From Idea to Conception – The Road of Warriors

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blog-app-ideas

So you have an idea, great!  But at this point, even if your idea is amazing, nothing separates you from the billions of other people out there who also have a GREAT idea.  Ideas sadly are easy to come across, it’s execution where true success becomes attainable.  So how do you go from an idea, either yours or someone else’s, to an actual profitable product.  The answer lies just below.

Step 1 – Create a concrete idea

Why?

It is very common that people who have an idea don’t necessarily have something that they can do anything with.  For example, a persons idea may be: “Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could share pictures with a whole bunch of people at the same time.”  This is an awesome idea, but with just this line, you’re a far cry from Instagram.  So what needs to be done, is the idea needs to be actually thought out in terms of, what exactly do we want this concept to achieve, and how?

How?

So for example, the idea is: “Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could share pictures with a whole bunch of people at the same time.” Now try and answer these questions:

Why? – Why is this idea a necessary need?

People love sharing pictures, but they always have to send pictures to friends, or invite them over to watch a slideshow.  Often times, people just don’t have the time to do this, and their friends never get to share in this experience.

How? – How do you hope to satisfy this need?

We will allow the most simple way to post images using an app, and allow friends and family, and potentially anyone else who wants to view these images to view them using the app.

What? – What will you do to satisfy the need?

It will be a social networking application.  Users will be able to post images using their account.  When users like their image, they can in an easy way say that they like the image and leave a comment if they would like.  You can invite friends to view your images, or you can make the images public so that everyone can view them.

Those few lines above are now a concrete idea.

Step 2 – Create your plan of attack

How are you going to take this from an idea to an application/website?  Here is where decide things such as: Will I develop this myself, or will I hire someone else to do so for me?  Will I hire someone overseas, or do I want to work with someone here?  How much do we want to spend on this?  Should we try and get investors, or some sort of funding, or should we try to do this out of pocket? (You should probably go with funding btw)  Should we make this application run on all platforms?  Should we hire different developers for different areas, or should we hire one developer who can do it all?  How much do we WANT to spend on this?

This is when things start to get serious!  Now you’re going from just an idea, to actual work.  Most people will stop by this step if they’re not serious, especially as they start to do research on the cost of development.

Step 3 – Simplify the idea

“It’s easier to do 2 things great, than it is to do 20 things good.”

What does that mean?  Well, put simply, if you try and create a product with 20 premier features, you’re almost bound to have an extremely buggy app, with poor user experience on the first go around.  But if you just have a very small amount of features, you can focus on these, and knock ’em out the park.  So you have to simplify the idea.  Find out what your app’s nitch is, and then try to focus only on that.

For example, back to our Instagram example.  Maybe you want to allow users to post videos, and audio, and make a lot of edits to their images.  And then you want people to be able to save certain images as favorites, and have facial recognition to be able to tell if any of your Instagram friends are in the image, etc, etc, etc.

Now that may sound awesome, but if you try and do all that, you’ll spend a lot of money and time on a product that you don’t even know if it’s going to do well or not.  Save those features for later when your product is very popular, and you can implement them one at a time.  But for now, just focus on posting images, commenting, and liking those images.

Step 4 – Wireframes, Blueprints & Mockups

You’re probably very anxious to start developing this thing as soon as you get a developer.  But you want to hold off on that and get some wireframes and mockups first.  Wireframes basically are the skeleton of the application.  Where will buttons, text boxes, labels, icons, images be placed etc.  Wireframes typically are in greyscale because you still haven’t decided on all you want graphically.  But a wireframe will give you what the overall product layout will be.  After you do the wireframes, you draw out a blueprint.  This blueprint contains everything that has to do with the User Experience.  Explaining what each button does, and how all screens work together.  Here’s a sample of a beautiful blueprint from fueled.com.

Fueled Blueprint

Fueled Blueprint

After you’ve done the Blueprint, you do the mockups.  The mockups are the images of the way different screens will actually look within the application.  By the end of the mockups, basically you know exactly what the app will look like.  Here’s another example from fueled.com.

Elevatr app by Fueled Mockups.

Elevatr app by Fueled Mockups.

Once you have the mockups you’re ready to develop right? Almost, but no.  Now you need to polish the application.  Polishing the application is the final touch that only some designers/developers will do.  Here we perfect the design, and make sure that it contains all the animations, and transitions perfectly as desired.  This is the step that people who truly value their craft will take.  This is the step that will take your app from, ‘ooh’, to ‘aaaaahhhh’, and take you from the path of common men, to the roads of kings.  From a good app of our time, to a product of legend.  Yes, this is the step of all steps!

Honestly though, this is important, because it puts you right above the competition, because most people don’t do this.  Check out this video to see how fueled does it.  http://vimeo.com/60231954

Step 5 – Develop it

Now, develop the application.  You’ve got everything decided, now you simply implement.  Either do this yourself, or get someone else, but you should have already decided that by now.

Step 6 – Test and Make revisions

Great apps have been thoroughly tested.  So make sure that you test as much as possible, and with as many people as possible.  Give it to old people, young people, programmers, artists, fast food workers, bank tellers, CEO’s.  Everyone will use your app, so everyone needs to test it to make sure that it’s good.  Keep making revisions and testing until you have a GREAT product.

Step 7 – Market and Ship

After all that hard work, now comes the time you’ve been waiting for.  Ship that beast!  Push it to whatever stores it needs to go to.  Now notice though, I put market first.  That’s because you should start getting the word out there before the product is shipped.  That’s because you want people to be kind of expecting it, that way you won’t lose momentum once it’s live.  There’s a ton of ways to market your product, look here for some advice.

