From idea to product. Things to remember when building an app

From idea to product. Things to remember when building an app


When running a software house, we deal with ideas for digital products every day. We consult and discuss many various visions, plans, business models - we help to translate them into technology language and into user experiences. Therefore, today we will focus on ideas - or more precisely, how to turn a vision into a complete, profitable and makin’ product.  

The clash of founder’s expectations with real needs of users can be...painful. That’s why it’s worth to do it quickly and as soon as possible - not to waste hundreds of thousands of dollars nor countless hours on creating products, which nobody will use. 

Reading this article you will learn:

  • what can go wrong?

  • how to turn an idea into a business painlessly and cost effectively?

  • why research and testing products is so important?

  • how to verify former assumptions?

  • when to decide whether to continue a project or to back out?

  • how to find out what your customers actually want?


Start with a piece of paper

Organize everything you know in a form of model, such as Business Model Canvas or Lean Canvas. Gather what you already have, what you want to achieve, what you are worried about and what you consider as your advantage in one place. Such structured knowledge about the market, competitors and customers, but also assumptions, hypothesis, opportunities and threats will be a solid business foundation for your idea.

However, remember not to get attached too much to this vision at this stage. Stay open-minded and flexible - it’s only your imagination, and now we are going to refine it, confront it, and mercilessly test it with users. Everything can change. 

You can read more about business planning and Lean Canvas here:


Customer development

If you did Lean Canvas properly - correctly identifying and naming values and benefits to offer to your potential users within your product - it’s time to verify them. 

Talk to your potential customers - conduct group or individual interviews with people, who represent your target group. It will help you to check whether your vision of their needs, difficulties, problems and decision-making processes coincides with your former image.

However, do not ask them directly what they think about your idea or whether they would like to buy the product - this declaration is worth nothing. Learn about their needs, feel into their daily life, understand problems - put yourself in their shoes and draw conclusions. And then go back to Lean Canvas to analyze and modify your assumptions. 


Community that will help

Bet on people. Create a blog or a Facebook group - start building a community around the problem you want to solve. Discuss actively, analyze statements, note conclusions. Think of it as an interviews supplement - an additional source of insights. Such a community can be also a great source of beta testers and a base for prospective marketing.



Get leads before you build a product 

We haven’t started developing your application, but you can already gather potential customers! It’s a good way to assess the interest and market opportunities of your product. Create a mailing list using a lead magnet in a form of a valuable freebie. It can be anything related to your customers problem.  

When carrying out one of the recent projects, we distributed free UI kits - in a form of set of ready-made elements for web design - in turn gathering in our database over 150 000 graphic designers. To download the package, users left their email address and consent to receive newsletter. Then, thanks to effective email communication we could convert them into registered users of the application. 

For another product we prepared educational ebooks. Sometimes webinars or competitions may work. What will work for you? - Users will tell you this. Just plan interviews and observations to find it out.

Do not forget about two issues: delivered value and GDPR. You don’t want to spam recipients, so lead magnet has to give them real benefits, extra knowledge, valuable advices or a useful product. When processing personal data (including email address) ensure legal compliance.


Can we start development?

Not necessarily. If you want to be sure that your customers really need your product, you can verify it - before spending hundreds of thousands on development - there is one more clever way to do it!

Create a landing page allowing users to sign up for a waiting list, betatests or pre-sales. Make sure that messages about features and values of your product are simple and clear, and CTA is thoughtful and visually appealing. Think of it as an experiment. Define, what good conversion means to you, and what KPI will give you a green light for further actions. In other words - how many users have to register in a certain period of time so you will feel that: “People want my app!”.

But that’s not all. Just a single landing page hanging somewhere on the Internet has no opportunities to trigger any conversion. Create a little campaign, such as Facebook Ads or Google Ads, to ensure stable influx of customers. Invest in advertising. Install Google Analytics and Facebook Pixel. And wait, analyze, draw conclusions, modify. The more date you collect at this stage, the less research work you have to do in term of UX and marketing further.


Make a decision 

Which indicators should be considered optimistic and when to start working on the actual app? It depends on many factors, such as: a kind of product, target group, size market, communication and landing features. There are no clear and obvious answers. Benchmarks and market experiences are saying about 5-30% registrations of total traffic. If at least 5 out of 100 visitors of your landing page decided to subscribe to the product waiting list - you can consider it as a green light and ask developers to start coding.

As a rule, MVP (a minimum viable product) is the safest form - it’s an application containing one, one the most important feature. MVP has to meet main user needs - it cannot be done “anyhow”. It requires finding a balance between a prototype (incomplete, sometimes not functional and underdeveloped) and final product. Contrary to what is often said, MVP should be refined in terms of technology and UX. It must work well, with no bugs nor mistakes. Before you show it to your users - make sure about detailed tests and correct what you need. Then release it, collect feedback, refine it, collect feedback, refine it, create a campaign… And so on. Refining and collecting feedback is a regular element of working on every digital product. 


Who should you hire to build your product?

This is a common dilemma among founders. There are few options: 

  • Recruit a team of developers, designers and marketers: if your vision provides for creating a complex product and long term cooperation including many iterations of tests, researches, development and corrections, furthermore you have a large budget and you feel confident about maintaining and managing a team - it’s a perfect option for you. There is nothing like a great team of specialists knowing product well, working side by side, day by day, on a joint project. However, reality often verifies this plan: recruiting developers skilled in a certain technology might be a huge challenge - as well as maintaining a team and a product at once, including its variability and the need of broad business knowledge. 

  • Hire a developer-freelancer and outsource other activities to consultants: you can conduct a research or do marketing by yourself with some support, receiving complete reports and functional specifications (even technical ones). If you know skilled and trusted freelancers: a developer and an UI/UX designer - choose this option. But make sure you can count on stable, long term support - also in terms of further app development.

  • Outsource everything to a company specializing in product development. If two previous options are unavailable to you for some reason, choose a company which creates products from a concept till implementation. Check, if it has all competencies need to build a product - not only developers and designers, but also researchers, strategists, marketers. Such a holistic attitude should guarantee that no significant aspect will be missed.

Do you want to discuss your idea, verify assumptions or choose the right path that suits your business needs? Contact us to arrange a casual and free consultation about your project:




…books, blogs, articles, which will complement and broaden this topic, eg.:

  • Pat Flynn, "Will it fly?"

  • Jake Knapp, "Sprint: how to solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days"

  • Cindy Alvarez, "Lean Customer Development"

  • About creating surveys: click here

  • About testing product readiness for monetization: click here

  • About making a brief: click here 

Do you have a mobile app idea? Contact us to arrange a casual conversation about your project


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