So you’ve already pictured your app idea in your head, and you’ve mentally identified the problem your app is going to solve, that’s a great start. But now it’s time to give your idea some weight in the form of details.
Let’s begin with the 4 W’s- The Who, the Why, the When and the What?
These are the key questions that we’ll answer together.
Why begin here?
We start here because you need to crystallize your thoughts.
Answering the 4 W’s puts everything into proper perspective and arranges all your thoughts into a defined order. When you follow the steps to the end of this chapter, you’ll have a full summary (with descriptions) of your app in detail.
And this summary will be your guiding light moving forward so let’s fire it up!
- Who will use your app?
Defining your target audience.
You need to be able to visualize that person who’ll be using your app on a daily basis (possibly/hopefully multiple times a day/hour).
Of course you want to attract users to your app, you want them to enjoy it, and you want them to stick around. Visualizing your target market is a significant step in actually identifying who that reliable user will become. And picking the wrong target audience can mean a quick but still painful death for your app. If you choose the wrong target market, you may or may not have time to recover, relaunch or rebrand, but trust me…you don’t want to go there!
Thinking hard and deep about a hard target that will get hooked on your app, then visualizing that person in your mind is one key to making your app a success.
So how do you define that person that will stick around?
To-Do: Narrow down your target market by answering 5 vital questions. Now many would argue that you need to ask a lot more questions, but I think that’s BS.
Gender, age, occupation and knowledge of their habits is all you need to define for now (and with every question I’ll explain why).
The 5 vital Q’s-
- What is your user’s Gender?
The simple fact is that females tend to use apps distinctly differently than males. Women tend to be far more social and prefer more social interaction online. Women also tend to stick around longer even if/when they don’t immediately or completely grasp an app. Men, on the other hand, tend to give up quickly and once any app frustrates them, they do NOT return. For men, the value proposition (VP) of the app needs to be strong from the get-go. The underlying behavior here is that the majority of men tend to have less patience online than the majority of women.
- What is your user’s Age Group?
App use can also be clearly separated by age group.
Snapchat is an excellent example of an app that’s dialed in their design and interaction for a very specific target market. They’ve created an interface that’s easily understood and appreciated by teenagers, but much more difficult for older adults to quickly or easily grasp. This is by design. They do this because they want to keep the platform strictly parent-free. Why?
Because, of course, teens don’t want to hang out in the same online communities as their parents.
- What is your user’s Occupation?
The occupation of your potential user tells a lot about what the user wants at any particular moment in time. If, for example, you’re targeting teenagers that most likely are not meaningfully employed yet, your primary goal might be to distract them whenever they’re bored (which might be frequently). Therefore, plan for your app to be used during leisure time and/or school breaks. Prepare for this. It should be an app that focuses on social aspects and/or an app where they can polish their online identity. For teens, the focus on visuals should also be primary (All-text apps are misguided when aiming for an all-teens base).
If, however, you’re targeting the upwardly-mobile business class, you’re in an entirely different ballpark. Here you might reasonably expect them to want to become more productive and more efficient as a primary goal. So your app should assist them in automating tasks or even handling tasks with minimal effort, like Connectinator does.
When you know what your potential user does and wants, you can then serve him/her a tailor-made app experience with only one goal- Hooking them, helping them, and then getting them addicted.
- Where does your user hang out online?
Human beings tend to be creatures of habit.
They hang out with the same groups, they look at the same types of movies and they tend to stick to certain comfortable genres. Most people rarely change these hard-wired preferences. Use this information to your benefit. When you know where your users are hanging out on the web, you’ll understand how to approach them. Hooking your initial users will take time and effort but simply attracting your first users is a lot simpler when you know where to find them. Once inside these online locations, you can study them, see what they like and/or dislike, then capably mold your experience and craft your message around their tastes! Also, these online locations are ideal for attracting new users.
More on that later…
- What is your user’s personality type?
