Be the App Developer With the Paper Phone

You are going to be a great app developer, I have no doubt. You have a problem to solve and a pretty good idea that you can make an app that will solve it, quickly and well. You just need to make sure someone in your market can use it and will want to use it. It may make all the sense in the world to you, but if the icons and logic of your app cannot recreate your train of thought in the mind of someone for whom you made the app, when they get confused, they go in search of another app. The worst part is they talk to others.

Like anything else, apps are not born full grown. There is a creative process, part of which is finding out if your app will be easy to use by someone with the problem your app was created to solve.

Going back to the process, you identified the problem, picked out a possible solution that involves development of an app, checked to see what apps are already available for that problem, and have drilled down to make sure your app idea specifically addresses the problem your market has. As you know, the typical app user has a very short time available to solve the problem with this app. Smartphone users are on the go and may even be driving, so the app will need to be simple and efficient with few decisions.

Although these guidelines are not applicable (no pun intended) to all apps, plan for the app to do its job quickly with only a few ham-handed keystrokes. Remember, people are poking a small screen with a big finger, so the icons cannot be too small. Also, the typical user of a smartphone is not a teenager, so visual acuity may also be a factor. Therefore, make your icons big and simple. On the bright side, you might rather have your app screens change based on movement of the phone or speed of movement of the phone (bumps, swings, shakes, etc.).

Now, run your app on paper. I mean draw the home screen for your app on an 8-1/2 x 11 sheet of paper. Graph paper might be ideal or you can get paper printed with the border being the frame of a smartphone. Remember, your screen may display best in the portrait configuration or the landscape configuration, meaning the long way vertical or horizontal respectively. Prepare a separate page for each step of your app’s logical sequence.

Here’s how it works: Show first the home screen; your tester pokes or otherwise selects a choice in execution of your app. You switch pages to bring up the one that should come up in response to that action; your tester makes his or her choice and you go to the next screen.

If your tester gets confused or tells you he or she has lost interest after a couple of screens, consider modifying the app accordingly. If the user is confused, you may need to change the icons or the way they react so someone can generally figure the app out on first impression or quickly. Don’t get discouraged. It is way better to have to redraw pages a few times than to put out an app that stinks and does not sell and you don’t know why. Agreed?

App development gets easier, the more you do. You don’t have to put out a perfect app the first time, or second, or third. Heck, you may never put out an app you can’t ever improve, but I guarantee you, your tenth will come easier than your second one. Don’t worry about how much money you can make off of them. Solve the problem. The money will come. You can even make money a couple of ways giving your apps away for free. Have an open heart and a busy hand. Don’t get discouraged. If you make apps all this coming three years, you may be in tall cotton. If you don’t, the three years will pass anyway. Will you be closer to a financially free future? Do something. Just do it and keep doing it.

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