As a freelance mobile app developer, I am approached by many people who want to make an app but aren't ready to begin development. There is a lot to consider before you start, and in this post, I point out five things you need to do before you even begin recruiting.
1. Describe your mobile app simply
I cannot stress this enough. You need to be able to describe what your app does. This description doesn't need to be mechanical but it definitely needs to include its purpose. How would you describe your app in a sentence? If your sentence takes the form: "it's like [established medium] but.." then consider rewording it: what aspect of the established medium needs to be part of your app?
2. Basic research
Google your concept and see what else is out there; search the app stores and see what you are competing against. If you can't find anything similar that means one of three things: either you have come up with the world's first concept for an app; the app you have come up with is difficult to do, or the app idea is bad (yes these exist!). Most of the time you will come across an app which is similar and you need to consider how to make your concept unique and stand out. Pitch it to your friends too, see what sort of feedback you get. Sometimes they can interpret its functionality to produce a different outcome to the one you want.
3. Contemplate the medium
Remember that web-apps are powerful, cross-platform, and they are [generally] cheaper to develop. Now that you know your concept well, consider whether its better implemented as a web app or native mobile app. If your app: persists user data without login; works with custom animations; or passively interacts with the user; then you want a native mobile app.
4. Consider your market
Who is the app for? Why would they pick your app over the competition? Competition is fierce so be ruthless when thinking about your app's place on the store and on users devices. Is your app free? paid? on a freemium model? Will your market accept a base product that only updates with the operating system? or will they expect more updates and extra functionality over time?
5. Draw it out
Doodle your app's layout. It doesn't need to be fancy or a wire-frame, it's just so you have had an idea of where elements sit on the view. Does it need many navigation items? Can you present all the information on the main view? Gain inspiration from other apps on the app store, there are some groundbreaking UI elements across the board that can upgrade the users' experience. Do they work with your concept?
Working through 1 to 5 on your own will help prepare you for the next steps while ensuring you drive the vision for your app rather than accept the quickest solution.