Knowing where to find your users is only one side of the coin. The other half is their online behavior.
Are your potential users searching for online connections? Are they searching for tips and tricks? Are your users there to consume videos and photos? Once you know their online behavior you can then use this information to your advantage. When you know what your user acts like on the web, you can adapt your app’s experience to their behaviours.
Understanding your target audience is an art, getting inside their heads is a life long journey so don’t expect to hit it out of the ballpark on your first swing. But do NOT overthink it (and sometimes just go with your gut)!
Now to give you an actual 5 Vital Q example, I’ll share my own answers to the 5 Q’s when I was in the process of building the Connectinator app.
What is your user’s gender?
What is your user’s age group?
What is your user’s occupation?
Entrepreneur, Freelancer, networker, salesperson.
Where does your user hang out online?
Productivity blogs, Tim Ferriss podcast, reads startup and productivity newsletter at the end of the week.
What is your user’s personality type?
Workaholic. Someone who’s constantly building out his professional network. Someone who sees value in keeping in touch for future opportunities. Someone who wants to be seen as a super-connector. Someone that because of his extensive network is continually approached by others for help in finding the right people.
Define your value proposition (VP).
You might be looking at the term “VP” and thinking- Not again… Yes, every wannabee in the world is talking about those annoying VP’s, and I do agree with you. The term value proposition is an overused buzzword but nevertheless, it works perfectly and precisely when constructing your app. Defining your apps value proposition will help you to answer the vital question of why you believe your user will love your app.
Think of your Top Three VP’s (3 is our magic number here).
Sticking with three keeps the process of building your app simple. Think of these three VP’s as absolutely irreplaceable building blocks of your app (if even one is missing, then nothing works). And of course it’s even better when they each enhance the others. Most of the time the VP of an app is a combination of “must-have” features that give the most benefit to your target audience.
To clarify this I’ll share the Top Three VP’s I defined for the Connectinator App as a point of reference.
- The app keeps track of your business contacts while you focus on the important stuff
- The app suggests getting in contact with business contacts you haven’t contacted in a while.
- The app helps you collect data about the people you contact and will suggest topics to talk about.
I’ve identified and established three unique features of the app. These make my app function the way it should. In general, the VP of an app is comprised of the key functionalities that the app must have.
To-Do: Describe the Top Three VP’s your app needs to have to make it worthwhile for your target market. After defining the value you should know exactly why your target audience will use your app.
To-Do: Check if the VP’s you’ve defined are aligned with the habits and requirements of your target. If not, something isn’t in line. Look at your notes to determine why there’s no correlation/missed connections. Figure it out and make it work.
3.When will people use your app?
Research has proven that the average human being uses only seven (7) apps on a regular basis. Only seven? Yep, that’s not much.
It’s your task, therefore, to become one of that seven. To do so you’ll need to know when your app will most likely be used. And by when I mean which time of the day. To paint a clearer picture- Think of the apps you open when you’re on the toilet.
You want to become one of those. That’s the final goal!
For the vast majority of apps, the timing is not only logical, it’s everything!
Most people check weather apps before they go to bed and/or when they wake up to see what clothes they should wear. Obvious right?
With other apps, most people only open them when a particular problem occurs. Knowing the key usage moment will help you to build a better experience for your user when bringing them real value. Your VP’s will be built around these defining moments.
Take a look at the example of the Connectinator app to understand exactly what I mean.
For the Connectinator app, the user timing consisted of three key moments.
- After office hours: 19:00 – 22:00. Connectinator is an app that works in the background most of the time. The app sends the user a push notification when they haven’t contacted a particular business contact within a defined period. The key is to make this push notification compelling enough for the user to open the app. This push notification should only occur after office hours. That’s because any notification might distract the user while working and, as a result, the user might then ignore the notification altogether if it pops up during office hours. That is something we want to avoid. Connectinator should send out reminders only when odds are highest that a specific user will open the app.
