How Do You Turn Your Idea Into an App?


I will always remember my first convention as a vendor representing Apptology. As we set up our booth, I was nervous for a number of reasons: Did I understand our technical services well enough to answer questions? Would convention-goers suspect I was new at this? Should I have worn the Apptology-branded baseball jersey versus the outfit I’d purchased specifically for this event?

In short, none of this mattered. As people slowly migrated to our booth, they watched our video presentation and read our marketing materials… it was surprisingly comfortable. However, what I noticed more than anything was that most of the people stayed to chat! Some even waited in line simply because they had an idea and they wanted to talk about it.

If you have an idea for an app but have no clue how to get to the next step, it really is easy to have the conversation. Don’t be intimidated! It’s okay if you aren’t tech savvy. It’s okay if you have only jotted down a few notes. Of course, it’s wonderful if you’ve come fully prepared with a wireframe, a flow and navigation document and an architecture diagram, but in my five plus years in the Mobile Application Project Management world, very few clients actually come to us fully prepared. It’s okay! That’s our job!

To get started, we will want to have a clear understanding of your vision for your app. If you have sketches or samples of things that inspire you, we can begin there. If there are functions in other apps that you love, but they have nothing to do with your product and you’re not sure how that could translate to your specific app specs, we can help you get there. In fact, many clients come to us with their ideas and ask us to collaborate with them. We are happy to research and suggest solutions that will enhance the performance or user experience of your app,

Once we are ready to move forward, we can initially provide a package that helps define the project scope and creates the “bones” for your app from concept through submission. With the client’s constant input, we provide:

• Page Schematics with explanations of page-by-page functionality and features required for all screens.

• Site Architecture (both user and admin when applicable)

• Presentation of Final Site Architecture

Once these documents are created, we have a clear and precise roadmap to move forward with design and development.

If you plan to develop an app, my advice is to have fun! Research other apps to see what is out there! Find colors and designs you like! Our job is to adapt our development methodologies to meet the technical specifications of your project by helping you determine resources needed depending on your app’s complexity. Whether you have Post-It notes or detailed digital files, it’s okay! YOUR job is to be the expert of YOUR idea.


Shellynn Finstad is the Chief Creative Officer for Apptology and Project Manager for Apptology’s Custom App Division.

Apptology Awarded $50 K RAILS Grant from the City of Sacramento


On November 1, 2016, the Sacramento City Council awarded RAILS (Rapid Acceleration Innovation & Leadership in Sacramento) Grants totaling $1 M to 15 groups that drive acceleration, innovation & leadership for startups in the Sacramento area.  Apptology was awarded $50 K for the StartupSac project.  In partnership with Sacramento Startup Community Leader, Laura Good and Digital Splash Media, the goals of the StartupSac project include:

  1. Expanding and enhancing the website to encompass the full range of  information, services, and resources in the Capital Region, thereby making it easier for innovators and entrepreneurs to connect and engage with each other and help foster and grow the Sacramento startup ecosystem. The goal for is for it to be the go-to resource of all the services available to entrepreneurs across the region, such as:
    • A curated directory of area startups
    • A job board
    • Continued expansion of Sacramento Startup Ecosystem Circuit Board that visually shows the pieces of the Sacramento startup ecosystem
  2. Extend the access to, by developing a free native StartupSac iPhone / iPad and Android Apps.
  3. Further catalyze the startup community by connecting organizations and people by curating a directory of area startups, writing and publishing interviews with founders, funders, entrepreneurs, and other innovators, creating profiles of startups and others in the ecosystem, and providing event coverage, etc.
  4. Through public relations and digital marketing activities, promote our startup ecosystem to the community which includes hosting a meetup group to feature events and promotion through digital advertising as well as pitching local startup stories to local media, writing blog posts, and features on social media.
  5. Provide promotion, event management and organizational guidance to grassroots volunteer startup building organizations like Startup Weekend, Health 2.0, Startup Grind, and others, to keep these events (and the community they build) happening in our city.
  6. Highlight female and minority entrepreneurs on a regular basis on the StartupSac website and app and at Startup Grind.

The StartupSac team looks forward to extending the reach and impact of this website, working with other RAILS grant recipients and all members of the Sacramento community to catalyze and grow the Sacramento innovation economy.

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.


