How To Make Your App Go Live
You've got an app concept. Awesome! Even if you don't have any coding experience, you can learn how to launch your app in the App Store. By following the steps below, you can launch your app!
More indie app developers like you are needed in the world. Entrepreneurs who are driven by the desire to make a positive difference in the world. Who poured their blood, sweat, and tears into creating an app that provides value to those in need?
Your app must provide a solution to a problem.
Solving a problem is the single most important factor in launching a successful app. But if your app does not solve a problem, it will fail.
Let's start with the issues that some popular apps address:
Snapchat is similar, but it focuses on video and instant communication.
Trello, a popular task management app, aids in the organization of tasks, documents, and notes.
Facebook solves the problem of keeping up with your family's lives, passing the time, and connecting with friends.
FarmVille, a popular digital farming game, is exciting and gives you a sense of accomplishment and control.
Headspace, a popular mindfulness meditation app, can assist you in getting some "headspace" and developing your meditation practice.
A few things stand out right away:
The solution to the problem, not the app itself, is the real product you sell – the app is not the product.
Unless you do it better than the competition, it makes no sense to copy an app and its solution to a problem.
Most apps do not address a "need," as in, you're on the toilet, you've run out of toilet paper, and you need a new roll, but rather, the problems that apps solve are linked to our wants and desires.
It's a good idea to validate your app idea before developing it. You first figure out how to solve a problem, then build a low-tech prototype and test it. When that is successful, you can automate the solution by developing a full-fledged app. Remember, the solution is the product, not the app.
Don't model your app's behavior after companies like Facebook when it's first released. You're delusory if you think you can launch an app as popular as Facebook's. It's fine to dream big, but start small.
Here are a few examples:
Create a goal-setting journaling app to help people achieve their goals faster and smarter.
Create a positively addictive arcade game to help people kill time and get excited.
Make a sleep meditation app to help people fall asleep faster and get a good night's sleep.
How do you generate ideas? Here's how it works:
Make a list of ten terrible ideas.
Consider ten more heinous ideas.
Continue to do so.
The problem with coming up with ideas isn't that there aren't enough good ones; it's that there aren't enough bad ones. When you start coming up with dozens of bad ideas, one or two good/great ideas will eventually emerge.
You can also rely on publicly available data. Look at Quora, Facebook groups, Reddit, Twitter, and even Amazon reviews to see what kinds of problems people are having. Start a conversation with someone and find out what it would take to solve their problem.
Before releasing your app, conduct market research.
It's a good idea to conduct market research before releasing your app. Many app developers skip the idea phase and jump right into app development, skipping an important step: market research. Make sure you don't make the same mistake!
Your app idea may appear to be a good one on paper, but it is only that until you have demonstrated that people want to download it. It is the execution that is important, not the idea. You don't want to waste your time on a non-viable idea.
The popular startup adage, "Build it and they will come," isn't a viable option. Of course, before you can publish an app in the App Store, you must first create something. But, now that you've decided to construct something, what will it be?
Many indie app developers who are just starting assume that people will want to buy their app. Thinking "This app idea doesn't exist yet!" is a common pitfall. A one-of-a-kind concept isn't required for success. Most successful ideas are incredibly mundane – precisely because they are so appealing.
Let's take a look at a few methods for conducting market research.
AppAnnie is another excellent market research tool. Their paid products are quite pricey, but their free search tool is extremely useful for App Store Optimization (ASO).
The research tool you'll use shows you which apps are found for which search phrases. When compared to Google Keyword Planner, AppAnnie displays an approximation of ASO search data, making it "closer" to actual market intelligence.
The ASO Keywords for a sleep meditations app are shown in the screenshot above. The top keywords are clearly "fall asleep" and "help to fall asleep," for which this app ranks first. This is the type of information you're looking for.
It takes some practice to spot these types of keyword "stashes." This is the general strategy you should employ:
Enter a search phrase, such as "journaling app" or "fitness" into AppAnnie.
Find the top 1-5 apps in this category.
Take a look at the most popular keywords for those apps.
The goal is to identify apps with optimized keywords. Sometimes the app developer actively ranks these keywords, but most of the time the app ranks well on its own.
Both of these present opportunities for you, as you can compete for the same keywords. Keywords can provide insight into the viability of an app idea during this research phase.
This is how you put it to use:
If you haven't already, go to https://www.appannie.com/search/ and sign up for a free account or log in.
