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4 Steps to Get Started on Your App Project

June 30, 2021

This is a preview of our upcoming Adventure of Inventing Masterclass

It’s no secret that we love apps. And why wouldn’t we? We rely on them to streamline and enhance nearly every aspect of our lives. Need to file your taxes? There’s an app for that! Want to learn the rules of baseball? Check out this app. Want to file for divorce? Yep, there’s even an app for that!

But despite the fact that the App Store currently boasts over 1.96 million available apps, there are still hundreds of thousands of new ways that apps can improve our lives - so it’s no wonder that, here at Yeti, we’re often approached by individuals and teams seeking insight into how they can begin building their innovative app concept.

The good news is that there is a ton you can do on your own to get started on the app design process - even if you have absolutely no development knowledge. In fact, really getting to know exactly what you want to build and who you are building it for before putting it into the hands of a development team is extremely beneficial.

If you have an app idea you’d like to develop you can start the process on your own with the following steps:

1. Get Clear On Your Idea

One of the most important questions you can ask yourself at the beginning stages of your project is: “Does my app solve a real problem?”. The problem can be anything from alleviating boredom to losing weight, but it’s crucial that you get clear on what exactly your goal is.

Having a meaningful and actionable problem statement is an important part of your app design process. Your problem statement helps you fully understand your goal and gives you a clear-cut objective to work towards. It will also help you kick start your ideation process.

To help you understand how your application will stand out and provide value to its user, it’s important for you to thoroughly explore the problem it will solve. Defining your problem statement is your first step in this process.

A problem statement is a concise description of your user’s problem, or the issue you would like your app to address. It should identify the gap between the user's current state and their desired goal.

For example:

“I am a young working professional tryding to eat better, but I’m struggling because I work long hours and don’t always have time to go grocery shopping and prepare my meals. This makes me feel frustrated and bad about myself.”

A good problem statement focuses and gives good context around the user but is broad enough to allow room for creative design solutions. It should be specific enough though, that you’ll be able to narrow in on a suitable solution. Overly broad problem statements lead to unhelpful products.

Make sure to cover the “5 W’s” when creating your problem statement:

*Who is experiencing the problem?
*What is the problem?
*Where does the problem present itself?
*Why does it matter?

Having a well defined problem statement will provide you and the team you work with a clear cut objective to work towards, allowing you to ideate solutions that will ultimately satisfy your users needs, leading to a fulfilling experience with your app.

2. Get to Know Your User

Developing a deep understanding of your app's ideal user and their needs, thoughts and emotions will help you create a great product that they truly enjoy using.

We recommend using the following tools to help you gain an in depth understanding of exactly who will be using your app

Empathy Maps

Empathy mapping can help you get you to the heart of your user persona by challenging your assumptions about your product’s ideal user and identifying their wants, needs and motivations in a way that typical interviews can't.

A typical empathy mapping exercise involves drawing the above image on a whiteboard, and imagining your ideal user in context that might prompt them to use your product.

You can then take note of everything the user might be experiencing, starting with what the user is thinking and working your way through each of the functions. This exercise gives you context into the user's mental state, and how they need the product to work.

User Personas

Once you’ve synthesized all of the information you’ve gathered about your ideal user through empathy mapping, you're ready to create a User Persona

A user persona is a fictional representation of your product's ideal user. It captures what they are hoping to achieve by using your product and the various factors that may contribute to their use of the product.

Good user personas are extremely helpful in creating user-centric products. They should provide your team with insight into the users motivations and needs, and create a unified vision of exactly who you are building your product for.

You can use this template to create your user persona.


3. Start User Journey Mapping

A User Journey map documents a user's experience with your product from start to finish, including how they will be introduced to it, and when and why they will use it.

They’re excellent tools for creating user centric products because they allow designers to see the product from the users point of view, and they document the value it will provide for its users, helping to ensure the product is meeting expectations.

Mapping the user’s journey also allows you to identify pain points and opportunities to add additional value for your users, allowing you to create a truly great user experience.

A really simple user journey map could look something like this:

‍And a much more complex user journey map might look something like this:

When creating your user journey map, consider the following you might want to consider the following questions:

*What was their motivation for downloading and opening the app?
*How easy is it for a first time user to understand the app?
*How long does it take the user to accomplish their goals in using the app?

The answers to these questions will help you better understand your users motivations, and what they’re likely to desire and find helpful in your product. Using this information will allow you to create an experience that truly hooks your user.

4: Start Ideating

Now that you’ve gathered all of the pertinent information about your ideal user and the problem your product will be solving you’re ready to begin generating solutions with your team.

This phase of your development process is all about generating ideas - you’ve chosen a goal and now it’s time to approach it from every angle possible. Your objective here is to uncover hidden insights and generate as many potential solutions as possible.

You’re going to want to start by getting your entire team together for an ideation workshops where together you’ll brainstorm as many ideas as possible, ultimately sketching out what your finished product will do and how it will do it.

There are many exercises and methods that you can use to help your team ideate solutions - our favorite is called "Crazy 8's".

Crazy 8's:

The intention of this exercise is to generate as many ideas as possible within a short time frame - the emphasis here should be on quantity over quality of ideas.

By giving individuals 8 minutes to generate 8 ideas you help push them to move past their first idea, which is frequently the least innovative.

Begin this exercise by handing out sheets of paper to each individual participating, which they should then fold their paper into eight sections.

Set a timer for eight minutes - each team member should then sketch one idea in each of the eight sections. Remind everyone that these ideas are just sketches - they don't have to be works of art.

To help team members who don’t have a background in design, you might want to hold a quick how to sketch session. It's also important to remind everyone that their ideas don’t have to be great - this exercise should be about quieting everyone's inner critic and allowing the creative juices to flow.

Once your team has completed their individual ideation process, and you have many divergent ideas on the topic, each individual should present their ideas to the team and tape their sheet to a wall or whiteboard.

Once everyone has presented, the team can vote for their favorites.

Once you’ve completed all of these steps you should have a solid idea of what your app will actually look and feel like! If you’re ready to move forward, now is a good time to reach out to a design and development team that can help bring your app vision to life!

The Yeti team is compiling our decade of expertise building apps into “The Adventure of Inventing: An App Design & Development Masterclass”. This free resource will provide all of the information and tools you’ll need to get your app idea off the ground, including modules covering:

  • UX Design
  • Development
  • Branding & Visual Design
  • Product & Project Management

Sign up here to get these amazing free resources as soon as they become available!

is a mythical beast. This article was written by a friend and published by an editor at Yeti. Follow The Yeti on Twitter.

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