Taking Your App To Market

The overlooked aspects of building an app and taking it to market and how you can prepare for it

When it comes to building apps, it’s more than just writing code. And unfortunately, many people (and companies) forget that. In fact, the raw time it takes to build the app itself is only half the battle.

The Missing Pieces

The first thing our clients at Red Shepard often overlook is design. Every app — well, every product for that matter — begins with design. And if you have no idea what your app will look like on screen, then you have to first account for design hours. This can take weeks, especially if you have not begun wire framing or mocking up your product beforehand. When working with any client of ours, we usually begin by asking ‘how do you see it in your head?’ or ‘how will people use it? What do they see first when they open it?’. This usually gets the mind jogging with ideas for color schemes, look and feel, and the entire user experience in general. From there, it really helps the developers if you’ve got a high-fidelity design built out in Sketch, Experience Design (XD), or Photoshop.

Once you finally begin a project, you will likely need project management. That is, a dedicated individual to work out the timeline, missing elements, task management, billing, and overall client-to-developer communication. Often times, people assume they can do this themselves and the project manager role is not needed for their project. However, this role is absolutely critical to the success of a project. It takes a strong history of project experience, technical knowledge, communication, and people management skills to pull off smoothly. If a project manager does their job correctly, they’ll know what your project needs even before you do, and often before the developers themselves know. They become a personal liaison to you; part of their job is to understand your vision, your business, your wants and needs, and then translate this in an understandable way to a team of techies and developers who work behind the scenes to make your product a reality.

“Operations keeps the lights on, strategy provides a light at the end of the tunnel, but project management is the train engine that moves the organization forward.” ~ Joy Gumz

Lastly, almost nobody budgets or planned for ongoing support of the application. It is highly likely that your app will need patches or bug fixes as new software versions are released from Apple, Android, or another dependent platform. Additionally, as a business, you’ll almost always want to make updates to the product as it gains popularity. You will receive feedback from users about what they would like to see next, or hear about what they think is unnecessary. Included in your support budget, it’s important to account for server costs. Running the backend of your application can cost anywhere from $10 to $100,000 a month, depending on how much traffic you have. To estimate this, it would be helpful to take a look at pricing calculators like the one offered by Google, or the commonly used (and super startup-friendly) backend, Firebase as a cost effective solution.

The Deployment Process

When all the planning is complete, the project begins wrapping up, and the code is written, there are still some final hurdles in getting your app to market. Notably, you are now at the whim of both Apple and Google to review, approve, and publish your app live to their respective app stores. Google Play Store submissions are often approved and published immediately, but if you aim to time your releases on both Android and iPhone, be ready to wait for Apple to thoroughly inspect everything about your app. This process can take days — even weeks — to complete. Both Apple and Google are becoming more and more protective of their stores, allowing fewer types of content to be posted, and blurring the lines between what is ‘acceptable’ and what is not.

The average Apple App Review time (in days) before approval

Fortunately, they are getting quicker about the process, and you can now see the average app store review times to help you estimate how long your app will remain in ‘review limbo’.

This process is never cut and dry. We’ve had apps go through 4 to 5 rounds of app store reviews, taking weeks for Apple to finally deem the product ‘acceptable’ to be posted to the store. Often times, there’s nothing you can do to speed up the process. For example, we once had a client’s app get denied because Apple first wanted a screen recorded video showing a full app walkthrough, just to make sure they didn’t miss anything. At this point, it’s nearly expected that your app will be denied at least once before it is finally approved.

Marketing Material and Store Presence

Along with this process, there comes a few preliminary steps that you might also want to consider…

For example, each app requires app store ‘screenshots’ (although these screenshots have since morphed into a full-on marketing piece for your business).

You’ll also need an app store description, an acceptable title and subtitle for your app, as well as any promotional text for your release.

Additionally, you’ll need to think about which keywords to include with your app’s posting so that the app store search algorithm delivers as many eyes to your download page as possible.

At Red Shepard, we are happy to do all of this for you. However, no one will understand your desired market position and brand identity as well as you do. You are the visionary for the product.

The go-to-market process is not quite as simple as a file upload and a description, but it’s worth the time and attention to make a stellar app store presence. Search results alone can generate thousands of daily views for your app’s page, and a top notch app store listing can pull in millions of downloads organically.

The Joy of App Release

When you’ve finally got your apps uploaded to their respective stores, and the calm sets in, take a moment to congratulate yourself. Not many people can say that they’ve built a small business, let alone release an entire software product to market. Now it’s time to grow — make sure you get feedback from your users, ask your friends and family to download and leave an app review, and do your best to spread the word organically about your work. Plan for your next update, and pivot your market position if need be; it’s time to build your brand from a product, to a business.