Enter your search term at the top, such as "journal app" or "fitness," and press Enter.
Choose one to five of the best apps from the list. You'll have to decide which app is a "top app" because they aren't sorted (see below)
After you've chosen an app, go to the left-hand menu and select Keywords (ASO).
The ranking is used to sort the results page. This will display the search terms for which this app ranks highest.
Repeat for the remaining apps, and keep track of your findings in a spreadsheet.
Remember your goal: you're evaluating the viability of an app idea by researching competitors and their relative rankings based on search keywords.
You can use Google Keyword Planner and AppAnnie together to learn about actual search keywords (what people look for) and their relative search volume (how many people search that).
It's also a good idea to use your iPhone's App Store app to search for the keywords and phrases you discovered.
Make sure you're in the right country; for example if you want to research market data in the United States, set your iPhone to "United States." Enter the search phrase to see what apps appear; chances are, the apps you find accurately represent the search phrase and app category.
Simply searching for "top apps [category]" or "best apps [category] [current year]" on Google is a great way to find top apps in any category. This will bring up blogs that list the best apps in that category.
Open the blogs, make a list of the most popular apps from 3-5 different articles, and you'll have a list of the top competitors in your category. Find out what keywords they rank for, and you'll be able to determine whether this is a market you want to enter.
You now understand why having competitors is advantageous! If your app is one-of-a-kind, there are no competitors to compare and steal ideas from...
AppCodes is an excellent resource for researching ASO keywords and search volume. It is a paid tool that provides excellent insights into search keywords both during the research phase and during the App Store Optimization phase.
Examine Your App's Competitors
Researching your app's competitors is a great way to build a great app. It's simple: find competitors, figure out what they're doing well and what they're doing poorly, then copy the good features and improve the bad ones.
You don't want to go into space in a "vacuum" and hope for the best. No, before you launch, identify and research your competitors, and devise a strategy for differentiating yourself.
Here's how it works:
Read your competitors' reviews to find out what issues their customers had, and then improve on those same points in your own app. A clumsy user interface? Is there no iPad support? Is there no cloud sync? You'll be able to create a better app once you've learned! If you're at a loss for feature ideas, "mine" your competitors' reviews for inspiration.
Look for marketing channels that your competitors aren't using. Assume you discovered a journaling app in the App Store. If you visit their website or app landing page, you will notice that they do not have a blog. Most likely, they aren't using content marketing as a marketing channel, which presents an opportunity for you. The same is true for social media marketing, a YouTube channel, and listings on sites such as Product Hunt.
Find apps with a terrible graphic design akin to Microsoft Paint, then copy their features, add your own branding, and make sure your UI/UX and graphics are flawless! You can improve so many apps just by changing the branding and UI/UX – it's hardly stealing. This strategy was particularly effective during the transition from iOS 6 to iOS 7 when the graphics and layout of iOS changed dramatically (i.e. skeuomorphic to minimal). The same shift occurs every 2-3 years.
Examine Competitor Reviews
AppAnnie allows you to read app reviews. After you've selected an app, go to the menu on the left and select Reviews.
Read some of the 5-star reviews as well as the 1-2 star reviews. App users who leave a positive review are more likely to give you suggestions on how to improve the app they already enjoy. Negative one-star reviews are more likely to be hastily written and thus less reliable. Remember that people who have had a bad experience with an app are more likely to leave a review.
Combine your competitor and keyword research. You can use Google to see if a particular app feature is frequently requested, complained about, or mentioned. Consider incorporating those desired features into your own app.
Google AdWords Keyword Planner
Begin with Google Keyword Planner, a tool for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay-per-Click Advertising (PPC).
It's an excellent tool for determining how many people use Google to search for a specific phrase or keyword.
This is how you put it to use:
Sign up for a free AdWords account at https://adwords.google.com/ko/KeywordPlanner/Home.
Choose Search for new keywords using a phrase, website, or category on the first screen.
Enter the search phrase you want to research in the text field below Your product or service, such as "journal app," "fitness app," or "to-do app."
Leave all other options alone, i.e. search for broadly related ideas in the United States (or any other English-speaking country), and display average searches over the last 12 months.
Then press the Get ideas! button.
The resulting table can then be sorted by Average Searches, displaying the phrases with the highest search volume. Don't be concerned about the columns for Competition and CPC; those are only for PPC AdWords campaigns. You're only looking at the numbers.
