In this post, I give you actionable advice on what to think about and consider before you start building your mobile app business idea. As a web- and mobile developer with over 16 years of experience on his belt, I’ve learned what needs consideration before you start your mobile adventure, both for business supporting apps and stand-alone mobile app services.

Every assumption that you’re starting your mobile app product on is false until proven valid

Your Assumptions Are Wrong

In an era where building Minimum Viable Products (MVPs), and pivoting ideas as taught by The Lean Startup and agile processes are king, assuming you just need to build your mobile app and turning it into a success is proven to have a 99% chance of failing.

Every assumption that you’re starting your mobile app product on is false until proven valid. This is a law that applies universally.

I’m not saying you’re always in the wrong ball-park. But it is unlikely that you are spot on in one stroke, and you should always assume that you are working on wrong assumptions.

Your assumptions could be a little off and just need a little tweaking to work for your idea, or they can be wrong entirely.

As an entrepreneur or maker, it is your job to find out what assumptions are right and wrong, and how to improve them or find the right ones for your product.

Mobile App Business Ideas never start out with the right aim. Using assumptions when you begin you'll need to validate those using the easiest way possible so you can iterate on your product.
Photo by Tim Gouw from Pexels

Here are some ways that can help you to minimize the error in your assumptions:

  • Scratch your itch: work on an idea for a solution that you need for yourself or to solve a problem that you’re experiencing yourself. That way, you can validate if it works for you. You’ll need to find out if there are enough of other people that have the same problem to see if this is going to be viable
  • Idea pivoting: create the simplest form of your idea that helps you to demonstrate your solution to others. This could be as simple as creating an Excel sheet, a clickable wireframe, mockups, or non-coding examples. If you’re a quick developer a simple duct tape proof of concept using your developer stack could do as well. Just invest the least amount of effort that is needed to enable the demonstration of your idea
  • Landing pages: you can pivot your idea on a simple website to show how and what value it provides (and for whom) to see if it gets tractions before you build anything.

There are awesome books available that can help to provide you with the right mindset and information to find out if your idea is viable.

Coming from a technical background, the following books helped me to shape my mindset for sure:

🔑 Take-aways:

  • You need to test your assumptions instead of being naive and think that you’re right
  • Get the right mindset by focussing on value
  • iterate on your idea by testing against potential users if it’s going to be viable. Create the simplest solution and use the agile circle of Think. Build. Learn. Adapt. Repeat.

Types Of Apps And Distribution Channels

One of the first questions I always ask is: does your app have to be in the app store?

Because of my software engineering background and diverse experience, I know there are many ways to build a solution. For apps, there are multiple form factors to implement them, like:

  • Native apps: iOS- and Android apps that are built using their native development tools
  • Cross-Platform apps: iOS- and Android mobile apps that are built with a single toolset, a shared logic implementation, and compiled into native variants
  • Hybrid apps: mobile apps that are built similar to cross-platform apps, but with the shared implementation and screens implemented using web technology. They are either “packed” into a native layer or compiled into native apps.
  • Progressive Web Apps (PWAs): these are apps that are built using web technology and that can be used in a mobile browser on smartphones. They can use a couple of mobile app features.
  • Mobile-friendly websites: these are websites that are accessible and user friendly when opened on a mobile device.
Mobile App Business Ideas can be distributed using multiple channels. The obvious one, App stores, isn't always the best one for your Mobile App Business Idea.
Photo by Tim Gouw from Pexels

Besides considering the above implementation types, there are quite some channels that can be used to distribute your solution:

  • The app stores; a platform-specific channel that is integrated into the fibers of iOS and Android
  • Enterprise stores; you can create a private store for your company so employees (or customers) can use your apps in a “closed shopping” environment
  • Package distribution: For Android apps, you can distribute your app package (APK) via websites (or any other file sharing solution for that matter)
  • Websites: you can implement your solution as a mobile web app or mobile-friendly website and host it on a server somewhere.

Before you choose your solution and/or distribution channel, ask yourself this: Does the app need to be in the App Store?

In the past 10 years, I’ve noticed how a lot of companies and entrepreneurs wanted to “have their app in the AppStore” for the same reason that people used to want websites on the internet for their companies: they wanted to have a presence there.

Just having an app in the AppStore because you need to be present there doesn’t cut it anymore.

With the AppStore having over 2.2 million apps available, and 2.8 million apps being offered in the Google Playstore, you’re not going to get exposure — or actual users — unless your app provides value for its users.

Sure, the AppStore can be a commercially interesting distribution channel. But you’ll need to be featured and highly exposed to get the amount of traction to make things interesting.

If you’re building a mobile app or service targeted at consumers (B2C) You’ll are probably better off with releasing your mobile solution and communicating this through multiple channels and platforms instead of depending on the editorial teams at Apple and Google.

Commonly used (international) channels are used and for startups and/or independent solutions, early adopters are often targeted via Product HuntHacker NewsReddit, etc.

Perhaps you should focus more on social media platforms and utilize focus features like groups on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Are you creating something that is going to be used internally? Use your main news-distribution channel and adjust process descriptions to get your app’s usage going.

