Kickoff Checklist: Are You Ready to Make Your App Real?

September 8, 2020


Chances are, the idea has been in your head for a good while. Maybe the idea has spent some time on a whiteboard, perhaps shared with others. Is the idea ready to be made real? Are you ready? Here are 7 things to consider and do as you prepare to kick off a new app project.

1. Pressure Test the Idea

Can you find it in “nature”? Is there an analog? Is there somewhere you can see the basic principles at work in your world, a different industry, or real, actual nature?

What would make the app fail? What hurdles will you have to overcome?

Run the idea by 20 people, in a way that allows them to be honest. Try opening like this:

“I have this idea I’ve been working with, but I don’t know if it is worth my time. Can I get your thoughts?”

This approach separates you from the idea and asks the reviewer to defend your best interest (your time). Avoid the opposite of this: “I have this great idea and want your input”. This is like asking someone how beautiful your baby is. Almost everyone will agree your baby is beautiful, no matter how much snot and tears and weird alien baby wrinkles they see.

2. Think of the People

Who are the people that will use your app? Spend time defining who they are. But instead of writing down who you think they are, spend time imagining how they would describe themselves. Better yet, imagine you are a script writer and place them in a scene that develops their character. Try to get a sense of what drives them and how they think.

Borrowing from the StoryBrand framework (worth checking out, especially if you are working on your marketing), think about what this product or project will allow your user to do. How will it make them feel like a hero?

3. Timing is… Everything?

It may be third on this list but don’t let that fool you- timing is #1 for a majority of seasoned entrepreneurs. When will the app launch? What natural cycles (weather, economic, societal) will affect your chances for success or failure?

4. Budget and Funding

We like the good, better, best framework when thinking about budget. What would a very basic (good) version of the idea look like? How would you improve from good to better? And what would be involved to create a gold-standard ‘best’. If you can begin assigning dollar ranges to these three levels, you begin to see where you can make trade offs.

An aphorism we like: “Time, money and quality. Choose 2.”

5. Draw. Yes, draw.

Grab a pencil and some paper. Draw a component of your idea. A scene or vignette of the app in action. An important screen. The result of success with your app (for instance, for Lyft maybe a car pulling up to meet a sole smartphone-wielding traveler in a crowd) It doesn’t have to be great, or even legible to anyone but you.

Why? Drawing can solve the “seeing problem”. It can show us what matters, literally ‘paint a picture’. Too often we fixate on preconceived notions (‘symbols’), and these symbols get littered into our mental model like bad clip art. Think of a child's drawing of a house and tree. There are very standard ‘houses’ and ‘trees’. They all look the same. They are symbols of a tree, not the tree itself.

Want to draw better? Start with Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.

6. Design

Do you already have a design established? Brand guidelines to follow? Use these even in early prototypes, it will help stakeholders get on board and make things feel real.

Starting from scratch? Keep it simple. Think about your favorite apps and interfaces, and emulate them. As a wise friend of ours likes to say “One point for originality, two points for copying”.

7. Technology

Decide if you actually need to worry about technology. Do you have a target customer that uses, say, only Blackberry’s? Are you attempting some new technological breakthrough?

What happens if the app is a roaring success? Think in terms of active users. How many will you have at launch? In a month? In a year? Even a rough ‘bigger than a breadbox’ guess here will inform early technology decisions.

Do you have a preferred ‘stack’? A technology you personally like? Keep an open mind, as tech changes rapidly. A rule of thumb is to look for modern but proven technology with strong adoption, unless you have a very specific need.

Ready to get started? We love to hear about new projects. Tell us about your project and we’ll prepare a complimentary project brief to help move things forward. Get Started.