Thursday, March 21, 2013

Questions to Answer Before Building Your Website or App

Before you get too excited about that idea you have and start giving up nights and weekends (or your day job) to start working on it, here are a few questions you need to ask yourself first!

(I just hit on these questions briefly, but I will elaborate on each one more in future blog posts)

Who is going to use it?

Before getting started on building your idea, you need to consider exactly who is going to use it. "Anyone who has a phone and rides the bus" is NOT an answer. If you can segment your market into the smallest category possible, you're going to be able to best capitalize on those people. If you spread yourself too thin, you're going to try to appeal to too many people and most likely failing to actually appeal to anyone.

For example, if you're building a mobile app to help people find bus times, figure out which of the people riding the bus is going to use your app. A person who uses the bus for transportation every day probably doesn't need it (because they already know the bus times). But a person who is visiting from out of town would probably find it very useful! So now your market is people visiting a city that is going to use the bus for transportation.

Once you can narrow your target market, now you know that you can focus on where to market it (in our example, you could choose travel sites). You also know that you need to design the app for someone who doesn't know all the street names in the city and you might need to provide directions to the actual bus stop.

How are you going to sell/market it?

When it comes to a great idea, if no one knows about it, then it doesn't matter!! The idea is 1% of the challenge (probably less, depending on who you talk to). In today's world, no idea is unique. They are a dime a dozen. The difference that separates ideas and successful product is how it is executed. And by that, I mean how are you going to get people to use your product.

There are number of ways to do this, you just need to have an idea of each one to know what will work best for you. Some few examples are:
  • Online advertising (Adwords, social media, etc.)
  • SEO
  • Traditional advertising (commercials, billboards, etc.)
Word of mouth is NOT a way to sell/market it. If you plan on getting everyone to use your product based on word of mouth, you'll be very disappointed. 

How is it going to make money?

It's funny how many people don't ask themselves this before they get started on their idea. Most people will use an excuse, like, "I just want to use it myself, so I don't care if it doesn't make money" or "I know this one person who would pay for it, so that's how I'll make money from it!". But if you're serious about this idea, you really need to think this through BEFORE you invest time in it.

Sure, it would appear that some websites go with the concept of "if you build it they will come", but I guarantee there was some plan in place at the beginning to eventually be able to monetize all those people. For them, their plan was to get as many people as they can to use the website, then once they hit a certain number of users, turn on their money machine.

Who are your competitors?

IMPORTANT: Don't get discouraged when you're searching for your competitors and find a similar product! You're not going to have an original idea, so this WILL happen.

If you don't find a competitor than you're either not searching hard enough (use some other search terms) or your idea is probably so off the wall that it's impossible to pull off.

Once you find your competitors, take note on everything that they do and continually ask yourself how you are going to make it better. You can also do this by doing research on what their customers don't like about the product or are continually struggling with. Usually, "I'm going to make it look prettier" isn't going to get you anywhere, so try to find something more concrete.

Also, by identifying your competitors you can answer a lot of the previous questions by using their answers.