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The Two Keys to Project Management

Review, documenting and tracking are the facets of project management we have presented so far. While they are important, they are not actually the keys to successful project management. The keys to successful project management are two intangible skills you will need to consciously apply during the project: communication and problem solving.

Open, Honest Communication

Returning to the theme we opened the chapter with, project management is really about open and honest communication. The goals are not to micro-manage the developer; assuming they are incompetent or dishonest. However, attempting to have open and honest communication will confirm or put to rest your suspicions.

The successful app comes from a good relationship with the developer. The best perspective might be to see yourself as a facilitator for the project during this stage. In other words, try to be helpful and encouraging rather than judgmental and pushy. Keep in mind that projects such as this will have hiccups or road blocks. Something may be more difficult or take longer than the developer anticipates. Delays should be built into the schedule from the beginning to account for unforeseen setbacks.

Generally, a positive approach is best. Just because something goes wrong or gets a little off track, there is no reason to get angry or be negative toward the developer. Be prepared to make adjustments as the project unwinds. If the developer feels you are being unfair, have unrealistic expectations, or believes you are being overly critical or unprofessional, they may simply stop working on your project. Losing a good developer means lost time and probably lost money. So avoid going negativity and use it only as a last resort. After all, the goal is to manage the project to it successful conclusion.

Applied Problem Solving

While communication is one key to managing the project successfully, the other is being willing to engage in problem solving. In even the simplest of development projects, things will go wrong. The unexpected will happen and Murphy’s Law will apply. Successful project management is really about using a combination of communication skills and problem solving skills in conjunction with the team members to find solutions and paths forward.

Regular Meetings

How often you talk with your team or your developer is, again, a matter of project complexity, perceived risks, and your confidence in the developer. The goal is regular communication to build a comfort level that things are progressingas they should. The more unsure you are about this, the more you need to touch base with those writing the code or developing the app.

Generally, daily meetings are unnecessary. Micro-managing to the point of making the programmer feel they need to justify what they are doingeach day is counter-productive. An exception to this ‘rule’ might occur early in the process when you want to make sure the developer understands the project and is getting off on the right foot. You might also have more frequent contact late in the process when critical final steps are underway. Normally, weekly meetingsfor a project that will take from several weeks to several months,should be adequate. The frequency of meetings should be discussed during the hiring process of your project.

Once again, a little reflective common sense in terms of frequency of communication is the best approach. While it is fair to expect updates and demonstrations on a timely basis, you don’t want to be a pest. For example, most developers don’t want to be asked everyday if they are going to meet a milestone three weeks away. But asking two weeks before hand and one week before the milestones certainly makes sense.

The most common and feasible form of meeting these days is Skype. Skype is a free tool that allows both voice and video conferences between two Skype members using an Internet connection. It even provides a screen sharing tool so one user can see exactly what is on the other users computer screen. Skype is capable of doing group video conferences, but at least one member of the group has to belong to Skype’s premium pay service. Skype can also call regular phone numbers for a fee.

Skype

Another option is GoToMeetingThisis a monthly fee-based web and video conferencing tool that allows multiple remote team members in multiple locations to meet and collaborate. It also provides important collaboration tools like screen sharing, and even allows another user to control the mouse and keyboard. GoToMeeting is also mobile device enabled.

GoMeeting

While Skype and GoToMeeting are the most well-known, several other ventures are also trying to get into the video conferencing game. AnyMeeting, for example, provides a basic free package, but also offers a premium package that it claims exceeds the features of GoToMeeting – without the annoying ads. Other options include Webex by the well-known and respected hardware provider Cisco, and two newer startups, MeetingBurnerand Vidquick.

Cisco-webex

Ongoing Project Management

What was true in the concept phase is also true in the app development phase. The more you document things and track things on “paper” the better your project will go. When it comes to important discussions and key decisions made about the app, its features, and the schedule, you shouldn’t rely on you memory.

Project software can generate very useful visual charts of project information including current status, milestones, and activity start / stop dates that would be very time-consuming to create manually

Project software can generate very useful visual charts of project information including current status, milestones, and activity start / stop dates that would be very time-consuming to create manually

There are a lot of options when it comes to managing the project on paper (or screen), like spread sheets, document files using tables and checklists, or project management software. The main thing is to choose a method you are comfortable with so you will actually use it. Don’t bother buying or downloading free software management if you won’t learn to use it properly. Another management tool option is software as service (SAAS) cloud project management. With this approach, everything resides on-line (or in the cloud) so everyone has constant access to the very latest minutes, schedules, and milestones and can make updates according to assigned permissions.

If you are interested in learning more about project management tools, do an on-line search. You can read descriptions, reviews, and other information and choose the one that best works for you.

There are a lot of SAAS project management packages available.

There are a lot of SAAS project management packages available

The cost for project management software ranges from nothing to thousands of dollars. If you are interested in freeware, look for recommendations from reputable sites like PCMag.com or CNET.

Currently, cloud project management may be the best option.Some of the more popular cloud project management and collaboration tools include:

Trello (http://trello.com): Trello is praised for being easy to use and intuitive, and very helpful to organize tasks and requirements. Some users feel the tool is not powerful enough because of its limited storing capability. But it’s free, so for many, it is the perfect solution.

Trello

Projectpier (http://projectpier.org): ProjectPier is a Free, Open-Source, self-hosted PHP application for managing tasks, projects, and teams and allows an unlimited number of Projects, Clients, and Users. Completely web based, it is focused on simple concepts and usability to organize your into Milestones, Messages, Tasks, and Files.

Projectpier

E-mails notify the team of new milestones, tasks, and messages so they can stay in the loop without checking the site. While focused on simplicity, some users feel the software is not as intuitive to use as other available options.

Redmine (http://www.redmine.org): An open source, free project management web application created using the Ruby on Rails framework. The advantage to Redmine is the flexibility and to manage multiple projects of different types.

Redmine

This project management tool is somewhat geared to more technical competent users who, for example, are familiar with Ruby on Rails applications.

The great thing about project management software is their ability to produce and automatically update visual tools like calendars and PERT charts that make tracking the project much easier once you enter the initial information.

File and Folder Conventions

Besides major app functionality and milestones discussions, there may be additional ground to cover. For example, do you have any particular file or folder naming conventions in mind? Know exactly what files and/or folders are, by giving them meaningful names (i.e. eagle-in-flight. Jpg). This will make managing the app easier over its lifespan. You will need to have program files, graphic files, and code files. Talk with the developer about what conventions he or she uses when naming files and folders because they may have a system in place that will suit your needs. If the app development is for a business or enterprise, follow any policies and procedures established for software development, including file and folder naming.

It is also important to carefully track revisions. Program files get changed, both during development and during the life of the program or app. It is essential that you have a method for tracking revisions to ensure the latest and greatest program or function is being used. File names should include revision tracking (ie MainDisplayv2.jpg), and a revision table should be at the start of the code comments that describes the revisions.

A file sharing site like SugarSync or Dropbox may be a good idea for large files or large complex projects that involves multiple folders and file structures. Many email applications have limits to attached file sizes, plus sharing a folder structure for the files will require compressing them and unzipping them when received back and forth. These cloud sites are available for free or for a nominal charge if you need more than the allotted amount of free space.

Cover Any Miscellaneous Issues

During the design review, be sure to discuss all critical and foundational elements of the app that could bring disaster to your app if ignored. Some examples of such elements include:

Icons, animations, and user gestures: Discuss in detail how you envision icons, images, and user gestures being integrated into the app. It can be time-consuming for a developer to get an animation to work just right in the app, and they may be unhappy if they feel they wasted their time due a misunderstanding.

Content feeds: If your app is going to rely on content coming from news feeds or other sources, be sure to point this out to the developer and determine their familiarity and confidence in successfully incorporating the necessary content into the app. Ensure that everything is clear – where the data will come from, what will be in it, and how it will be displayed in the app. Any unknown elements about content feeds have to be researched and established as soon as possible.

Milestones

Establishing project milestones and estimated delivery dates are also part of these early discussions. Timeframes and delivery were part of the proposal and selection process, but those were only rough estimates. When you start reviewing the project in detail with a developer the project schedule should always be part of the discussion. Start with an overall, major project milestone list or map to share with the developer. For example, if an app has three major functional sections, finishing and demonstrating each segment is a milestone (with a partial payment), The final integration is a milestone. Testing and acceptance will be the last milestone. Each of these milestones may be three weeks apart – at least as a starting point.

While discussing the projects, more milestones may come up or time frames altered.Again, be open-minded when the developer makes suggestions, but stick up for your interests as well.
Pert Chart
A PERT chart shows the sequential relationships between project and develop-ment activities. Include completion dates as well

At the end of reviewing the app design, a complete milestone and schedule that both parties agree to should be a required outcome.

Toward the end of these initial project discussions, consider creating a PERT chart. PERT charts show the relationship between project milestones – particularly what milestones must be complete before starting other activities, and what activities can be done separately in parallel. For example, you don’t have to wait for the app code to be complete before you start taking steps to market or distribute the app. We will explain this in more detail in the marketing chapter.

It is important to remember the importance of going into great detail when reviewing the app concept design. Go over every screen and function along with every user action and response until you are sure the programmer understands your intentions.Do not assume the programmer will intuitively know or understand something.While you should be delivering detailed screen shots (if not the graphics themselves) and functional flow charts, some nuances may not be captured in these documents, or something may have been overlooked that will be seen here. Take careful notes and mark up descriptions, drawings, and charts as needed.Then the developer(s) will have carefully reviewed and accurate documents to work with as they begin writing the code.

Chapter 4: Managing the App Project

Once you have hired your programmer, you are ready to sit back and relax, right? Well, not exactly.If you want the project to stay on track in terms of schedule and in terms of getting the app you want, then you have to stay involved. This includes regular communication with the app developer (or developers) you have selected to discuss and review their progress.The quicker problems and misunderstandings are identified and corrected, the easier and cheaper they can be corrected.

As with other aspects of the app development journey, the more complex the app, the more effort you will need to put in to managing the project’s development. No matter how simple or complex your project, management on your part will be necessary.

Sharing and Reviewing Designs

While some basic design information was shared during the proposal process, it was just enough to allow developers to work up a proposal. Now that a programmer has been selected, it is time to share the entire app design you created in the concept design phase. (Is this a good time to bring up a reminder about having developers sign a non-disclosure agreement?)

Ask the developer to review the design materials closely prior to meeting with them. This meeting should be in person if possible. If not, a phone or by Skype meeting to discuss your design plan in-depth is acceptable. If you have selected the right developer they will have questions you need to answer to help fill in any gaps in information. They may possibly even have valuable suggestions.

Be wary if the developer seems difficult to schedule or seems uninterested in discussing details, doesn’t ask questions, or otherwise doesn’t participate in the reviews and discussions in a meaningful way. This is a warning sign that you may have hired the wrong developer. It happens. Some developers are strong with sales, but weak on delivery. If you don’t feel quite right about the situation you don’t necessarily need to fire the programmer, but it may require you to monitor the progress closely and make sure the developer is qualified and stays on task. When you see signs such as a lack of engagement with the project, don’t be hesitant to make additional inquires or push for specific results by specific deadlines. Give the developer a chance to demonstrate their skills and commitment to the project. However, if they demonstrate the opposite of what you want in the project, the earlier you cut your losses and move on the better off you will be. Additionally, you may want to be looking at your options for an alternate programmer if he/she doesn’t work out after all.

Additionally, be sure to stick up for your concept and your vision for the app. You may encounter a developer who wants to rework your app into something completely different. Sometimes this is due to their personality (some people think they know best). Sometimes it may be due to a poor work ethic on their part (they want to get the project done in the easiest and fastest way possible even if it means sacrificing your goals). You naturally want to be open-minded and listen to good ideas and suggestions, but don’t be pushed into doing things you don’t want to do.

Chapter 5: App Testing and Acceptance

While we have waited until now to discuss the testing of your app, testing isn’t something you leave for the final stages of the development process. While a final testing does take place at the end, demonstrations and other tests on app functions, appearance, and performance are checked and verified throughout the entire process.

During the concept design and through the development, how the app will be tested must be considered. For example,

  • Are there functional sections of the app that can be tested independently?
  • What are the most critical app functions that need to be verified?
  • Identifying preliminary tests (during development) and final tests (for acceptance of the app)

Before you make the final payment to the developer, you need to make sure everything works as it should and that you will be able to get the app listed on the Apple Apps Store. Remember…not all testing is common sense functional testing. There are other issues to take into consideration. They are as follows:

Collect UDIDs

Early-on in the project management stage you need to get the Unique Device Identifier number for every device (i.e. iPhone, iPad) that will be used for testing the app. If this is done ahead of time, testing can commence when the app, or an executable portion of the app, is ready for testing. You don’t want to wait until you are ready to test to do this, because you need to provide this numbers to the developer for the test builds (early test versions of the app).

These UDID numbers allow testers to download the test versions of the app from the Apple App Store. If you are going to have several testers using several devices, it is recommended that you create a table or spreadsheet to record them so that it is clear what UDID is associated with which device.

You get UDIDs by opening iTunes on a computer, then connecting the Apple device. Next, click on the appropriate device under the Devices category on the left side menu of iTunes. The next step is to click ‘serial number’. The UDID will be displayed. The number should be 40 characters long. It can’t be copied and pasted.

Use iTunes to get your iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad UDID

Use iTunes to get your iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad UDID

This means you need to be very careful in properly recording the number. Making an error can cost precious time and effort later. Write down the number, double check it and ask any tester who will be obtaining their device UDID to do the same.

The Hiring Process

Once you are finished asking questions or other follow-ups and you are ready to make a decision, then select the provider. For freelance sites it will default to the terms expressed by the provider in the proposal, but you will have the opportunity to change them if, through discussions, you and provider have reached a different agreement. Do not hire a provider and alter their terms without consulting with them. In fact, if you and a developer discuss the project and reach an agreement, the best way to proceed is to ask the provider to update the proposal to reflect the new terms, for both direct search and freelance site developers.

You can edit terms when selecting a provider.

You can edit terms when selecting a provider

After selecting the provider the project is active. Complete your part of the non-disclosure agreement and forward to the provider, if desired. When they return the completed document, then you can give the provider the complete app specification created during the concept design phase including the final revision of the flowchart and the screen sketches. Most document sharing is done electronically by direct email or through the freelance site message system. The best format to share documents is .PDF, but Word files will work as well.

For freelance sites, the common method of payment is a major credit card. You pay the hosting site business, and they pay the developer – after subtracting a fee of course. The fee comes out of the provider payment, and does not affect the project price to the client. The service is free for those posting the job.

For app programmers found and contacted directly, the method of payment you prefer should be listed in the Request for Proposal and addressed in the Proposal response. Developers in the U.S. might be willing to invoice the project or project milestones and receive a check. Some might take credit cards through their website. If you are working directly with an international developer then Paypal might be the best method of payment.

As you select and hire the contractor, it is also time to layout the job- including project milestones. This is a project plan. Milestones are where some component of the project is complete and demonstrated, and typically the contractor gets a partial payment for the work.

For anything but the simplest of apps, you want to see how the project is progressing and provide corrections and feedback as necessary. Waiting to the end of the project to see the results is a big mistake. You want to have regular communication with the programmer and see the how the app is taking shape. (This is discussed further in the next chapter on Managing the Project.) For most projects, there will natural phases or segments of the app development project that will make good milestones. Returning to the Fishing Wichita app, the first milestone might be completing the start screen and the set-up functions.

Plus, if the project runs over the course of several weeks or even months, the outsourced developers deserve to be paid for the hours invested. Milestones allow them to be compensated for work completed. Plus, the smaller intermediate payments give contractors better motivation to make continual progress as opposed to getting paid a lump sum in the end. While milestone payments are fair and a good motivator, most of the payment, at least 50%, should be withheld until the project is fully complete.

You can also contact the final list of prospective providers and ask for a basic project plan with milestones, and review their recommendations for the project. The project plan can be another evaluation tool to make a selection. Review and finalize the project with the contractor selected, then set up the project accordingly when hiring the developer through Elance or other freelance site. For directly hired contractors, the project plan should be part of the app specification document you provide to the contractor.

With an app programmer selected and hired, it is time to work with the programmer and manage the project in order to ensure the resulting app aligns with your idea and concept. That takes us to our next chapter -Managing the App Project.

Dealing with Developers During Testing

There will likely be some back-and-forth between you and the developer to work out bugs and other issues. The odds of the developer delivering a perfect app the first time out is next to impossible. So be prepared for frequent and detailed communication at this point.

Making the required fixes will not be an issue for a reputable, competent programmer. This is a normal stage of any app development project. What is crucial during this is stage is that the app was clearly defined by the concept design and the project description. If the details of how the app is supposed to work-including function, appearance, and user interaction-is well documented, there will be no reason for concern.