- Immediately after meeting a new, interesting business contact. The user opens Connectinator after a meeting, after a dinner or following a conference in order to add new contacts to their list. The user will have to add this contact to their list manually. So right after thye’ve met an interesting business contact they should use the Connectinator app.
- When the user has some time for catching up, the taxi, the train, etc. I call this in-between time during business hours. Since in-between time can be just a few minutes, those minutes are crucial. The experience of the app should be tailored so that the user gets maximum value for those minutes.
The “When” might sound really trivial, but it’s not.
It will go a long way towards helping you design your app and the interface of your app should be focused around these moments.
The three essential interface aspects of Connectinator are now defined-
1) Notifications will draw people back into the app at times when interference with business is off-peak
2) Adding new contacts must be as seamless as a hot knife slicing through butter. The user needs to feel little resistance when adding new contacts since they might have limited time to do so right after a meeting or during a conference.
3) When not adding a new contact or when the user is not being pulled back in by a push notification, it should be easy to see the contacts the user hasn’t connected with in a while.
Using an app is an experience in itself, just like a great meal or a wild rollercoaster is an experience. Knowing when your users will use your app will help you shape an experience that hooks your users all the way to the end, then again and again.
To-Do: Visualize the moment when your user will open then use your app. Narrow it down to just a moment to keep it as simple as possible. The more specific the moment, the better it is.
4. What is your app’s Category?
Tag it up! You need to be able to put your app in a particular category. The category is the theme in which your app lives. This is a list of all the categories in the Apple App Store:
Defining your category will narrow your focus.
It will also help you when doing your market research to find out if your app idea is already out there in some other form. In a later stage when you submit your app to the App Store you’ll also have to choose a category. So it’s handy to do so now.
To-Do: Think of Two categories your app fits- Write them down (and after you’ve written them down, write down why).
Example: Connectinator App
- Business: The app’s target market is business people. The app’s function is focused on keeping in close touch with business contacts as a business utility. It ideally assists you in being more effective in doing business.
- Productivity: The app makes life easier. The app works while the user focuses on the work/business. It also reminds user to contact business relations without requiring user to think about it.
To sum it up (this is the “What” part): Connectinator is an app that makes the lives of business people easier by keeping track of their contacts.
When reaching this point, you should have already defined the following Five Building Blocks-
1) You’ve defined a problem statement.
2) You’ve defined a compact but useful outline of your target market.
3) You’ve listed reasons why your target audience will use your app.
4) You’ve narrowed down exactly when your target audience will use your app.
5) Finally, you’ve placed your app in a specific category.
Well done! By knocking this out you’ve focused, you’ve thought it through, and you’ve built an app with only words.
From now on I will refer to these 5 Building Blocks as “The Foundation.”
Naming your app
Every baby needs a name to thrive in the big booming world.
So at this stage you already have your app name, or you don’t. When you have your app name, great! You can skip this naming section.
If you haven’t picked yours yet, just follow the steps below to come up with a killer name in a few simple steps.
As a quick side note- Coming up with awesome names for your app or even your company is not something that can be forced so I urge you to read this section through but don’t feel pressured if at the end of this section, you still haven’t thought of a compelling one.
This is normal. I always say that a name just comes to you in the process. So there is always a good chance the name will change, or it will just evolve in the process of building your app. So don’t stress!
The good news however, is that we’ve already constructed a proper foundation and this foundation will assist you when coming up with your baby’s name. The first place this assistance will arrive is in the form of relevant keywords. You need ten keywords before coming up with a solid name. Your app has a general theme which you formed by assigning two categories to your app (and if you haven’t done this step, please do so now). These categories will serve as your first two keywords.
For example, if you choose Medical and Finance (a combination you don’t see too often) these words will be the first two keywords in your list. Done!
