Our Small Business Snapshot series features photos that represent, in just one image, what the small businesses we feature are all about. Melissa Reed, co-owner of Packable Pails, a business founded in 2013 that sells collapsible beach pails, explains how this image represents her business.
Our son has posed for many pictures with Packable Pails, and this picture represents our business perfectly! We have met so many people all over the world through our business. In this case, he was just smitten to run into these two beautiful girls surfing in San Francisco.
Sleep like a baby? Not ours. As for our two-year-old, he was resisting all instructions, let alone bedtime routines. And our four-year-old wasn’t on good terms with anything rest-related either. I tried wall charts and stickers, nagging, even bribes, but nothing worked for our three children. So one morning, after another sleepless night, I set out to create an app teaching children a bedtime routine: And So To Bed.
Let’s not sugar-coat it – creating an app is a tall order, especially if you have a limited budget. But I was determined to end the bedtime struggles. Caffeine and an obsession with this app kept me going. If you ask me if I’d do it all again, I’d say yes – but had I known then what I know now, things could’ve been easier.
Before you get cracking with your app you should ask yourself:
What problem does my app solve?
Strip your app’s purpose down to a single sentence. Does your community have the problem you’re offering a solution to? What price would they be willing to pay? Keep in mind that you aren’t only looking at a paid versus free app, but you could monetise a free app later on with advertising or in-app purchases.
Which mobile platform suits my app best?
Your app’s purpose and audience will determine whether to go for an Apple or an Android app.
Am I skimming over the testing phase?
Do some planning before designing on the computer. Sketch out each screen of your app on a new sheet of paper. Include images, text, buttons (noting down where they are leading) and other interactive areas.
The resulting sketches of your app’s pages are called wireframes. Hang them all on a wall to see the whole app at a glance. Study these wireframes to find out if the structure of your app makes sense.
Check if all screens appear uniform, for example is the menu button always in the same place? Make sure the navigation of your app, the way you move from screen to screen, is logical.
Get a few potential users to test your wireframes to make sure people understand how to interact with your app, even if it is a paper dummy. Once you’re happy with the wireframes you can start building a digital prototype using a tool such as proto.io or popapp.in. If in doubt, UXreviewer holds free interface design events in London.
Am I depriving my community of video?
Get people excited about your app, build a landing page and make sure it sees lots of traffic. Collect users’ email addresses and let them know when your app is launching. Blog about your app or open a Vine account and post short videos documenting your progress.
Does my developer share my vision?
Good developers and designers are hard to come by. Scan your circles. You may come across a long lost friend like I did when I reconnected with multimedia artist Stefan Hollekamp, a musician and programmer looking for a new creative project. Search local colleges for a developer, or tryElance. This is the moment where you’ll start spending some money. Turn to crowdsourcing for help and maybe present your idea on a crowdfuding site to raise money for your venture.
Do I need to learn to let go?
We need to talk about the minimum viable product (MVP). Think of it as the least perfect version of your app that still provides value to your audience. Create this MVP and hand it to your first users. Let their feedback influence your further design process. You’ll end up with a perfect product if you release your app early and update it often, according to your users’ feedback.
Have I thought about app store optimisation?
The way you present your app in the store needs thought. Produce a quality icon as well as screenshots showing functionality. App store optimisation ensures your app comes out as high as possible in users’ searches, helping your audience find you. Brainstorm keywords people might use while looking for your app, then check how much competition you have for each. There’s a useful blog offering guidance on this, including a spreadsheet calculating the best keywords.
Should I hold out for a bigger launch?
Your app is ready. You can’t wait to get it out there. Yet, hold on – don’t throw away the opportunity to aim for the bigger launch. Send the media a preview of your app before it is officially released. Your chance of press coverage has now increased. And you’ll score extra points if you organise an event for your launch.