The architecture of planning an app

Drawing out an app idea

Having a great idea is only the first step to building a great mobile app. Ideas don’t magically transform into well-thought-out functions while a developer is writing code. That process happens before a single line of code is ever written. Many of our clients aren’t sure how to move from a general idea to solid technical specifications, and that’s why we often come alongside them for the process.

It’s best to think about laying plans for your app like building a custom house. There’s an architect, a general contractor, a ton of workers, and a designer who all work together in a very specific order to make your vision into reality. You need to have a roof before you lay flooring, walls before you install sink fixtures, and windows before you hang curtains. An app follows the same methodical process.

Step 1: Identify the goal

What kind of house are you building?

There are all kinds of houses that you might choose to build, and you’ll likely hire specific people based on their expertise in the kind of house you want. If you are looking to build a farmhouse on rural acreage, you’ll pick a team that understands getting utility lines run to a new property and hauling in everything necessary for a worksite. If you’re renovating a downtown warehouse into an urban loft, you’ll pick a team that understands preserving historical elements and the building codes that go along with renovating those structures.

In the app world, this part of the process involves identifying the problem you’re solving and who experiences this problem. These two elements go hand-in-hand because your app will never appeal to everyone, just like a builder could never build a single house that everyone loves. As a result, a development team will approach a learning app for kindergartners entirely differently than an inventory management app for a warehouse.

Step 2: Determine the essentials

How big is your house?

Before an architect can lay out any blueprints, they need to know some basics about how many people will be living in the house, how many bedrooms and bathrooms are necessary, and how much living space is needed. Being upfront with your budget is helpful at this stage. No architect would design a house with six bedrooms, six bathrooms, a five-car garage, a home theater, and a home gym, and then expect a builder to construct it for $100,000. Knowing the budget helps them recommend a reasonable solution for you while still accomplishing the goal.

This part of app planning is where you define your minimum viable product. Just like with a house, knowing a rough budget is essential to figuring out what you can afford. Then you set your priorities regarding what elements of the solution are absolutely essential to your users. If documentation of data and subsequent retrieval of that data is top priority, things like logging in with Facebook might be placed on the back burner. In the same manner, if creating a community is the primary reason for the app, building on top of existing communities may serve your purposes far better than reinventing the wheel. There are generally some hard decisions in this phase, but they point you in the right direction for what features come now and which ones come later.

Step 3: Choose the experience

How do people feel in your house?

The details can be overwhelming because there are so many of them. Hardwood, tile, or carpet? Brushed nickel, chrome, or oiled bronze? A better way to approach these choices is to choose the type of experience one has in your home. A warm, family-friendly space will have different finishes than an ultra-modern, minimalist space. A designer will help guide you toward a smaller selection of details that are appropriate to your taste instead of showing you every option under the sun.

An app works the same way. It’s far less overwhelming to simply determine whether your app may have a playful feel, a strictly professional feel, or a zen-like calming feel. A user experience designer can fill in all the details much more easily if you can describe the feeling of the app, instead of providing them with a list of icons and buttons you’ve picked out. This saves you from getting caught up in tiny decisions that can distract you from the overall vision for the app.

Meeting with a developer

Any developer will have a much easier and more enjoyable time helping you determine the specifics of your app if you can confidently make decisions for each of the three phases above. You are the expert in your business and your market. Your developer is an expert in technology. With the partnering of your expertise, you have the perfect combination to determine the best way to turn an app idea into reality.

Ready to talk about your app? Let us know!

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