To ensure the ‘ironing out’ process goes smoothly, you need to do the following:

1) Don’t ‘trickle down’ the change requests: When it comes to testing the app, take your time and exercise it as thoroughly as possible. Make a comprehensive list of things needing to be changed or corrected. If other testers are involved have them complete their testing of the app. Collect and consolidate this list of problems or improvements with yours. Give the compiled list to the developer at once rather than giving them one list at a time. It can be very frustrating for developers when their client asks for one thing to be fixed, only to point out another minor problem after the next test build, then another, and so on. Be considerate of developer’s time and efforts by giving them the complete, comprehensive list of what needs to be done so they can do it one time. Sometimes a new problem will surface when others are fixed, but this can’t be helped. The point is to fix as much as possible during every test and revision iteration.

2) Offer a Bonus to Compensate for Unforeseen Hours: It is not uncommon for difficult issues to crop up during app development. Tis can mean significant extra effort is needed to overcome them. Sometimes it may be the developer’s fault for not anticipating it, since they are supposed to be the technical expert. Sometimes the issue may have been difficult or even impossible for the developer to foresee-meaning they are not at fault. If issues such as this crop up during app development, the last thing you need is for the developer to get frustrated or so discouraged that abandon the project. If you sense that this could be happening, offer the developer a financial incentive to complete the project. The amount of such an incentive depends on:

a. The complexity of the project
b. The overall development cost
c. The difficulty of the problem to overcome
d. Your confidence level in the developer

This financial incentive accomplishes a couple of things. It partially compensates the developer for the extra hours involved and it helps the developer maintain a positive attitude about the project.

3) Keep Discussions Focused on the Requirements: When you discuss needed changes, always point to the design and the requirements you delivered to the developer. Documentation is often emphasized in this book, and this is a critical reason to document as much of the app as possible. When the app is clearly defined there is little to dispute. If the developer doesn’t deliver what you require, you can point to the exact discrepancies and politely request revision. Avoid making general negative comments about their work, and try to ignore any complaints about having to make changes.

Send Request for Proposals

The description that developers need in order to create a proposal is a basic summary of the app, how it looks, user interfaces, and other requirements, even apparently obvious elements should be included, like the app must be written in Objective C for iPhones and it must run on all recent iOS versions from iOS 5.

While every situation is unique and needs to be handled accordingly, the best approach is usually to provide the description of the app without mentioning budget, prices, or schedules. Let the developer provide that information with the proposal. If you disclose too much information, it can affect the proposal. For example, if you mention that the budget is $5000, then very often the proposal will magically be near that budget number, when otherwise it might have been $3500.

After you provide the description, another important indicator will be what kind of questions the provider asks. Knowledgeable and experienced developers will focus like a laser on important issues not addressed in your description. Good developers will make sure they have the information they need to provide a professional proposal.

Gathering Proposals

Once you have contacted several providers and asked for proposals, it should only take a few days for them to respond with a detailed proposal that states what they will do, how long it will take, and how much they will charge. They might even recommend project milestones. Organize the proposals you receive so they are retrievable and note how long it took each developer to respond. You will evaluate proposals pretty much the same way regardless of how you find the prospective developer, so we will cover that after the section on finding developers through freelancer collectives like Guru.

One thing we need to mention, however, is that you want to make sure you are dealing with a first-party developer. In other words, they are the actual developer, and that they will create the app code in-house. A large number of the developer websites are just middle-men who will turn around and outsource the development to an offshore developer, or simply post your app development on sites like Elance or Odesk to hire a developer. If that happens, you are not only overpaying just to give the middleman a cut, but probably doubling the chance of something going wrong with the project as well.

To prevent this from happening, during discussions before or after they provide the proposal, ask very specific questions about who is doing the coding. For example, is the coding being done in-house? Who is on the programming team? Could they participate in a meeting on the project? People who have specific answers to these questions will not hesitate to answer. When you hear hedging or prevarication, then beware.

Now let’s cover getting proposals from the freelancer web sites.


Create a basic written description that summarizes the app in way that lets the potential developer know what the app does and how it looks, so they can provide a proposal

Finding a Provider on a Freelancer Site

The big advantage of going to a freelancer site like Guru, Odesk, or Elance is that you post the app development job and developers come to you with proposals. The obvious plus here, is that it is less time-consuming.

There is also a downside to this approach too. The bar to signing on to these sites and claiming to be a “developer” is low. You will potentially get several proposals from unqualified developers. This means that some of the time you saved by having developers respond to a single job posting will be spent having to sift through a fairly large number of proposals – many from unqualified providers.

If this is the route you wish to take, you need to do is decide which sites you want to post the development job on. We have already mentioned the most well-known freelance sites: Odesk, Elance, and Guru, but there are some others as well. Dribble.com and Freelance.com are two more you may want to explore. Most of these sites don’t charge to set up an account or to post a job and it takes little time and effort to set up an account. A word of caution: if you post the job on several sites then the number of responses might become burdensome to review. Therefore, it is probably best to look over the freelancer sites then select one or two for posting the job.

Signing up for an account is usually pretty straightforward, and every site has clear instructions for doing so. It is very much like signing up for any other on-line service. Most sites don’t require any financial information, like a credit card number, to create an account. But it will be needed when until you post a job to verify the source of payment.

Start the Elance job posting process
Start the Elance job posting process

If you stick to using the well-trafficked, popular sites, security isn’t a major concern. You don’t build the reputable, respected business these sites have by ripping people off or having poor security. Make sure, however, to use a secure-style password (i.e. combining some random capital letters and numbers into the password). Of course, there is always some risk in providing financial information to an on-line site; we regularly hear of well-known and trusted companies being hacked. Entering a credit card number in a site like Odesk or Elance is, however, carries minimal risk.

Use a highly descriptive title to attract the right freelancer.
Use a highly descriptive title to attract the right freelancer

Posting a job is also easy. We will use the Elance site to illustrate the process of posting a job. You will find that other sites are generally the same.

    • At the top menu, select ‘Hire’ then ‘Post Job’.
    • Enter the information about the app project. The goal is to describe the app in enough detail to get accurate proposals.
    • Use the title to give a succinct, yet highly precise description of the project that will catch the attention of contractors with the right expertise.
    • Draw on the information developed in the concept design to provide a 2-3 brief paragraph summary of the project. Consider attaching a more detailed “Request for Proposal” document as provided to contractors found through direct search.
    • Below the description, select the primary job posting category: IT & Programming from the provided list, then select Mobile Applications as the sub-category. Since the app will be written in Objective C, it might be a good idea select that as a specific skill, and since up to five skills can be listed then you might want to include mobile, iOS, iPad, and iPhone as well.Select the posting category
      Select the posting category
    • Select either Fixed Priced or Hourly. Generally, the fixed price option is best if the scope of project is fairly well-defined, as is the case with most app projects where the concept design is properly documented. Hourly projects are for more open-ended work. You want to know before hiring a developer exactly how much they are going to charge. That means a fixed price project.
    • Elance requires a budget range for hourly and fixed price postings
    • Elance asks for a job budget range for the posting, though many sites will not require this. If you are not sure what to put here, then it is better to error on the low side rather than the high side. An inflated estimated budget can mean inflated proposals. On the other hand, if the proposed budget seems ridiculously small then qualified programmers will stay away. If you post a job and did not get qualified applicants, perhaps because the budget was too small, simply cancel that posting and repost it with a higher budget.
    • Other options like location, posting period, and public are usually left as the default settings. You likely don’t care about location, and you want a public posting. Private postings are usually to connect with a provider you have worked with in the past and you know you want to hire again. Regardless of how long you select the posting to remain open for proposals, you can select a proposal and/or close the job at any time before the designated end date.Leave most posting options as the default.
    • Leave most posting options as the default
    • Once you have entered the information, click Continue. Elance promotes a Featured Post option for a fee, but it is not necessary and doesn’t really do much to attract providers, so I recommend skipping it.

Carefully review the information on the Review screen before submitting it. Immediately after posting, most sites will ask if you want to search for and invite providers to the job posting. I recommend taking some time to do that. Search for highly rated providers that have the needed skill set and a job history on the site. Invite or notify five to ten of them. The best providers on these sites frequently stay busy just from invited jobs and rarely have to search the postings for work. Spending a half-hour or so scanning and selecting providers to invite to the job can be time will spent.

Installing and Running Test Apps

When the developer has the app or some portion of the app for you to try out, they will send the app program file in two parts. You will receive either an .app or .ipa file extension (i.e. fishingwitchita.app). You will receive a .mobileprovision file extension as well. For a test version (not downloaded from the Apps Store) to run on an Apple device, the .mobilerevision file is required, but it will not be part of the final released revision. For installing test versions you will need to connect the device to a Mac or a PC with iTunes installed.

If the app files are large the developer may compress the files and send a ‘zipped’ folder. Many email programs have a limit on how large an attachment can be. Compressing a file or files allows larger files to be sent by email attachment. Or perhaps the file is large enough to take a few moments to attach and download,

Files may be compressed for easy transmittal.

Files may be compressed for easy transmittal

so the developer prefers to compress them. Zipping files compresses them (makes them smaller) transmission. Once received, they are unzipped or restored to normal size. Most operating systems can unzip folders using standard compression techniques, but a few compression programs might require a quick download of a freeware utility program.

Save the files appropriately in a designated folder and select a place to store a backup copy. It is very convenient, as you will see in a moment, to save a copy on the PC desktop as well. Next, without your device attached, open iTunes on a PC or Mac and drag the .mobileprovision file to the iTunes Library on the left side of the screen. Then connect and sync the device. Now drag the .app or .ipa file to the Library, and then sync the device again.

The app should now be on your device and ready to go. Any device whose UDID is installed in the app code can be downloaded and tested in this way.

Drag the app files from the PC desktop to the Apps section of the iTunes Libary.

Drag the app files from the PC desktop to the Apps section of the iTunes Library

If you have some trouble with the process, retry the process a few times- making sure the files are in the library, are selected for syncing, that the device is syncing, and so on. Also, be sure to review the official Apple guides and instructions for these steps for your particular device.

NOTE: If it still doesn’t work or you get error messages, you need to explain the problem to the developer. If you are correctly following the procedure, there is a problem with the app build.

Once the app is on your device it should run like a normal app. Testing is mostly just checking all the functionalities of the app. Every possible user pathway/option should be explored and verified. Take careful notes about anything that doesn’t work or appear as it should, and include plenty of details. For anything that seems slow or incorrectly, keep exercising this function until you are completely sure that it either works properly or you are certain of the problem and how to correct it.

To test the app thoroughly, test it repeatedly and under different circumstances. Sometimes, if there is an issue with database management or loop counting, a problem won’t appear during the first tests. These kinds of problems will only make themselves known after some time in use or after a number of evolutions through the process. Extensive, exhaustive testing is essential and that means testing all facets of the app over and over again.

Involving Other Testers

The more people to try out the app the better and more complete the and testing will be. In other words, app testing can be outsourced to a large extent. The benefit of this is the fact that different people and different personality types tend to notice different things. So…the more feedback the better. Of course, there is probably a law of diminishing returns. For example, in the case of a simple app, fifty people testing the app may not come up with any additional significant notes than ten people testing the app would have come up with. So it is not worth the additional effort to bring forty more people into the process. But for a complicated app, more eyes and more brains may be needed for a comprehensive evaluation.

Who you select to test the app will depend on the purpose and goal of the app. If it is an app related to your work or business or for your boss, you definitely need to bring stakeholders into the test process (just as you included them in the design process).

Ibetatest.com brings tester and developers together.  There are a number of ways to find testers, including searching on-line
Ibetatest.com brings tester and developers together. There are a number of ways to find testers, including searching on-line

If the app is geared toward a certain segment of the population (people who fish or people who enjoy fine dining) or a certain industry (like sales), you need people who are familiar with and have knowledge in these areas to be involved with testing.

Besides including testers familiar with the app purpose or function, you may want to recruit some techno-geeks to serve as testers as well.They may not know sales, but they know apps.They know how things should work and are familiar with common practices.These experienced app users can provide a lot of valuable input, even if they don’t know much about the app purpose.

You can find and recruit volunteer testers at various app bulletin boards or groups. Obviously, fishing bulletin boards if you are looking for people who fish, or a site like Linked-In if you are looking for business people. Offer them not only trial versions, but a free completed app. For technophiles, there are device and app bulletin boards and social media sites, and sites geared to connecting developers and testers like ibetatest.com. Just search for them.

You can also recruit testing volunteers using social media like Facebook and Twitter. Freelance sites such as Elance and Odesk will also allow you to find third party testers. Like hiring a developer, look for testers with demonstrated experience and who can clearly communicate their qualifications as well as the benefit you will receive by hiring them to assist with testing.

To get the most benefit from the testers, be sure to provide the app specification documents so they can match the app performance to the documented requirements.

Be sure to start this process well ahead of the testing phase so you can have you testers lined up and their UDIDs to the developer by the time the app is ready for testing. Finding testers requires effort. You want to make sure they have the knowledge and the time to contribute to the project rather than being a detriment.

SEE More: Do I Need To Test My iPhone App Before Final Release?

Unless your testers are experienced app evaluators, it might be helpful to create an app evaluation instruction sheet. It should list facets of the app to consider and evaluate as well as space for leaving suggestions and comments so that the specific issues resulting from the test are clear.

There are also app testing services you can hire. This is an especially good idea if the app is complex (such as a game) or its functions are critical (such as a sales app). When creating a fully professional app is important (i.e. it is for customers or promotes a business brand), searching for “app testing” on line will assist you in finding plenty of professional providers to consider.

Chapter 3: Finding a Developer

After clearly defining the app concept, you are ready to take the next step; the step is to hire someone to write the code for the app so it functions in the way you envision. This is a very critical step because you are relying on someone else to turn your idea into a reality. The best-laid plans developed in the concept design won’t matter if you hire a programmer who is not qualified or capable, or can’t interpret your instructions.

The goal is to hand over the materials and information you developed in the concept stage to the right person. The goal of this chapter is to help you find and hire developer.

Where to Look for Developers

The first step in finding a developer is to know where to look. Programmers are not hard to find; there are numerous app development providers out there Just be sure you get the programmer you need.

There are two general ways to find developers 1) search for them directly using Google, Bing, or other search engines, and 2) go to freelance hosting sites like Elance, Odesk, and Guru and post an iPhone and iPad app development job. The rule of thumb is that the more complex the development task, the better off you will be looking directly for developers. Developers with more experience, expertise, and resources tend to find clients through their own websites. However, this also means costlier fees or higher hourly rates. If your app is basic and relatively simple, however, your project is perfectly suited for developers on freelance sites. The developers on freelance hosting sites like Elance are usually individual freelancers from around the world with a wide range of experience and capability. You can find developers capable of producing a complex app at these sites, but it may take a little extra involvement and monitoring on your part.

Since many of the developers are in countries with low U.S. Dollar labor rates, if you find a competent developer you might be able to get an app developed for a relatively low cost.

Whether searching directly or going to freelance sites, you will need similar materials. You will make use of the information about the app you documented in the concept design. Some of it will need reformatting or rewording to work as a request for proposals or an app specification.

Prepare for Proposal Requests

To get accurate proposals you need to provide enough of a description to allow programmers to estimate the effort required. Some starting elements are:

  • A highly descriptive title of the app
  • A few paragraphs of summary
  • Some examples of the “look and feel” of the app

It is becoming increasing common to create a youtube video that describes the app, so you may want to consider posting a video about the app. Some people find it easier to describe it verbally instead of trying to explain it in a document. However, the video should be done to compliment the written description, because you will still need to document the requirements in writing. It is done as an extra description to provide additional clarity, and is not a complete substitution for typical app project documentation.

We discussed budget and financial issues in the concept phase, so you should have an idea of your budget. If the schedule hasn’t come up yet, however, now is the time to start thinking about it. Rarely should there be a big rush to do the app development. In fact, it should be avoided since being in a rush often leads to miscommunications, oversights, and errors. While you need to have a project schedule with meaningful milestones that you stick to, be realistic when making your schedule. Leave plenty of lead time for events and don’t expect things to happen in the course of days when realistically it can take weeks.

For example, do you really think you will find and hire a developer and get them started on the project in three days? Does that tight of a schedule really give you the opportunity to explore proposals and reflect on your decision? A more realistic timeframe to collect and review proposals, hire a provider, and start the project is 2 weeks or more. And that is for an app of average complexity. If you have a highly complex app it could take longer.

Once you decide where you are going to hire your programmer, it is time to start getting proposals.

On-Line Searches for a Provider

A search for iPhone app developers on Google will return an unwieldy number of results.

A search for iPhone app developers on Google will return an unwieldy number of results.

