A Step by Step Guide to Turning an App Idea into Reality

By Joshua Gross, 01 July, 2022

It finally hit you: the perfect idea for a new app. While coming up with a concept for an app can make it feel like your hard work is over, turning that idea into reality requires that you complete many complex steps.

Before you start hiring people to design your app, the first step will be a validation process. It's worth trying to redline your concept from every angle before you start investing money in the project.

Once you have verified that an audience is ready and waiting for your new app, you can start the development process. While it can be disappointing to have an app idea shot down in the validation phase, it's much better than finding out there isn't an audience for your app once you've dumped a bunch of money into it.

Are you wondering what steps you must go through to make your app idea a reality? Stick with us while we take a look at what you need to know.

Find Your Audience

When you first develop a great idea for an app, it's easy to assume that everyone will want to use your new app. You're smitten with your idea– how could anyone not want to use it?

In reality, though, narrowing down a target audience is essential to creating a successful app. Think about the idea you have and what problem it solves. What type of people have this problem and care enough about solving it that they will seek a solution and potentially even pay for one?

Once you start to look at the process this way, you can begin to come up with an even more specific definition of your intended users. The more information you can gather about the people you expect will want to use your app, the more you'll be able to tailor the app to their needs and the more on-point your marketing can be.

Conduct Market Research

When you have a fairly firm grasp of who you expect will want to use your app, it's time to do some more research.

You'll want to thoroughly look into other companies already working to solve the problem your app intends to solve. Unless you have a truly novel idea, there's a good chance that you have competition out there that you'll need to know about.

The fact that similar apps exist isn't a reason to scrap your idea and return to the drawing board. In reality, realizing that you have competition only shows that your initial idea was valid since other people have already created a digital product to try and solve the same problem for a specific audience.

By looking at other companies with similar apps, you can learn a lot. Take the time to understand the ins and outs of your competition thoroughly. What works well about their app, and what needs to be improved? How many users do they have, and what marketing strategies do they use?

When you have an idea for an app, it can be tempting to dive right in and start making prototypes. The more market research you do, the better you'll be able to make the right digital product the first time.

Define Your App's Purpose and Goal

You've already had a great app idea, and that's awesome. You've worked hard to identify your target audience and do thorough market research.

Now, it's finally time to start fleshing out your app's purpose and goal.

When you're in the initial creative stage of dreaming up an app, you probably had all kinds of innovative ideas about what the app could do and how it could perform. Now that you're starting to turn it into a reality, it's important to zero in on the essential aspects of your app.

What is your app, and what purpose does it serve? What problem does it solve?

Additionally, what is your goal for the app? Do you want to earn passive income with the app, or are you offering it as a free tool that you hope will direct users to other money-generating projects you have up your sleeve?

Is this app a passion project you want to run forever, or are you hoping to build something salable?

Outlining your app's purpose and goal can help you make better decisions down the road that help you achieve your desired outcome.

Choose Your Platform

If you're making a mobile app, you'll want to understand the difference between the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store. While more people use Android globally, the median income of Apple users is higher than those that use Android. Depending on the target audience you've already outlined, you'll want to consider which platform your primary demographic will most likely use.

It's also worth knowing that there are fewer barriers and restrictions to launching an app through the Google Play Store than the Apple App Store. At the same time, building an app for the Apple store tends to be faster and cheaper.

Of course, nothing stops you from using both platforms. It's more expensive to do – code isn't easily cross-compatible – but it's not uncommon to launch one while working on a version for the other.

As you can see, there are many different elements to consider when choosing which platform to launch your app. At this point, you'll want to ensure you understand which platform your target audience is more likely to use so that you can reach them where they already are.

Pin Down Your Budget

Though it can be pretty annoying to start talking about dollars and cents when you're working on manifesting a brilliant idea into reality, it's a necessary step in the process. Developing a mobile app can cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to a few million dollars depending on the functionality and features you're looking to incorporate into the app.

Working out just how much you can invest in this project is important to help you create a plan that will work for you. Make sure to factor in additional costs such as marketing as well as maintaining and updating the app after you launch it.

Determine Your Monetization Strategy

How is your app going to make money?

