newspaper to advertise my app, share the app with their friends and groups on social media. In addition I printed off numerous sheets at my university library and cut the sheets into small business cards with the logo and idea of the app on them. I placed these small like business cards all over my university. This was pre-launch though. The app would go live while I was traveling abroad and I continued to share these business cards in public areas. I would not use any paid advertisements or marketing plans.

The development and designs were all finished, and all that was left was beta-testing and Apple’s approval period. I would beta-test the app with a number of close friends, tweeking a few things, and then after 5 days of Apple reviewing the code and product, the app went live. Though this is when the real work began, as getting users to actually use and like the app is incredibly difficult and often very much out of your control. While the app was a success to me in that I created a product purely from imagination and made it tangible, it certainly did not blow up as app developers often hope. While I would market the app and work on updates over the next 2 years, it slowly died off. The process of building Giggin taught me numerous lessons and gave me insights into the process of creating apps and a business.

Please comment below if you are interested in creating mobile or web apps and have any questions.