First let’s cover searching directly for a provider. A search on Google for the fairly specific phrase “iPhone App Developers” returns about 98 million results, and it seems there are actually that many people out there who claim to be top notch app developers. There is page after page of potential providers in the main results area, and the maximum of 8 paid ads on the right side of the results goes on for endless pages.

You can begin perusing these results and checking out websites to at least get a feel for what those promoting their app development services have to say. That can be very informative itself in considering how to proceed, and you might find some potential providers as well. If the results seem overwhelming, however, you can try to limit the search to be more focused.

You can search for providers in your city or area, for example. That way you can work more directly with the developer including some face-to-face meetings and design reviews. You could also search for developers who focus on a particular style or type of app that fits your category, like games or using interactive data. Sometimes just using some basic limiters in your search can make the results much more manageable. Just limiting it to your city could reduce the number of providers to a handful, for example.

Limiting searches with regions or catagories can make search results more manageable.

Limiting searches with regions or categories can make search results more manageable

The goal should be to find about eight to ten app developers to contact initially. Depending on the results of this initial contact, you may decide that you need to go into more detail with one or you may even decide you need to keep looking.

The best way to make contact is with an exploratory email that basically says, “I have an app concept I would like to develop and I would be interested in getting a proposal.” How and when you receive a reply to that email will tell you a lot about how they run their development business. Generally, be leery of anyone who does not respond in one to three business days. Plus, experienced developers, whether they are an individual or a company, will have an established process for developing proposals, and they should be able to help you through it. Telling you what information they need, for example, and making the proposal process easy for you. Be leery, as well, of any developer who seems unsure how to proceed or what to ask in order for them to produce a proposal.

While selecting a small group to provide proposals, it is important to communicate mostly through writing. Some follow up conversations, whether in person, on Skype, or by phone, can also be helpful, but when things are in writing there is less chance of confusion, misunderstandings, or miscommunication. The best approach, for example, is to deliver a description of the app in writing in the request for a proposal, then review and discuss the description with a follow up conversation. If you do review proposals and app requirements in conversations, make notes of any important decisions or agreements, then follow up with an email that lists these decisions. The concept design documents should be updated as well.

Covering all the Bases

Another thing to consider when recruiting and lining up testers is covering your bases in terms of devices and iOS versions. During the concept design you made a decision as to what devices and device operating systems your app would be compatible with. During testing you want to exercise the app on all the different devises and operating systems specified. If the app is supposed to work with iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches, you need to test the app on each device. If the app is supposed to work with iPhone iOS versions 4.0 to 6.0, then you should test it on all versions within that range.

Retesting

You will likely have to go through several iterations of tests to get close to the final version. During the early revisions, it might be best to test the app yourself or have a few primary app testers involved to provide feedback. As obvious and basic issues get resolved and the project is on track to a final revision, the wider scope of testers or testing services can get involved.

When the developer sends updated builds, you must delete the previous revision from iTunes and the device before copying the new version to the iTunes Library. To do this, select the existing app in the Library and press the Delete key. You will then need to sync the device to verify that the old app version is gone from the Library and the device. If the app, for some reason, did not disappear from the device, then you may have to delete it manually. To do so, go online and find the Apple instructions for manually managing files for that device and delete it.Once the old revision is deleted you can install the latest build and resume testing.

Typically, making revisions to address specific issues or problems in code is easier than the creating original code, so a good developer should be fairly responsive with revisions. As explained before, there are exceptions to this-especially with new or unproven techniques and technology or with accessing and formatting external data sources. The more issues found and corrected during each test and revision iteration, the faster and the better the testing phase will go.

When you deliver feedback on a revision to the developer, there should be clear communication about when the developer will have a new revision. The worst thing to do during the testing/revision stage, or any stage of the process, for that matter, is to wonder about what is going on.

If the developer misses a deadline or doesn’t reply to your calls or emails in a timely way, just give them a polite follow up.

The Final Revision

When the app works like it should the testing phase is complete and it is time to move on to its release to the Apple App Store. Unless the project requires further involvement of the developer, it is now time to pay them the final portions of their fees. Depending on the developer, they may have some acceptance documents for you to sign. Of course, only do so when you have firm evidence that the project is competed satisfactorily.

If you have been pleased with your developer and the way he/she fulfilled the project requirements, you want to make sure you leave the door open for future work. After all, there is a good chance your app will need updates and revisions down the road. Naturally, the best source for these revisions and updates would be the developer who created the app in the first place.

Now that you have a working app, you are ready to take the next step. If you are developing a personal app or one for inside business use, your work is mostly done. If you want to market the app to public, for free or for a price, you still have some work to do. It is now time to move on to this next stage.

Finalize the Concept

By fully documenting the functional operation of the app with the flowchart and the user look and feel with the screen sketches, you have completed the minimum requirements for a concept design. This fully realized concept design will allow you to provide a comprehensive app specification for the programmer you hire. The specification, which will include many of the concept design elements, will serve as the blue print and the agreement between the client (you) and the contractor (the outsourced programmer) as to what exactly the programmer will deliver in the end. Obviously, the more detailed and clear the specification (based on the concept design) the better the chances for a positive result from outsourcing the app.

While the definition/description table, the flowchart, and screen sketches could be considered the minimum concept design requirements, depending on the app and the app market you might decide that other information and requirements should be documented as well. This could include, for example, information about using iPhone capabilities like the camera or accessing information from other sources. In this case a black box diagram could display app interfaces as well as document timing or protocol requirements.

One final thought you might find very helpful: at the bottom of the App Description document you started at the beginning of this section, add a section labeled Notes:. Always keep that Word file open when you are working on you concept design flowchart and sketches. Whenever any app detail, idea, approach, requirement or other thought not related or captured by what you are documenting at that moment comes up, quickly type it into this section. It could save time and effort later.

Toward the end of the creating the concept design process take time to review and organize your notes. Some of the information may be moved to the final versions of the flowchart and sketches, or it might be miscellaneous information that should be included in the app specification for the developer, and left in the Notes.

The App Logo and Graphic Designers

Before we close this section and move on to hiring a programmer, this might be the right place to bring up the design of the app logo, even though it will be discussed in more detail in the Marketing chapter. If you plan to successfully market your app at the Apple App Store, then the app logo is the first thing a prospective buyer sees and the first impression they have of your app. In a competitive field of apps, that can be extremely important. A number of people will make a buying decision based on the appeal of your logo – what it represents and what is communicates.

I don’t recommend putting a lot of effort into designing the perfect logo for your app right now, but it’s a least time to start thinking about it. Designing the logo should be a process, just like developing the app. It should be a careful and deliberate decision. Even if you already have some ideas for the logo, keep an open mind and work through a brainstorming and review process. Listen to other people’s opinions and try to see things from a customer’s perspective. You might even consider getting professional design assistance.

You can find a graphic designer to work with in much same way that you hire a programmer. Since that process is covered in the next chapter, we will not go into much detail, but here are some tips you might find useful…

Review samples of their work – Experienced designers will have a comprehensive portfolio to demonstrate their work. Look for a designer who has experience doing app graphics and can provide examples of work for similar projects.

Hire several graphic designers to create a simple design – Narrow the field down to a few designers, then hire all of them to create some single simple app component like the app logo. It will be fairly inexpensive to have them create a single item. You can then choose the designer whose style and approach you like best.

The bottom line is that if you need high-level graphics and designs as part of the app, then hire someone that can get the job done. Programmers are not graphic designers so don’t leave the job to them.

Like hiring the programmer, the more you can give the designer in terms of documentation like rough sketches, descriptions, layout guides, etc., the more likely the designer will deliver what you want. The designer and programmer can work in parallel to a degree. The programmer can use placeholder or sample images/graphics in early iterations, then incorporate the final graphics later. Of course, you want to be clear that the programmer understands that final graphic version will be provided by a certain project milestone or date.

Review Apple Interface Guidelines

There is one final step in finalizing the concept design. Take some time and review the Apple document iPhone Human Interface Guidelines: Designing the User Interface. Apple wants iPhone and iPad owners to have a somewhat consistent experience when using their devices, even when using third party apps. Therefore, you will have to comply with certain Apple conventions.

If you hire a developer with plenty of experience developing iPhone apps, then you can usually rely on them to meet these interface criteria. However, it is still a good idea for you to be familiar with them and review your concept design in light of this information and make any needed changes to meet Apple requirements.

Some might argue that the Apple guidelines should be reviewed before starting the concept design, but I think that the guidelines become more meaningful and relevant after creating the concept design. Trying to understand the guidelines before you create the app concept design might be confusing and even intimidating. Once you have a concept design in place, then the requirements will have more meaning or significance, and you can focus on areas of the requirements that are directly related to your app and ignore areas of this lengthy document that are not applicable.

If you follow these Apple guidelines while developing the app, then getting the app listed at the App Store will be much easier when the time comes.

Moving on the Next Phase

With a comprehensive design in place, it is time to take the next step and find the outsouce iPhone app developer that will make your idea a reality.

Chapter 6: Marketing the App

If you’ve successfully made it to this point, you have done well. You have taken an app made it a reality; an app that actually works.  If your goal is to market and distribute the app, however, there is still so much to be done in order to be successful.

If you are going to distribute the app through the Apple App Store, there two very different approaches that might apply to you: 1) Selling the app for a fee to make a profit OR 2) Give the app away to customers or prospects as a business or promotional tool. Naturally the first approach is the most difficult and this chapter discusses marketing an app in order to reach and convince prospects to make the purchase. If you are distributing the app for other reasons, much of the information can still be helpful; you still need to get the app listed on the Apps Store, create awareness, and so forth. If neither of these address your goals you can simply skip over this section.

You Have an App!

Congratulations. You’ve successfully developed an iPhone app. That’s no small feat and you deserve a round of applause. Now it’s time to upload the app to the App Store and rocket up the bestseller list if you plan to make a profit, right? Not so fast.The app store is a crowded place. There are over 700,000 apps available in the iPhone app store, and in November of 2012 Apple celebrated approval of its one-millionth app. Apple receives over 10,000 applications for new apps every month.

As good as your app may be, it is still going to face steep competition. Sure, there are runaway best sellers such as Angry Birds, Words With Friends, and Camera+, but those are the exceptions. A 2010 study by the app directory, Appolicious, found that 56% of all iPhone apps sell less than 10,000 total units. Nearly 25% of all iPhone apps sell less than 1,000 units. Only 10% of all apps sell more than 125,000 units.

So how do you get your app into the privileged 10%? Building a high-quality app is a good first step and one we have tried to cover. But unfortunately, quality doesn’t guarantee success. Consider the story of David Barnard-creator of the mileage-logging app, Trip Cubby. The app was featured in a 2009 Daily Beast article. Barnard’s app opened to the kind of universal praise and positive reviews every developer dreams of. The app was even featured in Apple’s much-coveted “What’s Hot” list. But after three months of sales, Barnard was in the red to the tune of $30,000. A year later he was still down a few thousand dollars. As we discussed in Chapter 1, being realistic is important. No matter how many great reviews you get, you are still limited by your marketplace.

The goal is to maximize that market – what percentage of that available market can you convert to sales?You clearly believe your app has value. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t have put yourself through the arduous development process. The question is how to get your target market to see your app’s greatness? How do you get potential customers to press that all-important “Buy” button? And once you have customers, how do you get them to spread the message to their friends?

Apps are just like any other product; they have to be marketed. Ford doesn’t simply roll trucks out onto the lot and wait for customers to decide to buy them. They market. They advertise. They make us feel good about Ford trucks.They press their message until there is no uncertainty on our part about what Ford does, why Ford trucks are great, and where we can purchase one.

You need to create this same awareness in your potential customers. They should clearly understand the app’s purpose. They should quickly and implicitly see the app’s value. And they should love the app so much that they don’t hesitate to tell their friends about it. Success at the App Store requires a disciplined marketing process. It’s never too early to begin marketing. In fact, the sooner you start the better.

You may not know where to begin. Just because you have a good idea for an app doesn’t mean you know sales and marketing. That’s why we are going to walk through a step-by-step process on how to effectively market your new app including:

  • Pre-Launch: Marketing methods to generate buzz, preliminary activities.
  • Launch:Getting on the app store, optimizing app store space, getting reviews, and moving up the charts
  • Post-Launch: Converting your customers into walking advertisements, reinvigorating and maintaining sales after the initial push.

Sketch App Screens

Once you have completed the flowchart that fully documents what the app does functionally, the next step if to capture what the app “looks” like when used and what the user sees and does when he or she interacts with the app. For an iPhone app, this usually consists of screen sketches of the displays; the information presented, the user options (menus, buttons), and so on.

There was a reason for doing the functional diagram (the flowchart) of the program first. It tells you what the app is doing and what it needs to display to the user and what inputs it needs from the user. This knowledge is enormously helpful in creating comprehensive sketches of the app screens and displays. Without the flowchart, it would be easy to forget options or buttons that need to be included.

Make early screen sketches fast and simple, since they are likely to change.

Make early screen sketches fast and simple, since they are likely to change

It is best, however, to do at least two versions of the screenshot sketches. The first will be a rough version that is quickly drawn, not perfectly proportional, easy to erase/redraw, and so on. It is probably going to take a few tries to get a screen sketch right, so there is little use in spending an enormous amount of time making a perfect, proportional sketch that you might just end up erasing or discarding. So start with rough sketches that you will rework into more polished and proportional drawings later when you think you have things figured out (the 2nd version).

Sketch the App from a User Perspective

Just like the flowchart, the best place to start with your screen sketch is the beginning. What will the screen look like when the app starts? From there you will follow the flowchart; creating a sketch whenever the display changes. If part of the screen remains consistent while another part of the screen changes for several of the app functions, consider making copies of a template sketch of the stable display section leaving the active section blank. It can save a lot of duplicated effort-especially if there are multiple screens to draw.

You should also take time to periodically review the concept from the user perspective; what they see and what they need to do. Of course, the goal for any app is to be intuitive and user-friendly as well as highly functional and useful. Reaching these goals will result in high customer satisfaction, which in turn leads to good ratings and positive comments that can drive or improve sales.

Detailed Sketches

As part of the final concept design or later on as part of the app specification you provide to the selected developer, you will need to create more detailed, final sketches of the screen displays, including thorough descriptions, clear labels, defined colors, and even font types and sizes. This is not something you want to leave up to a developer.

An iPhone stencil can simplify creating detailed screen sketches.
An iPhone stencil can simplify creating detailed screen sketches.

There a plenty of tools to help you create these detailed sketches if you are a little unsure of your drawing ability. If you would like to make pencil sketches there are stencils that make drawing a perfect, proportional screen sketch a snap. There are also PC and Mac template tools for creating app screen designs, but many of those tools are geared toward app programmers. So make sure the template meets your needs befor investing your development funds in them.

Incorporate User Gestures

Users interact with apps using screen gestures.
Users interact with apps using screen gestures

Something to note while developing the detailed screen sketches is how exactly the user interacts with the app. As anyone who has used an iPhone or iPad knows, the screen is capable of interpreting a number of user gestures. The screen sketch can include the user gesture needed to accomplish some task, or how the app will interpret certain gestures. Developers will certainly need to know this information, and it should be part of the concept design.

The App Concept

Creating an app concept design with screen sketches and functional flow diagrams is the best way to communicate your vision to the app developer. Making the concept clear to the developer is probably the most important factor in successful app development. Yet it is the one of the most common problems or obstacles in an outsourced development project.

This section will describe how to create an app concept design. Don’t be overly concerned about making it look highly technical at this point. You will likely be reworking some of your concept design sketches into a specification document for the developer later.

No matter what the marketing and profit goals are or if you are outsourcing an app for your personal use, you need to fully design and document the app concept if you expect a programmer to make your vision a reality. Developers are not mind readers and even descriptions given during conversations can be very fleeting or interpreted differently. Fully documenting your concept, therefore, leaves little to chance. The two most important things to do are: A) make a comprehensive description of how the app works and what it does (functionality) and B) create a comprehensive description of what the user sees and does (look and feel).

A Functional Flowchart

Before getting too involved in deciding app appearances, the best approach is usually to figure out how it works. Functionality will affect appearance, so investing too much time documenting appearance could be wasted when it has to be redone later.

Basic Flowchart Symbols

Basic Flowchart Symbols

The first part of finalizing the concept design is to complete the description of everything the app does with a functional flowchart. The flowchart is a graphical depiction of all the possible program paths, showing what the app does in response to all possible user inputs.

The place to start is at the beginning; the start-up screen that appears when someone opens the screen. There, every option or direction a user can take starts a new chart branch, and every option after that starts a new chart branch.

While there are some formal rules to flowcharting, just knowing a few basic rules is enough to let you create a usable flowchart. There are plenty of easy to use, free software downloads that will help you create a basic flowchart. Just make sure you select one from a trusted source such as the highly rated one by CNET.

A game app flowchart that students create for a class project covers a wall.

A game app flowchart that students create for a class project covers a wall.

