4 steps for building mobile apps from idea to final product

By Carlos Rubio

I recently attended one of Mexico’s biggest technology events, Jalisco Campus Party, which had over 15,000 attendees and 600 hours of conference sessions. The event generates a collaborative environment and is a perfect match between large and small companies, hardware and software developers, startups and universities, with hundreds of scheduled activities for participants.

Mobility was one of the most important topics discussed, and several sessions presented new products and research advances involving mobile technology and building mobile apps. In this post, I want to share four points I learned that explain how mobile developers can evaluate, measure and guide projects from idea to final product when building mobile apps.

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1. Evaluate your initial app idea

These days, there are thousands of applications available in the online app marketplace targeting all sectors, but just a few of them are successful. Why do only some applications rise to the top?

One simple step you can take to evaluate your mobile app idea is to focus on the following two factors:

  1. Value: This factor measures the impact on the user’s day-to-day life.
  2. Uniqueness: This is related to how many applications with the same functionality are available to users.

Let’s look at the four possible combinations of these two factors:

Figure 1: In this case, the application is providing good value for users, but there are other applications that have the same functionality. The differentiation is usually based on the content or in the price.

Television streaming providers are a good example of this case.

Figure 1

Figure 2: In this quadrant are the applications that provide little value to users and not much uniqueness. It’s hard to find a differentiator in this type of application because most of them are free and offer similar features.

The numerous feed readers are a good example of this type of app.

Figure 2

Figure 3: This combination is where you don’t want your application to be. Here, the app doesn’t provide any value for users and is the only one that provides its service. Most likely, a few people are using it because they have to (nothing else has that functionality), but they are constantly frustrated with the app.

The example for this quadrant are apps that provide manuals or references to a specific service or product.

Figure 3

Figure 4: This is the best quadrant for an app. The application is providing a good value and is the only one that is providing this type of service. In consequence, adoption is fast and a high number of users want the app.

An example in this category is an important social network when it’s the only one available in the market.

Figure 4

The value and uniqueness of an app are two important factors to think about as you evaluate a new mobile app idea. If you make a high-value, unique app, you will quickly gain competence because everybody will want to use it.

2. Talk with your users

Developers, don’t work alone. Building mobile apps includes identifying and talking with your users about your idea, building a functional prototype, showing it to them and then collecting their comments and impressions. This will help you define what you need to include in the next version and focus on providing the value users want. In the worst case, you can learn whether your project is nonviable and change course before you spend more time and resources on it. In the end, user feedback will define the value of your application. Focus on the user experience throughout the full application lifecycle.

3. Measure everything

Use product management tools to measure time, quality, satisfaction, code, user adoption and costs from the beginning of building your mobile app. You can use the metrics to improve your app in the next iteration without losing its focus.

It’s a fact that the human brain is addicted to intermittent rewards — or positive reinforcement. If you focus your application project on user feedback and you’re able to generate lessons learned between each app version in your development process, your results will be better — and you will provide your brain with the necessary rewards to stay motivated.

4. Do it

Hundreds of projects are abandoned in chats or on paper. When it comes to mobile app development, the final piece of advice that stood out to me was to just do it. Build a prototype, show it to your focus group and measure your first steps to improve the app. This is how you can move your mobile app into the winning quadrant, generating a unique application that provides big value to users.

Finally, keep working on your ideas. Don’t give up, because maybe you’re on your way to building the next app that will change the world.

Written By

Carlos Rubio

Incentives Cloud Services Specialist, IBM

Carlos is an IT professional with 16+ years. PMP certificate since December 2011, IBM Cloud architect and Mobile evangelist.

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