A Step-by-Step Guide to Taking Your App from Concept to Launch

A Step-by-Step Guide to Taking Your App from Concept to Launch

April 4, 2023
Diego Machado
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Have you heard the saying, "Ideas are cheap, execution is everything"? Well, it is true. As a business owner or someone with an idea for the next big thing, you probably wonder, "What steps do I need to take in order to take my idea from concept to launch?"

In this guide, I will try to list all the steps needed to get from idea to production. We will take a mobile app as an example, but the concepts can be more or less applied to any digital product.

Idea Definition

This is one of the most important steps, if not the most important. Every step defined here is built on top of the previous one, so the foundation is critical. Idea definition involves moving your idea from the abstract to a detailed document explaining what your app does, what problem it solves, and who the target audience is.

Most likely, you think you know everything related to your idea, you believe you have it well-defined on your sheet of paper, and maybe you do. In our experience, there are four types of founders:

Let me explain first what each of these means:

For example:

  1. Healthcare professionals working to improve a patient management system: In this case, doctors and nurses who use the system daily are SMEs. Their firsthand experience with the challenges and limitations of the current system allows them to offer valuable input on how to enhance its functionality and better meet the needs of healthcare providers and patients.

  1. Teachers developing educational materials for students with learning disabilities: Here, the teachers who work closely with these students can be considered SMEs. Their deep understanding of the students' specific learning needs and the challenges they face enables them to contribute meaningfully to the creation of more effective educational resources and teaching strategies.

For example:

  1. A tech-savvy entrepreneur who notices inefficiencies in the way small businesses manage their inventory. Recognizing the potential for improvement, they develop a user-friendly inventory management software that simplifies the process, reduces errors, and saves time for small business owners.

  1. A sustainability-focused entrepreneur who observes the growing problem of plastic waste and its impact on the environment. Inspired to address this issue, they establish a company that designs and manufactures eco-friendly, biodegradable alternatives to single-use plastic products, helping to reduce plastic pollution and promote a greener lifestyle.

With that in mind, we can sort these groups by the ones that are most at risk of failure if they don't invest time in doing a proper idea definition process:

  1. Opportunity-aware people without Product Development experience
  2. Subject Matter Experts without Product Development experience
  3. Opportunity-aware people with Product Development experience
  4. Subject Matter Experts with Product Development experience

But, what is the process that needs to be followed in order to define an idea? At TowerHouse Studio, we have a simple yet effective method for moving an idea from the abstract into a tangible product. Our objective is to understand what is in the owner's mind, understand the idea one hundred percent, and we do that by having several meetings with the owner in which we hear all about the idea. As we understand more and more, we start asking questions about different scenarios, questions that may put the idea at risk of not being valid. But it is through those questions and, more importantly, through the responses to them that the idea starts to become more defined. When the owner does not have a clear answer, we provide possible solutions based on our experience, but there are times when the owner will need to retreat and think about how to solve the problem that the question presented.

Market Research

An important tool in helping define the idea is to conduct market research, with this we can answer some of the questions presented in the previous phase. By looking at the competition, we can see how they are solving the problem, or even see if we can do a better job at it.

We can also understand how users are feeling and what they value the most. It is important to see social media comments, comments on App Store pages, Reddit, and whatever we can find to get a sense of what is important for their users and what is not.

But be careful, because this exercise can become a rabbit hole, you should not be at this stage for too long. Usually, you should identify the two or three most popular competitors and analyze them. More than that and it will take too long, hindering your progress.

Requirement Documents

Once you clearly understand the idea, it is time to put it on paper. What we found to be the most effective way of doing that is creating a requirements document using User Stories, which are short, simple, and concise descriptions of a feature or functionality from an end-user's perspective. These user stories help capture the needs, goals, and expectations of the target audience and serve as a communication tool between stakeholders, developers, and designers throughout the development process. By focusing on user-centered design and prioritizing features based on their value to the end-user, User Stories ensure that the final product or service aligns with customer needs and preferences.

Why do we recommend doing it like this? That is because any development team will be able to understand user stories. They will know exactly what needs to be done if the stories are correctly written following the INVEST criteria. Remember that at the end of the day, one of the reasons you want to have your idea clearly defined is to be able to execute it, and if you go to any development team with a poorly defined idea, you will end up with expensive rework and wasted time.

Wireframing and Prototyping

Having your idea well-defined and your user stories written allows you to move into the next stage of the product development journey: wireframing and prototyping.

It is a good idea to start by doing wireframes of the most important user stories, that way you can quickly see if the general direction makes sense and if the requirements capture the essence of what you imagined.

UI/UX Design

At this stage, you are ready to move into design. With user stories in place and wireframes validated and approved, a designer can work on defining the final look and feel of the application. At this stage, the designer will create a brand book and high-definition screens of the most important flows. It is important to provide honest feedback at this stage because this will be the foundation of your application's look and feel.


Now, you may think it's a good time to move into development, having your requirements documents and design. What more could be needed?

Well, that is partially true; you have more than most owners at this stage. However, there is one more activity that can help you save time and money down the road, and that activity is called prototyping. The designer will take the user stories and design guidelines and create every single page and flow of the application (or at least the ones needed for the MVP). Then, by using a tool like Figma, they will create a clickable prototype that will look exactly like the final application. With that, you will be able to test your application and see how it feels. You will be able to show it to potential users and get early feedback. The advantage is that, if you want to change something, it is much cheaper to do it at this stage than after writing code, so you will want to get all the feedback you can at this stage.

