Non-Developers with Ideas for Apps

A question came in today that will be our focus for the week.  What do you do if you are not a developer, but you have an idea for an app?  This is a fairly common question and in many forums tends to receive a quick and fairly general response spanning the entire process.  I think we can do better, but perhaps not all at once.

There are lots of ideas out there but the first process is to establish whether your idea is viable and  has the potential to be profitable.

1.  Define your idea – what will your app do?

Write it down.  List all of the features you want your app to have and all the functions it will be able to do.   List the problems it solves, why would someone need or want it?  Don’t worry about a name for the app – that comes a bit later.

2.  Research the Competition.

There are millions of apps out there now (and in a few years, there will be a lot more).   It is worthwhile then to do a serious analysis of what other apps exist that are similar to yours.  Yours could be distinct, something completely new.   Still you want to invest some time to find anything that comes close to what you intend.   Those that you find deserve a comparison to how closely they match your idea.

Competitive analysis serves a number of functions.

A.  Viability –  it helps you define which features can be done because someone has already done them.  The things your competitors have not done help you define which of your features are likely to be more complex to implement.  The cost of being able to do anything is a separate point of analysis.

B.  Existing Market – that there are similar products provides some indication that (at least) other developers believe there are people who need the kinds of apps you have in mind.  How well their apps are performing is a better basis for evaluation in that just because developers are making apps doesn’t mean they are making money at it.   This is not conclusive unto itself, it could be that other developers did not have the financial or marketing platform to adequately promote their apps.   Leastwise, after looking around, you will likely be able to say your app is closer to one of two things – there is an existing market or what you are doing is so new/unique that you will almost have to create your own market.

C.  Refine your list of features and functions - if you are to compete, generally the idea is to offer something “in some way” better than what it is already available.

D.  Possible acquisitions.  In some cases, you may find existing abandoned or semi-abandoned apps whereupon you *might* consider purchasing the license, a sub-license, or perhaps another option, that will enable your (future) team to improve upon what they’ve already done.   This is not something you decide now, but you have the notes available for future reference.

3.  Protect your idea.  I’m not a lawyer, so my advice here is the obvious – talk to a lawyer about what you need to do if you are serious about it.   Your preliminary evaluation will help you decide more about how serious you are about your idea.  One step is to have a confidentiality or non-disclosure agreement for anyone you talk with about your idea, to sign.

4.  Engage to find more than one idea to invest in.  This is something that a lot of people skip.  Do I want to invest in Project A or Not?

What kind of choice is that?   Compare to…

“I have $x, do I invest it in Project A,  B or  C, or save it for later?”

Numerous considerations are involved here – because if you have one idea for say… a mobile, odds are you really have several closely related ideas.  Which one can be better monetized?  What is faster to market?   These are practical considerations born in consequence of not being a developer and fundamentally being at a disadvantage when it comes to developing an app – simply because you cannot design it yourself.

This is not a problem if you have solid financial backing, but if you are not a developer and do not have the finances to adequately invest in it, you might fare better running the idea for your app as an actual business service.  Then, if the business flies, you can expand it via your app with the knowledge of – having money in your account and direct experience that there is a market for what you want to do with insight on how to improve it via mobile.

That’s it for today, but I’ll pick up from here on Wednesday.


Project Manager at the Opera Mobile Store providing Sales-Marketing support. Content development and research.

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