Apptology Offers Four Scholarships to Startup Weekend Sacramento


Think you have an idea that can be the next Uber?  If you’re curious about what it’s like to be an entrepreneur, you can experience the startup life in 54 hours during Startup Weekend Sacramento on November 11-13, 2016 at Impact VC Sacramento office.  You’ll have the opportunity to pitch your idea, form a team, develop a business plan, and present to a panel of judges for prizes.  Throughout the weekend, mentors will be available to advise your team, including Apptology CEO, Rich Foreman.

As a platinum sponsor of Startup Weekend Sacramento, Apptology is offering 4 scholarships for this event.  Preferences will be given to students.  You can apply here.   Applications must be received before midnight November 8, 2016.

3 Factors in App Store Optimization


Millions of people are spending more time on their mobile devices and inside mobile apps. Mobile apps are rapidly replacing websites as the digital hub for businesses and brands. But how do you get your target market finding and using your app?

For companies or brands with existing channels,like a morning TV show or a popular web service, acquiring mobile users starts with activating their current fans or users. Businesses without a TV air time or without large user bases like Pandora, Facebook or Twitter still usually have email lists and a website with visitors.

Promoting a new mobile app through these channels is essential, but fails to address the biggest source for new users – people searching for your services in the app stores.

App Factor #1: User Acquisition Channels

With the explosion of mobile app usage comes an increasing competition for users. The most popular channels for acquiring mobile app users are app store search and advertising.

For all but the very biggest mobile apps, advertising spend is allocated to a paid install campaign, on a cost per install (CPI) basis. Between an increased competition for mobile users, and non-mobile brands competing for mobile ad inventory, CPI costs have skyrocketed over the last 36 months.

According to the mobile advertising platform Fiksu, the cost of acquiring a loyal user (a user who opens the app at least three times) has risen from $1.13 in September of 2012 to $4.14 for September 2015.

Because both Google Play and Apple include downloads and download velocity in their app store rankings, CPI campaigns are also used in “burst” campaigns.  The goal being to “buy” a burst of installs to rise up the charts and hopefully acquire users organically due to increased visibility. Buying enough traffic to hit the top 100 or so in the US app stores would require investing $50,000 k per day on a CPI burst campaign in hopes of acquiring organic traffic.


Image Source: App Developer Magazine

App Factor #2: Achieving Visibility In the App Stores

The number one source of app discovery and app installs is app store search. More users find apps to address their immediate needs by opening the Apple App Store or Google Play and searching.  When a user enters a search, the results and rankings are largely determined by:

  • The app store listing and its relevance to the search
  • App performance metrics including conversion from search, downloads and ratings

Building a strategy for creating and managing an app listing for visibility and conversion is called app store optimization or ASO.

An app listing optimized for visibility and conversion from relevant traffic signals to Apple and Google that your app is a good result for a given search. Combined with the resulting increase in downloads and ratings, your app will start to climb the rankings for those search results.An optimized app provides a defendable, long-term position in the app stores for traffic from your target audience.


Image Source: wiredprworks

App Factor #3: How To Optimize An App Listing

Our data tells us that people are searching the app stores for features using two to three word phrases. The app stores are huge, with each store each housing over 1.5 million apps.  Vague or short searches result in irrelevant results, so we have been trained to be specific when searching.

By identifying your app’s most essential and differentiating features, you get an idea of how your target market is likely to find your app in the app stores. It is important to understand not only how you would describe important features, but how your target audience would describe and search for them.

If you are serious about organic app store traffic, ASO and the ROI of acquiring organic app store users, working with an app store intelligence platform specifically designed for app store optimization is recommended.

With a list of relevant phrases, we can now start to build our app store listing.  Apple and Google Play have different app listing fields, but there are some similarities.


Image Source: Tractus

Both have an app name or title.  This is the best place for your most important features or targeted phrases. Apple provides a space of 255 characters for a title while Google only allows 30 characters. Choose your app’s core features for the title – Your title is one of the first things a user will see. If you list what they’re looking for, they will be more inclined to click through to your full app listing.

Apple has a private/hidden keyword field limited to 100 characters that is used to help Apple understand what keywords the publishers thinks the app is relevant to. Break phrases into words, and separated by commas without spaces and remove duplicate words.  For example, if we had a features list as follows:

  • cheap flights
  • airline deals
  • discount vacations
  • travel deals
  • discount airfare

We would build the keyword field as follows:


Apple would then index this app listing for searches including “cheap airline”, “discount travel” and several other combinations. Together with the keywords used in the app name, a “keyword matrix” is created and indexed by Apple.

Google is similar but instead uses the publicly visible fields of short and full description instead of a private keywords field for determining how to index your app. Google Play’s indexation process uses the description; Highlight the your apps’ key features using the phrases people would be looking for.

