Are you an aspiring programmer? Are you dreaming of owning your own app development company someday? I know I do. That has been my aspiration, among other things, since I graduated from college. And boy, getting there isn’t as easy or glamorous as it sounds. Enter Chad Mureta.
This guy was in a car accident just two years ago. Of course, he needed a bit amount of time to recover in the hospital. While doing so, one friend gave him an article about the emerging app market, which in turn greatly inspired the guy.
The rest, as they say, is history. In just 24 months, Chad created and sold 3 app companies, while in the process generating millions of dollars in revenue. He was able to develop more than 40 apps with an accumulated 30 million downloads. And, if that is not impressive enough, then you should note that (1) Chad isn’t a programmer and (2) he worked less than five hours per week to accomplish the said feat.
How did he do it? He outlines 10 easy steps he used during an interview with Mashable. Read the full how-to list fresh from the original source below:
1. Get a Feel for the Market
As with any business, your success will directly relate to your understanding of the marketplace. The App Store and Google Play are the top marketplaces for the app business.
The best way to understand the App Store is to study Apple’s cheat sheet. The App Store displays the top-paid, top-free and top-grossing apps, almost in real time. Apple provides the same lists in the individual app categories.
Review these charts frequently, and keep a notebook of potential trends you spot. Doing this repeatedly will educate you on successful app design, marketing and various pricing models. The research you’re doing is simple, costs nothing and it’s actually fun.
2. Align Your Ideas with Successful Apps
How do you know if the market wants your app? Look at the Top Apps chart. Are apps like the one you want to create listed there? If yes, you’ve got a potential winner. If not, keep looking. It’s that simple.
“I can’t stress the importance of emulating existing apps enough,” Mureta says. “It’s easy for people to fall in love with their own idea, even if the market doesn’t show an appetite for it. But this is one of the most costly errors you can make.”
Mureta successfully emulated his competitors with his Emoji app. To do this, he first he downloaded all the major emoticon apps. “I liked what I saw, but noticed that there was a lack of variety and limited functionality,” he says. “I wondered how I could improve upon these existing apps, given that the Emoji keyboard had a limited number of emoticons that couldn’t be increased.”
Mureta created an app that not only enabled the Emoji keyboard, but also contained an additional 450 emoticons within the app itself, which could be shared via SMS, email, Facebook and so on.
He developed the Emoji app in two weeks and followed the freemium model (free with an in-app purchase option). The app hit the No. 1 spot on the App Store’s productivity category and the No. 12 spot in the top free overall category within six days, raking in nearly $500 per day.
3. Design Your App’s Experience
Now it’s time to turn your research into something tangible.
To properly convey your idea, Mureta suggests simply drawing it on a piece of paper. Some people like putting this together in digital form, using Photoshop or Draft. Whatever you’re most comfortable with — and whatever will give the programmer the details he or she needs — is the way to go.
To make the design process easier, Mureta looked at certain apps in the App Store and used them as references to show programmers what he was looking for.
“For example, I’ll say, ‘Download the XYZ app. I want the ABC functionality to work like theirs. Take a look at the screenshots from this other app, and change this,'” Mureta explains. “I take certain components of apps that I’d like to emulate, and give them to the programmer so that we are as clear as possible.”
The clearer you are, the fewer misunderstandings and problems you will have once it’s time to hand off your drawings to a programmer. The idea is to convey what the app will look like, where everything will be placed and what happens if certain buttons are selected.
4. Register as a Developer
Once you have a sketched-out idea, you need to sign up as a developer with the platform for which you’re looking to create apps. Don’t be intimidated by the word “developer.” It doesn’t mean you have to be the programmer. It’s simply the name used for somebody who publishes apps.
For your first app, Mureta strongly suggests developing for Apple iOS, rather than Android or Blackberry. You will increase your odds of making a profit simply by developing for that platform.
Also, don’t forget to go over the App Store review guidelines. Apple enforces these rules during the review process, and if you don’t follow them, your app will be rejected.
