Want to make an app like BULK? Here’s what we learned.

Everyone has an app idea.  Having that idea become a downloadable app on the app store is a whole other obstacle. “How did you go about developing Bulk, and how can I make an app?” I get this question probably just as much as I get fitness questions. Recently I posted an Instagram story addressing this subject which turned into more detailed questions. This brought me to my decision to write an article on this topic. Based on my experience with bulk, as well as a few other founders I’ve spoken to, these first 5 steps are a great place to begin.

  1. Make sure your idea is a good one
  2. Make sure the market is valid and has an opportunity to make money
  3. Design your app
  4. Research Technology
  5. Start building and build fast!

Make sure your idea is a good one

This step seems obvious. However, too many times I get people who come to me with idea’s that are either not viable or haven’t been tested. An app idea might sound good to you, but more times than not, you are not your customer. If you ask yourself the questions below you can quickly validate your idea.

 

1. Is this idea a prescription or a vitamin?

Understanding if you are solving a pain-point or if this is just an enhancement in your customer’s life before you go out and make an app is extremely important. If your idea is not a pain-point, it will be more difficult to have people find your app because they aren’t searching for a solution. With Bulk, we knew enough about the struggle of bulking to know that it was a legitimate pain-point for many. This was because Caleb and I both suffered from a similar problem as our target audience. For us, this was a prescription to something we had been struggling with for years. A cool tool you can use to validate our idea was Google Trends.

Google Trends

With Google Trends you can test against search words and phrases to see how popular they are relative to other keywords and search phrases. If you have popular search queries around what you are creating then you might have a solution that people are looking for. We can use this article as an example. Picking the title of the article is important. If I want to reach more people I have to anticipate what they would be searching for to stumble on a topic like this. For this, I could use Google Trends. Below I tested “How to develop an app”, “How to create an app”, and “How to make an app”. “How to make an app seemed like the most widely searched term which validated my thought that this topic is one that needed answers, and also the best title for this topic out of the three.

Talk to your target userbase

Another way to validate your idea is to straight up just ask people. A lot of times people are hesitant to ask other people about their app ideas for fear that someone is going to steal it. Stealing an app idea is harder than you think, and once you go through this process you will realize that. Even big companies like Google and Amazon would rather just buy these companies even though they have the resource to recreate any app that is currently on the market. They do this because you can recreate technology, but what is not easily replicated is passion, knowledge, and supporters. It is much easier to acquire than to create. There are also ways to get answers without giving up your secret sauce, so be creative in your questioning!

 

2. Who is my customer?

Asking who your customer is, is also important because you can build a much better product if you have someone specific in mind that you are building your app for. When we built Bulk we built it for ourselves. As we met people that connected with us we realized that it wasn’t just us that faced the issue of trying to gain weight. But even building for ourselves wasn’t the best option, because as we continued to build the app we realized that a lot of our audience was even less experienced than we were. So we had to think about how we could build this not to accommodate ourselves but accommodate them. We wanted to make it as easy as possible so that someone that knew nothing about fitness prior, could download the app and be ready to rock!

 

3. Is there anyone else doing what this app does?

This can save you a lot of time and effort. Before you make an app, check if someone else has already built it!  I can’t stress this step enough. If someone else has already beat you to the punch,  it doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. It means that now you have a blueprint. There is never a reason to recreate the wheel. You can learn from other products on the market. Once you have accessed the market you can now ask the question, how can we make this more efficient, and how are we different?

You can get some good insight into your competitors and shape your competitive advantages by performing a standard SWOT(Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis.

 

Make sure the market is valid and has an opportunity to make money

As much as you may love and be passionate about an idea, it has to be able to make money to be sustainable. As an app developer you owe it to your users to make the best possible experience for them, and if your business doesn’t make any money it will be extremely difficult to deliver.

Doing a solid bottom-up analysis of the market is crucial, and what you should not do is get confused between a bottom up and top down analysis. Early on in Bulk, we performed a top-down analysis. This is commonly done by people who have no clue what they are doing(us at the time). This is by saying something like “The protein industry is an 8 billion dollar industry. If we can capture just 1 percent of this industry than we can value our market size at 1 million dollars!”

This is of course not very accurate and if done this way, you may start building an app in an industry that just isn’t viable. The bottoms-up analysis focus on potential customers and historical sales which makes the analysis much more accurate. Using Bulk as an example we looked at the US population and what percentage of that is underweight. We looked at other fitness apps and the percentage of users that paid vs the percentage of users that didn’t. From there we could calculate a potential market value for our app.

 

Create your Design

Once you have done the above things, your app will almost make itself! By understanding who your audience is and what they want, you can design an app that really focuses on making those needs the central focal point of your app. When you are designing it, think about how you make those needs easy to find and easy to use. Now that you’re ready, it’s time to make a wireframe.

A wireframe should literally outline every page of your app with a focus on functional design versus visual design. You can focus on colors of buttons and backgrounds later, but to start, think about how a user gets from one screen to the next in the least amount of steps, or in the most comprehensive way possible.

