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App Development for the Little Guy with the Big Idea

For the mobile audience, down time, or rather, dead time is a thing of the past. Whether we are in the waiting room of a doctor’s office, on a train, or in an airport, we now have access to the Internet, social media, games, and the tools to manage our lives-all at our fingertips.

Smartphones have become the new addiction, and, those who are new to mobile media and are browsing the App Store for the first time, are likely to be amazed at what people want to do on a mobile phone.

We can all make a game with our friends of naming the things we would give up before we give up our Smartphones. Many people, even those who would never admit to their dependence, feel a loss and disconnect if a phone is misplaced. When spotting a phone accidentally left in a rest room or restaurant, we give a collective groan. With apps, mobile phones have become prized possessions and they have also inspired a new breed of entrepreneur – the little guy with a big idea.

When Apple announced in 2008 that they would be accepting apps from third-party developers, they started a renaissance in the tech world. Apple created a fertile ground for the creative genius of others and a mobile phone has now become whatever we want it to be. At the time, no one knew the scale of the change that would take place and, 450,000 apps later, it is clear that what was once the domain of specialists has opened up to anyone with a good idea. Acting on their inspiration, many ordinary people have eagerly joined this new Tech revolution.

If you are developing software for the first time, there are many parts of the development process that may seem complex and overwhelming, or just far enough out of your knowledge base to make you uncomfortable. Fortunately, lacking technical know-how does not mean that your idea should gather dust. To create your first app, there are a few simple rules you can follow and doing your research to understand the process is the first step.

PLAN IT-DESIGN IT-BUILD IT-PUBLISH IT-PROMOTE IT

Plan it – App development is an area where ideas count, but for the beginner, careful planning can be the key to success.• Don’t assume that your idea is unique. Don’t assume you know your market. Do your homework–which means you should find similar apps on the market, and determine what their strengths and weaknesses are, and how you can position yourself to an advantage. By studying the most popular apps and reading their reviews, you maybe able to understand why some apps are successful and others aren’t. Buying a few apps in the same category can give you a sense of how your own idea compares.• Understand who your customer is and what they might expect. Is your app capitalizing on a trend or do you expect long-term benefits for your user? Does it satisfy or create a market need? Is there direct competition for your product and, if so, why do you think your idea is better?• Be sure that you own the content and if it is unique, consider copyrighting your data or finished code.Design it – One of the most important stages in any project is the one where you must understand and articulate what you want to do and then design it. Summarizing and sketching out each screen will help you to understand the workflow, and where it may fail. There are tools that can help you do this but a pencil and paper will do the trick. It is important to note all information in the screen, where it comes from and where you expect the user to go next. Pay attention to small features, like the buttons, the style and colors, gestures you would expect to make, and connection to social media or external sources like email. Mentally tap every button and clearly understand how you want to get from point A to point B.Build it – Clearly, not everyone can program an app. For the technically challenged, there are quite a few development options available. The interest in app development is so great that a number of software companies offer tools to help the app novice get started. These vary in complexity and some do require a little tech savvy. As this new market matures, the tools used to develop apps are becoming less difficult for non-technical people to use. And many freelancers and development companies offer their services, as well. Freelancers are found on many online job sites.If you decide to hire a programmer, costs for development will vary. Rates depend entirely on the complexity of the concept and whether the app is web-based or ‘native’, that is, fully integrated with a specific device and requiring coding in a programming language that works on that type of phone. Graphic rich apps like games require a special expertise and are therefore, the most expensive to develop.

Publish it – It is important to become familiar with the app submission guidelines before you start. To avoid rejection, ensure that your content is appropriate for the app store you choose and test your app thoroughly. Most app stores will charge a fee for registration and the turnaround time between submission and release is almost immediate in some markets.

Promote it – If you want your app to shine among the many apps that are released every day, you will have to develop a marketing strategy. Visibility in a crowded marketplace may be a challenge. Using social media, press releases and promotions can create a buzz. App development is not only about programming and the non-programming aspects are the elements that can make your app pop from the page.

Apps are the most downloadable pieces of software ever, and the App world is obviously still in the beginning stages of a very long journey. Whether app development is sustainable as a business, or just a venue for people to show their talents and leave their footprint on the world, remains to be seen. But there are still surprises in this market and there is a lot of room for the little guy.

So get started!

Jacqueline D. Anderson , copyright 2011