The flowchart on the following page illustrates what the first page of the flowchart for the Fishing Wichita app would look like beginning with the Start Screen. Notice the flowchart includes descriptions of what the app is doing, what user options are available or displayed, and paths the program will take depending on what the user selects (Decisions). The flowchart has to depict everything the app does in the form of logical flow.

The flowchart will make sure all the app functions are explained as well as their relationships defined. For example, how the user moves from one screen to the other. Plus, creating a flowchart will help in identifying and resolving “dead ends” – a point in app where a user can’t go anywhere or do anything-a terrible error in functional design that you should avoid at all costs.

Since it is almost impossible, even for a simple app, to display all the app functions on one page, the flowchart will “jump” to different flowchart sections where different app functions are displayed. Even if you could fit it all on one page, the best approach is to keep flowchart simple and easy to follow.

The “Fishing Wichita” Flowchart (at start-up):

Flowcharts depict the logical flow and functions of a computer program like an iPhone app.

Flowcharts depict the logical flow and functions of a computer program like an iPhone app.

Breaking the diagrams up by functional area helps, but keep track and note where different areas of the app interact or pass data.

Keep flowcharts simple and easy to read, as opposed to the unreadable mass of lines and shapes above.

Keep flowcharts simple and easy to read, as opposed to the unreadable mass of lines and shapes above.

For example, in the Fishing Wichita app, the user has several options from the start screen, including 1) displaying currently stored conditions (from the last automatic or manual update), 2) updating conditions before the displaying, and 3) entering set-up mode where the user can select various options and configurations for the app. If the user selects options 2 or 3, the flowchart jumps to another section where those functions are depicted.

For complicated apps like games, flowcharts can become long and complicated. This is where keeping things basic and simple is really important. Remember, the goal is to illustrate the functional flow of the app. It becomes hard to follow what is going on when the diagram gets too busy or overloaded.

The main thing is to capture everything app does including every functional path and user interaction and not leaving anything out – even if that means a long and complicated flowchart that covers the wall. This is the time to make sure you understand the basic functionality of the app, because a poor understanding or poor documentation will likely result in lost time and wasted money later.

Pre-Launch Activities

An effective marketing campaign for an iPhone app doesn’t start at launch. It starts as soon as possible. Remember, we were even considering marketing aspects way back during the preliminary review. Plus, it is never too soon to spread your message and build your brand. You can generate awareness that you are building an app from the earliest stage. You can also start to network with first adopters in your market who can act as advocates for your app as you get closer to launch.

What Makes Your App so Great?

It’s important to maintain perspective when you are marketing any product. Your app’s purpose and value are probably very clear to you. After all, you’ve been deep in development for some time.You know this app like the back of your hand. Your potential customers, however, have not been wrapped up in development. They don’t even know your app exists. They don’t know the app’s features and functions. They won’t intuitively understand why your app is so great. It’s up to you (your marketing) to let them in on the ‘secret’…so it won’t stay a secret.

Any communication you have with app shoppers will be fleeting. You have to effectively communicate your most important sales points in as little time and with as few words as possible. For that reason, it’s worthwhile to take a step back from development and look at the app through a neutral lens. That’s easier said than done, but if you can look at your product objectively your message will be stronger.

To do this, let’s return to some of the basics-what and who.

The App’s Value:
This seems silly, right? You know your app has value. Fine – explain it. Better yet, explain it in one sentence. That’s the challenge. You need to be able to convey your app’s value in a single succinct statement. Let’s look at an example. Assume you’re an avid runner and you’re browsing the health and fitness apps for your iPhone (and there are a lot of them). You come across an app called RunKeeper.

Look carefully at the first two sentences of the app description:

“Join the more than 17 million people who are using RunKeeper to turn their phone into a personal trainer in their pocket! Track your running, walking, cycling, hiking, biking, and more using the GPS in your iPhone.”

Prospects should be able the grasp your app message within a few moments.

Prospects should be able the grasp your app message within a few moments

Is there any question about what the app does? Is there any ambiguity? No. It’s as clear as day.

Once you distill your value down to one clear statement, you can repeat that phrase in any communication – the app store, Twitter, Facebook, your website copy, press releases-even in conversation with your Aunt May at Thanksgiving dinner. It should be a repeatable phrase you can rattle off at the drop of a hat…

“Your building an app? What kind?”

“It’s an iPhone app that uses the device’s GPS to track your running, walking, cycling, hiking, biking, and other activities.”

If you’re stuck on how to differentiate yourself and express value, take some time to look around the app store. Make a list of your competitors and the apps most comparable to yours. Next to each app, list your app’s advantages and disadvantages. Are there any advantages that appear over and over again on the list? Those are items you want to hit in your value statement.

The App’s Customers:

How can you tell potential buyers how great your app is if you don’t know who the potential buyers are? Yes, there are some broad-based apps that appeal to everyone. Angry Birds is as popular with kids as it is with grandmothers. Most apps, however, appeal to a specific subset of people; people who live within a few hours of Wichita who like to fish, for example. In reality, having such a narrow demographic would make marketing difficult, so hopefully your app has a broader appeal.

The RunKeeper app, for example, has a broad market. It is not regionally focused and covers a wide range of activities. People around the country-around the world, even-like to run, jog, walk, bike, or hike.But how many want to keep a record of their activity? Just like the work we did to understand the market in considering financial viability in the preliminary stage, the key is to drill down to the group of people likely to be enthusiastic about your app. It doesn’t mean these are the only people who will buy. It just means these are the people most likely to buy immediately and most likely to tell their friends who have the same interests. Instead of estimating rough numbers, you need to think of these groups in terms of motivations, benefits, and such on in order to know how to reach out to them in your marketing message.

We also want to consider how to reach them in terms or medium and methods as well. If we created a budgeting app, how would we find people who are keenly focused on budgeting?They probably read blogs on budgeting and personal finance.The writers of those blogs are probably on Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks. With just a little research and some proactive networking, you could convey your message to the influencers in your niche with laser focus. Or you use these sites for direct on-line advertising. We’ll discuss this in greater detail as we progress through the chapter.

Chapter 2: Define the App Concept

So you have a great idea for iPhone app. Just hire a programmer to code it, right? Not right-it’s not that easy. If you don’t clearly define exactly what it is you what from the programmer, you probably won’ t get it.

Before looking for an app developer to write the code, there is an important step in the process we will call concept design. The concept design fully defines and describes exactly what the app does at the functional and appearance level. This provides app specifics that will then be implemented with the Objective C code that the developer writes. The concept design defines, for example, what the app does or how it responds when it receives an input (i.e. a user enters some numbers or presses a button), and what feedback or display will result from the input.

The following pages discuss creating concept design documents; flowcharts and screen sketches that, in turn, lead to producing an app specification to guide the programmer in creating the app code.

To begin the process there are a few preliminary design activities that are recommended you complete. They are:

  • A Comprehensive Description/Definition
  • Basic Market Research
  • Evaluate Financial/Technical Feasibility

Preliminary Design

Before you spend a lot of time and effort fleshing out your idea with a detailed concept design, it is wise to consider exactly what your app is, does and what makes the idea workable on a basic level.

As with so many facets of app development, the amount of effort required here will depend on how lofty your technical and marketing goals are. The more basic your app the easier this phase will be, and vice-versa. For example, if you want a simple app for you and your friends, or for you and your staff, the only real question is whether or not you can fit it into your budget. Plus, if the app is pretty basic it shouldn’t take long to put a concept together and request some proposals. In these cases, there is very little risk in proceeding with the concept.

On the other hand, if you plan on making the app publicly available-even for free as a customer service or promotional tool-it will behoove you to make an effort to learn the who, what, and whys of the app scenario.

If you plan on marketing the app for revenue, then knowing the answers to these same questions becomes extremely important.

We are going to discuss the preliminary design review as if the goal is to market the app. To do so, we will use a somewhat oversimplified example to illustrate the process. If you have other goals for the app, then you can choose what parts of the preliminary review apply to your situation.

Clearly Define the App

The first step is to make sure you have clear definition and description of the app. You might think you have the app fully defined in your head, but getting things clearly documented is an important step. This might seem like a simple, straightforward step, but you shouldn’t take it lightly. This is the information you will use when determining the feasibility of the app and when defining the functional details. It is also an important step in being able to communicate the app is to others.

Start the definition with a brief statement that summarizes the app then move forward to more detailed descriptions. If you are not sure how to go about this step, a great starting point is to answer the basic questions like who, what, when, why, and how. Then brainstorm other questions that a potential user or customer might have, and potential questions a programmer might have about the app. Capture the information in a table or form. It is important to properly record this information instead of relying on your memory. Plus, sometimes the act of simply writing it down helps us realize oversights or generates new ideas.

Let’s use an example to illustrate the process. Say there is an avid fisherman from Wichita. Before selecting a destination to fish and heading out, he spends about 30 minutes on the Internet checking conditions at area lakes and rivers. If he had an iPhone app that could collect conditions at area lakes and rivers then display them together on a scrollable list, it would save him both time and effort. Plus, he believes that most people with Apple devices who live in the area and enjoy fishing would appreciate the app as well. It may even generate income if marketed properly.

Interested in pursuing the idea, the Fishing Wichita app project is born. The preliminary design app is shown in the “Fishing Wichita App Definition table below.

While some of the information captured here may seem obvious, not recording every aspect on paper is risky because it can lead to oversights and misunderstandings. Getting it on “paper” is essential.

Now you are ready to use that information in the next steps of the concept design.

“Fishing Wichita” App Definition
What does the app do? (Summary) The app will gather weather/water conditions and fishing reports from popular fishing lakes and rivers in a 150 mile radius of Wichita and combine them into one easy to read and scroll display.
What exactly does the app do? (Technical Description) Using available on-line data or information, it will collect conditions and then consolidate them into an easy to read display. The app will update conditions to user settings, such as every morning or every Saturday morning.  Conditions can also be updated upon request.   Users can enter set-up information to customize app in terms of update frequency, and site categories (i.e. favorites, complete list, ignore). 
Why would someone want the app? It is time consuming to gather current conditions information about area lakes and rivers, but without information choosing the best place to fish is just a guess. Time is precious when leaving to fish, especially in terms of getting an early start.  Having quick and easy access to all the area lake and river conditions would have value for people who like to fish.      
Who would want the app? The market or audience would be people in the Wichita area who fish regularly in area waters. 
When would they use the app This would be particularly important for fishing day trips, where there is only a morning or a day to go fishing, and going an hour north versus an hour south could be the difference between a great fishing outing and a lousy one.  Spending 30 minutes on-line checking conditions wastes valuable fishing time. With regular daily/weekly updates you have the information at your fingertips.  Or update conditions manually, and by the time you load your gear or get a cup of coffee, you have the information you need to make an informed decision about the best place to fish that day.People would tend to use and buy the app during spring, summer, and fall with little demand over winter months.   
When is the app needed? No pressing need or deadline.  Overarching goal would be to have app complete and available to buy in 6 months.
How would they find and get the app? Since it is an Apple device they would purchase and download the app from the Apple App Store.  Marketing would be through the App Store, an app website, using regional on-line/Google ads, and through local merchants, events, and word of mouth.
How would they use the app? (User Description) They would enter set-up information (i.e. select a favorite list, select places to ignore, select update intervals). (Default settings would be no favorites or ignored, update manually.) They when they open the app the starting Screen would display two options:

  1.  Sites displayed: Favorites list, complete list, particular site
  2.  Conditions Displayed: Display conditions from the latest update or update the conditions then display.

 

The last selected will be the default selection on this screen.  The user will then press a Display or Cancel button.  Cancel closes the app.  Display does just that: a Display Screen with an easy to read and scroll format using clear titles and labels with proper/appropriate color and shading schemes.  An [X] in the upper right corner closes the app, and a back arrow [<-] will take users back to the selection screen.   

How much would prospects pay for the app? TBD – depending on how well the app works, between $4.99 and $19.99.
Concerns?Questions?
  1. Finding/communicating with an outsourced programmer to get the app envisioned actually produced
  2. Overpaying for the app development or development overruns
  3. Putting a lot of time and effort into the app only to lose money
  4. Losing more money than I could afford to lose
  5. Automatically retrieving condition information

 

 

Basic Market Research

If your plan is to make money by selling the app, you need to do your homework to verify that the potential to make a profit is there and that any expectation about sales and revenue are realistic. This step is especially important if you are investing significant funds into the app project. While it is a little out of the scope of this book, it is worth noting that if you are launching a business based on an app or apps development, then you have to create a comprehensive business plan that addresses the market very thoroughly. But every app development should have its own marketing viability report.

Much of what is calculated for market research will be based on best guesses or anecdotal deduction, because many of your questions will not have answers available based on firm, objective statistical data. Obviously it is best to look for hard data, and use it as a foundation for marketing calculation when possible. But the main point behind analyzing the marketplace is to create an in-depth understanding and to know why and how you arrived at that number – including both the known and the unknowns involved. When you say you can sell a million apps, how did get that number? If you have done your market research, you can answer that question in a very precise manner. Wild guesses are not market research.

Calculating the Market Potential

Let’s consider the Fishing Wichita app again. While our fishing friend is very interested in creating the app, like most of us he can’t afford more than a modest financial risk. Plus, he feels it is only worth the effort and the investment if he can make a small profit.

The first guess is how much it will cost, not including his time, to get the app developed and to market it. A very conservative guess is $5,000, and he feels pretty confident it shouldn’t cost more than that. If he invests $5,000, what are the chances of making a profit? In other words, realistically, how many apps could he sell at what price? And how long would it take to recoup his investment? Market research is about ultimately answering these questions in the most accurate way possible.

From the app definition, we know the potential customers are people who like to fish in the Wichita area. If you knew how many people fit this description, then you could make an educated guess about the number of prospective customers.

There are a number of ways to approach this. The best method is usually the one that allows you to accurately approximate the prospect base using demographic numbers that are easily available. In this case, those would likely be:

  • The number of annual fishing licenses sold in Kansas
  • The population of Kansas
  • The population of the Wichita area

Using this information we can easily calculate a good guess as to the number of people in the Wichita area who fish.

By dividing the number of annual fishing licenses purchased in the state of Kansas by the population of the state we can estimate the percent of the population who fish. Then we can apply that percentage to the Wichita area population to determine an approximate number of people in the Wichita area who regularly fish.

In an equation form:

[(number of resident fishing license bought every year) / (population of Kansas)] = (percent of Kansas population that fish)

[(percent of Kansas population that fish) * (population of Wichita area)] = (number of people who fish in Wichita area)

Plugging in the actual numbers of licenses and the Kansas and Wichita area populations that are easily found online:

(191,000 Kansas licenses / 2,886,000 Kansas residents) = 6.6% of population

(660,000 Wichita area population * 6.6%) = 43,560

After just a little research and basic math, the number of people who fish in the Wichita metropolitan area can be estimated to be about 43,000. But remember that only people with iPhones or Ipads will buy the app. Some additional research reveals that about 6% of the U.S. population has iPhones and about 10% have iPads. Since the iPhone/iPad owner demographic does not perfectly align with the fishing demographic, a very conservative estimate of the percentage of the people who fish who have iPhones or iPads might be 5%.

After a little more math, a conservative approximation would be that about 2178 people with fishing licenses in Wichita area have an Apple device. That is very critical piece of information to know in deciding whether or not the app idea is feasible in terms of making a profit and in deciding whether to proceed with app development.

The final step would be to estimate how many of these prospects would actually buy the app and for how much, but we will get back to that later.

First, let’s reiterate that all it took to come up with that number was a little thought and five minutes of Internet research. Using this approach may have a significant margin of error, but it is still infinitely better than just making wild guesses. While this is a simple example for illustration, the larger point is always true. Be innovative and motivated and you can probably figure out a lot more about your market than you thought you could. Make some effort to understand the numbers.

Collect User Feedback and Information about Competitors

As part of the market research, get feedback from friends, coworkers, gadget heads; anyone whose opinion you value or trust. Consider them ad-hoc focus groups. Create a list of standard questions, like:

  • Would they find the app helpful or useful?
  • Would they buy the app?
  • How much would they pay for it?
  • Are there missing features they would find useful?

Another important facet of market research is to explore any and all existing apps that do similar things. However, just because there is an existing app doesn’t mean you shouldn’t proceed. The question is; can your app compete? Perhaps the other app is flawed or doesn’t work right. Perhaps your app has features or advantages over an existing app. Buy, review, and analyze apps that do any kind of similar function. For example, maybe there are no other fishing condition apps, but there is an app that reports skiing conditions in New England. How does that work and how well is it selling?

Knowing the marketplace gives you a better chance of success, especially with a concerted effort to understand what your competition is doing wrong and what they are doing right.

