Creating beautiful apps: Giving shape to your idea

Giving shape to your idea

Even if the premise for your app isn’t completely original, if you refine it well enough by measuring it against competitive apps and seeking early feedback, you’ll be off to a strong start.

Once you’ve got a clear picture of the app you want to develop, you’ll need to validate your idea by determining how it will fit into the existing market.

If there are other apps like it, you should establish how yours will be hotter, sharper, and catchier – not just in what it does, but how. So check out the competition, and what those other apps do well and not so well. What is the user experience like? Could you come up with a cleaner, simpler design for example? Make notes so you can refer back later to anything you thought was particularly good or bad.

Conversely, if you find that your imagined app carves a new niche, it’s worth considering why that might be. Is there something you haven’t thought of – a reason why the idea might not work in practice? Hopefully it’s because you’ve hit upon an untapped opportunity, in which case Way to go!

Less is more

Be realistic about any advanced features you plan to include in your app. As impressive as it might be to make use of GPS functionality on a mobile device, for example, you’ll need to bear in mind the impact this will have on battery life. It might also alienate users who are nervous about location-based services, or who may frequently be out of signal range.

Having honed your idea, invite feedback from prospective users. Think laterally about who your target audience might include and seek out a range of views, canvassing for additional ideas to help you really nail your idea.

Identify core features, create a wish list of those features and how they fit into the core functions of the application. Attach priorities to the features based on your intentions and the feedback received.

Go wide in your questioning too – find out more about potential users’ lifestyles, their preferred sources of information, or entertainment, how they manage tasks, the apps they already use, and what they like or dislike about them. Crucially, find out what’s lacking for them? What do they want more of?

When you introduce your idea, ask for honest feedback, both about the concept, and the way you plan to execute it – the way you see the app working, what it will do differently, how it will look and feel. Again, take notes. Try to embrace criticism – if this is constructive it will ensure you create the best possible product, avoiding any crucial oversights that could cost you user numbers once the app has entered the market place.

Device choice

Find out about the range of different devices used by your sample group, to pin down anything that irritates them about the way existing apps perform on different screens.

Use this valuable user research to help establish the platform(s) that will deliver the best user experience for your chosen app – and also the biggest potential audience.

Will your app prove most useful, or come to life best, on a smartphone, tablet or PC/laptop? Are there particular features you’ll want to harness that will dictate the user device?

Developing for multiple platforms all in one go may be taking on too much. There are a few options. The first is to start with the most popular platform for your app and for your user base and extend to other devices once you’ve gained some traction in the market. Alternatively, look at what you achieve with web-based development using HTML5 – while this may not let you exploit some of the features of individual platforms, it can offer a way to develop for multiple devices right from the start. You could also look at growing platforms like Windows 8 – there’s an opportunity to promote your product without the noise of a million other apps (but not for long!).

Thinking ahead

It’s important to think ahead however, so start to give some thought to the strategy you plan to adopt for developing, testing and promoting the product, as well as any external skills and resources you may need to draw on at each stage of the process.

All of these measures will help shape your idea from the earliest stages so that your app is set up to be as successful as possible.

Final tip: Don’t spend months on research – the app world moves quickly and you’ll have a valuable head start if you can get the first app of its type to market.

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Published by Johnny Raper

Johnny is a London-based front-end developer, who enjoys writing semantic code and making pages look pretty. He has a design and e-learning background and is far too pixel-perfect for his own good! Aside from web development he also has a penchant for music and photography.

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