There is much more to building and executing an on-going app store optimization strategy that delivers results. Optimizing an app listing is only the beginning of a long-term ASO process, but it is also the start of organically gaining more and more traffic in the app stores.

For more on strategies, best practices and tactics to avoid – download our whitepaper here.


Image Source: 3D Issue

About the Author

Dave Bell is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Gummicube. In this role, Dave is responsible for overseeing the business strategy for the company, driving growth and market development. Dave is a pioneer of the mobile entertainment industry with more than 15 years of experience publishing, marketing and distributing mobile applications and games across carrier, direct to consumer and app store channels.


“The Future of TV is Apps.”


Source: Getty Images

Admittedly, I had low expectations for this year’s recent Apple keynote.  As I listened to the list of Apple’s new product announcements I was unimpressed: iPad ProApple WatchiPhone 6sApple Pencil.  Yawn.  However, what blew me away was the Apple TV.

Although introduced in 2007, Apple TV seemed unremarkable.  It seemed like it was their forgotten red-headed step child and I wouldn’t have been surprised if they decided to end support for it.  However, Apple CEO Tim Cook brought new life and vision to Apple TV by declaring, “The Future of Televison is Apps.”  As I watched Apple’s product demo, my jaw dropped with all the different possibilities.  Right off the bat, I can see Apple TV replacing the DVR, cable TV, large room video conferencing, and console gaming.

The interface leverages Siri which seems light years ahead of the clumsy interface that I use with my cable box.  But that’s not the secret sauce; it’s the fact that Apple has opened up its SDK and has created tvOS (based on iOS 9).  This will allow developers to develop apps for Apple TV and to be distributed by the Apple TV App Store.

Apple introduced their new controller which uses Siri and could be used like a Wiiwireless controller.  Interesting enough, the iPhone and iPod touch could also be used as a controller.  Couple this with developer’s porting their games to Apple TV, and we could be seeing the demise of Xbox and the PlayStation.

I can see network television and local television stations providing live streaming and on-demand content through their own branded app.  By doing so, they can provide targeted interactive advertising where they will know the demographics of the individual user.   For example, based on my user profile, I would see interactive trailers for Sci Fi movies and subscription offers for Fast Company(which I can instantly buy with my credit card on file).  Best of all, unlike the DVR, the user won’t be able to fast forward the ads.  Once a critical mass of TV stations and networks begin developing their own apps, it will lead to the end of the DVR and Cable TV.

In addition, I can see Apple TV becoming a standard for conference room.  Third party apps will replace large video conferencing systems like Cisco Telepresence.  Presentations will be delivered by an app, controlled by an iPhone.   And when the screen’s idle, it will display creative and useful digital signage.

One can argue that the mobile app market was first started when Apple opened up their SDK for the iPhone.  Amazing new applications have been developed that many did not foresee (for example, when the iPhone was created, I don’t think anyone could imagine Uber developing a $50 B company by delivering car service from an app).  In a similar fashion, I expect amazing innovations will be developed on the Apple TV.

By Rich Foreman, CEOApptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento.Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

9 Factors for Hiring the Perfect Mobile App Developer

9 Factors in Evaluating a Developer

Over the years, we have had several clients that have come to us asking to either fix or complete an app from another developer. One client had spent over $50 k with another developer and had nothing to show for it. For all of you that are looking to hire a mobile app developer, this post will go over several factors you should consider when evaluating a developer.

Mobile App Developer Factor #1 The Source Code / Ownership:

An easy way to weed out a developer is to find out what their policy is on the ownership of the source code and intellectual property upon completion of the project. If they won’t release and / or make a claim, keep moving. I discuss the source code issue more in this post.

Mobile App Developer Factor #2 Technical Capabilities:

Is the developer you’re looking at technically capable of completing your project? In your evaluation, realize that it takes a team. So for example, the a complex app development project will have:

  • iOS Developer
  • Android Developer
  • Backend Developer
  • U/X Designer
  • Project Architect
  • Project Manager


Image Source: Goforthapps

Be cognizant that it’s very hard for one person to do everything and you may need to hire multiple developers with different disciplines or go with a development team that has all the capabilities you’re looking for. For better communication, the ideal situation is where all the developers are under one roof so that problems can be solved quickly.

Mobile App Developer Factor #3: Portfolio

Ask to look at the developer’s portfolio. Download their apps. Evaluate their body of work. What you see is probably a good indication of what kind of app the developer can create for you.

