May 22, 2018

App DevelopmentSoftware DevelopmentMinneapolis App DevelopersMinnesota App Developersmobile app development

When it comes to developing an app, it’s what you don’t know that will kill your startup.

We develop mobile apps in Minneapolis, Minn. and have helped over 100 startups through product strategy, prototyping, app development, growth and almost everything in between. The next 5 minute read represents years of bumps and bruises, victories, losses, and countless hours spent on getting ideas off of the ground - so don’t take it lightly.

There are huge potholes waiting to swallow a founder whole as they journey down the road of starting a startup. Wasting money and time are potholes founders are aware of, but they are challenges that are often approached incorrectly. The good news is that these problems are mostly avoidable.

A majority of the wasted budget and time comes from missing the mark on the following 3 key factors, in order of importance:

  1. Designing an engaging user experience (bringing users back over and over again).
  2. Developing scalable code.
  3. Acquiring users.

The best marketing in the world won’t fix user engagement or coding issues, so we’ll focus on the most important items first. If you have never designed a truly engaging mobile app experience or developed and scaled a product worldwide, it’s worth asking yourself: “how will I know what to do, but more importantly: how will I know how to do it?”

Knowing how to solve the core problem you are after and deeply knowing the user is critical, but assuming this knowledge gives you the complete answer to building a successful digital product is an error and an oversimplification of the process. In this article we will begin to shed some light on the challenges with launching a digital venture such as a mobile app--with more to come in future posts.

Do users love their experience with your mobile app?

The problem we consistently see among startups and even large corporations is that all too often they don’t have a firm handle on what it actually takes, or how much it costs to build lovable, engaging digital products. There is an art to generating high levels of user engagement with any given product. It’s never as simple as handing over a list of features to designers and/or developers and in a matter of months receiving a finished, lovable, engaging product with no additional learning, iterating or challenges along the way.

The right way to start your mobile app development.

Being a team made up of entrepreneurs and scaling experts, we understand fully that there is a time to get scrappy and cut costs in order to realistically get a business off the ground. Unless you have hundreds of thousands of dollars resting in a savings account somewhere, just waiting to find its purpose in life, it’s unreasonable to expect the first version of your product to have all of the bells and whistles. Even if you had that kind of money, why would you want to invest it into a massive product that you haven’t validated yet?

With that said, we are are consistently presented complicated, grandiose ideas and the primary question we are asked by founders is: “Where do I/we start?” They can see the long-term vision, but they don’t know what the right first step is to get there.

Areas to focus on:

  • User experience (UX).
    • Brian Chesky, AirBnB’s CEO, has a magical thought exercise where he writes out what a 1 star, 2 star, all the way up to what an 11 star experience is. It’s a crazy effective way to find what the optimal 80/20 is for your mobile app.
  • Iterations loops: Build → Learn → AdjustIteration loops: Build, Learn and Adapt
  • Core engagement loops.

Through working on hundreds of digital products and our team’s experience with scaling software and businesses from 0 to highly-profitable, we’ve found that it’s almost always the best decision to start by designing a clickable-prototype of your product or mobile app idea. Not only does designing out your product give potential users and early stage (pre-seed) investors visual proof of your idea, it provides you and your team the freedom to adjust quickly and cost-effectively.

In creating any idea from thin-air, there will inevitably be unknowns with the product, even once you start coding and developing it. By leveraging feedback as early as possible from internal and external resources, and from all walks of life, you can begin refining your product down into a core set of features that users can understand and will need in order to come back to the application over and over again.

Your exponential savings:

Changing a sketch or a wireframe for a mobile app is exponentially more cost-effective and quicker than rewriting and refactoring a codebase. Instead of waiting until you have a developed product to test with users and start gathering feedback on what they don’t like about it, or features they wished it had, it’s far more cost-effective to start gathering that feedback as early as possible. In doing so, you can minimize the amount of time and resources that you and your team spend heading in the wrong direction.


Concept to Launch: Iterate during the Prototype phase

Prototyping allows you to start generating critical feedback and the ability to iterate on the product before spending the big bucks on development. It all starts with designing the foundation for which to build upon for years to come. You wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint would you?

Who are we?

New Lion is an elite boutique digital product development and launch firm (or agency) in Minneapolis, MN. We’re passionate about designing and developing web and mobile apps that users love so much they can’t help but tell everyone they know about it. We are here to help your app idea be the next blockbuster - let’s talk!

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Written by Joseph Schlichting