It may be a bit out the scope of this book, but this point bears mentioning: For many projects, doing some basic research ourselves makes sense. Realistically, however, if you plan on investing a lot of money to develop and market an app then spending some development funds to hire a knowledgeable professional to provide market research would be a smart move

Reviewing Financial and Technical Feasibility

The final step before sketching out the functional app concept is making sure the app is doable and does it make sense technologically. In other words, does it make financial sense and can it be done with current technology and methods?

Financial Analysis

The market research really comes in handy when making the financial analysis. Now you can at least make an educated guess as to how many apps you might sell over the next 1-2 years (which is generous for an app lifecycle). That, in turn, gives you a clue as to what price you need to sell the app in order to see a return. The other part of that return equation is the cost. Don’t forget to consider sustaining costs as well as the development costs. You can keep sustaining costs very low, but if you market the app there are bound to be some expenses like web hosting and advertising. Of course, the more you plan to do after development in terms of marketing and support, the higher the sustaining expenses will be.

Is it feasible for the Wichita fisherman to make a small profit from his app idea? It could be calculated from a few different perspectives or scenarios by plugging in some different possibilities. Remember, the App Store will take a 30% cut of sales, so you will only realize 70% of the price in revenue.

For example, assume over the next two years 25% of the prospects (people in the Wichita area who like to fish and own an iPhone or iPad) buy the app for $4.99. Development costs are estimated at $3000 and sustaining costs are estimated at $1000.

Revenue = (.25) x (2378) x ($4.99) x (.7) = $2073.81
Costs = $3000 + $1000 = 4000.00

Using these numbers, Fishing Wichita would end up almost $2000 in the red. It is hard to see any scenario with costs in this ballpark where the app could make a profit at $4.99, so that price is just not feasible. Since numbers like development costs and price are uncertain, it is wise to explore other scenarios.

If the app price was raised to $9.99;
Revenue = (.20) x (2378) x ($9.99) x (.7) = $3325.24

The price of $9.99 would likely still be a great value for people who regularly fish in the Wichita area, so it is assumed the higher price would not impact sales significantly, but the percentage of prospects is lowered to 20%. At $9.99, however, the app is still not making a profit if the app costs $4000 to develop. One concern is that if the price goes much higher it could significantly impact sales. The only chance might be to be lower the estimated development costs.

If the development costs are lowered to $3000 (i.e. $2000 development + $1000 sustaining) then a price of $9.99 makes the project more financially feasible. With the right marketing approach, a price point of $11.99 or $14.99 would provide an opportunity for profit, and these prices would likely not be an obstacle for people who fish and have iPhones – if it provides a service they want.

Revenue = (.20) x (2378) x ($11.99) x (.7) = $3991.71
Revenue = (.20) x (2378) x ($14.99) x (.7) = $4990.47

Again, while the example is simple, the point is that with a little research and exploratory calculations you can get a much better feel for where you stand in terms of prospects, price point, revenue, and profits than if you just guessed. This insight will be important as you start talking with developers to create the app and you understand how different development costs will impact the project financially.

While exploring financial feasibility, it is worth noting that there are also other ways to profit from apps besides selling them. You can incorporate ads into the app, for example. There are networks like AdMob, AdModa, BuzzCity, and iAd who sell and manage ad space for apps, and most programmers can easily accommodate these services in development.

You can also find sponsors who may help finance the app or promote the app. Returning to our fishing app example, a sporting goods store may invest in the app if their store is promoted through the app. Affiliates can promote the app by specials or bundling. An example of this would be getting the app when a customer buys a particular model of fishing reel.

Technical Feasibility

After the financial evaluations there may be some technical questions to answer as well. After all, not everything is possible even in our current technology-driven world.

For example, you might consider creating an app for making reservations at restaurants in your city. It would be an easy sell to people who enjoy fine dining, but there is one problem. After a little investigation you learn that very few restaurants have the capability to make electronic reservations. At this point it is simply not a feasible undertaking because the technical capability is not there.

It is better to discover these things before investing significant time and money into a project that isn’t possible.

You might not be able to find definitive answers to every technical question, but if you do your homework you will at least be able to intelligently discuss technical concerns with the programmer selected hire to make sure they can be resolved before proceeding with the project.

Let’s go back to the Fishing Wichita app. There would certainly be a technical concern in being able to gather the information from various sites automatically and without any manual intervention. Conditions for most area lakes and rivers are posted as text on various websites such as the National Weather Service websites or State/National Park websites. But it is unclear how that can be retrieved or used for the app. While this concern may not be enough to stop the concept process, the issue must be addressed and resolved with you outsourced app developer before proceeding with the project.

Another issue related to feasibility is considering if a mobile device app is more appropriate than a web app. For a fishing app like our example, people might often want to use it on the go and when they do not have internet access, therefore, a device app seems most appropriate. However, in some cases a web app that they can run on-line with PCs or smart devices might work just as well. Since a web app would be simpler and less expensive to develop, it might be preferable if internet access is available.

Once you have covered preliminary design concerns like those discussed here (and others that are specific to your situation), you are ready to move on to the concept design.

Building the App Brand

On average, a consumer needs to see something at least seven times before they take action and buy.We are constantly blasted with information on our cell phones, tablets, and computers, so the number could easily be more than seven in many cases. That’s why consistency in brand and message is so important. Everything from icon to name to website needs to work in harmony to send and reinforce a consistent message.

The App Icon

Let’s start with the first thing your potential users will ever see-your app icon or logo. The importance of getting the logo/icon right really can’t be overstated.It’s the first filter users will face; their first choice to click or move on. As already explained, you may want to invest in an experienced, qualified designer who specializes in app icon design. This is especially true if you want prospects to click on and buy your app. You’ve invested a significant amount of time and money into development. Making one more investment if it means more people will take a closer look at your app is definitely worth it, don’t you agree?

That said, here are some basic guidelines to remember in app icon design:

Don’t Include Words – That’s what your name is for. Your icon is a graphical representation of everything great about your app. Remember all the blood, sweat, tears and dollars you poured into that app? Is simply repeating the name in graphical form the strongest representation? Push yourself or your designer further. You want an icon that piques interest and arouses curiosity. That’s more effectively done when words aren’t involved.

Be Simple – You have only a 57 x 57 pixel plane to graphically convey the very essence of your app. Less is more in this case. A single image with ambiguity is better than a cluttered image loaded with information. After you draft your initial icon cut everything that isn’t absolutely necessary.

Be Detailed – Simple doesn’t equal plain. Once you’ve settled on a single image as an analogy, flesh out the image’s details to bring it to life. Look at the Angry Birds Star Wars icon. It’s certainly simple. It’s just the Luke Skywalker bird above the words “STAR WARS”. (I know, I said no words, but remember these are guidelines, not hard and fast rules.) Is the icon plain? No! Look at the detail in his hair, the furrowed brow, and the determined look on his face. Simplify-then bring to life.

Be Consistent – Consistency between the app’s design and the icon’s design is a mark of professionalism. You want the app and icon to use the same colors, styles and overall design. The screenshots should match up nicely with the icon to create a consistent appearance. It will help you look like the kind of professional who has been dominating the app charts forever.

Be Unique – This is one of those guidelines that can’t be defined. There are no rules to being unique. This is, however, one area where a professional designer who specializes in app icons can help immensely. An experienced pro will know what’s out there and what will help you stand out.

The App Name

After the icon, the name of your app is the next thing your potential users will see. Wait, we named the app in the beginning, right? Sort of, but it is a good idea to consider that a working title used for development. When it comes time to sell the app, you might want to reconsider.

A lot of app developers go for descriptive and creative names. That’s fine-especially for games, but your name also has a function.

Be Concise and Direct – Potential users will only see the first 19 characters of your name when they’re browsing the app store. This means you want to get to the point as quickly as possible. If you have an app related to running or jogging, use some variation of the word “running” as quickly as possible.

Function Over Form – For non-games it’s better to be clear rather than creative. In a perfect world your name would be crystal clear and would also be mind-blowingly creative. We do not live in a perfect world. You will probably have to sacrifice one for the other. If you are developing a non-game, always err on the side of clarity over creativity. If people don’t understand what your app is, they will not buy it.

Consider Search Terms – Your name can act as a keyword. The app store will scan and index your titles just like your keywords. There’s some anecdotal evidence that titles even count more than keywords. If you can be clear, creative, and use a highly relevant keyword or two, you are on the path to a great app name.

Avoid Name Confusion – Don’t use names of other apps. This should be common sense, but it happens accidentally. Apple is concerned with piracy and blatant rip-off attempts. Therefore, they monitor duplicate naming carefully. If your name is too much like another, Apple will cancel the offending part of the name as a keyword. If your app doesn’t appear when you search for your app title, it may be because your name is too similar to another app.

Supporting Website

Often developers wait until the end of development to set up an accompanying website for their app. Don’t make this mistake. Set up the website as soon as possible.Remember to strive for consistency in the look and feel between logo, App Store presentation and the app website.

On the App Store you are very confined in the way you can market your app. On your own website you can communicate your app in any way you want; more detailed descriptions, more screen shots, anything you can and want to do to get your message across. The App Store allows you put a link to you website; something that has proven to be highly effective. And of course, you can put a link on your website to your spot on the App Store so viewers can purchase it. Do you see how important it is that your listing on the App Store and the website work in tandem to sell and promote the app?

To further your success, here are some key elements you’ll want to include in your website:

App Name – Icon Up Front – This should be fairly obvious. You want to leverage all that time you spent choosing the right name and refining your icon. Put them right up front so they’re easily remembered. They should be the first things visitors see upon entering the site.

Screenshot Slider – As you develop the app, build a slider to showcase graphics from the app. In the GENERATING BUZZ section, we’ll discuss how you can use the addition of new slides to entice visitors to your site.

App Video – Record a video of the app while you’re using it and display it on your site. There’s no better way to show your potential users what they’re getting. The easiest and most common way to include video is to upload a video to YouTube then embed the video on your webpage.

Value Statement – Remember your one or two sentence value statement that perfectly explains what your app does and why it’s so great? What better place for it than on your home page in big bold letters? After the value statement you can go into more specific details about the apps functions and features.

Call to Action – Why do you want people to visit your site? To buy the app, correct? So many app websites have videos, slideshows, user reviews, and more, but forget the most important feature – a call to action! You need a button that reads “Buy the App” or “Get the App” or “Download the App.” If your app hasn’t launched yet, use this button to collect email addresses and notify people when the app launches.

A well-designed brand with consistency between icon, name, and website will give your app a professional appearance. It also puts you well ahead of many of the apps on the market. In the next section, we will go through a step-by-step plan to leverage your brand and generate pre-launch buzz.

If you are not a website designer then this might be another area where professional help could really come in handy. If you want to be taken seriously by prospective buyers and do well in searches related to your app, you need to have a serious website. A strong online presence is also an important way to generate pre-launch buzz. Let’s go into that in a little more detail.

A Smartphone Cornucopia!

It simplifies things a bit that the topic of this book is outsourcing native apps for Apple devices. That narrows the focus and makes the topic much straightforward. If we were to take on the topic of device app development outsourcing generally, with so many devices and features and requirements – things could get very complicated very quickly. One of the most confusing aspects of device apps is learning about all the devices.

Apple Device Overview

The common denominator of iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches is that they run the same operating system, known as the iOS. (The operating system is the software that allows you use and manage the device – like Windows 7 or Window 8 for a PC. Apps and programs also have to interact with operating system.) The iOS version is often included when referencing the iOS, for example iOS 6.1. The iPhone started with iOS 1.0, and every new iOS version released came with new features and increased functionality and processing power.

An iPhone 5

Compatibility between operating systems is sometimes a concern. If your developer creates an app for iOS 6.1 will it work on an older phone running iOS 4.0? It is hard to provide any specific advice here, since iOS revisions and compatibility is a very dynamic thing. What is true today regarding a specific iOS could be different tomorrow or next week. However, a general rule of thumb is that apps should be backward compatible with recent iOS versions still in use. For example, if iOS 7.0 is just released, but at least half of iPhone users will be using iOS 5 and iOS 6 for the foreseeable future then obviously you want you app to work on all of these OS versions.

Determining exactly what compatibility issues face your iPhone or iPad app in your timeframe will take some research and some discussion with the developer. You might want to add compatibility to the “Concerns” list in the concept design to make sure it is addressed with the developer.

Apps for Apple devices are programmed with the Objective C language. The C programming language, and it’s iterations like C++, Visual C, and Objective C, is one of the most powerful programming languages. Plus, many programming experts claim it creates the cleanest machine code – the ones and zeros that provide instructions to the processor. Clean machine code makes programs run faster and smoother, with fewer lockups or runtime errors.

An iPod Touch

All three Apple devices that can download and run apps can also connect to the Internet via wifi. This is not true of the standard iPod, which can do neither; it only plays music and videos. Of course, iPhones also have the capability to connect to the web through cellular data networks with a data plan, but this is an optional feature on iPads.

Other Devices

An iPad and iPad Mini

Since we are interested in Apple smart devices, we don’t need to go into great detail about other smart devices, but it is good to have a general impression of the marketplace and the major players.

The following table lists most of the well-known smartphones, tablets, etc., but it is by no means comprehensive. The table also lists the device operating system (OS) and the programming language(s) generally used for native app development. You may notice that a lot of devices use the Android operating system. Android is a Linux-based operating system developed specifically for devices. It is open source, meaning the operating system code is available and it can be freely modified by smart device producers. It also has permissive licensing which has made it very popular with device producers. With these attributes, along with smooth and functional operation, Android has become an industry standard.

Also note that the table lists devices generally, and doesn’t include every variation or iteration. For example, it seems there are countless versions of the Samsung Galaxy.

Common Handheld Devices 
Device Name OS App Languages
Apple iPhone  iOS Objective C
Apple iPad iOS Objective C
Apple iPod Touch        (iTouch) Blackberry OS Java
Amazon Kindle Fire Android Java
Asus Transformer Infinity Android Java
Barnes & Noble Nook Android Java
Google Nexus 4 Android Java
Google Nexus 7 & Nexus 10 Android Java
HTC 1X Android Java
LG Optimus Android Java
Nokia Lumia Windows Phone Visual Studio & Silverlight
Samsung Galaxy Android Java
Samsung Galaxy Note Android Java
Sony Xperia Android Java
Microsoft Surface Windows RT or Windows 8 Depends on OS

Welcome to the App World

You are now familiar with some of the basics about smart devices and the apps designed for them. You know that the phrase “Android devices” does not likely refer to futuristic robots, and when someone suggests Java you will understand that they are probably not talking about going out for coffee. With a little background knowledge you can move forward in you app development project with more confidence.

Now onto creating the app concept design!

Chapter 1: Apps 101

If you are well-verses in the basic knowledge and understanding of what apps are, you can skip this section. But if you hear someone say “android” and the first thing you think of is C3PO, then perhaps you should keep reading.

While this book focuses on successfully outsourcing app development for an Apple device, this chapter discusses apps in a more general way. If you are going to get involved in creating and/or marketing apps, you should have the basic knowledge of apps provided here. You need be able to talk intelligently about apps with developers, and to read technical articles related to apps/app development and be able to understand the information presented.

App or Application?

We already described in the Introduction that the term “app” is a shortened version of ‘application’. Plus, we explained “Application” is the general term for computer programs that perform specific functions, like Photoshop for image editing, Word for word processing, and Firefox for web browsing. Besides these well-known PC applications, there are hundreds of other PC programs that do almost anything imaginable. There are also large, highly complex applications that run on business servers and mainframes used for managing their operations. They may focus on one aspect of the business, like accounting, or they can have sweeping functionality ranging from Customer Resource Management (CRM) tools to equipment preventative maintenance programs. These business applications are often referred to as enterprise applications.

Semantically, the term app might occasionally be used in a broader context to refer to any of the above mentioned applications. Currently, however, the shortened term “app” most commonly refers to a program created for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. It seems highly appropriate that the term app is an abbreviated form of application, since apps are abbreviated versions of typical computer applications. Apps tend to be shorter, simpler and more directed to highly specific tasks than PC applications. For example, while most people may use Word for basic typing, it is a very complex, powerful program that can do all kinds of amazing things to help you create and produce documents. Apps are typically not as complex and multifunctional.

In fact, the most popular apps tend to be simple games that don’t have the complexity of PC or console games (although there are certainly exceptions). Other popular apps do relatively simple things such as helping you manage your recipes or keep track of your passwords.

Since apps are usually basic and simple, their price tends to be much lower than PC applications. Have you priced the current version of Photoshop or Word lately? The prices can seem outrageous for a casual user. Apps, on the other hand, are often in the $1 to $15 range. Many apps can be downloaded for free. You will also find that several useful apps are already downloaded for you when you purchase your device.

Web App? Mobile App? Native App?

The first thing you need to know is the difference between the most common types of apps. Here is a brief definition of each type:

Native App: An app that is programmed for a specific device or device operating system like an iPhone, then downloaded onto that device. The app resides (stored) on the device and is executed from the device. Usually no Internet access is required.

