The app market has exploded in recent years. Apple alone boasts 1.25 million apps in their App Store and Google’s Play Store is quickly closing the gap. So it’s no surprise why so many people want to build an app. An app for your business or promotional event can drive traffic to your site, increase user engagement with your brand, and boost revenue. Even building a game or simple solution to a daily chore can put money in your pocket. And it’s a fantastic means to reach the mobile marketplace.

While many people focus on the means to an end, that is, the individual steps it takes to get from an app idea to the app store, fewer realize that the success or failure of an app starts at the very beginning, before any of the programming or marketing even takes place. Before you dive head first into building that laser gun app you’ve been dreaming about, take our advice and follow these 4 steps to evaluate your app idea.

1.  Define Your Goal

The very first step you need to take before embarking on your journey from app idea to app store is to define what you want to achieve from your app. Examples of goals include:

  • Create an app purely for fun, with no interest in making much/any money
  • Create an app I can earn some extra money from, but don’t have to quit my day job to update and maintain
  • Create an app that adds extra benefit to my current business
  • Create an app that becomes a full-time business

Let’s say your goal is to earn some extra cash while still keeping your day job. If this is the case, you will need to decide early on how you’re going to monetize the app (i.e. charge a fee or advertising). Additionally, you’ll need to hire extra help to keep the app updated, respond to customer inquiries, and market the app. Otherwise, you’ll end up spending a lot of time doing these tasks yourself, or run out of time to do them, both of which are recipes for app failure.

On the other hand, you may want to create an app that enhances an aspect of your business. For example, a restaurant that changes their menu daily depending on seasonality of foods might create an app that allows users to check what the menu is for the day, and book a reservation if it sounds good. While a restaurant might have the marketing team to take care of the promotion, you’ll likely want to hire a developer to take care of the daily updates.

It’s important to understand your goals first, as they will dictate how much time and money you will need to develop your app. Moreover, you may realize that your goals, available budget and time don’t necessary align. If this is the case, you’ll need to reevaluate.

2.  Review Your Idea

Now that you’ve defined what your overall goals are, it’s time to ask yourself a few questions about your idea. Successful apps have a number of traits in common:

  • They solve a problem or entertain – Most successful apps do one of two things – they entertain people (i.e. games or mustache apps) or solve a problem (i.e. mobile check depositing). Apps without a real purpose will not be very popular.
  • They are unique, or are an improvement upon an already existing idea – It’s tough to come up with a unique way to build a grocery shopping list when it has already been built a dozen times. Make sure your app is distinctive or significantly improves on a similar app that has a serious default.
  • They serve a niche market – While some apps can span various age groups, such as games, more than likely your app will serve a target market. Make sure you ask yourself whom you are going to be targeting with your app, to ensure you develop and market the app appropriately.
  • They are interactive – People use their mobile phones quickly, scanning pages and jumping from one task to another. Be sure that your app supports this fast-paced environment and is entertaining enough to capture short attention spans.

3.  Get Expert Advice 

With over 1 million apps in the App Store, the chance that your app becomes the next Angry Birds is very slim. Competition is fierce, and if you think your laser gun or fart app is really going to take the world by storm, think again. More than likely you’re not an expert in the app market, but someone with a little more experience in the field will be able to evaluate your app and tell you how you can improve upon your idea.

Who can be defined as an “app expert”?

  • iPhone/Android app marketers, such as Bixa Media!
  • iPhone/Android app developers
  • Someone who’s already gone through the process of developing an app

Reaching out to one or more of these sources for an evaluation of your idea will give you some insight into whether or not your idea is unique enough to be successful, or if it needs a little tweaking. More specifically, you may want to ask the following questions:

  • Are there any technical limitations of my app?
  • Does the idea match my goals?
  • Will my target audience find this app useful/entertaining?
  • Who are my competitors and how competitive is my market?
  • Can the idea be refined to increase sales, usability, etc.?
  • How much will the app cost to produce, market, and maintain, and how much could I expect to make?

4.  Decide On Your Team

The last step you need to take before diving into the application development process is to figure out what work you’re going to outsource and what work you’re willing and able to do yourself. Who you should consider hiring:

  • A developer – If you don’t know how to program, more than likely you’ll want to hire a developer to build your application for you.
  • A marketing team – Marketing mobile apps is a lot trickier than many people think. The competition is tough and it’s hard to rank well in the app store. If you don’t want to bother learning the ins and outs of mobile app marketing, it’s best to hire a team to do it for you.
  • A customer service team – Once your app is live, you’ll receive comments and questions regarding features of your app. It is important to answer these as quickly as possible, to ensure your users stay happy and continue using your app. If you do not have the time to answer dozens or even hundreds of emails a day, consider hiring a support team.

Creating an app can be both extremely exciting and incredibly overwhelming. There is a lot more to application development than simply having a great idea. However, if you take the time to review your app using these 4 steps before you begin developing it, you increase the chance that it succeeds.