April 19, 2012

811 words 4 mins read

How to successfully launch a mobile app – for newbies

The other day a family member emailed me and essentially asked me “How do you make a mobile app?". I could have written back “Write code, publish it”, but that would have been the smart ass remark. It’s not that I don’t love to be a smart ass, but I presumed they wanted a real answer and I refined the question a bit. It’s not “How do you make a mobile app?", but “How do you successfully launch a mobile app?". Other than writing some code, there are a few more steps to successfully launch an app. The app might not be wildly popular (If you want to know how to make a wildly successful mobile app, please go talk to Rovio), but it will have a solid foundation on which you can build. I’m not even sure if my family member wanted to make money from this mobile app, but if I were to sit down and write a serious app — these are the steps I would follow.

You might ask “Who are you to tell us about mobile apps?” and the answer is: “I’m not Rovio”. In all seriousness, I’ve worked for several companies that have been involved in the mobile app space along with helping out several friends. If you’re in the mobile app space, you’ll read this and say “Duh” (and if you think I left out something important, please leave a comment). For the rest, who really don’t know where to start, hopefully this will provide a decent launching off point.

  1. Come up with an idea for an app (this step is mucho important)
  • Figure out on what platforms you want to be able to install your app — iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, etc

  • Each one of these platforms has their own language and development environment.

  • There are some cross-platform options also. Such as PhoneGap and Appcelerator Titanium. They do have their limitations though.

  • Write (code) the application — This is the hard part, as you need someone who can write code (or to learn how).

  • Test the application

  • If you’re writing for a diverse platform like Android, this can be challenging because (optimally) you want to test on as many phones as possible.

  • You also want to test on tablets, if you’re making an app that is tablet compatible.

  • This is also the point where you open up the app to friends and family to test for you, once you’ve completed your internal testing.

  • Publish the app on each platforms’ respective app store.

  • Apple costs $100 a year to be a developer

  • Android costs $25 once There are a couple other items that don’t have a specific order, but you’ll want to consider:

  • Monetization — How are you going to make money with this app? There are 3 main methods:

  • Sell the app — Price the application at a specific amount (i.g. it’s $0.99 or $1.99 from the app store)

  • Advertising — The app is free from the app store, but you put advertisements into it. There are several mobile ad networks including iAd and AdMob

  • In App Purchases — This is the “free to play” model. The app is typically free from the app store, but you can buy upgrades in the application itself. Works well for games, though I’ve seen non-games use it well also.

  • Website/Social Media

  • A website gives you a place to release news and allow people to interact with you.

  • Social media (twitter, facebook, G+) is useful because it gives people another way to follow/interact with you AND share your app with their friends.

  • Both of these should also help trim the number of the 1 star “It doesn’t work” reviews (since users will be able to interact with you, they can ask before they complain).

  • Advertising — If you’re really trying to make money with this, you’ll want to consider different methods of advertising.

  • Word of mouth — Friends / Family are a good start

  • Getting reviews out on blogs

  • Giving away free copies in contests can sometimes work — if the contest is run by other sites that actually get traffic Oh My! Such a huge list! It must be so much work to make a mobile app. No, not really, I just assume that if you’re looking this up, you know nothing about making apps. If you’ve got a decent coder handy, you can make and publish an mobile app in a weekend (if the app isn’t too large). A buddy of mine has put out a couple off apps in his free time. His website work involved me yelling at him until he agreed to have a website. You can buy web space and have it up and running in an hour or two (I recommend SquareSpace for website newbies). I wrote an app or two myself, but never got around to finishing/publishing them.