How to turn an app idea into a business

If you’re one of those people who can combine an entrepreneurial spirit along with a whole bagful of ideas, here’s our guide on how to turn an app into a reality — with a view to seeing a profit on it, of course.

Defining your app concept

A great app idea usually comes from identifying something that’s missing from the vast range of tools, games, and other pieces of software that are out there already. Your first step, then, should be to take this idea and define it clearly by putting it down on paper — outlining what you intend to incorporate as its main features. Your business plan, essentially.

Right from the beginning, think of this as your “one minute pitch”: a brief summary of what your creation consists of and how it will benefit users. This is essential for achieving clarity in your own mind about how your app differs from everything else on the market. Equally, this core summary becomes vital later on when it comes to seeking practical help in building it, as well as catching the attention of investors and, of course, potential customers.

If you already have any experience of web design and development, you’ll be familiar with the concept of wireframing: the creation of a visual simulation or blueprint for an app or website. With this approach, you can take your basic ideas and flesh them out in the form of a skeletal prototype before you get down to the task of building the actual software. With wireframing tools such as Indigo Studio and Proto, it’s a case of “no coding required”, making this a valuable way of refining an app idea — even if you have no experience of software development.

Protecting and monetising your idea

A general Google search, as well as specific searches of the Apple Store and Google Play Store, should tell you whether your idea (or something almost identical) is in the marketplace already. It’s also highly advisable to check whether something similar is in the process of development by someone else. For this, and for guidance on how best to protect your creation, an early consultation with a solicitor who specialises in intellectual property is advisable.

But if you build it, will you make money from it? The “Twitter approach” (launching something, releasing it for free, attracting a billion users, and watching the money come in later through advertising) only works in a tiny handful of cases.

For the vast majority of apps, the monetisation strategy usually consists of one of three models: charging users a one-off fee to install it, a subscription service, or a free initial offering with the expectation that users will make in-app purchases. In the case of the latter, think of games such as Clash of Clans, for instance.

A good tip is to look at existing offerings in the same market niche to determine how much you will be able to charge. If yours is a highly specialist area (a new mobile testing tool for the engineering industry, for instance), consider approaching potential customers direct with the prototype to gauge interest.

Producing and maintaining your app

If you have an idea but no experience in software development, you will need to approach one of the many firms out there that create apps to order for customers. Don’t worry though, this outsourcing approach is very common: early versions of Skype, for example, were built by developers from Estonia. Even if you have some working knowledge of coding, this might still be the best way forward to ensure a stable, commercial-grade product.

Registering and hosting web and mobile apps is also relatively inexpensive. But the more complicated your offering, especially if it’s tied with providing a subscription-based service to business users, for instance, then the greater level of support you may need to require. Will you be offering a help desk? Will users require security updates and new versions to keep up with changing needs? All of this will need to be factored in when costing the production and, crucially, the upkeep of your app in the marketplace.

Attracting investors, supporters, and customers

If you require outside investment to get the app off the ground, investors will need to see a well-worked business plan in which you set out clearly what the app consists of. For example, you should have clear costings on how much it will take to get it to market, have identified your customers already, and present an idea of how much those customers are willing to pay for it.

Crowdfunding provides an especially attractive way to secure funding for a new app. Here, as well as seeking investment, you are also testing the waters: putting your creation out there and seeing whether it captures the imagination.

Finally, when it comes to marketing, simply adding your app to the crowded App Store inventory means it is unlikely to get noticed. To promote it, spread the message via social media, and consider submitting it to tech reviewers and bloggers in the relevant sphere.

If you want to know more about project managing your app production and promoting the finished product, all you need to do is head over to our help centre.