Web App: An app programmed to reside on the web, and uploaded to a web server like a business server or web hosting service. Users connect and run the app using a PC or a smart device though an Internet connection. Web apps can be geared for PCs or mobile devices or both.

Mobile App: An app that is designed specially to be used with a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet. When someone mentions a mobile app, they are probably referring to a native app, but technically it could be a web app if it is specifically designed for use with mobile devices.

Hybrid App: An app that resides on a device like a native app, but also interfaces with a web app or relies on an Internet connection to function.

Beware though, because sometimes these terms are not used in a completely consistent way. Some people, for example, may use the term mobile app interchangeably with native app. It is a good idea, especially when having technical discussions or sharing documents about an app development project, to make sure everyone is on the same page with exactly what they mean when they use these terms.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both web apps and native apps. Sometimes a web app is the best approach and sometimes a device app makes more sense. Here is a brief overview of each approach.

Web Apps – Advantages

Web_App__Mobile_App__Native_App_

  • Easier and less costly to develop
  • Can be developed using a wide variety of programs and tools
  • Can run on a wide range of devices, including PCs, through common browser software
  • Can share data or upload data to central data repositories
  • Simplified revision control and updates since a single copy of the app resides on a web server

Web Apps – Disadvantages

  • Web apps can be slower and a bit more clunky – a very technical term for less smooth and slick – since they rely on the browser interface.
  • Requires an Internet connection (i.e. wifi or data plan)
  • Internet connections can present security concerns
  • No or little control over device attributes/tools (i.e. camera)

However, many technical experts claim that some of these disadvantages will disappear over time with the coming Internet and browser technology.

Native Apps – Advantages

  • They do not rely on browsers so Native apps tend to be faster and more polished
  • Typically don’t need an Internet connection
  • Access and control over device tools like the camera, the compass, or the GPS

Native Apps – Disadvantages

  • Development is geared toward certain devices and operating systems, so apps are not transportable to other types of devices. Some level programming rework is usually required to download the app to other devices.
  • Device apps have to be programmed in a specific languages and require more development tools and programs, making them more difficult and expensive to develop
  • Revision control and updates are difficult to manage since separate copies are downloaded to multiple devices.

Since both web app and native app approaches have advantages and disadvantages, the best approach for an app very much depends on the situation. What are the most important elements or features of the app and how are they best fulfilled? While we are speaking specifically of Apple device native apps, much of the information contained within the pages of this book can still be applied in a general way to outsourcing and marketing native apps for other devices, and even for developing web apps.

Generating Pre-Launch Buzz

Ideally you’ll hit the ground running on launch day and consistently move up the sales chart. That kind of success doesn’t just happen accidentally; it requires a disciplined and systematic promotional effort. During the time the app is in development is a good time to network within your target market and build early support. In this section we’ll walk through a step-by-step pre-launch marketing plan that will help you get off to a fast start.

Publish a Search Optimized Website with an Effective Landing Page

We just covered some of the basic elements of a good website-screenshots, a video, a call to action, and so on. Early in development you may not have screenshots. You probably won’t have video of your app and you definitely won’t have a call to action because your app isn’t on the App Store…yet.But even at this stage, a website can still relay your message and build your network. Start with a simple landing page. A landing page is where your customer “lands” when they go to your website. It’s designed to obtain one specific action from the customer.

Look at the landing page for the app Sonar.This page includes most of the elements we listed above; the icon, the name, the tag line. It has a one sentence value statement – “Sonar is the best way to connect and share with people nearby now.” There is a picture of the app in use. Plus it has a call to action – the yellow button that says “Get Sonar.”

Your landing page should convey the app's benefits with visuals and text.

Your landing page should convey the app’s benefits with visuals and text

If you’re still in development and your app isn’t available for purchase, can you have a call to action? Of course.Instead of asking for purchase, ask for an email address so you can send updates on the app’s development. At this stage, your goal should be to build a pool of potential buyers who can help spread your message and expand your network. Every person who submits an email address is a person who has proactively expressed interest in your app. These email addresses aren’t purchases, yet, but they are prospects that can be converted to sales on launch day.

What about the screenshots and pictures/videos of the app in use? You may not have those items ready for display on the website. And you don’t want to put an early draft or less-than-finished product out for public consumption. What do you do? Use the lack of content to create an air of mystery. Remember…the goal at this point is to collect email addresses. You don’t have to convince website visitors that your app is perfect; you just have to convince them that your app is intriguing.

Let’s assume you built an app in the same vein as RunKeeper. Maybe you have a name, an icon, and a tagline, but not much more. Let’s say you plan to launch the app at the end of the summer. What could you put on your landing page?You could include the items you do have along with an intriguing tagline announcing the app’s launch:

“Starting August 31, your morning run will never be the same.”

Or…

“The running (jogging, hiking and biking) world changes on 8-31-13.”

Then simply add an email submission button that says something like “Send Me Updates.” As the email addresses roll in, you can build a list of individual potential buyers who have expressed interest in your app. You will be able to send updates as well as a ‘launch announcement’ when the time comes with a link to your App Store page which will enable them to purchase the app.

The art of marketing on the internet is a complex venture and honestly not the purpose of this book. So if you have serious intentions for marketing your app for profit, you will need to invest in books or materials about internet marketing or engage the services of a professional to help you.

But for those who are simply investigating the basics of internet marketing, we will look at the two basic segments of internet marketing

  • The first is known as Organic (or free) search. This is when someone types a phrase or term into Google or Bing and your app website pops up high in the search engine results page. People can easily click and go right to your landing page.
  • The other segment, Inorganic marketing, involves paying for on-line ads. Of course, Google dominates paid (and non-paid) Internet advertising, so you will need a Google Adwords account. By using Google you can start an advertising campaign with different kinds of parameters that include region specifics, how much you want to pay per day and where ads appear. You can also go directly to related websites to inquire about paid adverting on their site.

NOTE: Often with Inorganic search you only pay an ad fee when someone clicks on your ad to visit your page.

Both approaches to Internet marketing, Organic and Inorganic, are somewhat of a science, and both are usually applied in a coordinated way. Experts write books and articles about search optimization, so I will leave it up to your do your research in that area.

If you want to learn more about Internet marketing, there are a number of inexpensive paperbacks which have received high reviews on Amazon. Some of these include: Mastering Online Marketing and the McGraw-Hill 36 Hour Course: On-Line Marketing, and Search Engine Marketing Inc.,.

There are also websites where you can find advice on internet marketing. Some of these include:

  • ThinkTraffic
  • Quicksprout
  • Mixergy
  • Search Engine Watch

Other sites like http://www.apptamin.com are devoted to helping app developers promote and market their apps.

Build the App Brand On-Line

This is less about promoting your app and more about promoting the fact that YOU are developing an app. Think back to your target market list.

Now is the time to start connecting with bloggers, writers, and influencers within your niche.For example, if you were developing an app on budgeting, you want to make a list of blogs that focus on budgeting and managing money. Next, start commenting on blog posts and even offer to write guest posts on relevant blogs. Mention your app as part of the conversation, but do so in a way that they can find you on-line. Adding a direct link may increase the odds your post will be flagged, since many networking and bulletin board sites frown on blatant marketing and spamming, so be low-key and tactful in promoting your app in this fashion.

The goal is to establish yourself as a knowledgeable expert in your niche. Write everything with a touch of professionalism. Don’t delve into blatant self-promotion. Don’t direct every conversation back to your app. Aim to sincerely provide solid, helpful content and then casually mention your app as an additional piece of information.

You can do the same thing on Twitter and Facebook. Find the influencers in areas related to the app, follow themand contribute to the conversation when you have something substantive to addwhen appropriate and in a non-intrusive manner. As part of a conversation you can mention that you are developing an app that addresses a particular need or problem and mention the app name or other information that will help readers find your website.

Regardless of whether you’re developing a game or non-game app, you have a natural connection with one group just by being an app developer. There are several app developer communities consisting of developers who help each other promote their apps. Tap for Tap sponsors a weekly Twitter chat under #appdevchat on Thursdays at 10 AM PST. IDRTG (Indie Developers Re-Tweet Group) is another Twitter community dedicated to helping developers spread their message. There are two groups on Facebook – Indy App & Game Developers and App Entrepreneurs and Marketers. Join and frequent these groups to learn how other approach the app business. You’ll likely hear some new ideas and meet people willing to share their experiences and knowledge.

Email Updates

Use the email addresses and Twitter followers you’ve collected to communicate on a regular basis. Set a consistent time (such as very Friday afternoon) to send out an update. Give your followers the latest news on your app’s development; a new screenshot or video, for example.

Also, don’t hesitate to ask for comments and feedback from your followers. One way to enhance interest in and desire for your app is to involve them in the development.Ask what they’d like to see in your app. Ask what issues they have in regards to apps in this genre and what they’ve always wanted an app to do. You may even get some new development ideas out of it.

The update frequency should increase as you get closer to the launch date. You may want to include some kind of countdown feature on your landing page to build the excitement and through the launch. When you receive positive reviews make sure you email and Tweet them to your followers.

Getting Reviewed

A positive review form,a blog,website, magazine, or newspaper might be the most efficient and effective marketing tool. While the reviews may be free, it could take some effort to get noticed by the reviewers. Influential reviewers are inundated with review requests. Getting your app to the front of the line will require time, patience, and persistence.

While you need to make sure your app is completely done and ready for launch before sending it for review, you can start laying the groundwork in the prelaunch stage. Start by building a list of target blogs and publications. Your list should be broken down into three groups: 1) blogs dedicated to iPhone apps; 2) blogs and publications within your niche; and 3) traditional magazines and newspapers.

It is challenging to gain traction with the first group. Every developer wants their app reviewed on websites like AppAdvice.com, theiphoneappreview.com, and MacWorld.com. Still, the amount of traffic
these blogs receive makes it an absolute necessity to solicit them for a review.

Getting reviewed by a popular review site will require working hard and smart

When you solicit these sites, keep your email short and concise. You want to include the following information:

  • The app’s name as it appears in the app store
  • The price
  • The website
  • What your app does and why it’s different (brief!)
  • One or two screenshots
  • Your contact information

Again, these sites are flooded with review requests, so brevity is your friend. Do not go into a long dissertation on what inspired the app and how you feel it will change the world. Also, try to make the email feel informal and personal. Poke around the review site and try to find the name of the person who accepts review requests. If you can’t find that person, see if a specific person seems to write most of the reviews for apps similar to yours. Email them directly with your review request and write the email specific for them. Do not send out a generic mass email. Remember to be personable, professional, and appreciative. A friendly tone will help you stand out from the crowd.

The second group consists of blogs and publications within your niche. They cater to the very people who would be most interested in using your app. Use a similar approach as above when you contact to this group, and include the same basic information. However, since these blogs or publications focus on a specific industry or interest (not just apps), you can expand on the description of what your app does and how it is beneficial to the people in that group. These contacts will be less interested in the technical aspects of the app and more interested in the app’s value to the field or pursuit.You may also want to expand on the personal story behind the app. Share what inspired the app’s development. Share your own history and expertise within the field. For example, if you developed running-log app like RunKeeper, you might share how you came up with the idea for the app while training for your first full-length marathon.

The third group is general publications like your hometown newspaper. When addressing this group, you want to really play up the personal story behind the app. Focus on your idea for the app and the obstacles you faced in development. Expand on any personal connection you have with the publication’s readers, like being from that city or graduating from a nearby college.

Remember that soliciting reviews is a numbers game. Most of the people you contact are not going to accept your request or even return your email. Don’t get discouraged. All you need is one or two positive, well-placed reviews to ignite your app’s market awareness. And while you don’t want to be a pest or end up generating a negative impression, some follow-up and persistence can be a good thing.

Don’t Rush to the Launch

We’ve all heard the saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The final step of your pre-launch marketing campaign is 100% prevention, but it could save you a major headache later.

Do not launch your app before it is ready. As you wind down development, you’ll start to feel the rush of achievement. You may be tempted to get it out there so you can start to receive sales and feedback. Don’t do it. Negative user reviews is the number one killer of iPhone apps. You can avoid that by taking some extra time to test and review every characteristic of your app as described it the chapter on testing.Does it function properly? Is the design appealing? Is it easy to understand?

Don’t just test the app itself. Also test out the app name and description of the app. Most people leave negative reviews when the app doesn’t meet expectations. They thought they were buying one app and received something different. Do your descriptions set the right expectations? Does your app deliver on its promises? Try to get feedback and comments from friends, coworkers, and anyone who might have communication or advertising expertise.

There will certainly be bugs and issues that need to be fixed later. We’ll address those in post-launch marketing. However, a bit of effort and review can head off unnecessary and careless mistakes. Don’t sabotage all your hard work. Do yourself a favor and double; triple, even quadruple check everything before launch.

In Summary

This book is designed to help people who have an idea for an Apple device app and who want to outsource programming to a third party provider. Dozens of people are outsourcing their app and program ideas to programmers every day. It doesn’t matter whether the application is your idea or your bosses, and whether you want to make money marketing the app or want to have a custom personal or business app created just for your or your business needs.

Hopefully this guide can help you save time and money in getting your app developed through outsourcing, plus it will help you get it done right.

Hopefully this guide can help you save time and money in getting your app developed through outsourcing, plus it will help you get it done right.

If you plan to outsource app development for a smart device, especially an Apple device, then this book is meant for you.

The App Launch

You’re one step closer. You’ve developed a high-quality app. You’ve networked within your niche, built a list of contacts, and kept them aware of your app’s impending launch. Now it’s time to send your app out to the world.

Submitting the App to the Apple App Store

Anyone with an Apple product has access to the App Store. The App Store operates as a third-party reseller of your app. Think of yourself as a manufacturer and the App Store as a retailer. Apple handles most of the cumbersome aspects of app retailing, like payments, hosting, bandwidth, updates, and notifications. If you sell through the App Store, you don’t have to worry about registrations and licenses because Apple has to pre-approve the app before putting it on the App Store.

The App Store also offers extra marketing benefits. There is a (very) slight chance that you could be featured by Apple, which would provide a huge sales boost. More likely is the opportunity to move up the “Top Selling” lists. As you sell more apps, you move up the sales rank list. As you move up the list, you become visible to more people and, subsequently, sell more apps. Success breeds success.

All of these benefits come with a price. Apple charges an annual fee for enrollment in their development program. For most developers, that fee is $99. Apple also takes a 30% cut of all app sales. Think of this cut as Apple’s markup for handling the customer interactions. The question to ask is, Is 30% a fair price for Apple to handle nearly all of the distribution and customer interaction? For most developers the answer to that question is “Yes.” But it really doesn’t matter. If you develop for Apple products you don’t really have a choice.

When you are ready to market the app, the next step is to get your app approved and available for sale on the App Store.After that, you need to optimize your app’s online presence to show up in searches and encourage potential users to press the “Buy” button. We’ll spend the next few pages walking through a step-by-step guide for App Store launch success.

Enroll in Apple’s Developer Program

You will need to enroll in Apple’s iOS Developer Program.(There is also a Mac Developer Program, so don’t be confused.) You must be enrolled before you can submit an app for approval. The program includes App Store distribution and costs $99 per year. The program has two other categories;one for enterprises (large organizational developers) with a larger fee and one for universities (for teaching and learning iOS development) that is free.The basic Developer Program will apply to the most.

Start the process by going to:https://developer.apple.com/program/ios/.

Choosing-iOS-Developer

Click the “Enroll Now” button and follow the steps to create a user ID and password. After enrollment, you’ll receive a confirmation email from Apple to verify your email address. You must verify your email before continuing the process. Once you verify your email, you’ll receive a licensing agreement from Apple. After signing the agreement, you’ll receive an activation code link, which is the final step in the enrollment process. Once the enrollment is complete you can access the Member Center, the online portal for your app’s account management. You can also access iTunes Connect to set up your app on the App Store.

Create an Xcode Project for the App

Create an Xcode project

As you may have learned while working with the developer, Xcode is Apple’s suite of development tools for iOS software. If you didn’t coordinate with the developer in creating an Xcode project, then you will need to create a new Xcode project for your app. When you create the project in your Xcode software, you’ll be asked to create a product name and a company identifier. A bundle ID is then generated. The product name, company identifier, and bundle ID all need to match the name, identifier, and bundle ID you use for the app in iTunes Connect.

Test the App from the App Store

In development the app was tested by the developer on simulators, and you and your test group tested using mobile provisioning versions pulled into iTunes. Apple gives you an opportunity to test your app live on your iPhone or iPad by registering your Apple device in Xcode.

The first step is to request a development certificate. In the Organizer, click on Devices.Then, click on Provisioning Profiles in the Library section. Log in with your username and password.A pop-up will ask you if Xcode should request a development certificate. Click on “Submit Request.”

