‘I have an idea for an app, and I’d like to talk to someone…. ‘

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I often get emails from people who want to make their first mobile app. The emails usually start off something like this: “I have an app I wish to develop, but I’m not sure what to do next……” Here are 20 things you should know when developing your first mobile app.

Young business man drawing a idea for making money

Platform: Do you want to make an Android or iPhone/iPad app? They use different languages so most people usually choose one at the beginning to keep costs down. If you want to make money choose the iPhone/iPad. If you think Android suits your market demographic better, choose Android. From my experience so far it is more difficult to get downloads and revenue from an Android app.

Money or marketing? Is your main goal to make money from your app, or do you want your app to be a promotional tool for an existing business? If your app will showcase your car dealership, boat club, local pub or community centre, then the fastest way to get it done is probably to hire a local app development company to make it for you. You don’t need to learn too much about the process. Just show them some apps on the store that you like, bring along the text, photos and videos you want in your app, and ideally if you can try & design your app so it does something useful. Apple have tightened up a lot and will not publish apps that are primarily marketing material. If you want the most possible downloads, set your apps price to ‘free’. Then once it’s live tell all your customers about it.

Android: If you do want an app to promote a business, think seriously about Android. There are no ‘reviews’ prior to your app being published, and your app will go live automatically about 20 minutes after you have submitted it. Instant gratification in a mobile world.

Is this a business? Is this going to be a one off app, or do you have an interest in starting your own app business? If you want to start making apps in your spare time, then I would advise that you start to learn about making apps. Learn the common pitfalls and how the app market works. Learn from success stories and what they did to get there. You can lose a lot of money at the beginning paying developers WAY too much money to make an app if you do not have a basic knowledge of what’s involved and how much effort it should take. Buy books from amazon, listen to podcasts, find great blogs and do some app courses.

Location, location, location: Usually people have already decided what type of app they want to make for their first app. There are a few things you need to do before you go any further. If you want to make money, the app should not be targeted towards one country. You will not make money by creating an app about the mountains of Scotland. Or the pubs of Ireland. Steer clear of making an app for a seasonal event as well at the start.

There is an app like mine in the store already :( That’s actually great news. Go to the website www.topappcharts.com and type in the name of the app. If it hasn’t been seen in any of the top rankings for its category, then you’ve just saved yourself a lot of time and money and you have now found out that demand for that app type is not as strong as you would like it to be.

‘I truly think my app idea is INCREDIBLE and I still want to make it.’ Ok great enthusiasm! What you need to do now is put that idea in a drawer. If this IS a killer idea, you want to give it every chance of success. If this is your first app and you have no experience of the app store, that might be difficult. So for the next 2 months, plan on publishing 10 small apps on any subject. A good way to keep costs low is to buy source code on the internet, change the graphics, and hire a developer to put in some ads so you can start to earn money. After the 2 months you will be MUCH more knowledgeable, hopefully profitable, and in a much better position to do justice to your big app idea.

Graphics: If you want to do justice to you app, it has to look INCREDIBLE. It really should look like it was made by a multimillion dollar studio. People download beautifully designed apps.

Price: Pricing works differently for different app categories. Free is very popular in games and entertainment. Unless it’s an incredibly complex, niche app, then the safest option is probably to make two versions, paid and free. See which make you the most money and work from there.

Downloads: If you want the most downloads, make your app free.

How do I make money from a free app? At the start I would recommend putting Revmob and Chartboost ad networks into your app. They do seem to be the highest paying ad networks out there. After a few months once you get up to speed, you can experiment with in app purchases.

Portfolio: Aim to create a portfolio of successful apps, rather than putting all of your energy into one big app. Keep your risk low, and your prospects for success high. At the beginning, it’s easier to make money from lots of small apps than it is from one big app. You will learn a lot from every app you publish, so the quality of your apps will keep increasing.

Debt: You will make mistakes and learn valuable lessons. So keep your costs low at the start so you don’t bankrupt yourself and get into trouble with your credit card company. I have created and published an app for as little as $6. It is possible. Google is your friend.

‘I don’t have any money’. It’s still possible to make apps. The cheapest way to get started is to use the machine you have right now. If you have a mac, build iPhone/iPad apps. If you have a PC, build Android apps. You do not need to buy a phone at the beginning, the software you use (xCode and Eclipse) to make the apps comes with a free phone simulator so you can view the app on your Mac or PC. To build an app, open an account with Buzztouch You can build 3 apps for free and it will get you started. To publish an app, you will need to pay Android $25, or Apple $99 for a developers license.

