Business Strategy| July 25, 2017
12 Questions You Need to Answer BEFORE Working With a Digital Strategy & Dev Agency
Here at Digital Authority Partners (DAP), we work with a lot of entrepreneurs on mobile app marketing to help them build, test and successfully launch products within the U.S. and internationally.
Our clients are based in the U.S., Europe, India, and China, and no matter where they come from or what stage they are at when coming to DAP for help with their digital product, there’s a common list of questions most of them do not have answered before working with us.
Of course, as app developers for hire, it is our job to help them navigate through these complex issues – and we excel at it. However, as most companies engage us at the tail end of their app launch process, we think it’s worth documenting all the questions a team of entrepreneurs should answer at every stage in the app promotion process in order to be successful, even before you hire app developers. Doing so saves both time and money, and will result in ultimately a stronger product with more room for success!
There are four key components to building and launching a good mobile app: digital strategy, UX/design, development and mobile app marketing. Below are the set of questions you should have answered at each stage of building and launching so that by the time you reach out to a digital strategy agency, you can quickly move past these steps and onto launching much faster and more effectively.
The first component of building an app is having a digital strategy. Below are the three questions you need to ask at this stage in order to ensure maximum potential in your app.
What is my minimum viable audience?
Many companies focus on building a minimum viable product, as they should, but most put off or altogether forget about their minimum viable audience. The first thing that should be done is focus on defining a minimum viable audience. This means, who are the people that are going to support and be the backbone for this app. It’s the specific needs of a manageable audience that dictates the minimum viable product. Before anything can be done, it is essential to know who you are targeting in order to be able to determine how you can satisfy their needs.
So you have determined who your target audience is going to be. The next question is of the most important you can ask, and yet often overlooked. Avoiding this question may result in months of wasted time, not to mention the wasted money.
Does my target audience primarily use or want an app to complete the task my potential product is for?
Everyone is going mobile. In America alone, 77% of people own smartphones, a number that has doubled in 5 years and is only still growing. However, what needs to be acknowledged is that not everyone is using mobile apps to complete all tasks. For example, we’ve seen companies attempt to build a canvas printing application without a corresponding website, yet 95% of people buying canvases do so on a laptop. We have also seen a company trying to launch a mobile only flight booking application, but again the data suggests that people research flights on mobile but complete the transaction online. The point is – don’t just build an app to build an app. Make sure the specific mobile behavior in your industry aligns with the need for a mobile app.
Ok, so you determined your target audience, and have researched that there is a strong desire for a mobile app. Now what? This is the next question you ask before you move on to next component of building the app:
Do I need a native or a hybrid app? If I decide on native, do I need to build both an iOS and an Android app at launch?
The first question depends entirely on your business. Any good mobile app agency can help you figure this out quickly. If you want to determine it yourself, it is good to again look back to your audience. Does it benefit you to get them the product faster with a hybrid app, or are they willing to wait for a better user experience with a native app? For the second question, the answer is clear – you don’t. Instagram was sold for 2 billion dollars and at that time it was still an iOS app only. All you have to do is choose which platform (typically iOS if only one) and build a great product.
After digital strategy, what comes next? The next component is to make sure the product you are building is going to be liked by your potential audience, and that comes from design/user experience. The first of these three component specific questions is the most intuitive when it comes to this area of app development:
Is my app design following UX best practices?
We see users fail to use lots of apps with great designs because, from an interaction point of view, they’re confusing. Your main focus should be on designing your app within the best established UX practices. You do not want your users to be focusing on how to get something done within an app, rather than using it to accomplish their goal. You want the design to be so fluid they don’t even notice the interface (unless it’s to notice how great it is)!
Once you have completed your design, you need to ensure users will understand how it works, even if the app is as simple as it gets. To this, you need to ask a quick and easy question:
Is my mobile app onboarding experience intuitive?
Technically, the first question you want to ask is — do I have an onboarding mobile app experience. The answer should always be yes. Don’t assume people will simply “get your app”. Most users do not want to spend any time to discover an app or its features. They want to jump right in. The best way to do that is by creating a short user onboarding experience. Make sure that the experience is clean, clear and that it covers all the major tasks you want a user to complete on the app. For more info, this is an in-depth article about mobile app design strategies including mobile onboarding.
Congrats, you designed an app that you think is easy and fun to use with a good onboarding experience. Do you launch? Not yet. First, you need to ask the following:
Has my app flow been validated by actual users before launch?
It is somewhat surprising that with the increase of various user testing platforms out there, most of which are very affordable, many entrepreneurs continue to NOT user test their mobile apps before launch. This could hardly be a bigger mistake. Nothing will give you a better understanding of whether your app will be successful or not than putting your designs in front of potential users. On most sites, you can do a simple 5 people user test for as low as 100 bucks. More comprehensive studies will obviously cost more, but the point is, do it! Don’t wait until launch thinking you know what your users want with the assumption they will simply like and enjoy your app. Test it! You will either learn you were right, and your app is great and ready to go, or maybe the users pointed something out you overlooked. Either way, you get invaluable feedback that will pay off big in the long run.
