I Have an App Idea: What Do I Do Next?

August 9, 2016 - 13 minutes read

app development idea

Think about this for a second: Apple has twice as many credit cards on file as Amazon, to the tune of well over 800 million accounts.

That’s a ton of opportunity waiting to be tapped.

…Does that mean your app idea is worth 800 million dollars? Not necessarily.

Ideas get a bad rap in the startup world. Quora, Twitter, Reddit, and anywhere else that aspiring appreneurs mingle with seasoned pros are full of excited young techies saying “I have an amazing idea” only to be crushed by a wave of experienced developers raging on with some variation of “ideas are worthless” and “just go home and leave it to us.”

This doesn’t mean your idea is bad. It just means you have to be realistic moving forward.

The reason many Los Angeles iPhone app developers are hard on new app ideas is because the app ecosystem is crowded, and developing an app (not to mention attracting users) is more difficult than ever before. Put simply, the odds are against you no matter how good the idea, or even the execution for that matter. Plus, the media buzz around the money to be made developing apps has inflated the idea in the public imagination, giving newcomers a false sense of optimism about their app being “the next Tinder” or “the next SnapChat.”

app idea

Building an app is complex, and industry veterans have good reason to be sceptical of newcomers. To prove them wrong, you’ll have to do your homework.

To put it bluntly, most successful apps aren’t Tinder or Snapchat, let alone Twitter or Facebook. Most apps are small businesses that pull reasonable profits from solving a real-world problem for a modestly-sized audience.

For anybody with a great app idea, the most important thing is that you have reasonable expectations for your app, and that you are aware of how difficult it is to turn a great idea into a successful product.

While it’s true that execution is what separates the winners from the losers, the fact is that killer app ideas still matter.

So, what’s the next step when you have an amazing app idea?

For most mobile app models, here’s what your roadmap looks like from idea to prototype:

  1. Validate the idea
  2. Make an agency shortlist
  3. Contact your top picks for consultations

In this post we’ll walk you through the common questions about this process and hopefully leave you in a good position to start turning your app idea into something real.

How to validate your app idea

User testing should start as early as possible, to pivot the product before significant funds have been sunk into custom code.

User testing should start as early as possible, to pivot the product before significant funds have been sunk into custom code.


Before you reach out to developers to consult about your app, it’s important that you’ve checked the basics of your idea to make sure it hold up against common sense before worrying about how it holds up against real-world application.

Ask yourself three questions:

  1. Who is your app’s audience?
  2. What problem does your app solve for that audience?
  3. How will the core features of your app solve that problem?

If you can answer all these questions confidently, then good; you’re ready to start shopping around app development agencies and scheduling consultations. (Or conducting A/B and market validation tests yourself using landing pages with Google and Facebook ad campaigns, but that’s a subject for a separate post.)


For the first question, think about who your app is serving. Is it people like you, or another demographic? Do you have experience with your target audience, and are you confident your idea is something they need vs. something you think they “should” appreciate?


The second question is the most important of them all. If you aren’t solving a problem or satisfying a desire for your audience, there’s no chance of success. Even apps you might think of as “fun” or “unnecessary” apps are in fact solving gnawing problems for their users. Some examples to consider:

  • Facebook: “keeping in touch with friends/family is time-consuming.”
  • Tinder: “Meeting new people is difficult.”

Even games and entertainment are solving a problem:

  • Angry birds: “I don’t like being bored.”
  • Candy Crush: “I need something to do with my hands on the subway.”

…The problems apps solve don’t have to be ground-breaking. They just have to be problems.

And of course, you have the very successful apps that are obviously satisfying serious needs for their audiences:

  • Zapier: “I have a too many apps and too little time.”
  • Uber: “I can’t find a taxi.”


Once you’ve figured out who your audience is and what problem you’re solving for them, the last step is to look at the how of the equation: what features does your app need to solve their basic needs? What aspects of the device’s hardware will it make use of — geolocation, camera, etc.?

Whatever you do, don’t come up with a million features when your users only need one or two. If potential users are confused about what your app does for them — even for a second — they won’t sign up. (Or worse, they’ll sign up for the competitor’s product.) Wait to add the extra features until your app has earned a loyal following with the few features that truly matter.

How to find your developers

App development studios: not all developers are created equal, so vet your partner wisely.

App development studios: not all developers are created equal, so vet your partner wisely.

Start with the portfolio — and don’t just look for apps that “look polished.” Download the apps they’ve built. Test drive them for speed, intuitiveness, and overall performance.

Second, consider what sorts of clients they’ve worked with in the past. Do they look like your business? You want to make sure they’re prepared to offer best-value experience in your industry, not just the app industry in general. If your app idea is finance-related, check out their financial app projects. If you’re looking to develop a medical app, look for an agency with experience developing medical apps. More than anything, you’re paying for experiences when you hire an agency — anyone can make an app that looks pretty, but apps that actually succeed take behind-the-scenes experience.

Finally, on a more touchy-feely level, look for indicators that they’re truly invested in their clients. Can they tell you why the last three products they built were important? Can they tell you how those businesses are doing now, and how they’ve helped (or continue to help) those startups achieve their goals? These sorts of relationships aren’t always obvious looking at an agencies’ website, so do your homework: read their reviews on Clutch, look at the testimonials on their site, and most importantly bring it up when you meet for your first consultation.

How to approach a consultation


Consultations can be confusing. Especially if you’re trying to decide between multiple app development agencies, it can be difficult to know what to ask, let alone what to expect.

In our experience, potential clients always ask the same three questions up front:

  • Will you sign an NDA?
  • What will it cost?
  • Do you think our idea is plausible?


While app ideas are valuable, executing an app idea is expensive, time-consuming, and above all else requires passion for the product. iPhone app development studios almost never sign NDAs for first consultations, and the only clients that ask for them are newcomers to the startup scene or big corporations like Google who have already developed tech around their idea.

To put it bluntly, if you haven’t already started building the infrastructure, you don’t need an NDA — all it will do is hold up the process and set a baseline of distrust. If we signed every NDA that came across the desk at Dogtown, we’d never be able to do anything — we hear hundreds of ideas every week.

So here’s what to do instead: talk about the project on a high level at first to get a sense for if the agency can build what you need, and check that they don’t spot any major flaws in your market assumptions and basic concept. Every finalized project gets an NDA before any app architecture happens, so if your idea is feasible, it will be protected when it goes into active development.


We’ve written extensively about how much it costs to build an app before. It’s one of the most complex subjects in any sort of tech development, but the short answer is anywhere from $50,000–500,000.


This is where your app idea consultation gets interesting; where your passion project and market research meet an app development agency’s experience and practicality. Spoiler alert: we ask tough questions. Client success is synonymous with agency success, so any agency worth the name will only take on projects they feel have a high chance of success.

If we think your idea has potential we’ll begin defining the scope of your project, working with you and your team to determine the best feature sets, platforms, and latest technologies that can bring your idea to the next level.

Making it to launch

App Store launch

From there, it’s a question of careful planning and hard work. The all-nighters of startup life can be a roller coaster, but trust us when we tell you it’s worth the ride.

We can’t tell you the second step is any easier than the first, but we can guarantee that the process of building your dream app is as rewarding as it is exciting.

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