It's best to repeat this process several times, using the best results as input for additional research. Finally, you're looking for phrases that people Google to get a sense of what kind of app they might want.
Marketing Channels That Aren't Present
When they first launch, many indie app developers make the mistake of concentrating all of their efforts on App Store Optimization. They do not use other marketing channels available to apps, which allows you to approach their audience through a different channel.
Examples of channels include:
Deeplinks or App Links, which provide access to content from your app via a regular URL (check out branch.io for this)
Communities, similar to Facebook Groups, for specific apps, a specific topic, or app-related, such as discount coupon groups
Product Hunt, HackerNews, news sites, app review sites, affiliate networks, and so on are examples of specific networks or channels.
Content marketing, such as blogging about a common theme or topic in your app (productivity, sports, health, etcetera)
Social media marketing, such as sharing content from other sources (which is simple!) that your app's audience might be interested in.
Email marketing, such as sharing resources with your app's customers via email or increasing engagement by sending emails about your app.
X-for-Y Marketing Strategy
What if you don't want to compete directly with a competitor, or if you want to offer a slightly different set of features?
Can you still use competitor research in this case? Absolutely! Look at this:
"Users of app X may also be interested in app Y."
"People who read magazine X may also enjoy app Y."
"People who like X may also like Y."
It's the standard X-for-Y deal. What kind of "X" can you think of if your app is "Y"?
People who enjoy working out may be interested in a workout tracker app.
People who are interested in mindfulness may also be interested in "Mindfulness Magazine."
People who attend SumoCon may also read Tim Ferriss' blog.
You can interpret this however you want. The goal is to find common ground between two variables and then discover where those individuals congregate.
When you want to launch an app idea, you should look for another app with a similar audience. Reach that audience, and you'll be able to reach a potential audience for your own app.
Create and Share Your App Landing Page
Because it is less difficult to create a simple website than it is to create an app. The landing page of your app is all you need to test the viability and profitability of your app idea.
Why launch an entire app when an app landing page can be used to gauge market demand? You can even launch multiple ideas in week one and the most promising idea in week two.
Here are some suggestions:
With tools like Instapage, Unbounce, LeadPages, or Strikingly, you can create an app landing page in a single day (free). I recommend Theme X for WordPress if you want more customizability.
Create a pricing page on your website with three different pricing options, and track how many people click on the "Sign Up" buttons. The links take you to a page that says, "Sign-ups are currently closed." Please enter your email address to be notified when our product is available to the public again."
Similarly, you can simply add a large button to the landing page that says "Sign Up for Beta Access." Even if you don't have a beta app to test, you can use this method to collect email addresses from potential customers. You can contact potential customers to solicit feedback on your ideas and test your feature sets further.
This last point is perhaps the most crucial. Any business ideas you have must be validated.
What is the simplest and most accurate way to "test" whether customers want to buy what you're selling without first developing the app?
You'll either ask them to buy directly or use a close approximation to gauge their interest (email signups, link clicks, post likes).
Even though a click does not guarantee that a potential customer will buy your app, it does provide you with a good relative data point on product viability.
Make Mockups of Your App
It's time to build your app after you've validated your app idea, done some research, and identified an audience.
There are three steps to creating an app:
Create mockups for your app.
Create the app's graphics and UX/UI.
Create the app in Swift and
These three steps apply to both developing a complete app and adding a new feature to an existing app.
Let's begin with a mockup of your app. An example of a mockup is as follows:
Several points stand out:
The mockup is a rough sketch with no color, fine details, or minute positioning – just basic layout building blocks.
Each screen has a couple of notes that highlight interactions or important details.
The app's flow is depicted with arrows.
Mockups can be made with Balsamiq Mockups, which is a fantastic tool to create professional mockups.
You can use it to connect a UI element (such as a button) to one of your mockup's pages. When you click the UI element, you will be directed to the linked page. It is excellent for interactive prototyping!
When you export your mockup to PDF, the links remain intact. You can use the prototype as if it were a real app if you use the "Export without margins" option and open the PDF on your iPhone.
Click on the buttons to explore the UI and get a sense of how the finished app will function.
Follow these steps when creating your mockup:
Begin by writing down what your app does and what UIs it requires.
Write down what the purpose of each screen is, such as "News Article Detail," and what interactions it has, such as "Edit a to-do item" or "Log in to the back-end."
Make a mockup for each UI and add the various UI elements and interactions to it. Go from "rough" to "fine," so begin with the big elements and save the details for last.
When you're finished, add notes and annotations to the mockup so that it "explains itself" to whoever is looking at it.
After you've finished your mockup, try this little exercise:
Print your mockup and use scissors to cut out all of the screens.
Place all of the screens on a flat surface next to each other.
In the app, "act out" the interactions. Begin with the first mockup and "tap" your finger somewhere on the screen. Evaluate what should happen and proceed to the next mockup. "Tap" once more to determine what should happen.
Continue reenacting all interactions until you've completed the mockup.
Finally, it's critical to keep your mockups and sketches as simple as possible. Resist the urge to perfect your mockups with small details, and instead, use a "rough" tool like Balsamiq if possible.
Mockups should not be created in Photoshop or Sketch because those tools are too detail-oriented. Consider writing with a thick Sharpie rather than a fine-liner: rough strokes, no fine details!
Make Use Of A Graphic Design Template
Now that you've finished your app mockups, it's time to add some designer magic!
The most significant distinction between a mockup and graphic design is in the level of detail. Mockups are rough sketches, whereas the actual graphic design depicts the finished app exactly.
A custom graphic design is expensive! Creating a custom app design isn't always necessary. That's why you'll use a graphics template (free or paid) to save money and time.
A graphic design template is simply a Photoshop or Sketch file that contains a variety of layouts, UI elements, and colors.
A theme is typically associated with a template, such as a "to-do app template" or "eCommerce template." Instead of starting from scratch, you "mock" together UI components to create your app.
Do not, under any circumstances, release an app without a graphic design! Poorly designed apps stick out like a sore thumb in the App Store, whereas great design is a clear differentiator for your app's install rate. A poorly designed app will have a negative impact on the success of your app.
Don't "engineer" your design if you're a technically minded person or a developer. Begin with your concept, then create a mockup and a graphic design using an app template.
When developing your app, stick to the designs! Measure every margin and dimension, and ensure that your Interface Builder accurately reflects the design. Make sure it's pixel-perfect.
Too many indie app developers lose app installs because their app appears to have been slapped together in Microsoft Paint.
The following are the best tools for creating graphic designs for your app:
Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator ($30/month)
Although Adobe's software was once the industry standard for graphic design, I no longer recommend it. Illustrator has become increasingly complex, and Photoshop lacks adequate vector graphics support.
Sketch ($99) – also see Sketch Mirror.
($50) Affinity Designer
Sketch has a fantastic feature that allows you to export 1x, 2x, and 3x image assets for Xcode with ease. The app employs a vector-based point system, similar to how iPhone resolutions operate, allowing you to export your graphics assets directly in the appropriate format.
Check that you're using the correct iPhone screen resolutions and densities. This guide can assist you with that.
PaintCode ($99) is another app that deserves a special mention in this section. You can use it to create UI elements in the same way that you would in Sketch or Photoshop, and then export them directly to Objective-C or Swift code. It's a miracle. It saves you a lot of time!
What about cross-platform tools such as Appily App Builder? You can use cross-platform tools to code your app once and then export it to different platforms such as iOS and Android. This has the potential to cut development costs and time in half!
Back-End Tools for the Cloud
Almost every app now has a cloud-based backend, for example, to store user data and authenticate users with a username and password.
Parse.com was the most popular backend-as-a-service platform until 2016. You could use the tool to insert a "spreadsheet" into your app and store data in it. Parse.com was simple to use, fast, and reasonably scalable up to tens of thousands of users. Unfortunately, Parse.com was shut down, but the tool was relaunched as the open-source Parse Server.
It's recommended to use Parse Server, especially if you’re looking for an entry-level tool that allows high customizability. You can run your own Parse Server with minimal maintenance on platforms such as Heroku and mLab. You can also install Parse Server on your own VPS, for as little as $5 a month with Linode or DigitalOcean.
The biggest upside of running your own Parse Server is learning about back-ends, system operations, and cloud services. One of the downsides of the late Parse.com service is that it was too easy. Over 500.000 developers relied on the service, but they didn’t know anything at all about how it worked and were left scrambling when Parse.com shut down.
