Got a great idea for the next big web app? Don’t let natural barriers stop you from turning that idea into a money making business.
Clear Vision First
Start by getting a crystal clear concept, including how it might look when you put it online. Mark Zuckerberg wanted to connect his college. Sergey Brin and Larry Page wanted to index every page on the Internet. They were simple ideas, which they mapped out for users, then later manipulated into huge businesses. Yet, at the beginning, they were only concepts, just like yours.
But these successful web business people clarified their concepts - by defining them precisely, and determining how they could be translated to the net. Brin and Page didn’t have a clear vision on how to make money, so they let that part wait until later (with wonderful results). But they did have a clear concise vision at the beginning for how they go about getting information from around the net and how to display it to users.
Put your vision down in writing; this is your starting point. If you can’t come back in a week and understand specifically what it says, it’s not clear enough. Show it to a few friends, and see if they can understand what you want to do. Tweak it until you can communicate it clearly.
Road Map and Team
Now that you have an idea, it’s time to figure out how to get it done. This may be where most people are stopped. They can’t figure out what to do. Here are a few tactics to get it on the road:
- Clearly define who will use it.
- Clearly define how you will reach those people
- Clearly define what the product needs to do to satisfy the needs of those people
- Clearly define how to create the service to make the product.
Again, clarity is important to help you carry it out.
You may need to bring in additional people - if you’re an engineer or programmer, you’ll probably want somebody with marketing skills; if you’re a business person, you’ll need to consult with somebody with software development skills. Either way, being able to put at least some of that information on a page will clarify your direction and help you get the right person who will then be able to ask the right questions.
Deliver and Listen
You’ll probably start by hosting your web-service or mobile app on a shared computer at some internet service provider. With luck, your user base will grow; so you’ll need to put it on multiple servers or host in a larger cloud environment. But it’s your initial users that will help you make it grow.
As soon as you launch, start listening - to your users and to your system.
If your users are registered, reach out to them to ask questions. If they ask for support or complain about your product, take the cues based on where they are having difficulty and what they ask. Then make your product better based on that feedback.
Do you need an idea of what to consider when you look for feedback? This article on TechSling discusses fifteen common blogging mistakes that can also apply to apps. If any of these mistakes apply to your app, clarify how to reduce or remove the mistakes.
Growing without Pain
At some point, you’ll grow out of that shared server. That means you’ll encounter growing pains. I know of companies whose growing pains were severe because they miscalculated how many users will be using their systems. They had to restructure their software. You can avoid this type of hassle by plugging in software that monitors your system and gives you advance information about where the problems will be.
AppsWatch from NRG Global, a Los Angeles-based firm whose products test the performance of applications like Citrix, Cerner, Meditech, Eclipsys, GE Healthcare, Epic, McKesson, Java, Oracle, and Windows, lets you see what your users are seeing to determine where they are being bogged down in your software and what might be causing them pain. You can subsequently adjust your application so it affects fewer users and lets your user base grow without significant performance problems.
New Relic, a San Francisco-based software analytics firm whose tools make sense of metrics for millions of apps can help pinpoint issues on your servers. It too lets you understand what is going right and what is going wrong from a different perspective, giving your developers important information about what needs to be fixed.
Both of these tools are easy to apply to almost any web server. I bring them up here because being able to scale is often looked at as an afterthought - and using these tools early can avoid a lot of hardships and barriers as you get bigger.
By Now It’s Easy
By the time you’ve gotten to this point, you’ll likely say: ‘That was easier than I expected.’
Today’s tools make it easy to program. There are a lot of good developers who won’t charge you a fortune. And the opportunities to spread the word via social media bring down the cost of getting your product used by many customers.
Visualize and take that first step; and get proper feedback to make your subsequent steps successful. It’s a lot easier than you had imagined.