Next, connect your iPhone to your Mac. In Xcode, go to the Organizer, then to Devices. Your iPhone should be there. Select your device and then click the “Use For Development” button.

Request a development certificate from the App Store.

                                       Request a development certificate from the App Store

Finally, it’s time to launch your app downloaded from the App Store on your device. In Xcode, go to File and then “Edit Scheme.” Select your device from the Scheme Editor menu that pops up. Click OK to close the Scheme Editor and then click Run. Your app will launch on your particular device.
As you did in the test phase, Apple suggests that you test your app on as many different devices and different generations of devices as possible. For example, if your app is going to be available for all Apple devices, you should try to test it on all iPads, all iPods, and all iPhones. If your app is only going to be available for specific devices, only test on those devices. According to Apple, testing on the real devices can reveal flaws and glitches that don’t show up on app testing simulators.

Adding your iPhone for development.

Create an App Record in iTunes Connect

You’ll use iTunes Connect to update all of your app’s marketing and branding collateral, such as name, keywords, description, screenshots, and icon. We’ve already discussed the importance of all of these, and we will cover the importance of keywords and an effective description in the next section. For now, we’ll focus on the technical aspect of creating your app record in iTunes Connect.

Before you can begin, you need to have your screenshots captured in Xcode. Connect your device to your Mac and launch your app on your device via the method we described above. Navigate your app to find the specific screen you want to use for the screenshot. Go to Xcode and use the triangle to open the dropdown menu under your device in the Devices Organizer. Select Screenshots and then click on New Screenshot in the lower-right corner. The new screenshot will appear in your Xcode software. You can save it as a PNG by dragging it to your desktop.

Once you have your screenshots, you’re ready to create your record. You’ll need your Bundle ID from Xcodesince it needs to be the same in iTunes Connect. Log in to iTunes Connect, select Manage Your Applications, and then click on Add New Application. A guide will walk you through the setup process. It is very easy to follow. When you’re finished with the questions, click Done!

One thing to be aware of in this process is the App Ship Date. You can set the app to ship (or launch) the day it’s approved by Apple. However, Apple’s approval process is notoriously unpredictable. Your app could get launched earlier than expected – before you’ve completed your marketing process. A better practice is to set the date to the latest date allowable. You can always change the date once the app is approved, but you won’t have to worry about the app launching before you’re ready.
Use Xcode to manage the app information at the App Store

Submit the App for Approval

The submission process starts with downloading a distribution provisioning profile from the Member Center. Go to the Member Center and log in to the iOS Provisioning Portal. Go to “Provisioning” and then the “Distributions” tab. Find the provisioning file you want and then click on “Download.” A profile with a “.mobileprovision” extension appears in your Downloads file. Next, open Xcode and go to the Devices Organizer. Select “Provisioning Profiles.” Drag the new “.mobileprovision” download into the Devices Organizer.

Submit the app through the Member Center

You also need to sign the distribution certificate. In Xcode, select your project, click “Build Settings,” and then click “All.” Type “Code Signing” into the search field of the Build Settings pane.From the pop-up menu, choose the certificate that begins with “iPhone Distribution” followed by your name.

Finally, you need to create and validate an archived copy of your app for submission. In Xcode, choose “iOS Device” from the scheme toolbar menu. Then choose “Product” and then “Archive.” Next, go to the Archives Organizer, select the archive, and click “Validate.” You’ll then be asked for you iTunes credentials. Enter your credentials, select the app you want to share, and your signing identity and then click “Next.” Review and correct any validation issues. XCode won’t allow you to move forward if there are validation issues. If there are no issues, click “Next.”

Signing the Apple distribution certificate is required

                                      Signing the Apple distribution certificate is required

Now you’re ready to submit the app for approval. Go to the Archives organizer and select the archive. Click “Distribute,” then click “Submit to the iOS App Store” and click next. Again, enter your iTunes Connect credentials, choose your signing identity, and click “Next.” Enter a filename and location for the App Store package and click “Save.” Xcode then transmits your app to Apple for approval. The amount of time needed for approval is a bit unpredictable. Some approvals move quickly; others can take as much as three weeks. If your app is rejected, correct the offending issues and resubmit. If your app is accepted, you are ready to start selling.

Unless you direct Apple otherwise, your app will be available as soon as it is approved. You may want to launch on an exact date to sync up with your marketing efforts. To specify your launch date, go to iTunes Connect and select “Manage Your Applications.” Find your app in “iOS Recent Activity.” Under “Rights & Pricing,” select your target launch date from the “Availability Date” pop-up menu. Now, even if your app is approved, it will not be available in the App Store until your specified date.

How to Use this Book

This leads us to the discussion of what this book will and will not do for you. The specific purpose for this book is to help people just like you who have an idea or a need for a specific app and want to use development outsourcing to get the app ready and available for Apple devices.

A Cautionary Tale

Bob had a great idea for an app. Working in sales, Bob traveled frequently and had numerous business contacts. He devised an app concept for his iPhone that would help him manage his expenses and his contact list, as well as provide follow-up reminders and other sales tools. Bob decided it would be wise to get a prototype developed for himself. If it worked out he would consider marketing it.

The first thing Bob did was go to an online outsourcing site and posted his development job. In no time, he had numerous reasonably priced proposals. He selected a programmer from Nigeria who seemed competent. Bob accepted his proposal for $600. They spoke on Skype and Bod described what he wanted. The programmer said, “No problem,” and agreed when Bob suggested a three-week timeframe for completion.

After a month and half and numerous emails, Bob finally saw a demonstration of his app. It was nothing like he envisioned and it didn’t seem to work right. Bob listed out all the things he though needed fixed. After a few more weeks and a few more emails he saw the updated version. The developer had fixed a few minor things, but ignored the major problems. Bob and the developer volleyed back and forth for two more months. Finally, the developer told Bob he didn’t think he (Bob) would ever be happy and that he couldn’t work on the program anymore.

Bob had paid the developer most of the $600 in progress payments, and the programmer claimed he had delivered the app. Bob had little recourse. He was out several months of time and $600 with nothing to show for it. He gave up on his app idea.

It doesn’t have to be that way for you. You can learn from Bob’s mistakes. Outsourcing can work and it can produce that app you want if you do it wisely.

Managing the App Outsourcing Project

This book is produced for a very specific reason; to bring your Apple device app idea to life, from conception to final product, using outsourcing.

If you use outsourcing effectively, the process for app creation works very well. The typical app outsourcing project will include activities such as communicating the app idea with architects, designers and programmers, creating the app development project plan, actually getting the app developed and tested, and then finalized as a unique app product. If you want to sell the app, you’ll also need to work to develop marketing inside and outside the Apple Apps Store.

This book describes a specific step-by-step process to visualize the app, lay the foundation to build it, build it and test it. But we don’t stop there. The book also provides specific information about how to market the app; creating public awareness and making it available from the Apple app store. Marketing…the most critical factor of all. Remember…no matter how great the product, if people don’t buy it, it’s worth nothing.

The book focuses on explaining app development for the Apple devices, in particular:

3

  • The iPhone
  • The iPad
  • The iPod Touch or iTouch

Apple products aren’t our focus because we are Applephiles or because we think Apple products are the best. Other producers are making fine smart device products, and the apps available for these devices are tremendous. Users who love or prefer these devices will get no argument from us. This book focuses on the iPhone, iPad, and iTouch devices for the following reasons:

Apple devices are the most prevalent:

Apple devices are the most popular devices for apps and they will continue to be for the foreseeable future. While the Apple app market dominance won’t continue at the same level it has enjoyed in recent years (about 75% of paid app market share in 2011), it is projected that Apple apps will still maintain the majority of the app market.

The Apple Apps Store is the toughest marketplace to gain entrance to:

While it is not impossible to make your app available through the Apple App Store, the process isn’t to be taken lightly. If you can get an app onto the App Store then you can probably get apps on other app marketplace sites as well.

So while this book is very specifically about using outsourcing to get an app developed for Apple products, it can also serve as a general guide for developing an app for other markets as well.

What This Book Will Help You Do

This book will guide you through the process of getting an Apple device app developed and available by:

  • Understanding the basics of what apps are including types and languages
  • Properly fleshing out your concept in ways that leads to successful development
  • Realistically considering the financial aspects
  • Finding and hiring the right programmer/provider at the right price
  • Testing and reviewing the app to get it ready for market
  • Getting the app listed on the Apple App Store and taking other appropriate steps to market your app

This book will help you work through arduous details and avoid the pitfalls that lead to wasted time and wasted money.

What This Book Will Not Help You Do

This book will not help you…
… learn to be app programmer.
This book is for people who want to get an app developed, but they do not know or want to learn how to write code. Instead they plan to hire or outsource the programming and perhaps other elements of app development. Our goal is not to teach you how to write Objective C code for iPhones then you need a different book. However, if you are capable and do want to write the code for your app, then go for it.
… create ideas for an app.
This book does not contain any great ideas for apps nor does it contain any methodologies for coming up with great app ideas. The concept for the app should be the reason you are reading this book; helping you turn your concept into a real app for an Apple device by outsourcing the specialized technical elements like programming the code or designing graphical elements.
… guarantee you will have great success…
if you define success by making a lot of money, that is. There are most likely people in the app market whose are trying to make money without success in spite of the fact that the app they are trying to market is one that should be a huge success. The reason? There are just too many subjective and undefined elements to know for sure which apps will be a big hit and which won’t. If there were a sure-fire formula for knowing, everyone would be following it. However, there are some basic things you need to know and do to put you in the running for being credited with the next Words with Friends or Angry Birds.

What is Your Goal?

What is your motive or purpose for entering the world of app development and marketing?

If your goal is to make a fortune in the app business, you may want to re-evaluate your motives. Remember…a lot of people went west but only a few made their fortune. But even if you don’t make a fortune, you will likely enhance your income and will definitely leave your mark on the world of technology.

Maybe you just want to see how well your idea flies or you simply want to share your idea with others. You don’t know until you try, and if you find your app useful, chances are others will, too.

Or perhaps you want to get a simple custom app made for your personal needs or for your business.  That is certainly within reach for most people.

Realistically, if you do want to develop apps to sell in the marketplace, you need to put the time, effort and money into doing it right.    People who pay even a dollar for an app expect a professionally developed and fully functional app.

Whatever your overarching goal is, this book will help you go through the steps to use outsource programming to create an app that meets that goal.

App Store Optimization (ASO)

The app may be available on the App Store, but there’s still marketing work to be done. Your app store profile is the online equivalent of a retail location. Have you walked through a mall lately? Stores don’t just put the product on the shelf. They design the store from top-to-bottom and wall-to-wall to reinforce their brand message. They carefully stock their products based on what sells and why it sells. They visually push their value statement as much as they push their product.

Your app store profile (and your website) is your storefront.You need to plan out how your product will be displayed. You also need to optimize your profile so potential customers can find you easily and quickly in a search. The best-developed app in the world doesn’t mean anything if no one can find it. Recently, we wrote an in-depth article on a complete App Store Optimization Guide For iOS 11.

Your app store profile consists of several components:

  • App Name
  • Icon
  • Keywords
  • Description
  • Screenshots

These components serve two purposes. First, they help your potential customer decide to purchase. Informative screenshots, well-written descriptions, and five-star ratings can be very persuasive. More importantly, though, these App Store components help potential customers find your app in the first place. Apple uses an algorithm to scan your app’s name, keywords, and description. The algorithm decides where to place your app in search results. According to Business Insider, sixty-three percent of iPhone shoppers purchase apps as a result of searching a specific keyword. The importance of proper keyword placement within your App Store profile can’t be overstated.

We already discussed your app’s name and icon. Now we’ll discuss the other components – keywords, description, and screenshots.

Finding and Using the Right Keywords

Keyword placement only works if you use the correct keywords. You want to find the keywords that your potential customers are most likely to use to search for apps like yours. You also want to use keywords that are relevant to your app and can fit seamlessly into your app description.

Google's keyword tool can help you find what terms people use to search most often.

Google’s keyword tool can help you find what terms people use to search most often

Fortunately, there are a number of tools available to help with the search. While we skipped over the concept of Organic Search Value when discussing internet marketing, the same basic ideas apply and we will cover a few basics here.

Google’s Adwords keywords tool is an excellent resource for building a keyword list. It’s a free service that allows you to search for relevant keywords based on word or phrase, a website, or a general industry or category.

Let’s assume that you developed an app similar to RunKeeper. It’s a mobile log for runners to keep track of their times, mileage, heart rate, calories, and any other pertinent information. You want to find keywords to use in your name, description, and keyword list.

Go to Google’s Keyword Tool.There are three options: word or phrase, website, and category. Let’s start with a simple phrase describing what are app does – “running log.” If you type that phrase into the “Word or Phrase” box, you’ll get the following results:The keyword tool displays terms, and related terms, by search popularity

The tool brings up a list of related keywords. When it first brings up the list, the keywords will be in random order. You can click on the phrase “Global Monthly Searches” to list the keywords in descending order from most searched keyword to least searched phrase. Competition is exactly what it sounds like; it tells you how many websites are competing for this keyword. Global Monthly Searches tells you how many people search the particular keyword on a monthly basis around the world. Local Monthly Searches tells you how many people search the keyword monthly within your locality, which, in this case, is the United States.

A fairly obvious keyword – “running” – sits atop this list. That word would probably be used for any running based app. There are some others on the list that may be a surprise. The phrase “route planner” ranks fairly high. If your app included some kind of route planning function, this would make a great keyword. A lot of variations of “marathon” and “marathon training” appear, which makes sense because marathon runners have to be disciplined in their record keeping and preparation.

This keyword data comes from Google searches, not app searches, so it doesn’t have a direct correlation with the app store. However, it does give you a good general idea of which phrases or keywords are on the minds of consumers. It’s a good tool for finding keywords you may not have considered. It is also a valuable tool for Organic and Inorganic internet marketing for your website.

App Store Rankings

App Store Rankings (www.appstorerankings.net) is another helpful and free tool to generate keyword ideas. App Store Rankings provides the keywords for an app available on iPhone or Android. The site also offers paid services, starting at $39 per month, to provide and optimize keywords for your app.

The best way to use the free version of App Store Rankings is to search for the keywords of your most popular competitors. Going back to our running app example, the biggest competitor would be RunKeeper. If we type RunKeeper into App Store Rankings, here is the result…

The AppStoreRankings tool can also help you refine keyword use

The AppStoreRankings tool can also help you refine keyword use

Cross-reference the keywords from your competitors against the keywords from Google’s tool. List and prioritize your keywords based on which terms appear on both lists and which terms get the most traffic. When you set up your app on iTunes Connect, you’ll have the ability to submit keywords for your app. You can use up to 100 characters for keywords. Try to use all of them. Also, don’t use phrases, complete sentences, or repeated words. Simply list the keywords and separate them by commas. Finally, keep the keywords handy because you’ll need them when you write your app’s description.

Create an Effective, Reader-Friendly Description

Keywords will get eyes on your app. Your app name and icon will get potential users’ intrigued. A solid description will help the prospect with the buy or no-buy decision. The app description is your opportunity to expand on your brand. This is the place to list everything your app can do; features, value and any positive reviews. Anything positive about your app should be expressed here.

Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind:

If you are not a strong copywriter, consider hiring a pro to do this. A poorly written description will convey an amateur quality. A strongly written description will express professionalism.

App Store shoppers will only see the first three or four lines of your description and will then be given the option to view the rest by clicking a “More” button. Make the most of those first few lines. Be upfront with your value statement, then add intrigue by promising even greater features that they can see after they click “More.”

Remember that the description is indexed and searched for keywords, so try to use those words when appropriate. However, don’t cram so many keywords as to make your description ridiculous and confusing. The first job of your description is to explain your app’s value. Using keywords is the second job.

Include positive quotes and snippets from any third-party reviews you’ve received. When you first launch, you won’t have any reviews. Including your outside reviews will help lend credibility. If the quote from the review is strong enough, include it in the first three or four lines of the description.

Use the Right Screenshots

In iOS 11, screenshots are more important than ever because your first screenshot will actually show up in the search results. That means potential buyers will be filtering their search results on four criteria: price, ratings, brand (icon/name) quality, and screenshot quality. When you launch, you won’t have any ratings, so it’s of even greater importance that you get the other three criteria right.

There are some general do’s and don’ts of using screenshots. The first do is basic: use all five screenshot spaces. Apple allows you to submit up to five screenshots. For some reason, many developers choose to use less than five slots. These slots are your best opportunity to show off your hard work. Take advantage of all five of them.

Use screenshots to convey information about the function and the look and feel of your app.

