6 Essential Steps to Planning Your Application

Digital Strategy

6 Essential Steps to Planning Your Application

June 21, 2016 6 Essential Steps to Planning Your Application Katelyn Waara

Let’s face it; building an application is a complex task. And, by not having a plan before starting off, you’d be setting yourself up for failure or at least a lot of frustration down the road. Whether it’s a web or mobile app, the process of creating one involves a lot of thought and factors you need to consider to ensure your application is equipped to fulfil the goals it sets out to meet. Smart planning is essential because that’s what makes all the difference when it comes to turning your idea into a successful end product. Here’s a six-step plan that can make your app development process that much more effective and stress-free.

Step 1: Define the Goals/Purpose for Your App

Begin by defining exactly what you want your app to accomplish — that is, the final objective or the end-goal of your app. Do you want to solve an imminent problem or fix an existing issue? If there’s an app that already caters to the niche you’re hoping to take advantage of, it’s important to make sure your app provides your target audience with an innovative and different solution. Or, if you think the app has some potential shortfalls, exploit those weak spots as a way to create something better.  

Also, you should be able to align your app idea with your organizational goals. For instance, do you want to enable better customer self-service or you’re looking to create new revenue streams?

Once you’ve determined the end-goals and your app's intended functionality, it becomes easier to work your way backwards to chalk out actionable steps you need to take in order to reach those goals.

Step 2: Determine the Audience Personas of Your Target Customers

Target customer is an important piece of the puzzle when you set out to develop your own app. Why? Because if you proceed without a clear understanding of who your app is going to serve, you may be venturing into the wrong market — one that already has an app that satisfies people’s needs. Therefore, the likelihood of them downloading your similar rival app is relatively slim, unless of course, it provides alternative solutions.

At this stage, you should put efforts towards getting an in-depth knowledge of your target audience and developing audience personas is a great way to do so. The process includes researching the demographic of your target users, the technologies and platforms they are most likely to use, and the unmet needs they have. Make a list of their needs, demographics, habits, etc. and use this list when building your app – always refer back to it when you have a user experience question.

Step 3: Conduct Market/Competition Analysis

This is a critical step that will provide answers to the following questions, helping you derive a rough estimate of your app’s viability and ROI.

  • What problems do your potential customers have that your app is going to solve?
  • What is the size of your market as a whole? This will give you an idea of how much of the market is taken up by competitors, and how much is available to you.
  • What are your competitors doing and how well are they doing it?
  • What can you do to set yourself apart from them?  

Step 4: Develop User Stories and User Flows

Once you’ve figured out your target users, the next step is to focus on user experience (UX). To this end, you can develop user stories and user flows based on the possible real-life experience of the target users; pretend you are an end user and walk through the process of using your app to solve a problem. Take note of questions you have through this process and consider other situations when the app might be used; you may be surprised by what you find!

Remember, it’s impossible to develop an application that satisfies everyone, but it’s highly possible to create one that satisfies the majority of your users.

Step 5: Seek User Validation

It’s a logical step to first get some validation for your app idea before pouring your funds into it. You could validate your idea by using the Google Keyword Planner tool to find popular keywords people are searching for to determine if your app idea has any takers. You could also create a landing page that highlights your app idea and seeks user interest through an email signup.

Another great way to find out if your app idea is really useful and/or interesting is to spend some time discussing it with a group of target users. Invite a group of friends with limited or no knowledge of the app to join you for a focus group. Provide them a scenario where they need to use the app and ask them to walk through the process of using it to solve the problem. Get their feedback after the process and use it to improve the app.

Step 6: Identify Minimum Viable Product

You need to build an MVP (Minimum viable product) version of your app to see if your idea is well-received by your target users. The feedback you get from your initial users will pave the way for further upgrades. This not only reduces your time-to-market but also gives your users access to new developments and updates, ensuring your organization never falls off the radar. The core functionality must be working in the MVP version; if there are some bugs, don’t worry! Your users will help.

While these steps are a great place to start your app development process, this is, by no means, an outline set in stone. You can definitely play around with what suits your strategy best. The most important thing is to have a plan that gives your app development process the right direction and that sits well with your overall organizational objectives. 

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