And viola, you have now taken your product from nothing, to something!

How do you balance it all!

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mom-cat-balancing-act

 

If you do any work for yourself, you’ve definitely asked yourself this question.  How in the world do I balance everything that I need to do?!  This can be one of the most difficult things to do, because if you don’t balance everything out, you’ll either get burned out, or the time needed for the more important things will start to slip away into non existence.  So here’s some tips that I think will help you to learn the trick like my friend the Cat in the Hat here.

1. “The plans of the diligent ones surely head for advantage” – Plan out what you’re going to accomplish every single day, and when you’re going to tackle it.  This will make sure that you handle everything as you’re supposed to, and ensures that nothing slips through the cracks.  Make sure that you also schedule in important things like spending time with friends and family too.  Those are probably the most important things that you don’t want to miss.  Make sure that you write your plan as a list too.

2. Actually stick to the plan – A plan means absolutely nothing if you don’t execute properly.  So make sure that your plan is actually achievable, and then resist the urge to not do something that you had planned out already.  Remember, reasonableness is a mark of wisdom, so again, don’t create a list that you’re not capable of completing, that will make it easier for you to stick to it.  And once your done with one item, check it off of your list.

3.  “Only two things are needed, maybe one…” – Don’t feel like you have to accomplish everything this very minute.  Break tasks up into smaller ones and spread them across a few days if possible.  A lot of times if you do this, you’ll accomplish much more than just frantically trying to complete something at one sitting.  Take your time.  Slow down, and just make sure that you do a good job.

4. Work on one project at a time – What I mean is work on one work project, one family project, one hobby, etc.  Don’t have three work projects and eight hobby projects, you’ll stress yourself out, and you won’t be able to give each tasks the attention it deserves.  If you focus on just doing a good job at a few things, you’ll be much happier in the long run.

5.  “Eat, drink, and see good for all your hard work” – This is my favorite part.  At the end of the day, relax, and just look at all that you accomplished that day.  Look at where you wrote down what you wanted to do that day, and smile at the fact that you finished the list, or at least accomplished some of the things you wanted to.  Grab some food, get a good drink, and enjoy your success.  Then go to sleep, and wake up the next day ready to repeat the process again.

I hope this helps you out some.  Fortunately I’ve had some really good friends and I have been able to receive some very good advice along my path of self-employment.  But I’ve also had to learn many things the hard way.  Hopefully this post will help you not have to go through some of the headaches that I had to experience.

Design in Time

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There’s something very interesting about design that’s very unique to software development, and that is its subjectiveness.  The interesting thing about graphics is that beauty is really in the eye of the beholder.  What one person may think is amazing, another may think is okay.

Now there’s nothing wrong with this, but it can become an issue when developing an application.  Why?  Because it’s hard to figure out what is in the mind of your customer, and therefore it is hard to give them just what they want without having to make a million changes during the implementation phase.  Now how can you make sure that the customer gets what they desire, but that you still finish the project in good time.  Let’s look at a few very important things to keep in mind in order to finish your designs in time.

1.  Ask! Ask! Ask! – I’d say that the most important thing to do when trying to come up with the design for a customer’s application is to ask them enough questions to gather a good idea of what they want the application to look like.  When a customer explains an application the first time, very rarely will you have enough to build a mock up.  But you have to remember, often times, a mock up is the first thing that a customer wants to see.  So how can you make sure that you have enough information after the first few conversations, preferably the first.  Ask questions like these?

  • What style best represents this company?
  • What conclusion about your company do you want people to come to after viewing this application/website?
  • What application/website do you feel has the most similar feel to the application that you want built?
  • What do you want the overall feel or atmosphere of your website to be?

2.  Mock it up – The previous step will give you a general idea of where to start. Once you have a starting point, you can actually do a few quick and simple mock ups.  Make them not too specific, and don’t spend too much time on them.  You can do this in black and white.  The purpose of this mock up is just to get the ball rolling.  Chances are the finished product won’t look anything like the initial mock ups, but it will give the client some direction to go in.

3.  Consult with the customer – This step is extremely important.  This is where you speak with the customer, and you really start to get the full idea of what the end product will look like.  The customer will most likely have a million changes that he wants.  It’s very important that you write down each and every change that they want.  Remember though, at this point you haven’t actually started building out the actual UI.  You’re still doing all mock ups using some sort of an illustrator.  Remember, DON’T ACTUALLY START IMPLEMENTATION YET.

4.  Make the changes – Make every single change that the customer asks you for.  Make sure that the mock up is beautiful and looks almost like a finished product.  Now show this to the customer.  If the customer wants changes, make sure you make the changes only to the mock up.  At this point still do not actually start implementing the UI.

5.  Finalize the mock up – Once you’ve got the actual mock up looking just right, ensure that the customer wants no more changes whatsoever.  Make it known to the customer, that this is exactly how the end product will look.  Once the customer has agreed, and he is fully aware that after this there will be absolutely no more changes, start implementing.  It’s important that the customer understands that there are to be no more changes because making changes to UI once you’ve begun implementation is a real drag and slows things down tremendously.

6.  Start implementing – Now that you’re done with the mock up.  Implement the UI.  

That was simple, wasn’t it?  It’s important that you have definite steps with something like UI, because otherwise you will be working on it forever, and both you and the customer are bound to get irritated.  So don’t forget these six simple steps and you’ll have your DESIGN IN TIME.