Another rule in screenshot selection is to make sure your screenshots accurately convey your app’s value. It may be tempting to try to be creative and do something outside the box. Again, clarity is more important than creativity. This is your last chance to tell your potential buyers why they should buy your app, so you want to put your best foot forward. You can also supplement your screenshots with a well-written copy to further press your point. The pregnancy app My Pregnancy Today is a great example of an app with clear, informational screenshots.

Most screenshots are taken within the app, but it may be a good idea to provide an overview of how one uses the app. For example, here’s a

Screenshots can also convey how to use the app

                                        Screenshots can also convey how to use the app

series of screenshots from the app Clear that show exactly how the app is operated. Notice how the background is blurred so your eye focuses on the app and nothing else.

In the quest to convey your app’s value, it’s easy to veer into information overload. Don’t include so much information that you undermine the power of your screenshots. If your screenshots require extensive notes or copy, then you have probably chosen the wrong screenshots.

Information overload will not help sell the app

Information overload will not help sell the app

Potential buyers should be able to recognize your app’s value immediately. Here is an example of a cluttered screenshot from the music app, NoteDown. Notice how all the notes and extraneous information hide the actual screenshot.

App Development is the New Wild West

Some claim that the early days of the internet were like the Wild West; wide open and no rules or guidelines. Brave and smart could compete and even win over big and powerful. In spite of the fact that that big companies control most of the traffic these days, the Internet still presents great opportunities for small entrepreneurs.

The popularity of smart devices and the wide open range of the apps market it has created, is, in a sense, the new frontier.

Consider the following:

No one company is dominating the app market:

There is no Microsoft or Google of apps. Can you name an app company? Probably not. While there are a few well-known development sources, the overwhelming majority of apps are developed by small startups or individuals.

The smart device market is ever-growing:

Billions of people around the world own at least one smart device and over the next few years billions more will. Between 2011 and 2012 alone the percentage of adults in the U.S. with smartphones went from approximately 1in 3 to about 1 in 2. By 2015 it is likely that 75 to 80% people will own at least one smart device.
Every smartphone user downloads apps- perhaps dozens of them. So it only makes sense to say that the apps market could be exponentially larger than the device market.

Application sales are projected to have continual growth for the coming years. (Source: http://arstechnica.com /apple/2012/05/ios-app-success-is-a-lottery-and-60-of-developers-dont-break-even/)

Developing an app is not overly complex.

Most apps perform basic functions; making them easily developed using the skills of most talented coders. Apps can be sophisticated; using high levels of rules and processing or complex interactions with data sources. But they don’t have to be and frequently aren’t.

These facts make app development attainable and affordable for even the smallest businesses. There are also numerous tools-many of them being free. This fact adds to the simplicity and ease of developing your own app.

The app market is growing dynamically.

The two main reasons for the constant growth and development of apps are the facts that apps are inexpensive to develop, making them inexpensive to buy. This means that not only will a device owner buy multiple apps, he/she is also willing to buy multiple apps for the same purpose. There is little risk in spending a few dollars to buy a different app you may like better than one you already have. And as for game apps, there is literally no end to the amount of games a user may buy.

So while the smartphone market growth may have a few dips and peaks during periods when new product development isn’t in sync with market saturation, the app market shows every indication of remaining strong with apps for Apple devices being projected to have a large majority of the share of that growth.

These are just a few of the reasons that the app development market should be considered an open frontier with great opportunities for the smart and the brave. A good idea combined with initiative and a minimal investment can make you a viable player in the world of app development and marketing.

Introduction

The goal of this book is to help you through the process of getting an app developed for Apple iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch (commonly called the iTouch) smart devices through outsourcing.

Smart devices are the new necessities to our personal and business lives; giving us constant and instant access to the Internet, social media and our family, friends and business contacts. But perhaps the biggest asset smart devices bring is their ability to run apps or applications to make life easier and more informed.

Generally, the term application or app means any program on any computing device for a particular purpose or task. One example you are likely familiar with is Microsoft Word. Recently, however, the term “app” has become standard shorthand for simple, compact applications that run on handheld smart devices like smartphones and tablets.

Apps are literally changing the world.  They are the source of information and connection in today’s world.

Apps have become popular because their amazingly diverse capabilities and their instantaneous availability. They are typically considerably less expensive than computer programs and are put the world at our fingertips.  For many of us, relying on our favorite app(s) has become second nature.  Second only to the world wide web, the smartphone and its capabilities to read apps, is clearly the second most important technical evolution of the information age.

After the Launch

Although you have accomplished a lot, the marketing process doesn’t stop after launch. With over 10,000 new apps submitted to Apple every month, you’ll face new competitors on a daily basis. An effective post-launch marketing process doesn’t just attract new users; it also converts current users into marketers on your behalf. You want your users to be so satisfied with your app and your service that they ignite the most cost-effective marketing method-word of mouth.

There are multiple facets to post-launch marketing, including cross promotion, responsive customer service and even buying downloads to move up the bestseller list. Before you make any changes, it’s important to know where your app stands and how it is monetized. The first step is to calculate your average daily downloads over a specific period, like 30 days or 90 days. Next, calculate your revenue from that same period and examine where that revenue is coming from.

Let’s assume your app is free to download but has in-app extras that users can download for $0.99. Over a one month period, you have 50 average daily downloads and a daily average of $2.50 of in-app download revenue. That means your app is converting 5% of users into revenue. That number tells us a couple things. First, we can now back in to a target number of downloads. If you’re goal is to make $25 per day, you’ll either have to increase your daily downloads from 50 to 500 or you’ll have to increase your conversion rate from 5% to 50%. Either way will require more marketing on your part. Secondly, we know that currently each download is worth $0.05 in revenue. That gives you guidance to work with when you start looking at advertising and paid downloads.

Also, compare your daily downloads to your category rank. If you have 100 downloads per day and you’re ranked #500 in your category, your app has growing room. You could benefit from increased marketing, app updates, and better communication with your users. If you have 100 downloads per day and you’re ranked #20 in your category, that’s a good sign that your category probably doesn’t have significant volume. In this instance it would be wiser to try and increase revenue per download rather than increase number of downloads.

Tweak Your Presentation

Finally, before paying for advertising, be sure to review everything you can change for free. Try different keywords. Rewrite your description. Choose some new screenshots. Experiment with the download price. All of these things are free and are within your control. It may take some trial and error with these characteristics before you settle on a winning formula.

Satisfied Customers

The best post-launch marketing method is to convert your users into word-of-mouth marketing machines. Designing a functional, high-quality app is a crucial first step. However, even the best-designed apps still have flaws. Your app is no exception and you can be sure that your users will find the issues you missed. The key is to head off issues, flaws and concerns before they turn into one-star and two-star ratings.

Your users should be able to contact you easily, quickly and via multiple methods. Your website should prominently display your email info, as well as social media buttons to contact you via Facebook and Twitter. Social media is a great way to address functionality issues because all your followers can see your responsiveness.

The Twitter account of the travel app Just Landed is a great example of how to use Twitter and other social media like Facebook to communicate with users. Look at the Twitter conversation and notice how quick the app developer is to offer help.Social Media

As soon as the conversation includes the app’s handle, the developer jumps in and advises the user to contact him or her directly. This kind of responsiveness shows the other users that the developer will have conversation about issues with the app. Most people will not leave a negative review if the developer and can resolve or address the issue. Your job is to make it easy for your users to communicate with you.

When you release updates and new versions, make sure your users know exactly what will change with the update. If the update addresses a known glitch, market the fact that you are addressing the problem with the new version. Again, this doesn’t just advertise your new version. It also advertises your high level of customer service.

The Next Steps – ANDROID

As your work out the kinks, build your brand and your app grows in popularity, you may want to consider expanding to the Android market.

Android owns over 50% of the smartphone market versus a 40% share for iOS. If your app is on both Android and iOS, you will have access to over 90% of smartphone users. Much of the concept design will apply directly to the Android development, so most of the work on your end is already done.

Developing an app for Android is a topic for another time, but it should be noted that the Android market provides marketing opportunities that you can’t find with iOS.Unlike iOS apps, Android apps can be sold outside Google’s Android Market. A whole network of Android app sales sites has grown significantly over a short period of time.

There are also many more ways to promote an app outside the Apple world, including a wealth of web sites that sell apps. Many of the sites are devoted to specific niches or types of apps. For example, Appitalism focuses on apps that have social components. Apppolicious works with Facebook to tell you what apps your friends are using. GetJar handles only free apps

A diversity of sales sites gives you an opportunity to market your app in different ways. These sites want traffic and they want downloads, so they will often work directly with developers on promotional materials like interviews about the app’s design, preview videos and chats with potential users. Selling across multiple platforms also gives your app a better chance to shine. If your app doesn’t rank high on Google’s Android Market, it may rank high on the Amazon App Store or PocketGear or Phandroid.

You Are on Your Way

The App Store presents a massive opportunity to distribute your product, build your brand, and drive revenue. As we’ve discussed, however, sales don’t happen automatically. You should approach your marketing process with the same care and discipline you had in your development process. App Store marketing is really no different than marketing any other product. You have to engage your customers. Hammer home your product’s value. Present your product in a favorable and appealing manner. And, finally, quickly and effectively respond to customer issues and concerns. If you can follow those steps and spread your message with enthusiasm, you should be on your way to App Store success.

Selecting a Provider

After sending requests for proposals or posting the job, you can sit back and watch the proposals roll in. Most proposals will appear in the first one or two business days after the posting is created. A few might come in on the third day, but by the fourth day you probably have all the proposals you will receive, so if you are ready to proceed at that point then there is no reason to delay. The same is generally true for proposals from contractors found through direct search. Start evaluating the proposals to select a developer.

For providers you found by direct search, don’t be surprised if 50% of them do not respond to your inquiries, or reply initially but then do not respond with a proposal in a timely way. It might be surprising, but this is typical. You may have experienced similar instances in your personal life, for example you leave a message with three different plumbers but only one bothers to call you back. If you contact 10 app developers directly and you end up with eight proposals, then you did a great job of selecting developers to contact.

For directly contacted developers, there is probably no need to do an initial screening since you probably only have a handful of proposals. For jobs posted on freelance sites, though, you may get 25 or 30 proposals, or even more. Many of these will be so unqualified that you can eliminate them immediately. If you get numerous of proposals on a freelance site, the first step is to make an initial screening pass. Before spending time closely evaluating proposals, let’s get rid of the definite rejects. Reject any proposal from any source for these reasons:

  • A rubber stamp proposal that doesn’t specifically address your project at all. A significant number of members of freelance sites have a standard proposal they use over and over again – playing a numbers game by responding to as many job postings as they can. There is a good chance that providers who are shot-gunning proposals may not have the specific skills you need.
  • Demonstrates a lack of English skills. People who can’t write a clear, correct proposal will likely have a hard time interpreting requirements and instructions. Or they have a tendency for sloppy work and a lack of attention to detail. Both are bad signs.
  • The proposal price or schedule is way out of line. Anyone with a ridiculously high or low price might be trying to scam you in one way or another.
  • No portfolio or samples are provided.
  • Unless you are willing to take a risk in order to get a really low rate, table any providers with no track record of projects. Sometimes new providers will work at a discount to build a work history/reputation on the site, but proceed with caution.

The goal is to get down to a manageable list of about five of the most qualified programmers with a demonstrated track record. If the initial screening still leaves more than five potential outsource programmers, then additional intermediate reviews are needed to get down to the final list, each iteration going a little further in detail. For each stage, create a list of criteria that programmers have to meet in order to move on. For example, the next iteration could eliminate proposals outside a price range or a geographical region. Another review could focus on the relevance and quality of samples provided.

Selecting a Provider

The goal in the early provider reviews is to eliminate proposals that don’t fit, so later you can concentrate on the ones that do. Most sites have a way of declining or ignoring proposals, so the list of prospective proposals will shorten. As you review the proposals in more detail, it becomes apparent that a set of proposals rise above the rest.

These are the finalists. Again, make sure all your finalists are the original source of the app programming. Avoid dealing with middlemen who add little value but will increase the cost by 50%-200%.

Making the Selection

Once a small group of finalists are selected it is time to evaluate each one closely. Since it might be hard to keep them straight, it is a good idea to start a list or spreadsheet so you can make very direct comparisons. Read their proposals carefully to see how well they address the project specifically, how well they explain their experience and skills, and how impressed you are overall with their professionalism. Carefully review the examples of their work provided to you. Do the samples show related app programming skills? Do they have any apps commercially available?

Create columns for each outsource candidate attribute you want to evaluate, like price, schedule, and ratings/feedback. You can also use the spreadsheet to rate each candidate in these and other areas. Consider rating each candidate 1 to 5 in several categories, then averaging the scores to see how each programmer stands. Add any other thoughts about the developer in the Notes column.

On freelance sites, you can also visit the profile pages of prospective developers to see a more complete history. One telling component of the profile page that you will not see on the proposal is the number of jobs awarded but not completed. That could be a sign of a developer who is great at proposals, but lacks the hard skills needed to follow through with projects. Any developer might have a project or two that falls through for some reason, but a trend in this area should be a warning sign. You can also see more extensive feedback comments and a more complete work history on profile pages.

As you evaluate the developers to select one to hire, note any questions you have about them or about the project. Do not hesitate to contact someone that submitted a proposal with follow-up questions, in fact it might be a good idea to come up with a list of question after reviewing all the finalist’s proposals and send them to each programmer to see how well and how quickly they respond. For example, are they willing to use Skype and are they willing to review and demonstrate progress (milestones) a few times during the project? Are they willing to sign a non-disclosure agreement?

A table or spreadsheet for direct comparisons can help with evaluating candidates.
A table or spreadsheet for direct comparisons can help with evaluating candidates

Non-disclosure agreements simply state that developers cannot share, sell, or otherwise profit from the proprietary app design or idea. It is a very standard document, and most reputable developers are accustomed to signing them, since it only applies to proprietary information and does not apply in any way to public knowledge or technology. However, theoretically it will prevent an unethical programmer from using your app flowchart to create the app and sell it themselves. Most freelance sites have standard forms like these that are available for you to use. On Elance they can be a bit hard to find, so just start entering “non-disclosure agreement” in the Help search box and it will pop up. Non-disclosure agreement forms are also available at dozens of legal help websites for free or for a small fee.

Find the Elance non-disclosure form using Help search tool.

Find the Elance non-disclosure form using Help search tool

While this may seem like a lot of work, if you want to take the next step with the app project, you have to select and hire a developer.

If this is a large, complex, expensive development project, the magnitude of importance for this decision is greatly increased. If this is the case, then you might want to consider hiring two or three app programmers that would each develop a small part of the application. Then you can select the developer that does the best work to continue with the project. If you are making a big investment into creating an application, using a small part of your budget to make sure you find the right developer is worth the price.

Negotiating the Price

You can negotiate the proposed price with developers. If things are a little slow or they do not currently have an active project, then most developers would be happy reduce their price a bit to land the job. A developer with plenty of work, on the other hand, has little reason to negotiate. So there aren’t any hard and fast rules. If you have a tight development budget and the programmer you want is little above the budget, then it never hurts to let them know where your limit is and ask if they could do the project at that rate. If you do decide to negotiate with the developer, there are a few unwritten rules to remember.

No one wants to be nickeled and dimed – If it is already a very low cost project then take proposals at face value. For example, it seems really cheap to try to get a provider to reduce the price from $500 to $450. On the other hand, if your budget is $3000 and a qualified provider proposed $3500, it would not be insulting to ask if the provider could meet the $3000 budget. They may at least offer to meet you halfway.

Be Respectful – Don’t try to get a provider to reduce the price by disparaging their work or by harping on how “easy” the project will be to code. You just caused their “bad client” warning lights to flash. Experienced programmers learn to avoid problem clients.

Keep Sob Stories to Yourself – Don’t try to get them to reduce the proposal price with a sad story. Every business has problems. Good developers just want to work on your project for a fair price, they don’t care how cash strapped your start-up is, or that you just lost money on a bad developer, or that your mother is ill. A straightforward reference to the budget limitations is fine, but after that you should keep your problems to yourself.

A Guide to Outsourcing iPhone & iPad App Development

Conclusion

Now that we have taken you from reviewing feasibility and concept designs to hiring a developer and marketing your app. You are ready to start down the app development path.

You may encounter challenges not covered by the book, since every project is different and every possible scenario can’t possibly be covered, but hopefully we have at least provided you with the framework that will guide you through the process so it goes smoothly and allows you to avoid common pitfalls that many app development projects using an outsourced developer can encounter.

We also hope this book gives you knowledge and the confidence to move forward with your app idea.

Welcome to the new frontier.

douglas-laver
The Space-O team were great to work with. Every part of the process went as per the agreed schedule, and the finished prototype met, and in most cases, exceeded my expectations. While Space-O wasn't the most price competitive of the quotes I received, the quality of their work, professionalism, and product, was well worth the additional cost. Highly recommend, and will continue to use their services for future projects.Douglas Laver
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