When you have a great idea for an iPhone app, you just want to get it out there as fast as you can and connect with as many of the 200 million iOS users as possible. The temptation is to get your app through development and into the App Store as quickly as possible but be warned, the old adage is true: ‘Fail to prepare, prepare to fail’.
The planning stage is absolutely vital in app development, I cannot stress that enough. Without thorough planning you will find yourself caught up in unforeseen circumstances and problems at every turn. Treat the process like a project and manage it as such. The first part of your plan, before you even think about development, should focus on timeframe and budget. Although apps are relatively simple to develop, this is only in relation to PC and Mac programs and console games. In reality, a slick and polished app, that works exactly as you want it, will take at least six months to put together. That’s with experience; if you are new to the process it could take up to a year and cost you a chunk of your savings.
It is likely that you started your app development with a kernel of an idea; perhaps a vague image in your head of how the app will look and only a passing thought as to how the interface will work. Before development starts you need to flesh out your ideas. Whether you plan on developing the app yourself or outsourcing it, you need to start outlining what your app will look like from the welcome screen all the way through. This doesn’t have to be too technical right now, it’s just an outline. Personally, I use software called Balsamiq (www.balsamiq.com) to create a wireframe of my app to start bringing it to life.
The Nitty Gritty
Hopefully your app is a fresh, exciting app that will take the world by storm but to make it work you have to concentrate on the fine details. How will the interface work? How will users move from A to B (or to C, D and E for that matter)? Will you include social network integration and if so, how will it improve the experience? What features of the app will carry that ‘WOW’ factor and how can you best show them off? You also need to think about the information and features that each screen will show. You don’t want the information to be too disparate but at the same time you don’t want screens clogged with information. This part of the planning process is perhaps the most important.
It’s impossible to know what problems will befall your app, all that is certain is that something will go wrong at some point. Maybe it will become incompatible with a future iOS update. Maybe users will quickly get bored of the content. Maybe users will not grab onto the idea as you hoped they would. Try and think of everything that could go wrong and think of a contingency. This is also a good time to start to think about upgrades and add-ons to keep users interested as time wears on.
Now that we have touched on planning, in phase 3 we look at the actual promotion of your application – look out for it!