A Few Expert Tips on App Development

The last couple months have been filled with excitement here at BakBurner Digital. While LetterSlider has been performing really well, we’ve turned our focus to a new app. I am not quite ready to make that official announcement yet but it will be made here first.

The process of starting a new app isn’t something we try to cut corners on. There are some folks who attempt to churn out tons of apps over a short period of time – a tactic that is successful at times. Our philosophy, however, is quality over quantity. We invest so much into each app (time, energy, finances, etc.) that it would be a failure on our part to you if we didn’t make sure the product we put out is not home screen worthy.

I can tell you that right now we’re in the process of refining the graphics and placement of the objects within the app. We’ve been handed everything by our development team and are trying to make it look amazing. That’s something that a lot of folks don’t realize. Functionally, an app can do almost whatever you want. But it’s the right mix of ascetics and functionality that makes it appealing. After all, would Angry Birds do as well if the birds, backgrounds, pigs, etc. look like they were hacked together by someone with two years Photoshop experience? What if the graphics were done in Paint? That success is doubtful.

In going through this development process multiple times, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to not only create an efficient workflow, but one that is effective. Here are a few tips to help get you started:

1. Planning is Powerful: We put hours upon hours of work into each app… before the development even begins. I typically start with a ton of random thought notes in Evernote. Once I feel like the idea is well defined in my head (and has settled a little bit), I begin to put together a full requirements document. This requirements document basically lays out in detail what the screens will contain, how the app will function, what services need to be included, the works. I’ll then take those requirements, go into Photoshop and sketch out the major screens so the developer can lay them out to my liking. My goal is to avoid back and forth, eliminating most questions the developer may have so they can simply look at my requirements and comps and go to work. The developer should know and understand the project just as well as you.

2. Developers Do Matter: We have a great development team that we feel very comfortable working with. It’s important that you build a rapport with an individual or team to create a strong relationship with, as well. I’m not saying be best friends, but have enough respect where you can communicate openly. They expect quick communication and details to deliver a stellar product. By quick communication, I mean that they don’t want you to hold up the process. I’ve had our developer ask me for MySQL access to certain tables for a database the app was connecting to. Would you know how to do that? Would you also know how to do it asap so as to not halt production? This goes back to #1; planning is key.

3. Contracts Matter: You’ll hear folks tell you that NDAs are a waste of time. To some degree, if you deal with international vendors, they may be. Are you going to pursue someone in India for stealing your idea when the NDA might not hold up there and would be very costly? Probably not. The contract I’m talking about here is for development. Make sure you set a start date, end date, milestone payments, a full year of support for any bugs and that all fixes will be made to ensure it is approved by the App Store. Did you know LetterSlider was actually rejected four times before it was approved? That’s right — it was so stressful those couple weeks. The free version was approved, but the Pro one was not because Apple didn’t like data being cached in iCloud. It was a difference of opinion with reviewers, but we had to make sure the developers were there to get the app fixed each time to re-submit.

4. Ask Questions: This applies both ways. Ask enough questions of the developer you hire to feel confident that they’re skilled to complete your requirements. You also want to hire a developer who asks you questions and doesn’t simply say okay to everything. The first developer I hired was not based on price; it was because he asked questions that made me think and let me know he was trying to figure out logistically how everything was going to work. I’ve used him ever since. As I said before, let your requirements and comps eliminate most questions, but there will always be some outliers.

5. Testing is Key: Do what you can to ensure the concept your interested in building works. Whether that be drawing it out on paper or sketching it in Photoshop, each method will provide new feedback. I’ve had game ideas where I’ve used post-it notes to play against my wife to see if it would work. In one case, it completely bombed, but in my head and on paper it seemed so good. The other time, it was LetterSlider and that turned out to be a great success. Bounce your idea off friends and family, as well. Sometimes you become so attached to a concept that it impedes you from thinking outside of the box.

6. It’s About Brand: Don’t just put out an app and expect success. Understand that the app is a reflection of you and should be treated as a brand. Build a website, a social media presence, reach out to people in the related industry, submit it for review (but don’t pay). Spread the word and if your app is good enough, people will start to recognize it. The BakBurner Digital team goes into each app project as if it will be a huge success. We want to make sure everything in place so should it take off, we don’t lose any traction in gaining more press or customer interaction. I’d recommend doing the same.

Feel free to reach out if you’d like to discuss any of the aforementioned recommendation. I’m not someone who likes sales pitches in blog posts, but I’ll throw it out there that BakBurner Digital, LLC can help you with your mobile app and website planning, development and marketing needs.

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