I just stumbled over a hackathon. The Flutter Puzzle Hack got me hooked. The exercise is to get your own take on a slide puzzle and submit til the end of february 2022. I have no idea if I can make it in time, but there is a prototype that collected dust since 2016 and besides, I always wanted to participate in a hackathon.

Having my idea and some specifications already in place, most of what is left to do is the programming part. This will be Flutter, using the BLOC pattern, maybe Firebase… we will see.
Besides, I want to collect all the work that has to be done before start. Some elements of app design as a whole, analysis, decisions to make and so on.

Research

There is this innovative idea of a new app in your mind? Never done before! You’re sure?

Always start by a market analysis. Has this been done before a thousand times? Is there a niche you can fill? Has it been done but not in a way you would like?
Try some similar apps, that are available and find out about their quirks and failures, but also about best practices.

In case of a slide puzzle… well the market is saturated as well as open for additions, as long as they contain that special extra.

Technology

Decide on technology. The programming language, but also hosting, databases, APIs and messaging services. Most of the time it’s best to use what you are comfortable with. But especially with apps, there is a variety of possibilities.
Go native with Java, Kotlin, Swift, use a cross platform approach as with flutter or angular.

In my case, Flutter was given by the hackathon and I can’t wait to add another flutter app to my portfolio.

Assets

For a prototype there is nothing wrong with using just material design and some dummy graphics. But nonetheless, thing about how to raise your app to the next level. How about storytelling, graphics, animations and audio?

Most people aren’t experts in all these fields and have to reach out to artists, musicians and writers to help out. Plan in advance on how to gather the shininess for your app.

As an allrounder, I feel comfortable with tackling all these challenges by myself, although I will outsource the music part.

Monetizing

Are you planning to monetize this app? If yes, how? There are several possibilities and it’s best to insert them into your planning.

Advertisement is an easy solution, but where do you want to include add banners and videos? Will they be integrated into the game? Will users deinstall the app as soon as they see all these banners? Also the ads have to come from somewhere. I have used Google Admob for the teeny tiny banner in the Compañero.

App Price can be set according to other apps on the market. Let users pay to use your shiny app that you put all these hours of work into. This one is easy, straight forward and can be configured at the app stores. But consider a free app with in-app-purchases instead.

In-App-Purchases should not be necessary but enhance the experience further and must be integrated into the apps logic. Is there any content that may hide behind a paywall without disturbing the basic functionality of the app? I like to use an in-game currency that can be earned by usage but also purchased.

Donations are a nice option to give satisfied customers an option to say “Thank you”. You can configure your donations and give them some funny names (at least that’s what I do).

Subscriptions really have to be inserted into the apps functionality. If this app is used on a regular basis, there might be room for a subscription model. Pay x money every month to get access to these additional functions. More storage, better color themes, extra notifications… whatever.

Advertisement

How will people and potential users know about your app?
Think about whether there is a community you could introduce it to or look into payed advertisement to rank high on the app stores. You might also want to add an app homepage with really good SEO.

MVP

When developing a new app idea, at least my brains bubbles over with feature ideas and additional functionalities, that would be really cool. But for the first step, keep the ball low.

Work on your MVP, your minimal viable project. And that’s your goal. If you reached your MVP, your app is in stores and you know, whether there are people using and enjoying it, go and add features. As a bonus, those updates will look really good on your store entry.

Spare a thought on every point above, adjust your apps design and go find some people who are able to participate in your project by bringing the skills you lack. You will be thankful to consider this at the very beginning instead of having a nearly finished app and then realizing, that there is no space for annoying add banners. 😉
Happy coding.

App Development – Before the programming

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