Mobile App Developer Factor #4: References

Ask for a list of references from your developer and take the time to contact them. Some good questions to ask them:

  • Did they have a good process?
  • Were they responsive? How was the communication?
  • Were they helpful with other issues like setting up an iOS account?
  • How was the quality of the work?
  • How well did they resolve problems?


Image Source: JCount

Another great place to check their reference is to see if they are accredited by the Better Business Bureau. For example, Apptology’s BBB rating is summarized here. If they are a BBB member, this also gives you a venue to handle disputes. If the developer wants to keep an A rating with the BBB, they are forced to address your dispute.

Mobile App Developer Factor #5: What If You Got Hit By A Bus?

Ask your developer what happens if their main developer got hit by a bus. I know it’s a strange question but it’s important. I had a client that was developing an app and the developer they were working with just disappeared. He didn’t answer any emails and phone calls for a couple of weeks and they were forced to find another developer because they were hitting a deadline. It turned out that their developer had a DUI and was in jail for a few weeks. So, if you ask the “Bus” question, hopefully the developer will have some sort of backup plan for you.

Mobile App Developer Factor #6: Development Process

My undergraduate degree was in Industrial Engineering so I am a stickler about process. That said, when evaluating a developer; ask them about their development process. Some questions to ask:

  • How and when do you provide feedback?
  • How are scope changes handled?
  • Is there a project manager that you work with?
  • Are there regular project meetings?
  • How is communication handled?
  • What types of project management tools are used?
  • How is quality assurance (QA handled)?

In evaluating their development process, see where you fit in. Where do you fit in the design and approval process? What you don’t want is to work with a development team that goes away for 3 months and comes back with crap.


Image Source: Appectual 

Mobile App Developer Factor #7: Maintenance Plan / Upgrades

All the major platforms upgrade their software roughly once a quarter. Unfortunately, these upgrades may actually break your app. When I first developed my app, Apple just released iOS 4 and our app was developed on an older SDK. To our horror we found that half the sound files on our app didn’t work and we had to spend the weekend troubleshooting the problems generated by the upgrade.

So, when choosing a developer, ask them how they handle maintenance. Also, your app should always be evolving. Make sure you also ask them how they handle upgrades.

Mobile App Developer Factor 8: Warranty

Ask your developer if they will warranty their work in writing. So, after the project is delivered and submitted to the various App Store, ask what happens if a bug is discovered? To be fair, the warranty can only be applied to the specific version of the SDK that the app was developed on. As discussed in the previous section, the developer really can’t be responsible for issues caused by an upgrade to the Operating System.


Image Source: searlesgraphics

Mobile App Developer Factor #9: Pricing

I saved this for last. I’m not going to go with the cliché that you get what you pay for. I think you can find a quality developer that is still cost effective (shameless plug: like us). I had a client that revealed that the bids for her project ranged from $7 K to $50 K. I personally would throw out the high bid. I’ve heard some vendors just throw out large quotes to weed out their prospects. If there is a bid that is dramatically low, my gut is that they didn’t understand the scope. However, before throwing them out, talk to them first as they may have a template or process that gives them some sort of advantage.

Hopefully, this gives you some food for thought in evaluating developers for your project. If you want to evaluate how much your app will cost to develop as a whole, check out this informative blog now! 


By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014. Follow Rich on Twitter at @ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

5 (Not So) Easy Steps to Creating a Disruptive Startup

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We live in the age of disruption. We have seen time and time again where the industry 800 pound gorilla gets overshadowed by a startup. Netflix took out Blockbuster; Uber and Lyft are raising havoc among the taxi industry; and Airbnb is taking a bite out of the hotel industry. In a short time, Airbnb has a valuation of $10 B with little physical assets and about 100 employees; compared to Hilton which has over 4,000 hotels and 150,000 employees and a market cap of $24 B.

The underlining theme among some of the disruptive companies is quickly connecting demand to a resource, fulfilling the demand, and getting a percentage of the transaction. With the success of startups like Uber and Lyft, we have received many quote requests for creating an app that would be the Uber for (state the resource). For this post, I will note the steps for you to create your own disruptive startup (as I have never created a disruptive company myself, please take this post with a little grain of salt).

1. Figure out the Resource / Demand: The first step is to figure out what resource you want to broker is and how you want to fulfill the demand. Doctors on Demand connected patients with doctors via a video conference over a smartphone. Uber connects ride seekers with car drivers by using their GPS location determined by their smartphone. Do the research. See if there’s anything out there. Look at the market opportunity. Talk to people in the industry. If you think it’s viable, go on to the next step.

