how to launch an app

By Amber Bowers

Did you know that as of 2022, over half of small businesses had built their own Mobile App? As technology advances and consumers become increasingly connected with businesses on their smartphones and devices, many companies will continue to develop mobile apps to better connect with customers.

With the increasing amount of companies building their own apps, the market has become much more saturated and competitive – it’s difficult to develop an app that will stand out in the crowd! It also takes a lot of time, research, and money to develop a successful app. Building an app can cost anywhere between $5,000 and $500,000 depending on the complexity of the software and its functions. This is why creating a solid launch plan is essential for the success of your app!

Our team at Oak City Labs has spent the last several months building an app of our own – Callisto. We are super proud of the work that has been put into this data science notebook and have spent A LOT of time designing a launch plan. In this post, I’ll share with you some tips on how to prepare a comprehensive launch plan for your app.

Conduct Thorough Market Research

This may seem like a no-brainer, but a lot of entrepreneurs do not spend enough time researching to see if there is a need for their product in the market, and their app fails to launch successfully. In fact, you might be surprised to learn that less than 1% of app launches are considered successful. Conducting thorough market research will make or break your launch!

So how do I conduct thorough market research?

Great question! We suggest you start by asking yourself if your product is viable for the current supply & demand trends. Use the chart below as a point of reference to find if there is a need for your product:

Is Your Product Viable

If you’ve found that your product is viable, it’s time to check out your competition and make sure your app offers solutions to the most common issues reported by users. You want to market your product as the more efficient app that will solve the problems presented.

Good market research isn’t just checking product viability and competition – it also means looking into whether your app would perform best on a Cross or Native platform. This is a big decision to make and we get A LOT of questions on this topic. Read more here to get some insider information from our founders on the pros and cons of Cross and Native platforms.

Build a Strong Media Presence

Once you’ve done your due diligence in market research, it’s time to get your name into the world! Your online presence can (and will) make a HUGE impact on how many people your app will reach. Focus on making profiles on platforms that will reflect the purpose of your product. Our app Callisto is for data scientists, so we are using social media platforms like Reddit, LinkedIn and various Facebook groups. While you can have a presence on as many platforms as you’d like, we suggest focusing your time and energy towards your target audience.

You’ll also want to create a demo or trailer of your app to give your audience a glimpse of its highlights! Showcase your app’s best features and explain why your software is the solution to their problem. Click here for a brief example of a trailer that our marketing team put together for Callisto. Make your trailer quick, fun, and engaging!

Beta Test

Before your app goes live, we highly recommend that you ask a group of beta testers to spend time using your product. For your first round of testing, ask family and friends to try out the app and provide their unbiased feedback. For the next round of beta testing, focus on your target audience and have them provide feedback on a questionnaire. Here’s some example questions that you can ask:

“What is one thing you really liked about the app?”
“What is one feature you wished you had in the app?”
“What would prevent you from using the app in the future”

You can use the feedback you generate as a resource to give potential users a glimpse of what other people think of the app. Customers pay close attention to reviews. In fact, studies show that 79% of consumers check ratings and reviews before downloading an app. Additionally, 90% of consumers consider star ratings to be essential when evaluating a new app – check out some stats below to see why maintaining good reviews is so important!

Why Ratings and Reviews Matter

Measure Your App’s Success

After you launch, it will be important to track a measurable level of success to gauge performance and future changes you’ll need to make in the app. Metrics like the install and retention rate are excellent to monitor, as this data will show you how many people are downloading and keeping your app. Read here for tips on how to get your users to stick around after their free trial. Revenue is another easy way to track your app’s performance. This information will help you adjust course if necessary and give you an idea on how many updates you should make to the software.

Conclusion

Developing a comprehensive launch plan can be an overwhelming process, but trust me – if you put in the time and effort, it will pay off! By spending enough time doing market research, building a strong online presence, beta testing, and measuring your app’s success, you will be positioned in an excellent place to get your app off the bench and into the world.

If you have any questions about your launch, we’d love to talk to you! Please reach out to support@oakcity.io or click here to schedule a call with us.

Educational Institution Web Portal Development

We have had the privilege of working with Michael Crary, CFO & COO, from Florida Dysphagia Institute (FDI) on their Educational software.

The Challenge

FDI had an existing website that was not functioning well. They approached us, from a high recommendation from a friend with a related business. Their goals were to make our existing website functional and expand its capabilities.

Here’s a review (from our clutch.com profile) highlighting Dr. Crary’s experience.

Oak City Labs works thoroughly — they make sure to produce outputs on time and exactly according to specifications. Their project management skills are top-notch as well.

The Approach

How did you select this vendor and what were the deciding factors?
We selected Oak City based on a personal referral from a friend in a related business.

Describe the scope of work in detail, including the project steps, key deliverables, and technologies
used.