Now come up with eight additional keywords that are relevant to your app. In my case, I usually read through my foundation and choose words that frequently pop up then I look for synonyms. It’s not that hard. You should have enough information to come up with relevant keywords for your app at this point.
It’s also important to pick a name that has some relevant explanation in it.
For example, Evernote, the note taking app. See what they did there? No, I mean it.
When potential users read and/or hear that name, they connect the app with the idea! For apps that are utility based like note taking apps, I would recommend you put some explanatory word in there, or a verbal reference so that when a user says your app’s name out loud, it rings their bell.
Remember- vague names, funny characters or very very long names don’t work.
And finally, your name can’t be more than 12 characters long including spaces (those count as characters too), so less is definitely more! Why is this?
Because your phone will automatically cut of any app name that has more than 12 characters. I see many first-time app developers make this fundamental mistake. It’s really sad to see your app names on the screen like: Spirrelbeebe… \
That sucks, so keep it less than 12 characters.
To-Do: Go through the foundation you’ve put together and come up with ten keywords that match your app.
Combine these keywords, look for synonyms and mix words up. Make mind maps and scribble away to come up with creative combinations. Just use the keywords as a set of tools for you when brainstorming names.
After you’ve chosen a version 1.0 of your name, Google the name. Do this to make sure no one’s already claimed it for a product or service of their own.
Pro tip: Register the domain asap.
The moment you’re happy enough with a net, buy the domain name as quick as you can. It’s not that you want to build a website with it, it’s just that you never know. Your app could blow up. It comes in handy if, when that happens, you own the domain name.
Check out this list of keywords I constructed when building the Connectinator App
Business (category One)
Productivity (category Two)
After I’d written down the ten keywords, I wanted to call the app super-connector. As you will have noticed, this name is just too long, so it didn’t work. Connectinator it was and I like it a lot.
Write a Brief about your app (app summary)
Now you have-
1. An awesome name.
2. You’ve laid the Foundation.
It’s time to get those notes out and make it look pretty- What is he saying? Make it look pretty, what the heck does he mean by that?
Well I mean that you need to organize your work. You need to get your information together and prepare it in a way it can be used effectively without spending too much time searching for information. So how do you do this?
Write a summary.
This is nothing more than an organized version of all the work you’ve done in the former steps (plus an extra part which is the description, more on that later). First, check out the summary I made for the Connectinator App. As you can see the last part includes an app description. This is where you describe your app as if you would describe it to a potential investor.
By completing your app summary, you’ve just built an app on paper. You’ve successfully conceptualized an idea then streamlined it into a paper version of your app. You’ve laid the groundwork and you did it methodically. Congratulations!
Treat your summary like your MVP 1.0
Your app is finalized (on paper). You have set the basis for your app. In the basic form, you know what it should do, for who it is and how it will add value to your users. This basis (the summary) is called the MVP 1.0 version for now(minimum viable product). The MVP guides us when making decisions in a later stage of designing and building your app. It’s rough but in depth enough to work effectively.
Make a Feature Basket
What is a feature basket?
It’s a file you create named, appropriately, Feature_Basket.
The purpose of this file is to fill it with features you come up with during the entire process of building your app. Trust me, you will come up with the oddest features at the most unusual moments. But you need a place to collect these thoughts. I recommend downloading the Evernote app (this is not an endorsement) and create a feature basket file where you can dump all the cool new features that come to you when you least expect it. Later we’ll come back to the feature basket and use it to define the most important features of your app.
Now prioritize your features. It’s important that you separate your feature basket in two different types of features-
1) Nice to have
2) Need to have.
Whenever you think of a new feature, type it out and immediately classify it with the Nice2Have or Need2have tags.
Continue to Research the Market
Continually researching the market is a key step you should take when building an app. You need to know what’s out there. The app store is a jungle, a very, very competitive jungle. You need to understand this jungle from top-to-bottom. By knowing the market you’re operating in, you’ll be much more able to triumph and become one of those seven apps people use most.