I don't code. I don't design. I don't program. And I don't have a computer science degree. But when apps as we know it hit the market in 2008, I sensed an opportunity for service businesses to join in and innovate. And now my company's app reaches over 10,000 entrepreneurs in more than 22 countries around the world. It's an exciting market and it's worth exploring where you and your business fit in.
Once you've made the decision that an app will enhance your business, the next step is building the app. If you're like me, a business owner with little tech experience, it's critical to manage the app development process and know the essential elements of building an app that works. It will save you valuable time and money to have an easy-to-remember framework on your app journey.
My tech team taught me this pearl of wisdom: Think of building an app like building a house. Just like building a successful house, to build an app that sells, you need a solid foundation, a layout that makes sense and an inviting curb appeal.
These best practices of building a house can help you make sense of the app development process:
1. A Solid Foundation
How your app is built is very important. The decisions you make are largely based upon your business model which answers how you are creating, delivering, marketing and monetizing your value in the marketplace. Your app process will be smoother when you get on the same page with your team early on to define the purpose of the app and where you want to lead the user. Do you want the user to buy services from you? Do you want to build community? Do you want to share a breakthrough formula, idea or process? Do you want to stand out?
Know which standards your development team is using to build the back end of your app. There are many ways to build an app and a home. Both need to be built up to "code" which is a recognized industry standard comprised of principles, guidelines, frameworks and languages. You want to build a foundation that can be expanded upon so if you want to add features and connect your app to other platforms, you don't have to start from scratch. Imagine a scenario where you want to extend your home to add additional living space and your contractor would rather demolish your house and start over because it wasn't built to last.
Get involved in the nitty-gritty and get assurances that your app is built using today's advanced code so that your app can have longevity and evolve. Like homebuilding best practices, pay attention to everything. You may be able to flip the switch and turn the lights on, but when you go into the basement, you don't want to find yourself surrounded by crumbling walls.
2. Design That Makes Sense
The design architecture engages the customer after they enter the app and begin to "walk around." Did your customer find a toilet in the kitchen? A stairway to nowhere? You'll know whether your design is on the right track when you work with your team on the wireframes (a screen-by-screen blueprint of the design and user experience). Since this is a production, you don't want any surprises. Your goal is to create a clear path for your customer.
The look of the app should represent your brand as well as grab the attention of users in a very crowded field. I recommend having several sessions with your design team to capture the right combination of colors, font type and size and the selection of buttons and icons that work to both deliver your content and make an emotional connection that will keep your users engaged. Design is a combination of art, science and common sense. Although colorful games may be fun, you want your design to match what your business provides and reflect your brand values.
Content is the guts and spirit of your app, the reason why the user showed up. If you are inviting someone into your home, what is the takeaway? An amazing meal? A powerful conversation? A relaxing getaway? Once you establish what you're made of, you will then be categorized and compared to other apps that deliver similar content. As a service business, you know what resonates with your customers. You know what the biggest pain points are and the solutions that receive lots of praise. If someone has ever said to you, "You should package that advice and sell it," consider delivering it in a new way within an app.
3. Curb Appeal
The front door is a combination of the customer's first impression on the app store, and any how-to tutorial guides or videos you create. Many apps begin with welcome screens just like many homes invest in welcome mats, flowers near the entrance and lights along the front path. You want to create a seamless login process, a positive first impression and an open door to your app. If any of these elements are uninviting, confusing or frustrating, the customer may simply walk away and abandon your app.
4. Tight Security
People are concerned, and rightly so, about the security of the information they will be providing on your app. It's important to provide the customer with an understanding of how you plan to keep their information private and whether you plan to aggregate any of their data. You want to not only make people feel safe but also provide the proper security systems and measures to guard against privacy breaches. If you showed up to purchase a house and it did not include doors and windows, your first thought may be, "How am I going to prevent someone from walking in?" As the developer, it's your responsibility to protect your customers' private information.
5. The Right Feeling
Every house is not a home. If you are able to create an app that feels like home, you have done something quite rare. Home is what customers come back to. The app "feeling" is the content you create that is helpful, motivational, inspirational and life-enhancing.
The app experience has been life-changing. Since my app launched, I've connected with thousands of business owners on their business breakthroughs. It's an exciting sharing economy and your business can be known as trusted, high-performing and innovative thanks to this popular medium for growth and expansion.