Oak City conducted several planning meetings in order to best understand our goals and to present their potential solutions in terms of developing a new website. We abandoned the site we came with and went with an entirely new site. The new site included a searchable global directory of our customers, ability to enroll customers in courses, ability to support customers with critical pieces of information and apps, ability to track customer status and update as needed, and more. 

How many people from the vendor’s team worked with you, and what were their positions?
At various points along this project we have worked with every member of the Oak City team. They function as a team and this was to our benefit.

The Outcome

Can you share any measurable outcomes of the project or general feedback about the deliverables?

Our new website does exactly what Oak City promised it would do. We are still adding new features but when finished it will be absolutely wonderful. Our business is nearly ‘turn key’ will most aspects of the business operated directly from this new website.

“Oak City Labs finds ways to get things done exactly how they promised.

Describe their project management style, including communication tools and timeliness. 

Management was excellent. Regular meetings were scheduled via Zoom with the entire team that was working on our project including management. Oak City was highly responsive and delivered on time.

What did you find most impressive or unique about this company?
The fact that they delivered exactly what was promised. Our prior experience with vendors in this sector was that once a project started, the excuses followed as to why they could not do this or that. Oak City Labs finds ways to get things done exactly how they promised.

Are there any areas for improvement or something they could have done differently?
None

Web Portal Development for Educational Institution

By: Carol Vercellino, CEO & Co-Founder

In our last tutorial, you learned how to conduct the investigation phase of an End-User Needs Assessment. If you haven’t watched parts one through three, pause this one, and click on the link in the description section to watch those videos first.

An end-user needs assessment typically has three phases: the preparation phase, the investigation phase, and the decision phase.

In this video, we’re going to show you how to conduct the final phase, the decision phase.

 

Let’s recap what you’ve accomplished so far with your End-User Needs Assessment:

What is the decision phase?

The decision phase is where all your hard work comes together. You get to decide on the features your new proposed system or product will have and how you’re going to build it.

To do this, we recommend creating an Impact/Effort Matrix. 

What is an Impact/Effort Matrix

An Impact/Effort matrix is a 2×2 grid that will help you decide which system or product features will have the highest impact with the lowest effort. 

We explain in more detail what an Impact/Effort matrix is and how to build one in our video on Features Prioritization.

Here’s a quick breakdown:

In an Impact/Effort Matrix, Impact is how well the feature will meet your end-users needs. And Effort is the time and budget that will be required to build that feature.

When you create your Impact/Effort Matrix, we suggest doing it as a team exercise with your stakeholders. 

impact effort matrixTo get started, draw your matrix on a whiteboard. 

Take the list of features you created in Part 3 and write each one on a sticky note. Take each sticky note, discuss the feature with your team, and vote on how much effort it will take and the impact it will have on your users based on the decision criteria you chose in Part 2.

  • For features that will have a high impact and high effort, place them in the top-right square.
  • For features that will have a high impact but low effort, place them in the top-left square.
  • For features that will have a low impact and low effort, place them in the bottom-left square.
  • And for features that will have a low impact and high effort, place them in the bottom-right square.

Conclusion

Remember, with an end-user needs assessment, your ultimate goal is to ensure you’re meeting your end-user’s current needs and creating new opportunities for your company to upstage the competition and wow your customers.

So, once you’ve narrowed down your features list and decided how you will build your new system or product – CONGRATS! – you can now move into development!

If you need help deciding if – and how – you will outsource development, head to our blog at oakcity.io for more information. You can also schedule a free 30-minute consultation call with us. We can help you decide whether or not your idea is feasible and profitable.

Open Source Licenses

By: Carol Vercellino, CEO & Co-Founder

When developing software, you make a lot of big decisions. But choosing your open source license is up there as one of the most important decisions you’re going to make during the development process.

So, today we’re going to talk about open source licenses.

What are they? Why should you care? And which one will be the best fit for your project when it comes to commercialization.

Let’s dive in.

What is an open source license?

An open source license is a software license for your open source software. It tells you how it can be used and the rules that govern how you use it.

How is open source typically used in projects?

A lot of times you see labyrinths and frameworks that are open source that you might want to use in a software application.

Basically, the licensing for those comes down to two different kinds. There’s a permissive licensing and a more restrictive licensing. The more restrictive licensing will say that if you use  an open source project in your application, then you have to open source the whole application. The GPL is the main one that you’ll see with those restrictions. 

So, that’s a concern people have when they use open source software in a commercial closed source application. You have to ask, can I use this library – this other piece of code – in my application and still be able to sell it commercially – without giving up all the source code?

What are the top open source licenses? 

There’s the GPL, which is probably the most popular restrictive one. Then, other ones you might hear are, the MIT license and the BSD license. Those are much more permissive –  you can use the software in your closed source software.

There may be details like, if you make changes to the library, then you need to open source those, but you can still have a closed source application you sell, including these open source libraries under the MIT and BSD license.

Apache is another one of those more permissive licences. 

