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Here are 6 steps to go from an idea to an app that gets noticed and used by millions of people.

1. VALIDATE THE IDEA

Validate your app idea, iterate it if necessary, and identify the true opportunity. Ask and research the hard questions. Examples: Has it already been done before? Is it addressing a real pain point? Is the market size as big as your pitch deck says it is? Can you get the funding and right personnel to grow this to where you want to grow it? In short, the first step is to firmly answer whether this app is a better fit for a hobby or a real business.

2. DEFINE SCOPE

Without scope, there are no estimates (at least no good ones!) Bringing an idea and a paragraph of features is not enough for an estimate no matter what Upwork tells you. That’s a surefire way to make talented devs run for the hills. First, we say that a good wireframe is a starting point that’s worth a thousand spreadsheets. In addition to witeframes, scope should also include feature descriptions, user stories and technical specifications like programming frameworks and tools.

3. ITERATE THE DESIGN IN SPRINTS

Now it’s time to turn scope into design. Hire designers that understand how to optimize the user experience as well as produce stunning graphics. They should use an iterative methodology like google design sprints to validate designs. They should refine the wireframes with an optimal user experience (UX), use material or flat design patterns to create a beautiful user interface (UI), and put these UI designs into a functional prototype to demo the app to real users and gather feedback. Rinse and repeat the sprint until you find a viable design that’s usable and enjoyable.

4. HIRE GREAT, NOT GOOD, DEVELOPERS

Now it’s time to turn design into code. It took awhile to get here, but now you’re in a great position to get the most out of your development dollars.

Hire great developers that are prized as much for their soft skills as their technical skills. They should be great communicators, accountable for deliverables, and addicted to best practices. They should openly invite a code challenge to get your business. They should present daily check-ins, full transparency on kanban tools and github, and demo builds at the end of the each weekly or biweekly sprint. They should make sure that testing is done with test-driven development, QA, or preferably both.

5. SOFT LAUNCH

It’s the big day! The code should be finished, tested, and re-tested. It’s been demoed on Testflight and .apk files to friends and family, and now it’s time to do a soft regional launch in the app stores. App store approval can take up to 10 days on iTunes, but only a few hours on Google Play. Hire marketers to run a post-launch campaign to gather feedback, build up positive reviews, start app store optimization (ASO), and capture metrics to see if you’re retaining users or churning them. The developers should continue fixing bugs and iterating based on metrics and user feedback until both say that product-market fit is there.

6. GO VIRAL (METHODICALLY)

Once the app is stable and has some product-market fit, it’s time to focus on growth. Do a hard launch now to your entire market. Your marketers should identify the highest-converting ASO and other paid advertising funnels, so you can double down on those. At the same time, your whole team should continue focusing on user engagement, because that’s where the sustainable organic growth will come from. When we say viral, we don’t mean getting the world’s attention, but rather getting your app’s viral coefficient to exceed 1. Your marketers, designers, and developers should be working in sync to iterate UI improvements or feature tweaks to maximize users’ time on app and shares to their networks.

After you’ve achieved this definition of virality, pat yourself on the back, write your team a love letter, and buy everyone a round, because your app is now growing by itself. You’ve just built the perfect app in my book.

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