There are several monetization strategies out there, including:

  • Subscription options
  • A one-time fee
  • A free app that makes money from ads
  • Offering a free and premium version with additional features

Maybe you're making your app out of the kindest of your heart for the betterment of humanity. If so, that's great! Most people, though, will be expecting to earn some form of income from the app or at least use it as a marketing tool for other money-making projects. Understanding your monetization options can help you make decisions as the process unfolds.

Build Your Brand Image and Personality

Another essential ingredient for successful apps is branding. People are subtly influenced by a multitude of factors when they are creating an impression of your brand, whether they realize it or not. In a crowded digital space with millions of other competing apps, you must create a great first impression.

Creating your brand encompasses everything from your logo and color scheme to your typeface and copy. You'll want to outline your brand's entire personality and ensure that everything you produce aligns with this personality.

When you're building a brand image and personality, you don't want to just go with what you think looks and sounds good. Instead, you'll want to tap into all the research you did about your target audience and understand what appeals to them.

You'll also want to consider what is appropriate, considering the purpose of your app. For example, should it be formal and professional or casual and laid-back? Should the colors be classic and timeless or trendy and vibrant?

When you don't have a consistent brand image, it makes it less possible for people to remember who you are and what you do. It can also create a lot of undesirable confusion from the standpoint of building a loyal audience.

Build Your Team

Building an app is time-consuming, and assembling a team to work on it with you is probably a good idea. While it's possible to build an app on your own, there will be a pretty big learning curve unless you already have a lot of skills in development, marketing, branding, and more.

Depending on the scale of your project and its complexity, the size of your team will vary. Here are some of the basic specialists you will likely need to build your app:

  • iOS/Android developer
  • UI/UX designer
  • Project manager/product manager
  • Backend developer
  • Quality assurance engineer

On top of that, you might want to enlist additional people to help with your branding, business plan, and marketing.

Choose Your Features

Now that you're almost ready to build a prototype, you'll want to pin down precisely which features you want your app to have. Once you have this and a software requirements specifications document (SRS document), you're ready to move on to the next step.

Are you interested in building an app similar to the popular Clubhouse app? Check out this nine-step guide to learn more.

Create a Prototype

In the app development cycle, two of the most important steps are wireframing and prototyping. By taking all the time you need in these steps, you can ensure that you don't spend more money than you need to further in the development process.

A wireframe can be a very rough sketch of your app, while a prototype is a more sophisticated rough-draft version. Creating a prototype can help you validate your idea and receive initial feedback from others about the app's functionality.

If you're looking for investors for your app, the prototype also plays an essential role in pitching the idea.

Is your idea best manifested in the form of a web app rather than strictly a mobile app? Check out some of the best tools to wireframe and prototype your web app here.

Build an MVP

If you want to create a successful app, creating an MVP is an essential part of the process. Short for Minimum Viable Product, an MVP is a bare-bones version of your app with all of the essential features.

This doesn't mean that the app is low quality and offers a subpar UX. Instead, the idea is that you aren't adding every bell and whistle you intend to have in the final product. This is just a basic version of the app's most important capabilities to test and receive feedback before launching the finished product.

To learn more about testing and building a great UX design with an MVP, check out our MVP guide here.

Test, Tweak, and Launch

Once you've tested your MVP and are ready to move forward, it's time to make the final additions and adjustments to your app. When you have tested and tweaked your app repeatedly, you're ready to launch.

Unfortunately, you really can't get away with simply launching your app and walking away. There are millions of apps out there, and you'll need to get the word out about yours to ensure your target audience can find it.

You can use social media marketing and content marketing to help spread the word about your new app. Stay tuned in to the feedback you receive so you can make any changes if necessary to provide the best possible user experience.

Are You Ready to Turn Your App Idea Into a Reality?

No matter how simple or complex your app idea is, turning it into a reality is quite the project. While it's possible to do it yourself, having a team to help you create your app can make the process faster, easier, and more straightforward.

At Planetary, we build custom digital products for companies of all sizes that have an idea they want to bring to life. We have worked with the likes of General Electric, Buzzfeed, Google, and Amazon, but we also love working with small startups that are just beginning their journey into the world of digital products.

Are you ready to turn your app idea into reality? Drop us a line today and tell us about your project.