3 Steps to Develop Your Mobile App Idea

You’ve been thinking about an idea that you think can be the next Uber for weeks. So what do you do? Here are three steps you can take that will help you develop your idea.

1. Research Your Mobile App Idea:

The first thing you want to do with your idea is to research it. I had a client that spent a considerable amount of time having me do an NDA dance before speaking with me. Once we finally started talking, I quickly did a search on the Apple App Store and found there were over 25 similar apps listed; he quickly lost interest in pursuing this project.

Keep in mind that it’s not the end of the world if you find another app that does what you’re trying to accomplish. You just have to figure out how to make your app better. Remember, before Google there was Yahoo; Before Facebook, there was MySpace. It’s not so much who goes to market first, but rather who executes best.

In doing your research, you need to also look at the market potential. For example, let’s say you had an app that was geared for veterinarians. A quick Google search shows that there are 90,000 veterinarians in the U.S. Now, you just identified your market potential.


Image Source: AppsCollections

2. Create Storyboard for Your Mobile App:

Now it’s time to put your idea down on paper and develop a storyboard (or wireframe). This is where the rubber hits the road and you put yourself in the shoes of the user. For instance, what’s the first thing they see once they launch your app? The first screen takes you to the main menu; the user taps the top button, where does it take the user? And so on.

To create our wireframes, our designers use a design tool called Balsamiq. I send our clients a PowerPoint template where they can either use PowerPoint’s drawing tools or they can even print it out and hand draw it.

The advantage of creating a storyboard are:

  • It helps develop your idea
  • You have something to show as you try to recruit people or investors
  • Provides direction for your development team


Image Source: spordipartner

3. Develop Mobile App Business Plan:

After you’ve done the research and developed a storyboard, if you decide you have something viable, you need to put together a business plan. After you’ve followed these 3 steps diligently, I suggest reading the 5 Challenges of a Startup Appreneur to know what you’re up against and strategize accordingly. Good luck on your start up journey as you recruit co-founders, get funding, etc.


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.

4 Ways to Make Money from a “Free” App

It seems counter intuitive that a free app is the best way to generate revenue.  When advising clients who intend to make money from their app, I recommend they don’t charge for the app.  In my opinion, the price of an app often becomes a barrier for people to download it.  For example, we had a client that had a successful app and it was getting thousands of downloads a week.  As soon as they charged 99 cents for it, the app dropped to a meager 40 downloads per week.  So how do you make money from a free app?  That’s the multiple billion dollar question.  I’ll cover 4 ways to generate revenue from a “free” app:

In-App Purchase:   the In-App purchase is what is described as the “freemium” model.  The app is free but there is an opportunity for the user to purchase additional services.  In terms of generating revenue from the app store, this is the biggie.  If you look at the top 20 grossing apps in the Apple App Store, all of them are free and use Apple’s In-App purchase mechanism (note:  Apple retains 30% of the revenue generated from this mechanism).    Some examples of In-App purchases are:

  • Unlocking “Pro” Version of the App:  This is typically a try it before you buy it model and there are several variations of this including:
    • Unlocking features of the app
    • Allowing the app to work after a trial period
    • Disabling ads
    • Some combination of the above
  • Purchase of virtual goods:  This is where you buy virtual goods with hard Clash of Clans Gem Boxcurrency.  Typically it’s used for games.  For example, Clash of Clans is currently the highest grossing app.  In this free app, you can buy a treasure chest of gems for the bargain price of $99.99.
  • Content:  The app has additional content like a song, video, story, game level, etc.
  • Subscriptions:  Typically used in content app like Zinio or for magazine apps in Apple’s Newsstand.  When the user buys the app, there’s typically some sample content and the user has the option of subscribing for additional content for some set amount of time.  Another example of a subscription can be seen in Pandora where you can upgrade to Pandora One for $3.99 / month.

Mobile Advertising:  The Mobile Ad Market is projected to reach $31.5 Billion this year alone.  Consequently, many mobile ad companies have sprouted with various revenue models.  Mobile Advertising can be used in conjunction with apps that have in-app purchase and consequently allows a free app to generate revenue even if the user doesn’t make any in-app purchases.

Deliver Service / Product:  This is where the free app is essentially a vehicle for the user to purchase a product or service.  Notable examples include:

  • Uber:  from this app, a user can request and pay for a ride sharing service.  Uber’s valuation at the time of this writing is $17 Billion.
  • Doctors on Demand:  this app allows a user to get a consultation from a licensed physician through a video conference for $40 for 15 minutes
  • Amazon:  this is pretty straight forward.   You can use the Amazon app to purchase pretty much anything that’s available through amazon.com

I would like to point out that if the app is to be used to purchase goods or services, you cannot use Apple’s in-app purchase mechanism, and you’ll have to use another mobile commerce vendor like PayPal or Authorized.net.

User Acquisition:  The poster child for this model is Whatsapp which was acquired by Facebook for a staggering $19 Billion.  On the surface, Whatsapp has no revenue model.  They don’t really have a subscription revenue model nor do they have mobile ads.  What they do have is a lot of users; 500 million by some estimates with 18 billion transactions a day.  Snapchat is also following the user acquisition model with no apparent revenue.  They have a reported 30 million users with a valuation of $10 Billion.  I think the model is get the users, monetize later; be it big data, advertising or something else.

Hopefully, after reading this post, you get the idea that if you want to develop an app for profit, “free” is the way to go.