Dmitry Dragilev is an engineer, marketer, and world traveler all in one. He is currently on sabbatical, traveling the world, during which he developed and launched his Currency Exchange Fee Calculator app. In his near past he worked as Lead Marketer at ZURB helping people design products online.
So you’ve got an idea for an iPhone app and you’re not sure of what to do next. Should you just implement the app and launch? Will this idea work? After all you don’t want to spend tons of time implementing something you really like but other people might not use, right? We all remember how Eric Ries developed a product that nobody wanted to use.
Does this sound familiar? Do you know people that have been in this situation? I’ve helped many people in this situation and at one point have been in this situation myself. Over the years I’ve learned a simple process that has helped me numerous times develop and launch a product people want to use. I employed this nice little process when I thought of an app a few months ago idea as I was traveling the world.
About two months ago, my wife and I quit our jobs in Silicon Valley and decided to travel the world for half a year (which we are still doing today). Just like most travelers we had to exchange money into different currencies since most of the countries we visited have their own currency. We found that most currency exchange places charge an exorbitant fee, worst of all the fee is actually hidden, they tweak the exchange rate and figure the fee into the exchange rate. Since travelers don’t actually know the going market exchange rate they think they’re getting a good deal, instead they are being ripped off.
So we decided to create an app that tells a traveler exactly how much she or he is being charged. All you need to know is the going market exchange rate and you can figure out the difference between the rate you are being quoted and the going rate pretty easily. You can then just multiply it out by how much money you’re exchanging and convert the amount in the home currency for the customer. We followed the process below to develop this app which we hope will help you develop your idea as well:
- Sketch out the product and gather feedback. This is a crucial part of the entire process, sketch it out and get feedback. You’ve got to get another ten people raving about your idea before you jump into implementation. You want to see if this is a real problem. You ping your friends, strangers, acquaintances and ask for feedback on your rough sketch of the idea. You might need to show a number of sketches to communicate the entire idea for the app. You are building your base of early adopters of your product and verifying the idea at this stage. You’re trying to answer the question: Is this a real problem?
- Iterate through the design and gather feedback again. After you gather
feedback go ahead and start creating the user interface of the product based on the feedback you gathered. Once you have the basic UI ready, go back to those ten people you asked for feedback and show them what you have. They might just nod their head and say “Cool!” That’s fine: at this stage you’re interesting them into your idea and verifying that you’re on the right track. You might get some useful tips part of your UI that look confusing to the end user. This is the time to make those tweaks.
- Implement the functionality. The next step is to implement the functionality. This is not a trivial step. In my case I had to try nearly eight different currency APIs before I settling on the best one that worked without any glitches. Numerous other problems hit me regarding memory issues and the speed of the app. The app had to query the server for exchange rates and compute the total fee within three seconds. Otherwise it just takes too long for someone to wait and the end user gets frustrated. I worked through all these details one by one. One piece of advice here: StackOverflow is your friend.
- Get more feedback from your potential customers. Once I implemented my app and tested it, I thought I was done. I really wanted to submit it to the app store. I was so excited. However, I decided not to rush. I went back to my ten friends who originally gave me feedback to ask them for some final pieces of advice. I was glad I did. What I discovered is that most of the travelers have problems with their data service if they are in a foreign country and therefore the app needs to work even if there is no data service available. In other words, I had to make sure the exchange rates were downloaded locally to the app. This was great feedback. I went back to implement that into the app.
- Finally submit the app to the app store. Once your ten friends have given the final product a spin or two and you’ve used it for at least a few days and everything seems to work fine, you’re ready to submit the app to the store. Don’t rush here, best to give it some time and make sure there are no bugs or issues with the app. Once you submit the app, you won’t be able to make a change to it for at least two weeks after it goes live in the app store. It also might take up to two weeks for it to actually be accepted.
That’s the gist of the process I followed to develop and submit the app to the store. In the first four days of my app being accepted in the app store, my Currency Exchange Fee Calculator app has gotten close to 150 downloads.
If you remember just one thing from this short article remember this: ask for feedback from your potential customers as much as you can! You want your potential customers involved in building your product by providing continuous feedback throughout the process. If you ask for feedback, come launch time you would have built something people truly want and you’ll have a handful of passionate customers ready to start using your product.