Developing an app or software program doesn’t happen overnight. There are considered steps you need to take before you begin, to ensure that the development goes smoothly and the end product will be something that users love to engage with. Here are seven steps you should take before you start.

1.  Ask yourself: “Do I really need to do this?”

This step is known as idea validation. Software and apps are expensive and time consuming. Your product must be validated on effort, risk, return, investment; but it’s important to ask whether there is something out there that does this already or that can be customised to do what you need. Market research is, more often than not, where people get caught out.  For example, do you really want to build a CRM from scratch, or does customising salesforce do the trick?

2. Know your users

Define the pain points of your users/target audience and determine whether your ideas and the features of your application will speak to these pain points. All too often at Spring Digital, we see people building things that nobody needs or trying to solve pain points that don’t really exist.

3. Define your project as a business

At conferences or in networking meetings, it’s not uncommon to hear someone say, “I have a great idea for an app!”. Ideas are a dime a dozen and ideas without definition are as good as a novel without pages. Our suggestion, to move past the ideas stage, is to put pen to paper.

Define the project like you would if you were going to start a new business – which you are. Set goals, define the USP, define your users and their pain points, and research competition. When you’re finished,  spend at least 4-5 hours defining/brainstorming all the features of the app, making sure that your user pain points are solved by these features.

An example of this in action happened with a client who wanted to build an app that, as you drove into an area, displayed ads for businesses in the area on their mobile device. Would you download an app that shows ads?

Most people who have followed through with this either abandon the idea, saving themselves time and money or realise they’re onto a winner and engage in the project discovery phase with a software development agency. Either way, they win.

4. Define, define, define – and lower the cost in the process

So, you’ve written up a one page document of features and now, you’re asking the burning question: how much will this cost? The answer to this question is crucial, to understand if it’s feasible to move forward from here. The one unifying characteristic of a software developer or an agency is that the more questions or more ambiguity there is, the higher the estimate.

It’s not that we’re bad people or scrooges trying to milk every cent we can. It’s that unknown features carry higher risk. Higher risk carries more cost. Plus, after years of doing this, we have all learnt that clients hate price increases. What is $200,000 today and then $150,000 tomorrow is far better than the other way around. The longer you can spend defining, the more detailed your scope and usually, the cheaper the price.

5. Find your team

Building apps and software programs is no small feat. No matter what prospective business development managers from software companies tell you, you will have work to do and it will be challenging. Certainly, things can be done to make it easier. We suggest forming a small team around you to help with the load.


6. Stay involved and you will save money

Nobody knows what ‘done’ looks like more than you. It is far easier to pick up and implement feature corrections to deliver ‘done’ mid-project, than at the end.

Development companies will usually be more willing to accept the change ‘in scope’ and ‘as part of the process’. The more you stay involved – especially if you are building using Agile methodology –the more money you will save.

7. Don’t ever underestimate testing

Testing in any digital environment takes a person wired in a certain way to test logically and methodically. It’s a skill and talent and not for the C-Suite, Founder or business owner to do – their strengths lie elsewhere. The biggest issue we see most people fall into is thinking that individual features only take a few minutes to test. What they don’t realise is that there are about 15 tests which need to be done to validate each feature. For example, a sign-up feature needs to test password strength, email address validation, spam protection, social login pass/fail, bad data inputs, and more. If something doesn’t work and you have to report a bug, you need to test all over again. What was only a few minutes is now a few hours over several days.

Working all of this out beforehand will save you a lot of headaches if you do it right. Take time to understand what you’re getting yourself into and whether your idea is worth pursuing. Save yourself time and heartache by understanding these seven things.