Mobile App Checklist for New Developers

by Moms With Apps on March 25, 2012

This article outlines a contribution for an Edtech Handbook, summarizing some areas we cover at Moms With Apps. Basically, what are key points to consider before making an app? I’ve assembled the top ten that come to mind. As I refine the content for the handbook, I invite your perspectives and comments to round out the discussion. 

Search

Once you have an app idea, try searching for other apps like it. What keywords did you use for the search? Did you find similar apps? What categories were they in? How is your app going to be different? Putting the “app idea” in context of what already exists helps determine the competition and the user’s most likely path to discovery.

Design

Look, feel, and user interface all make a difference in how the app is received. A professional edge will help an app stand out in the crowd. The springboard icon (little square image with rounded corners on the iPhone/iPad display) is a first impression  and should be designed to capture the user’s attention and convey quality.

Social Media

Is your brand a series of apps, or a single app? Some developers set up a new Facebook page for every app. Before they know it, multiple Facebook pages are cannibalizing one another. A social media presence should build, and not fragment, a brand.  Elements of the social media portfolio include a blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, YouTube channel (for app trailers), Google +, and Pinterest.

Blogger Outreach

Coverage from an influential blogger can produce substantial results. Unfortunately, many bloggers are overwhelmed with app review requests. Target bloggers in advance of your launch, and get to know them by reading, sharing and commenting on their blogs and Facebook pages. The more they “see” you in advance, the more likely they’ll notice your app review request.

Teacher Previews

Teachers need to assess whether an educational app is right for their classroom before buying in bulk, so the ability to preview an app before purchase is valuable. If you aren’t going to have a FREE or LITE version, consider having a detailed YouTube demo, or save some of your promo codes to distribute to teachers. If you run out of codes, set aside some budget for gifting the app. Teachers are also excellent beta testers.

Beta Testing

The more testing you do, the more chances you have of incorporating user feedback to refine your app. TestFlight is a useful service for distributing pre-launch copies of apps to your test team. The app installs straight from an invitation email, and developers have access to statistics about the app’s performance during your session. This article by Shimon Young of My Playhome addresses the importance of kid testers in app design.

Interactive Marketing

Marketing is turning into a bi-directional relationship with customers, and it starts well before you launch your app. I recommend reading the Mobile Evolution Blog for tips on a comprehensive marketing plan. In addition, know how much effort is involved in marketing your app, and figure out what you can do for free before you commit to a huge budget. Meanwhile, network with other developers (i.e., the Moms With Apps forum) to collaborate and keep current on tips and trends.

iTunes Reviews

Reviews matter, and a bad review on the iTunes store can hamper sales. Cultivate strong customer relationships that focus on a feedback loop. For example, an interchange like: “How did the app work for you? If it made a positive difference in your home or classroom, please consider rating it on the app store.” By starting with reviews in mind, it will incent you to create a great product and strong communication channels with customers.

App Description

The app description is the only marketing material customers see in the app store. Assuming the customer does not take the time to read the developer website, it’s important to assemble critical product information into the app description. Basics about what the app does, how it works, the target audience, testimonials and disclosures are essential. Metadata text is limited, so choose words and formatting carefully.

Privacy Policy

Apps exist on mobile devices, and those mobile devices are designed to be interconnected online. This means that developers for apps for kids should be aware of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), and the FTC’s actions to update these regulations. Understand how in app features may or may not be covered by COPPA. Are you planning on including social sharing, data tracking, or advertisements within your app? If so, are these features COPPA compliant? A clearly written privacy policy disclosing what developers do (or do not do) with information is recommended.

Lorraine Akemann | Editor | Moms With Apps

Share

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Ben Gotow March 26, 2012 at 9:49 am

Great list Lorraine! Another thing I’d add is that developers building new apps should make sure they align their applications with grade levels correctly. During our research, we’ve run across quite a few that are listed as K-4 but are really only suitable for a smaller grade range.

When we talk with teachers, they often say they have trouble finding apps that go along with their lessons, so it might also be a good idea for developers to look at the Common Core, identify the skills that their app is reinforcing, and list those in their app’s description! That might be something that developers should work with teachers to determine during the beta testing phase.

Matt Kicinski March 26, 2012 at 10:43 am

I second that!

I’m bookmarking this right now.

It’s a great intro to app development and I’ll happily send all newbies here first to give them a sense of the big picture.

Chris Pedersen March 26, 2012 at 12:49 pm

All in favor say “Ay.”

It’s unanimous. Great post Lorraine. Full of useful reference stuff for developers. Thanks!

Niamh Sheehan April 5, 2012 at 1:13 am

This is a great post full of great tips. Our team are at the early stages of development on our first game and reading this post was like having a good chat with a mentor. Thank You!

Sarah Towle April 30, 2012 at 4:29 am

Awesome post, Lorraine! Many thanks for the many useful tips great for new and not-so-new-but-still-learning developers, alike.

Ross Puddle October 4, 2012 at 3:42 am

We found this article very useful when compiling our first apps, thanks for making the effort to post some great ideas!

Alejandra Peres November 1, 2012 at 12:30 pm

Very useful! It clearly highlights the steps we went through to develop our first apps. I would love to hear more about our customers via the feedback link in the apps and itunes reviews. It seems to me that it is challenging to get them to review my apps. Or it is just me!

Moms With Apps November 1, 2012 at 7:56 pm

It’s tough Alejandra – they have so many requests it’s hard to get to all of them.

Jorge Caessa October 8, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Excellent in terms of content and in the way it has been written.Thank you Lorraine.

Moms With Apps October 9, 2013 at 9:44 pm

Thanks Jorge!

Blanca Balaguer March 12, 2014 at 9:24 am

Thank you for the post – really helpful. We are currently designing an app for preschoolers and all of the information above offered a great overview! keep up the great work! :)

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: