Idea to Product: Part 2
In this post, we’ll discuss the services and tools we recommend to power your app, how to familiarize yourself with design and programming, and where to find designers and developers if you decide not to do it yourself. If you’re interested in learning about the preparation it takes to arrive to this step, check out our previous post Idea to Product: Part 1.
Developer Accounts for Native Apps
In order to create/test/distribute iOS apps, you will need a paid Apple Developer Account (the free account will only let you create and test in the simulator). Apple Developer Accounts cost $100/year and you can sign up for one anytime at developer.apple.com. Just note, the name you sign up with is very important because Apple makes it almost impossible to change the name once you’ve registered. If you look at apps in the Apple App Store, you’ll see the developer name below the name of the app. You have 2 choices for your developer name: you can either release it under your personal name or you can release under your company name (ex: Limerick Design, LLC). For Apple, they do not accept partnerships or DBA’s for the developer name, so if you want to use your business’ name, you must register as some kind of Corporation beforehand (from a legal standpoint, not a tax/IRS standpoint). Getting an LLC is pretty easy and affordable – it will probably cost about $400-500 depending on where you go and the lawyer that handles it. You also need to get a DUNS number from Dun & Bradstreet. It’s a simple matter, but can be time consuming as they are slow to update (can take a week or more).
Android apps can be released either through the Android Market on Google Play or through the Amazon Kindle Fire store.
In order to make a website or to provide data to your native app, you’re going to need some sort of web server/service. If you want to make a basic website, you can get a pretty basic server and go from there.
- For web hosting that’s simple to set up that you can make your own site on – I recommend Digital Ocean.
- If you want to use something that’s managed by a third party and looks good, I recommend SquareSpace.
- If you want an e-commerce store and just want to start selling stuff online fast, I recommend Shopify.
If what you want to build doesn’t really fit the mold of preexisting sites and you need to create something from scratch, I recommend going with Amazon AWS or Heroku to build your app. Both of these services start with a free “tier” then scale to “pay-as-you-use” pricing. What this means is that if you have under X amount of traffic, the service is free to use. You can build your app and use the service for free while your numbers are low, and once your traffic/usage picks up, you can scale up by simply clicking a button on your admin panel. This helps with sites that spike quickly and can help eliminate down time. If you’d like the source code for dummy apps or need help getting set up on either, contact us.
If you are creating a native app that needs backend support (like storing user data, handling logins, etc), the easiest-to-use solution I’ve ever seen is Firebase. While it can be a bit more expensive than managing your own database, it’s super easy to use and is cross-platform. If you create your iOS app with it and 6 months from now you decide to create a web app, Firebase lets you use the same backend without writing a ton of more code (saves time and money!). I suggest you look through the docs and see the real strength of it. It was recently bought by Google which will give it the support and infrastructure to grow.
Designer – How, Who, Where?
Learning the basics of good design can help you pick a designer that works well for you. Hack Design offers weekly design lessons meant for programmers, but a lot of the knowledge is useful for non-programmers. I recommend at least reading through it and learning to spot good design. There’s nothing worse than telling a designer to “make it better”, you need to be able to precisely communicate what’s wrong and what you want. Next, I highly suggest you go through Codecademy’s overview on HTML and CSS if you planning on making a web app. Being able to look at existing front-end code and change small things can save you a lot of time and annoyance in the future. There’s no reason to be a pro if you plan on hiring someone, but knowing the basics will help you understand what you’re paying for. If you want to learn how to use design tools like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, I suggest signing up at Lynda and watching a few videos. You’re not going to be pro overnight, but you can learn how to make basic mock-ups and storyboards (if you don’t want to do it by hand).
If you’d still prefer to hire a designer, you need to know what you’ll need from them: Are you looking for someone who can design mobile apps and responsive websites? Are you looking for someone who can design your logo and help you with branding? Are you looking for someone who can make original illustrations or icons? Do you need someone who can do a little of everything? Once you figure out the answer to these questions, you’ll be able to zone in on the kind of designer you need and the kinds of pieces to look for in their portfolio.
Once you know what you need, these site are great for finding the right kind of talent:
Behance – Has a reputation for high-quality design talent. You can browse portfolios and post jobs/projects.
AIGA – A national organization for design professionals that has chapters at a local level. In the top-right of their website, you’ll see options to find a designer or a local chapter to contact. You can also post jobs.
AngelList – Great place find designers seeking opportunities with startups.
Craigslist – Useful if local is important to you. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a talented college student willing to work for $10-15/hour – but fair warning, their lack of experience usually means they will take longer to finish something that a professional will be able to do much more quickly – which can affect how far your budget can go.
When you contact a designer, address these questions to get the ball rolling. If you don’t, a good designer will ask you questions like these before they give you an estimate anyway.
- Who is your user/target audience?
- What does the site/app need to be able to do?
- What are your top goals for the site/app? How will you measure them?
- What are examples of sites/apps you love the design of? Why?
- Which ones do you hate?
- How is your app unique?
- Who are your competitors?
- What do you like and dislike about their site/app?
Developer – How, Who, Where?
If you’re looking to hire a programmer, knowing how not to get tricked by someone who appears flashy is very important. Just as when looking for a designer, ask the programmer for a portfolio and make sure he has experience actually coding and not just installing programs/managing teams.
You can find programmers in a variety of places online, but one of the best places is UpWork because it lets you filter through candidates by the tests they’ve completed and the ratings they’ve received. This means there’s proof they know what they say they know and others can vouch for the quality of their work and tell you if it was easy to work with them.
When contacting a programmer, ask to see examples of their work and tell you their role in them. If you are not experienced with working with programmers, try to find a programmer friend to interview them to make sure you are getting someone competent.
After you are ready to hire one, hire them for a small project. We’re talking something that takes 5-10 hours and pay them for it. That way you can build the relationship and you get to see what they are capable of. If you are not happy with the work, you’ve only lost a little bit of money. Try giving them just a few of the user stories you have created and see where they go with it.
Finally – when hiring programmers, there is no special answer, there are different types with different skill sets and finding the one that matches what you need will take some time.