Profit: Aim to be profitable as fast as you can, ideally in seven days after launch if possible!

‘I have this app idea but I don’t want to tell you in case you steal it’. Hhhmmm. It’s better to say ‘I have an idea for a photography/health/game/entertainment iPhone/Android app’ (delete as needed!). ‘Do you have you any experience publishing apps in this area?’

Market demand: The best way to make money from your app is to know that there is market demand for your app before you start to develop it. Go into the US iTunes store every day, look at the top free, top paid and top grossing apps in the categories you are interested in. Download the apps & play with them. Are people downloading the type of app you want to make? If they are not, maybe put that idea to one side and move on to your next app idea. Don’t ever fall in love with an idea. (If you do, only make it from profit you have earned from your other apps!).

Everyone loves games: From my experience and from talking to many other developers, the category with the most revenue generating potential, both from ads and in app purchases is games. And if you want to start your own app business, that’s probably the best tip I can give you.

Publish fast: Do not spend 6, 12 or 18 months by yourself working on getting your app perfect. Get a small section of the app done, maybe just one module or chapter, and upload it to the store straightaway. Customer feedback will be invaluable to you. Validate your assumptions – pricing, app type, design, theme, features, marketing, etc – as soon as possible. The information you learn from going through the publishing process and confirming if your monitization options were correct, will allow you to make more educated choices in the future and increase your revenue.

OK, I want to start making apps, where will I find my team? Go to www.oDesk.com. This is a huge freelancing site full of artists, developers and every other type of freelancer you can imagine.

‘Sounds like a lot of hard work, but I still want to make apps.’ To do it right, there is a lot of hard work involved and you will get a bit addicted to your laptop. And there’s a steep learning curve at the start and you might not see your family and friends for a good while! But if you can stick it out, and start getting things working, it is definitely worth it.

Do you know 2 people who want to make apps? Share this post with them and get them started on the journey.

PS: Don’t forget to get the Express – Sign up today and make sure you don’t miss out!!

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Save time & money: Learn the 6 things you must know when making apps

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Elaine Heney is the CEO of Chocolate Lab Apps, #1 Bestselling Author of "The App Escape Plan". Elaine has over 200 apps published with over 3 million downloads, 5 online App Development Courses, and mentors international mobile startups.

{ 6 comments… add one }

  1. 1 Ryan Karlson June 9, 2013, 7:03 pm

    I love everything about your article. I never even thought about developing an app until this morning. I was playing a game with my 10 year old son and had an idea of a fun game. This article is the first one I read and to say the least I actually don’t feel completely overwhelmed and helpless. I have never succeeded in much my whole life and just want to prove to my parents and brothers wrong (who all went to a great college to get MBA’s). Prove that I am not dumb and can be successful on my own. I won’t even tell them how I vecame successful if I can do this. My heart is in it to prove a point but I just don’t know the propper steps with developement, design, etc…it confuses me to where its more challenging and depressing thsan good. If u have any additional advice or directions that are clear cut please help me. Thank you so much again for the great article. Ryan Karlson

  2. 2 Em July 26, 2013, 8:30 pm

    Hi,
    Thank you so much for this useful info! Will you explain this some more please :I have created and published an app for as little as $6. It is possible. Google is your friend.
    If I am totally inexperienced, is this still possible ,$6. I mean?

  3. 3 Elaine July 26, 2013, 8:35 pm

    Hi Em, no it would be difficult. The reason it was $6 was I did all of the reskinning work myself in xCode – I didn’t hire a programmer. Instead I taught myself the basics of how to use xCode. It took more time this way, but it cost less money.

  4. 4 Charmain October 20, 2013, 4:23 am

    Wonderful blog! I found it while surfing around on Yahoo News. Do you have any suggestions on how to get listed in Yahoo News? I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Thanks

  5. 5 Dalene October 20, 2013, 10:01 am

    Hello there! Would you mind if I share your blog with my twitter group? There’s a lot of folks that I think would really appreciate your content. Please let me know. Thank you

  6. 6 Elaine Heney October 29, 2013, 7:00 am

    Fire ahead Dalene.

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