I personally like to wireframe with a regular piece of paper and a pencil. Call me old school but I just think it’s the quickest and easiest way to get your thought and ideas down. My favorite tool to design the interface in once you have a functional design is Adobe XD. It’s free, and you can download different design kits making designing really easy.

Research Technology

This is the step that non-technical people really tend to struggle with. Technology is extremely important in how you begin. Your choice in mobile app platform is one of the most important steps and will be our focus here. There are 3 routes you can go when it comes to platforms. Native IOS, Native Android, or Hybrid. I am not even going to mention the others because at this point they don’t matter as Android and IOS have dominated the mobile market. Choosing your platform is important because each platform uses a different programming language to build. It’s the equivalent to choosing which language you want to write a book in. It is dependant on your market, and the resources you have. If you or anyone you know do not speak Spanish, you will have to pay someone to write the book which can be costly. The same goes for your app.

Native IOS

A native IOS app is built in the IDE called Xcode, in a programming language called Swift. Xcode is a free application that can be downloaded from the Mac app store. In order to build Native IOS apps, you have to have a computer that runs the Mac OS. IOS is by far the most popular platform to develop for, but Android will be more popular if you are building apps that are centric to places like India where the mobile market share is majority Android by a landslide. But for any other reason, Apple is going to be the winner. Understanding this is important because you can waste a lot of time building for another platform when the most success for your app will likely occur on IOS.

Native Android

A Native android app is built with an IDE called Android Studio, in the Java programming language. Android Studio is a free application and can be downloaded on both a Mac computer as well as a Windows computer. As stated above, Android is going to be much more popular in countries that predominately use Android. But there may be a reason you may specifically want to develop on just Android, so you have to do your research on your specific use case.

Hybrid

This is a solution that I would recommend for people that may want to test their app on both platforms, and do not have the resources to produce two native apps. Our first iteration of Bulk was a hybrid solution. The main benefit of this is that you can create an app with just 1 code base. There are several options when building a hybrid app such as Xamerin, Angular, and React, and in fact, most of these solutions can now build the app as native apps in the end. However, you will not have access to the native features realized by Apple or Google, until the technology company you use to create plugins for them.

Choosing your technology wisely can really make a difference in how fast you get to the market. If you choose the wrong technology, it can threaten the life of your app. Speed is everything in the app development game, making a technology mistake can cost you a ton of time and money that you may not be able to recover from. So HEED my warning!

Speed is everything in the app development game, making a technology mistake can cost you a ton of time and money that you may not be able to recover from. So HEED my warning!

Start building, and build fast!

I want to emphasize speed. The app market is oversaturated with 800,000+ apps and is growing by the day. Getting your app to market fast is more important than getting a perfect app to market slow. In fact, your app will never be perfect! This is something that took Caleb and I two years to realize. Building a product that is perfect is impossible especially because you don’t know what your users like and dislikes yet. Without feedback, you may spend years building something that your user hates.  You will never know unless you bring it to the market and ask your users what they think.

How simple is your app:
1. Your app only allows users to view information – Easy
2. Your app allows users to view and input information – Moderately easy
3. Your app allows users to read, input, and save information across devices using a login, and password – Medium
4. All of the above, but  including  image, video, and or audio updating. – Hard

 

5

When we released our native apps, it was plagued with bugs. Although we tested it for what felt like years, we missed things. This will probably always be the case. However, we made communication a priority with our users. This resulted in several people reaching out to us to alert us to the issues. We were quickly able to fix them through updates, and our users were grateful. This is an example of the app not being perfect. We fixed these issues by being honest, diligent and most importantly responsive when users reached out to us.  Now things are finally stable which gives us the opportunity to add more features that our users want.

Including your users in on the development early is extremely important. Put your user first and you will never go wrong!

The Wrap-up

If you want to make an app there is a lot more than just the coding. I think none technical people stray away from app development because of the challenge of finding someone to build it. However, the surrounding pieces are just as important. Fill in the gaps in the beginning and building your app will be much easier.

If you are looking for someone to build your app it is important you understand how challenging what you are trying to build is. I’ve listed 1-5 of complexity level of app use cases to give you an idea.

1. Your app only allows users to view information – Easy
2. Your app allows users to view and input information – Moderately Easy
3. Your app allows users to read, input, and save information across devices using a login, and password – Moderately Complex.
4. All of the above, but including image, video, and or audio updating. – Complex
5. All of the above with the ability to leave comments, ratings, or message other users of the app. – Very Complex

Once you have built it your last step is putting it on the App Store. On IOS that will cost you $99 per year and for Android it’s just a one time fee of $49. But the process is pretty simple. Good Luck!

 

If you are struggling with weight gain and looking for a solution try our all Bulk: The Weight Gain App. Our app generates workout programs and meal plans specifically for weight gain. It is available on both IOS and Android Now!

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