2. Develop the Groundwork: This step is basic startup 101. Develop a business plan. Find your co-founders and build your team. Get funding. Develop the business process. If you think your idea can be patented, get some legal advice.

3. Develop the Technology: Hopefully, you’ve recruited a technical co-founder that can either develop the technology or oversee the development. Typically the development of something like Uber requires a team. You’re looking at U/X designer, backend developer, app developer(s), and a product manager. This part may seem daunting but if you have the funding, it can be fairly straight forward. There are many reputable firms out there that can provide a turnkey solution and provide you with ownership of the IP at the completion of the project. (Shameless plug, this is what we do at Apptology).

4. Start Local: The challenge for developing a disruptive company like Uber is that it’s a two-sided market where you need to recruit the resources and then market the demand. It’s a chicken and egg problem. My suggestion is to start in a local region by recruiting the resources. After your resources are vetted, recruited and trained, then you can market to the demand. Once you worked out the kinks and perfected the model on a local level, you can expand the model to other regions. Uber first launched their service in San Francisco. After they were able to perfect their operations, they expanded to other markets.

5. Expansion: If you are able to prove your model on a local level, you need to start plans for expansion. At this point, you probably have to start looking at getting a new round of funding and recruiting the necessary talent. If you’re able to execute well, there may be an IPO in your future.

Admittedly, this is an oversimplification but I hope it got your thought process going on the next big idea. With the current environment, I predict we will see more and more disruptive companies taking a bite out of the status quo by being a broker between resource and demand.

The Irony of Apple Pay: Apple’s Need to Support Android

A year ago, I wrote a post basically predicting the demise of NFC (Near Field Communication) because there was no support for it on the iPhone 5s/5c . My contention is that if you had to choose a short range mobile protocol, you need to pick one that has the broadest support.

Well, to my surprise, with the iPhone 6 and 6 plus, Apple now supports NFC, so I pretty much have to eat my words. However, there’s a twist. The Cult of Mac has confirmed from Apple that NFC functionality is locked out to developers and is to only be used for their new Apple Pay mobile payment system. So, those mobile payment systems, eager to leverage the iPhone 6/6 plus’ NFC capability, are left out in the cold.

I don’t foresee Apple opening NFC’s capability anytime soon. For Apple Pay’s plan of world domination, they do not want the iPhone to work with other NFC enabled payment systems. It’s Apple flexing their monopolistic power of their platform. I do, however, predict lawsuits from other mobile payment systems to try to force Apple to provide access to the NFC functionality.

Ironically, for Apple Pay to be successful, it will have to support the Android platform. If you are a retailer, you’re going to choose a payment solution that works for all (or most) platforms (iPhones only made up 11.7% of the smartphones shipped in Q2 2014). Fortunately, for Apple, many of the Android devices out there support NFC. Although I find it hard to fathom, to make Apple Pay ubiquitous, Apple may have to swallow their pride and develop their first Android app. To their credit, they’ve had to make similar decisions in the past when they developed iTunes support for Windows (Steve Jobs was actually opposed to this). It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

Who Owns the Source Code?

Source CodeA client had developed an app and asked us to do some minor work on their existing app. I told him that we would need access to the source code so the client went back to the original developer to get the source code only to find that the developer claimed the source code as his intellectual property and refused to provide it. Unfortunately, this is not the first time I’ve seen this source code ownership issue. Here are some of the implications of not having the source code to your app:

  • You are forever tied to the developer. Any modification, bug fix, or upgrade has to go through that developer. This is problematic because the developer could raise the price of development and is problematic if that developer becomes sick, busy with other projects, etc.
  • Raising funds or selling your project becomes more difficult because there’s a question of who owns the intellectual property.

Common Law

(Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer; if this is a concern, please get good legal counsel). In general, the author of content owns the copyright. In the case of a software developer, it’s the person physically typing on the key board to create the code. An exception occurs under the “Work for Hire” doctrine where the work is developed by an employee with the scope of their employment. However, when contractors are used, this becomes a little more unclear.

Personal Opinion

If I hire someone to buy a house, at the end of the project, I want the keys to it. In a similar fashion, if I pay someone to develop an app for me, I would expect to have the source code upon completion. At Apptology, this is our general policy. The exception is when we develop an app based off one of our templates. In which case, the template is our intellectual property.


If you are having an app developed by a contractor, have an open discussion about the source code ownership as part of the vetting process. If you don’t agree with their source code policy, move on. If you decide to go with that developer, make sure the ownership of the source code is spelled out in the contract.