Technology Selection and Architecture Design

Most teams don't do this until development starts, but for us, this aligns with the idea definition and end goal of the application. It is important to understand the application's objectives and the potential number of users so that the architecture and infrastructure are planned accordingly. I'm not saying you should set up an architecture that supports millions of users right from the start, but it is important to know the goal so that any decision made is not contrary to that objective.

It is true that things can be changed down the road, but the entire spirit is to be optimal and not waste time and money doing rework. The same applies here.

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Selecting the Correct Development Company

If you made it this far, you now have your requirements document with user stories, a design and clickable prototype, and the software architecture design. Now you are ready to start the development phase.

If you don't have a development team in-house, you will need to find a company to partner with. This is a challenging process because there are many options to choose from. You will need to align your objectives and preferences with the budget you have available.

The first thing to consider is the agency location. You can choose from:

Local Development Agency

This is a company that is located in the same city or country as you. If you are someone without product development experience, then you are probably more comfortable with this option because you are afraid of the unknown. You don't know what working with a team from a different culture will be like. While this may be the most convenient option, it is also the most expensive; you will need to have a larger budget to get the same result as with other options.

Offshore Development Agency

This is a company that is located overseas, in countries like India or China. The main advantage of working with one of these companies is lower prices, but the challenge is finding a good company. If you focus only on lower rates, you will probably end up with a low-quality application. This is also because the really good companies tend to compete in price with US companies. Being really good allows them to increase their rates due to the high demand they face.

Another challenge, and perhaps the one that is more concerning to you, is the lack of quality communication. Offshore companies are in a very different timezone than you, meaning that when it is business hours on your end, your team will probably be sleeping and working during your nights. This makes communication very complex, as more often than not, you end up wasting an entire day to get responses to your questions and feedback.

Nearshore Development Agency

Nearshore companies are also located overseas but in South America. The main advantage is that these companies work in a similar timezone to you, meaning they work at the same time as you do, thus providing high-quality communication. Another advantage is the cultural similarities; the people in these companies watch the same movies as you do and share similar values. And although the prices are higher than those seen in countries like India and China, they are still about half the price of those from US companies, which provides the perfect balance between quality and cost.

Regardless of where your development team is from and regardless of the price, it is important that you feel comfortable working with them. We recommend that before signing a long-term contract with any company, you first do a trial period or engage in a smaller contract to understand what working with them feels like.

Marketing Plan

Your marketing plan can be put together before or during the development process. But regardless of when it is done, it is important to do it. Remember that once your application is developed, you still need to ensure it reaches your target audience's hands.

Audience Definition

If the idea definition stage was done correctly, you already have a clear picture of who your target audience is. It is usually the users who are suffering from the problem your application is solving. One of the main reasons it is important to understand your audience is to know where your users spend their time online.

Organic Traffic

One of the most cost-effective approaches is to generate organic traffic, which is mostly done through content. You need to talk about the problem you are solving, participate in all discussions online, and position yourself as an expert in that area. This is not an easy thing to do; it takes time and consistency. You need to generate quality content and do it often. The challenge here is knowing that this is a long-term plan; it is not done overnight. It takes a long time, but once you are able to do it, it is a cost-effective way to get users to your application.

Paid Traffic

To make paid traffic work, you really need to understand your audience because you will spend money to make money. Ideally, when you spend $1 in paid traffic, you will get at least $2 in return, but this is not always the case. To make paid traffic work, you need to understand the lifetime value (LTV) of a customer. Only then will you know if what you are spending in paid traffic is generating a return on your investment.

By knowing your target audience, you will understand what search queries they use when looking for solutions to their problems. You can also see what keywords your competitors are buying. With that information and the LTV of your customers, you will know which keywords to go for and what the maximum you can spend per client is.

App Store Optimization

App Store Optimization (ASO) is the process of optimizing mobile apps to rank higher in app store search results, increase visibility, and drive more downloads. ASO is crucial for the success of an app, as a higher ranking can lead to more organic downloads and reduce the reliance on paid user acquisition.

Post-Launch Activities

Releasing your application to the world is just the beginning of the journey. You need to maintain focus, continue to move forward, and improve your product. Keep evolving and adjusting to changes; there are many stories of huge companies that died because they did not evolve.

Getting User Feedback

You need to continue to listen to your users, take their feedback seriously, and, more importantly, ask for their feedback. You can conduct surveys and offer a gift if they provide feedback.

Planning New Versions

With the feedback you receive, you can prioritize new development and new features. You can decide what the next version of your application should include. With your users' feedback, you may realize that the big feature release you had in mind might not be as important to them as you thought.

If you follow these steps, you will be able to get your application from idea to production, ensuring you did all your homework. The initial steps are the most important, as having a clear idea definition and a proper requirements document is the foundation for optimizing your time and money.

Also, keep in mind that you don't need to do all of these tasks by yourself; you can rely on professionals like us to help you in the discovery journey. By partnering with the right experts and staying focused on your users' needs, you'll be well on your way to creating a successful and impactful application.

Diego Machado