5. Find Prospective Programmers
Hiring your first programmer will be a lengthy process, but it is time well spent. Making great hires will help you avoid unnecessary delays, costs and frustration in the future. You’ll always be looking to add new talent to your team, so learning how to quickly and effectively assess programmers is an important skill to develop.
The first step in this process is to post your job to a hiring site. Here’s a sample template of one of Mureta’s job postings:
Most of these programmers will be located overseas, which can present issues with communication and time zone differences. Therefore, a Skype interview is an absolute must before you can continue.
During the interview, pay attention to how well they are able to explain themselves. Do they use too much techno babble? Do they speak your native language fluently? Do they seem confident with their answers? How is their tone and demeanor?
If you have any issues or worries, move on to somebody else. But if you can easily communicate with them, proceed to the next step.
6. Sign NDA, Share Your Idea, Hire Your Programmer
You must protect your ideas, source code and any other intellectual property, so have each potential programmer sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) before you hire him. (Here’s the extended version of the NDA Mureta uses.)
Establish milestones and timelines during the quoting process, and break up the app into several parts. You should also decide on a check-in schedule that you’re both comfortable with because you’ll need to periodically review the work, from start to finish.
7. Start Coding
Rather than haphazardly jumping into a full-fledged project, Mureta prefers to gradually ramp up his programmers’ workload by starting with a couple of smaller tasks. You need to assess their graphics capabilities, implementation speed and overall work dynamic (e.g. communication, time zone, etc.).
“If you’re underwhelmed with their skills, you need to get out quickly. Remember: Hire slow, fire fast. It will pay off over the long run,” Mureta says.
Here’s his three-step process during the coding phase:
Icon — Ask the programmer to create and deliver the icon of your app. You will probably have several ideas for icons, so pass them on and ask for a finished 512 x 512 iTunes Artwork version.
Hello, World! — Ask the programmer for a “Hello, World!” app. It’s a simple app that opens up and shows a page that displays “Hello, World!” It will take 10 minutes to create. The idea here is not to test his or her programming skills, but to determine how he or she will deliver apps to you for testing. This app should include the icon, so you can see how it will look on your phone.
App Delivery — When your programmer is ready to show you a test version of your app, he or she has to create something called an “ad hoc” (a version of your app that can be delivered to and run on your iPhone, without the use of the App Store). This ad hoc version of your app needs to be installed on your phone before you can test it.
8. Test Your App
The time you spend on testing is crucial because you will see how consumers use your product. The user will have questions that won’t occur to you because you designed the app — everything about it is obvious to you.
Pull out your initial design document and go through every feature. Never assume that something works because it worked the last time you tested the app. Test each feature every time, especially before the final release.
Don’t be the only tester. Your app makes sense to you, but it might not to others. Get everyone you know to test your app — from your 12-year-old nephew, to your 75-year-old grandmother.
9. Post Your App to the Market
At this point, you’ve had your friends and family test your app, taken into account the best feedback and wrapped final changes. Now, it’s time for you to send the app to the App Store for review.
It’s a good idea to have your programmer show you how to submit your first few apps. However, do not share your developer account login information with your programmer (or anybody else, for that matter).
The amount of time Apple will take to review and approve or reject your app will depend on whether you’re submitting on behalf of yourself or a company. If you’re an individual, takes three to seven days. If you’re a company, expect to wait seven to 10 days.
10. Market Your App
The App Store is filled with thousands of great apps, so to be successful, you’ll need to break through.
Focus on a few key areas to effectively market your apps, allowing customers to discover and download them. Your app’s basic elements are marketing opportunities, and that is essential to being successful in the app business. Your job is to create a seamless flow from the icon all the way to the download button.
Just as your app will always need refinements due to consumer demand and competition, so will your marketing. For most of Mureta’s apps, he changes the icon and screenshots three to five times and the title and description between five and 10 times. Additionally, he alters keywords almost every time he updates apps.
“I always switch the categories when it makes sense,” Mureta explains. “Keep an open mind and continue to be inspired by your observations during your market research.”
Finally, Muerta’s bonus marketing technique: Utilize free periods for your app. “It can introduce new users into your system, and this is crucial to launching an app.”