June 5, 2020
How to Turn Your App Idea Into a Reality
So you've identified an opportunity in the market and thought of the perfect digital solution. Your web or mobile app idea has the potential to be a real game-changer. The only problem is, now you need to build it. And how do you make that happen?
At sophilabs, we've helped dozens of entrepreneurs realize their vision and create apps that exceed their expectations. We've got the process of making an app from scratch down to a science. If you're not sure how to get started or would just like to learn more about what happens between coming up with an idea and launching a beautiful product, you've come to the right place. In this post, we'll guide you through the process so you can acquire a real understanding of every step.
Step 1: Opt for an MVP Strategy
Even if you've done a good amount of research, there is always a risk that you might build something that users don't want or need. The best way to mitigate this risk and make the most cost-efficient use of your resources is to first build a minimum viable product (MVP).
An MVP is the most basic version of your product; it should have few features and focus solely on fulfilling one core user need. It is not a prototype, but a totally usable product trimmed down to the bare essentials. The idea is to release a fully-functioning product as soon as possible in order to let user feedback guide what new features are added.
In addition to saving costs and reducing time-to-market, the MVP route helps you secure buy-in from investors and form lasting relationships with customers. To learn more, check out the 7 most compelling reasons to build an MVP.
Step 2: Find your ideal software partner.
It can be tough to find the right company to fulfill your development needs. There are a range of factors to take into account, including their areas of technical expertise, their time zone, their development process, their communication practices, and their portfolio of work. It's crucial to choose a company that not only understands, but will consistently prioritize your business needs in every technical decision.
For a complete breakdown of what to look for when you're looking for a software partner – including a checklist of key questions to consider – read our thorough guide on how to choose the software company that's best suited to your project. You can also skip ahead to our handy checklist and download it here.
Step 3: Get a clear picture of how the development process will work.
Although you probably will have acquired at least a basic notion of your software partner's development process when you were researching companies to choose from, it's still a good idea to have your development team walk you through their process so you're clear on what to expect and can ask any relevant questions. Sophilabs' development process includes inception, design, development, launch, and support phases to ensure that we deliver value as early and often as possible and can continue to do so through every stage.
Step 4: Define your vision and a high-level plan through a guided Product Inception.
Before a single line of code is written, it's crucial to align stakeholders and come up with a unified vision and road map for your product. Product inception gathers all relevant stakeholders, and through a series of targeted exercises, allows you to collaboratively identify the main problem your app will solve and determine how it will accomplish this. It helps you figure out what features your app will have and what the MVP will look like.
At sophilabs, we like to start our product inception process with a Product Vision Board. The Product Vision Board enables you to articulate who the app's target audience is, what needs the product will fulfill for them, and what the primary business goals of the product are. We then do some stakeholder analysis, using exercises like an Interest vs. Influence chart and Trade-off Sliders to prioritize stakeholder concerns. Next, we like to dive into users' points of view through persona analysis, allowing us to gain a deeper understanding of what users need out of the product. Finally, a Story Map allows us to identify essential features, determine the scope of the product, and plan the first release. We consider Product Inception a critical part of software development because it allows the development team and stakeholders to be aligned on the goals of the product, ensuring that we're on the right path to creating something that our client and users will love.
Step 5: Use the design phase to prototype ideas and test assumptions.
The main goal of this stage is to ensure you're on track to building a well-crafted product with a great user experience that fulfills business needs. Designers make use of wireframes, mockups, and prototypes throughout this process. Techniques like paper prototyping allow you to get feedback from users on key aspects of design like structure, layout, content, task flows, and interaction design. It's essential to prioritize users' goals and ensure that the interface makes those goals easily attainable.
At sophilabs, we like to keep the design and development cycle tight (meaning we create wireframes less than a month in advance) so that we're able to adapt more easily to changes in product features. We believe that good design makes workflows intuitive for users and lets the app's content shine.
Step 6: Choose the right technologies for your technical and business needs.
When selecting your tech stack, you need to consider the technical requirements of both the back end (i.e., the server side where your data is stored) and the front end (i.e., the client side on the user's browser or phone). You should also make sure the technologies you choose are right for your business priorities. Together with your development team, you'll need to think about the size and complexity of your app as well as how different technologies may impact scalability, maintainability, and time-to-market. Cost is another major consideration, since not all technologies have the same size talent pool or price tag, affecting both development and support budgets.
For a more detailed look at all the crucial factors to take into account, check out our recommendations on how to choose the right tech stack for your MVP. For a quick cheat sheet, download our simple checklist of important questions to discuss with your software partner.
Step 7: Work with the development team to build your product.
During this phase, the team will develop your product, prioritizing the features they build according to what is most valuable to stakeholders. Practices like code reviews, test-driven development, and unit testing help ensure that the product is of high quality and functions as expected. In addition, an Agile approach to development enables teams to adapt to changing business needs and continually deliver value.
At sophilabs, we use the Scrum framework to apply Agile principles to our day-to-day work. Scrum functions in short, iterative cycles (e.g., two weeks), at the end of which the development team delivers working software and receives feedback from stakeholders. For a more in-depth explanation of Agile development and how Scrum works, check out our super simple guide.
Step 8: Launch your MVP and collect user feedback.
At this point in the process, everything should be thoroughly tested with continuous integration and automated validations. If you plan to have internal staff maintain your product after launch, a good software partner will offer training to ensure a smooth transition.
Before launch, make sure you have a system in place to track how users find and interact with your product so you're able to collect the necessary data to continue growing and improving your MVP. Once your app is in the hands of users, their feedback can help you identify necessary changes and new features that will best meet their needs.
Step 9: Adapt, maintain, and grow your app.
After gathering enough data to make informed decisions, you can start adjusting existing features and adding new ones. You'll also need to make sure your product receives regular support and maintenance to ensure it sustains a high level of quality and performance as your user base grows.
An Ongoing Creative Process
Building a web or mobile app is an exciting endeavor that requires a clear vision, constant flexibility, and the ability to adapt to changes in the market. An experienced and skilled development team can help you navigate the different challenges along the way. At sophilabs, we have over eight years of experience helping entrepreneurs transform their ideas into a successful product. If you'd like to learn more about how our team works and what we can do for you, don't hesitate to get in touch!