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The integral role that apps play in our lives seem to increase by the day. We look to them when we want to relax, buy groceries, schedule a doctor's appointment - even when we want to sleep.
Given their potential to streamline and enhance many aspects of our lives, it’s no wonder that one of the questions the Yeti team hears most often is “I have an idea for an app - where do I start?”.
The answer is always unique and dependent on multiple factors, including how far along you already are in the process, what your timeline and budget look like, the platforms you are looking to build for, and more. But, for the most part, the initial steps we suggest always look somewhat the same.
If you have an app idea you’d like to develop you can start the process on your own with the following steps.
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 - at the end of the day, no one will use an app that doesn’t solve a problem.
Defining Your Problem Statement
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 trying 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.
Create User Personas
Having a clear understanding of the problem you want to solve and who you want to solve it for go hand in hand. Creating a user persona is a good way to gain clarity on your product’s ideal user, including what they struggle with and what they are trying to achieve.
A good user persona should provide you with greater insight into your user’s intent and the factors that will contribute to their use of your app.
Understanding the intent of a user will allow your product to deliver value to them quickly. It will also inform more subtle things like the language used, the app’s aesthetic, the options provided and much more - ensuring that your product appeals to its intended audience.
Crafting great user personas takes practice and the right balance of generalization and specificity. This user persona template and guide will provide you with all the tools you need to begin!
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 users mental state, and how they need the product to work.
With the information you generate you can create a user persona that includes a name, age, and description, including the users overall goals, influences and feelings. It’s important to be specific - if you are building your product for too many people, you are building it for no one at all.
You can find more information on empathy mapping in our user persona template and guide.
Once you’ve developed a solid idea of the problem your app will be solving and who you are solving it for, you’re ready to start developing what the first version of your app might look like. To do this you might want to start with some User Journey Mapping or Sitemapping but the end goal should be to create some low-fidelity wireframes!
A wireframe is essentially a blueprint that includes your app’s most basic content and visuals. You can use it to map out the shell of your app's interface, it’s features, screens and basic information architecture.
Your wireframes will provide enough detail that you’ll be able to share them with anyone you’d potentially like to collaborate with and provide them with a clear idea of what you’d like to create, but won’t get so deep that they include exact details.
You don’t need to be a designer to start wireframing. There are a ton of free wireframing tools that you can use to get started. We’d recommend checking out:
Congratulations! Now that you have a problem statement, user persona and low-fidelity wireframes in hand, you’re well on your way to building an app!
Sometimes these initial steps of app development can feel a bit overwhelming. At Yeti, we work with clients coming to us at all stages of the development process and are always excited to start work on an app idea from scratch.
Our workshops can help you get to the heart of your app by developing problems statements, user personas and much more that will help ensure your app is off to a successful start.
If you have an app idea you’d like to begin developing, we’d love to chat!
Tony Scherba is a CEO + Founding Partner at Yeti. Tony has been developing software since high school and has worked on digital products for global brands such as Google, MIT, Qualcomm, Hershey’s, Britney Spears and Harmon/Kardon. Tony’s writing about innovation and technology has been featured in Forbes, Huffington Post and Inc. At Yeti, Tony works on strategy, product design and day to day operations, hopping in and working with the development teams when needed. Follow Tony on Twitter.