Yes, the app stores are integrated highly into the OS, and linking and downloading the app is made easy. But “installing” your solution can also be done with Progressive Web Apps and their offline features or making it easy to save a link to your web app solution.

Don’t let your idea of what an App Store might bring you blind you from the alternatives. Instead, try to look at what mobile features are most useful and interesting for your solution, and find out if they provide enough value for the end-users before putting in a lot of effort or choosing directions.

🔑 Take-aways:

  • There are multiple ways to build an app. They all have their use-cases and pricing tag
  • There are multiple channels besides the app store that you can utilize to your advantage.
  • App stores sure have their pros, but they’re not holy. And they are already packed with millions of apps. Find out what channel will support your solution the most and always cross-check the effort needed to get your solution out there against the value that the channel might provide you

What Mobile Features Are Necessary?

A large part of choosing the right format for your solution depends on the features that your idea depends on.

For example: if you’re having a news related solution for a specific niche, you’ll probably want to trigger your users to open your app through push notifications on important news updates.

This is a feature* that is possible for native, cross-platform, hybrid, and progressive web apps.

*: I’m aware that desktop browsers have push notification functionalities, but they don’t work on mobile devices

If your solution needs to process the camera stream of a mobile device camera to recognize objects or apply filters, you’re going to be bound to native solutions or cross-platform/hybrid solutions (that are using frameworks that provide native support for those features).

A lot of companies are moving from native apps towards progressive web applications because they are easier to maintain, can be distributed faster, and are getting more and more feature support from both mobile- and desktop browsers.

You can look at the different types of mobile solutions as the layer of a union with the native apps being at its core and the other variants being wrapped around it.

The mobile app solution types can be visualised as union layers with the native apps at its center.
The mobile solution type union layers

The more your mobile app business idea depends on the hardware features of mobile devices, the more likely you will be heading towards a native solution (the core of the union) or one of the surrounding layers.

🔑 Take-aways:

  • Double-check what mobile features you absolutely need for your minimal product definition and find out — together with a mobile expert if you’re lost — what fits your solution and what possibilities are available for your solution
  • If your implementation provides value to its users, the type of implementation will matter less, so focus on value creation and not app building

In the end, building apps isn’t about building apps: it’s about providing value that can be utilized in the palm of your hand.

Is Your Idea Viable On Mobile?

If you have a solution that requires users to fill in a lot of input fields, chances are that your solution isn’t cut out for mobile devices.

If things are so complex in your mobile app business idea that they can’t be handled in a simple flow, chances are that you’re trying to combine multiple processes or services into one.

Mobile app usage is based on multi-frequent, short-used, and low barrier interactions with the mobile device. In other words: if you make it too complex, take to long or time dependant chances are that your solution isn’t ready for the small screens yet.

Try to find out what processes there are, which one results in the most value for its users, and you(r company) and focus on one of them.

You can see if there are processes that are dependant or highly related and choose to provide them together in a single app or you could see if a suite of multiple apps would be a better solution.

It all depends on what you’re trying to provide for your users, and only you can find out (preferably, together with your potential users) what makes sense and feels natural and logical.

Creating a simple, userfriendly mobile experience that will provide the user with value while not slowing them down or distracting them more than is necessary, can be tough.

Don’t underestimate the importance of making the solution ready for mobile.

In my experience, copy-pasting desktop experiences never work out and prove to be a waste of money and effort eventually.

“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

Steve Jobs

🔑 Take-aways:

  • If things are looking too complex, find out of you’re trying to combine multiple things into one app
  • Make your solution usable in the context of mobile usage: multi-frequent, short-used, and low barrier interactions
  • Simple can be hard; find out how to improve the experience instead of saving effort and copy-pasting a desktop solution

Concluding

If you’ve come this far, you’ll have read about multiple aspects that you’ll need to consider when it comes to mobile solutions.

By focussing on the value that you want to provide to the app users and taking all the possibilities into account (instead of being blinded by the commonly known types of apps and distribution channels) I hope to give you the insights to make well-informed decisions.

Invest the minimal amount of effort necessary to test your solution and validate your assumptions using the feedback of your potential users.

In the end, building apps isn’t about building apps: it’s about providing value that can be utilized in the palm of your hand.

Code Hard, Ship Harder 🔥

This article is also published on Medium

Edwin Klesman

from 1981 | husband | father of 3 | former (cross-platform) mobile developer | former Tech Lead @ startup | Team Lead (www.edu-deta.com) | Owner EEKAY ONLINE (www.eekayonline.com) #valuefirst #productdevelopment #consultancy | hooked on entrepreneurship, startups, product development, apps, SaaS

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Bringing you mindshaping content that helps you to build viable products & documenting my journey as I use the approach on this website for myself to build viable products.

About me

Edwin Klesman

from 1981 | husband | father of 3 | former (cross-platform) mobile developer | former Tech Lead @ startup | Team Lead (www.edu-deta.com) | Owner EEKAY ONLINE (www.eekayonline.com) #valuefirst #productdevelopment #consultancy | hooked on entrepreneurship, startups, product development, apps, SaaS

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