Firebase is another tool that comes highly recommended. It is frequently compared to Parse Server as an equivalent tool, despite the fact that they are very different. Firebase uses a flat NoSQL structure, whereas Parse Server is a relational back-end platform. It takes some practice to use the Firebase Realtime Database, and it's best suited for non-relational datasets such as chat apps or real-time data apps.
Cloud Firestore, a highly scalable document-based database platform, is now available from Firebase. In addition, Firebase has an integrated suite of crash report tracking, app analytics, app monetization, and AdMob, making it an excellent choice for a one-stop-shop for apps.
Submit Your App to the App Store
It's finally time to put your app on the App Store. You're ready to publish your app after brainstorming, validating, creating mockups, designing, and developing it.
It is surprisingly easy to publish an iOS app. Here's what you'll require:
To upload your app binary to the App Store, you'll need an Apple Developer Program membership, which costs $99 per year. App Store Connect access is included in your Developer Account Xcode.
Follow these steps to launch your app:
Complete your app, ensure it is bug-free, and adhere to the App Store Review Guidelines.
On developer.apple.com, create an App ID. (Use "Account" to log in)
Create an App Entry in App Store Connect, detailing all of your app's properties such as name, category, age rating, and screenshots.
From within Xcode, upload your app. To begin, create an App Archive, select it in Organizer, and then select Upload to App Store. To avoid certificate issues, make sure your app's properties are set to Automatically manage to sign.
Select the app binary you just uploaded in App Store Connect, and then click Submit for Review after filling out all of the fields.
TestFlight Beta Testing
Before you publish your app, you should invite users to beta test it. You can use TestFlight to make your app available for public beta testing.
There are two types of tests you can perform:
Internal testing for only members of your internal team. Anyone you invite to your team must have access to your App Store Connect.
Anyone can participate in public testing (up to 2.000 people). You can give anyone access to your app by inviting them with their email address in TestFlight.
Your app must first pass Apple Review, which is less stringent than reviewing a production app, before you can begin public beta testing.
Once your app is published, you'll have access to a plethora of tools for leveraging your app and its audience.
Here are some suggestions:
Use Fastlane to automate your app's build process and to generate app screenshots automatically, among other things.
Crashlytics can be used to track, monitor, and resolve crashes in a production app.
Use Google Analytics to track app installs, sessions, page views, and engagement.
Optimization for the App Store
You've already done keyword and competitor research with App Store Optimization (ASO). You can use the same techniques to improve your app's ranking now that you've published it.
First and foremost, check your app's ranking and keywords in AppAnnie 2 to 4 weeks after you've published it. Are you ranking for common search terms automatically?
Second, double-check your competitors' rankings. Do you want to rank for the same keywords as your competitors?
Then, using the new keyword data, perform the following actions:
Include the keyword in the title of your app. This is a gray area tactic, but if you incorporate the keyword you want to rank for in a slogan or catchphrase, you can include it in the name of your app.
Include the keyword in the meta keywords for your app. You can include up to 255 characters in your app's search keywords. Once you've determined which keywords you want to rank for, enter them into the App Store Connect meta keywords field.
Include the keyword in the meta description of your app. Any textual description of your app can be displayed on your App Store page. You typically use this to inform the user about your app, as well as to display testimonials and awards, but you can also change this text based on the keywords in your app. Simply include 5-6 keyword mentions for every 250 normal words.
The keywords can also be included in the captions of your app screenshots. Captions at the top of your app screenshots, which are included in the image, are common. Even though these keywords aren't used for search ranking, they're still a good idea to include.
A user who searches for a specific phrase and finds it on the Search Results page within your app's screenshot is more likely to use your app. After all, these are the search terms and keywords that app users enter into the App Store search field!
App marketing begins long before you publish your app and continues long after it is published. Marketing is simply the process of exposing your app and its pitch to prospective customers.
What's next in terms of marketing your app? You've put in a lot of effort to get this far, but the journey is far from over. What are the next steps you can take to ensure the success of your app?
Many of them can be started before the app is released, and many more can be done in the months following its release.
Several of them will increase the impact of your app and spread its message. Others will simply have you go over the steps you've already taken to ensure they're working properly.
Even if your app was released a long time ago, you may want to go over some of the items on the checklist again to get a few more app installs or ideas for a new marketing campaign.
Solve a problem, conduct some research, investigate your competitors, create a landing page for your app, create mockups, design your app, build it, launch it, and keep marketing!