There Should Be an App for That: What to Do with a Great Idea for a Mobile App

Maybe it was upon learning from the Wall Street Journal that "by 2030 one-third of the U.S. population will be employed in the app industry" or that Angry Birds has been downloaded 100 million times, but whatever inspired your creativity, you now have a great idea for a great mobile application!  Here’s what to do next:

I've got a great idea for a mobile app! 1) Google the idea for your app.  Type your idea straight into Google’s search box.  Then type it again using synonyms for your keywords.  Two old sayings apply:  "There’s nothing new under the sun," and "Great minds think alike." You may well have had a great idea for an app which another great mind has already taken to market.  If so, let it go.  Another saying applies:  "Ideas are a dime a dozen."  You’ll have another idea.  If Google results reveal your idea seems to be one-of-a-kind, proceed to step 2.

2) Search the iTunes App Store and Android Market for an app like yours.  Use single keywords or short phrases and their synonyms that describe what your app is and does.  Try to think like your app’s potential users and type or tap in the problem for which your app is a solution.  Since not all mobile application developers post separate web pages or web sites to promote their apps and Google doesn’t pick up all apps or list them in the same way, this is a crucial step in cross checking the originality of your idea. 

3) Search Google, the iTunes App Store, the Android Market, the WHOIS database of domain names, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the name you want to use for your app.  If another app, service, product or company has that name, using it is a bad idea for your good app.  In addition to the legal risks you take, even if your use of another's name is uncontested, it’s just bad business to share your brand's identity with someone or something else. Shakespeare knew that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” and your app will still be great by another – untaken – name.

4) Show, don’t tell, how the app will work.  “I have a great idea for an app that blanks!”  Cool.  How exactly will it "blank"?  Whether you use a cocktail napkin, drawing paper and India ink, a white board and dry erase marker, Photoshop, or a wireframe or user interface (UI) program, show how your app will work, screen by screen.  Both you and your developer will need these specifications to estimate the time and budget needed to create your app.

5) Estimate how much it will cost to create your app.  If you can develop your own app, start coding! If you can't, you'll need help.  To assist you in determining how much that help will cost, here are excerpts from our post, How Much Does a Mobile App Cost?

According to, "A Forrester report last year [2009] set the price of a no-frills app at a minimum of $20,000 – and reckoned a more sophisticated app could set you back up to $150,000."

The hourly rate paid to a mobile app developer varies, and what the rate should be is a topic of discussion…represented well by this conversation on stack overflow.  For our question, "How much does a mobile app cost?" we'll use the low end of the figures reported for development of the Barack Obama mobile app.

A mobile application that took 500 hours to develop at $100 per hour would cost $50,000.

Once you have an idea of how much your app will cost to develop, you'll know whether or not you can pay for it up front or will need to develop it in partnership with others.

6) Decide on a business plan for developing your mobile app.  Code does not an app make. Our post on the business of mobile app development provides a summary of the mobile app development process and includes a link to our white paper with a more detailed description and analysis of options for the business end of getting a mobile app developed and ready for market.

"Ideas are a dime a dozen. People who implement them are priceless," is attributed to Mary Kay Ash.  The same applies to mobile apps.  May these six steps help you implement a business strategy for your mobile app that make your idea and your app both priceless.

Our category on mobile apps may be of further interest.

Who's in FRONT? Robyn Schon
Customer Service for Start-Ups

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