Mobile app development
It is important to have a great design to your app, but even the prettiest apps are meaningless if they do not have a clear function. To ensure this is not the case, you can find app developers for hire who can help you create the best app possible. On top of looking to hire app developers, you can ask yourself the following:
What’s MVP versus backlog items?
As you build your app there will be a lot of features you will want to include. Before you actually get to the design/implementation phase, you need to have all ideas properly prioritized. Of course, you can find app developers for hire, but even before you search them out, you can try and use these tips to ensure you are on the right track. Use the MoSCoW system of ranking priorities to rank and order all features you’re thinking of building. As all app developers for hire know, and now so do you, this is one of the most important steps in the app development process. Of all the features, you must determine which are absolutely necessary for your app to function, and which are supplementary. The must-haves will become priorities for build while the rest can be implemented later on, which will help keep costs low. Arrange them by themes and get internal alignment on priorities. Doing this will make it easy for the agency/dev team who will implement the must have features first, with the others rolling in as the app continues to update.
When you understand which features are your MVPs, it becomes important to track how these, and the app itself are performing. In order to do that, ask yourself:
What are my specific requirements for Analytics setup and performance monitoring (measurement/content delivery network and more)?
We’re filing all analytics requirements under one bucket, but you should treat them separately when you’re actually documenting them. On the one hand, you have requirements around the overall business performance of the app: user engagement, app adoption, transactions. On the other hand, you need to track the app performance analytics you want to monitor: app crashes, app latency, end-to-end application latency, app load per period, network errors etc. You can check this article for a list of 17 things to track that should all be implemented during the development phase. The best way to ensure your app is doing what it needs to is to measure success. Without this, you will never know if you should be implementing changes and if so, how rapidly. Ignoring this could be detrimental to your app.
You have everything in place. You know what you want to be your MVP. You know how you want to rate success. But when will you have your app ready? The question to ask is:
What is the speed of development the team should follow?
In app development, this is called sprints. In other words, you divide workload by manageable amounts and assign tasks accordingly. In agile development, most companies use 2 weeks sprints. What that means is that the app developers for hire agree to work on a series of tasks for two weeks straight, then they present working software based on the completed tasks before taking on new work loads. Whatever time frame you set your eyes on, you want to make sure there’s a clear expectation in place and that the team executes accordingly. Doing this will allow for a smooth flow of development so you can have a good idea of when your possible launch date will be.
If everything is set, you need to make sure your app will actually run when it is launched. Nothing could be worse than releasing an app and no one is able to download it because the code has an extra comma somewhere. So what do you ask to make sure this does not happen?
What are the testing plan and issue submission protocol?
No one wants a buggy app. On the other hand, it’s near impossible to have a truly bug free app at launch. Before you even reach the point of testing the software, you want to make sure you have a proper testing plan, a user acceptance plan, a UAT environment set up, and that you and the developing team agree on the method of capturing, documenting and submitting issues for fixing during the testing period. Here is an article we wrote on the same topic. Once this is in place, you are set to test your software to ensure app success.
Mobile App Marketing Plan
Your app is set. The design is done, the features are implemented, and now you are beginning to think about how to market your app so you can release soon. Wrong. You should be thinking about mobile app marketing all throughout the design and development process and these are some of the questions you want to answer along the way.
Do I have all the marketing collateral needed to successfully promote my app?
App promotion efforts start way before the app is launched, which is something most entrepreneurs fail to account for. The first and most critical component of app promotion is having the right mobile app marketing collaterals created and ready to be spread online when the app goes live. That includes your media kit, your web landing page (yes apps should absolutely have a web presence!), demo video, social media strategy (we always advise startups to have a social media presence created and managed at least one month before the launch date of their product), your FAQ session and more. If you want to go into details for each of these tactics, read our article on the same topic here. Essentially, when you release the app, did you make sure people already knew about it and were anticipating it, and do you have the tools to continue reaching new audiences to learn about and download your app.
Having all of this, social media presence, media kits, etc. is not all that can be done to promote your app. In fact, one of the most successful ways to get an app noticed is to have people with large followings promote and recommend your app. To ensure you use this helpful tool, ask yourself:
What’s my digital strategy for influencer outreach, brand ambassadors, and brand promoters?
We see this all the time. Entrepreneurs think: “Well, I build a great product so people are simply going to start using it.” Unfortunately, this is not true. In a world of 2 million apps on Google Play and App Store, apps end up like trees in a forest, you can’t stop to examine all of them. When it comes to apps, no one will care about it unless you market it well. As we argued before in Our Ultimate Guide to Influencer Marketing, the best way to market your app is by building a strong network of influencers in your market niche who are able and willing to promote your app after launch. Failure to do that will result in a modest and frustrating launch. Check the article we wrote for the Clutch blog on how to effectively market your app after launch with the help of influencers.
Have you looked through and answered all these questions? If so, perfect. You’re ready to get in touch with a digital strategy and development agency. Digital Authority Partners is here for you to hire as app developers and strategists, no matter what stage you are at, even if you haven’t answered all the questions. DAP does end-to-end mobile app design and product strategy. We are app developers for hire, which means we can help answer any and all of these questions, even the tough ones. We help ensure your mobile app is optimized for use, and that the marketing side is taken care of so that you get a great mobile app that gets the recognition it deserves. Get in touch with us today to make your mobile app come to life so it can thrive!