By Thomas Crotty
From the “seed” of an idea, I was able to develop an online app with no app, coding, animation, or digital media experience. Despite the challenges involved with creating the app, in just two and a half months I had developed and launched a great seamless app. That app is JynxLinks, a fun tongue-in-cheek app that made equal fun of both Biden and Trump and encouraged people to find some comedy in the 2020 election. The app was meant to generate laughs, and also allow JynxLink, LLC to donate 60 to 75% of the profits to selected charitable causes. The app’s content will change now that the election has passed, but it provides me with a great structure that engages users, funds nonprofits, and offers substantial growth opportunities well beyond the launch.
I’d like to share how I successfully launched an app with no experience. Having the “seed” of an idea is the first step, but it takes a disciplined approach to create a team and turn that idea into a usable and engaging app. Here are some thoughts on building a successful app without any online app experience:
Overcoming the Challenges
With 35+ years in spawning and growing businesses, age certainly presented no challenge to developing and successfully launching an app. Like every business, I started and sold in my career as an entrepreneur, be passionate and confident about your idea and vet it aggressively. However, counterintuitive it may seem, I encourage people to think about the reasons their idea won’t work. People are their worst critics. Write all your doubts and criticisms down, then think through whether your product stands up to your own scrutiny. If it does, you’re ready to move into the development stage. If not, table the idea for now and move on to the next one. The beauty of the online app development market is the fact that it carries a relatively low capitalization metric, as compared to attempting to start other businesses.
The initial app idea will not be the same app at launch as your idea’s inception, and that will work to your benefit, and that will become part of the fun, anxiety, and reward that you will experience throughout your development and launch. In many cases, the app will undergo so many strategic and tactical changes in development that the ultimate product may seem completely different from your original idea – that’s ok! Developers will tinker and change features, software, animations, and more to provide the best experience possible for consumers. Collaborate with your team on whether changes and suggestions should be implemented. Accept that your product will change, and embraced that change.
Be mindful of “scope creep” in the development phase. While changes are great to refine the app with a dynamic group, too many changes can often require a complete overhaul of the strategy and vastly increase the hours needed to make the changes. Don’t let the changes slow down the production process by setting internal expectations with all contract developers and the other firms you hire.
Timing and your meticulous attention to market changes throughout the course of your development are critical. As was the case with JynxLinks, be prepared to adapt if your idea and concepts are attempting to leverage breaking news or the news cycle to launch a product. I decided to launch the initial phase of JynxLinks with animation videos of President Trump and Vice President Biden because I anticipated late October and early November to be dominated by the 2020 election, and I knew there was a market for JynxLinks. Like any product launch, delays happen and threaten to derail a hard launch date. Expecting delays, I gave the team plenty of extra time in the development phase to be sure we launch JynxLinks prior to Election Day. And, when we anticipated that the election would not be over on election day, we immediately changed our landing page and heading from “Jynx the 2020 Presidential Election” to “Jynx The Recount”, in order to capitalize on our capacity to make quick changes to the app, amidst what had just transpired.
Digital marketing was also more of a challenge than I thought it would be. The content verification process with the likes of Apple, Google, Facebook, etc., is complicated and surprisingly intense, so be sure to provide ample time in this area, so as not to let the approval process derail the launch date. Advertising on any platform can be a trying element if you’re not a digital marketing expert, so be prepared to learn as much as you can about scheduling content and creating campaigns and align yourself with an experienced digital marketing agency.
Pulling Together a Team
I’m not a coder, animator, voice artist, graphic designer, or developer, but I knew how to start and grow a business and bring together a team that can facilitate all that was necessary. In a very short period of time, I was able to bring together a team that understood my vision, created our joint expectations for revisions and changes in the development process, and had the requisite talents to build a full-featured app in under three months.
Finding talent is essential to creating a productive team. Leverage your personal and professional networks to find candidates with the right development experience. Researching and securing talent online can be tricky because many software engineers are so specific on their coding experience that it can be difficult to know what skillset you really need to produce an app. As such, the meticulous vetting of the appropriate developer is a key first measure in your quest to produce a great app.
Once you have a sense of scale, budget, and time involved in creating the app, then you can find freelance developers and coders, or hire a small development lab that will manage more of the process. To create a full-featured app, you also need to work with a U/X designer to give your app a smooth flow, as well as an animator or graphic designer who can ensure your app’s aesthetics are modern and crisp. Be sure to make each freelancer sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that will protect your intellectual property.
Once your idea takes shape in terms of structure and content, then you need to manage the business side with an attorney, an intellectual property expert, a financial advisor, and any private equity investors or venture capitalists. This is also where the NDA is critical.
A final (and critical) word of advice is, do not pay attention to the money. Generating substantial revenue obviously matters, but you shouldn’t go into this process thinking you’ll generate heaps of cash right away. If you do, then this will become a huge distraction and compromise both your creativity and your tenacity and compromise your focus on the idea and the app’s perpetual development throughout your process. I’ve learned through over 30 years of starting and growing businesses that if you do the right things…the money always follows. The experience you will go through will tax your time and energy like never before and be worth every single minute of your time in your endeavor!
Anyone can create an app without coding experience, but be prepared to work for it! Long days and sleepless nights were worth creating my own app in under three months, and I encourage anyone to pursue the same.
About Thomas Crotty
Thomas Crotty is the founder and CEO of JynxLinks. A career entrepreneur who has started, grown, and sold multiple companies, Crotty created JynxLinks with no software development or animation experience in under three months.