GPL is where you want to check with lawyers because it has some very specific limitations. If you’re using a GPL application as part of your software, and it talks to other pieces over the network, then maybe that’s okay.  But the GPL is definitely something you want to stop and take a harder look at to see if that’s going to work for whatever model you’re distributing. 

Another sort of weird thing about the GPL is it says you only have to open source things you distribute. So, if you’re a big company building something internally, then maybe that’s okay because you can use it internally without having to distribute source code.

Which open source license is best for commercialization? 

The most straightforward one is the MIT license. We have a few open source things and they’re distributed under MIT. That basically says, here’s some software, you get to do with it what you want. There might be a clause about attribution. That’s really the most permissive, so there are no restrictions.

**The above interview has been transcribed for clarity and brevity.**

Ready to learn more about software development? Here’s how to choose a programming language for your product.

Web Portal Development for Educational Institution

By: Carol Vercellino, CEO & Co-Founder

You’ve now learned that an End-User Needs Assessment is the process of evaluating the needs of the people who will be using your software or app.

An end-user needs assessment typically has three phases: the preparation phase, the investigation phase, and the decision phase.

In this video, we’re going to show you how to conduct the investigation phase.

What is the investigation phase?

In the investigation phase, you’re working to wrap your head around your present situation. For example, what is your existing system or process? And how does it work? Then, you want to identify alternatives to that existing system.

If you don’t have an existing system, consider what else exists on the market or what your competitor uses.

As you dive into the investigation phase, make sure you understand how your system works – at least well enough to explain its function to your project team. We recommend listing out all of your system’s (or competitor’s systems) features and functions so your team can easily identify deficiencies or opportunities for your new system.

Also, problems – like going over budget or having to delay the launch – arise when companies assume they know what their users like or dislike about their product, only to discover later that they missed the mark and have to go back to the drawing board to fix it. So, it’s vital to engage your end users and stakeholders in the investigation phase to nail down exactly what it is your users want from the start.

How to conduct the investigation phase with your team

Here are some questions you and your team should ask to evaluate your present system:

  • What features of the existing system do your users like?
  • What features do your users not like?
  • What features do your users think are missing or wrong?
  • How can the existing system be improved?

List out every possibility – big or small. You can decide later, in the decision phase, what features are feasible to develop.

Conclusion

Once you’ve completed the investigation phase, you can move on to the decision phase where you’ll flush out the new proposed system and how you’ll build it. 

Follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter to learn more in Part IV of our End-User Assessment video series.

Don’t have a tech idea yet? Find the sweet spot between what you know and what the world needs by downloading our free retooled SWOT framework. Get it here.

Web Portal Development for Educational Institution

By: Carol Vercellino, CEO & Co-Founder

In our last video, you learned that an End-User Needs Assessment is the process of evaluating the needs of the people who will be using your software or app.

An end-user needs assessment typically has three phases: the preparation phase, the investigation phase, and the decision phase.

In this video, we’re going to show you how to conduct the preparation phase.

 

Step 1: Choose your stakeholders

In the preparation phase, your goal is to choose your stakeholders, understand your customer’s problems, identify the decision criteria, and gather the information needed for your project.

So, to begin, who are your stakeholders?

Your stakeholders are the people who will be impacted by your product. Who might stand to gain or lose from your product’s success or failure? Who could you engage that might have a unique perspective on the problem your product solves and the potential solutions?

Of course, your end-users fall under this category. But, while all end users could be stakeholders, all stakeholders aren’t end-users. Here are a few examples of potential stakeholders:

  • People funding the product development
  • Business managers and architects
  • Data architects and database administrators
  • Your development team
  • The product owner
  • The project manager
  • Account and sales manager
  • Your direct and indirect users

Once you’ve established who your stakeholders are, you can then move on to identifying your customer’s problems.

Step 2: Understand your customer’s problems

Gather your stakeholders together and list on a whiteboard all the potential problems your end-user might have in relation to your product. 

Consider solutions that are not as obvious. Are there technical problems? Organizational problems? Problems you can uncover by observing the end-user in their environment?

You can conduct market research, send out surveys, create customer personas, and gather customer feedback to identify those pain points.

Of course, it’s not always possible to solve every problem your end-user has, especially in the first iteration of your product. So, after you’ve made your list, you’ll want to identify your decision criteria to narrow that list down when it comes to product development.

Step 3: Identify the decision criteria

Your decision criteria are the factors that will impact your final decisions. For example, are there budget limitations? Time constraints? Current technology that needs to be updated or developed first? Or systems or personnel that may be impacted?

Make a list of all these factors so you can decide what problems your product will specialize in solving and which features will be developed first. 

Step 4: Gather all necessary information

The final step in phase 1, the preparation phase, is to gather all the information you need for your project. This information might include, but not be limited to:

  • List of stakeholders
  • List of problems/pain points
  • Market research & strategy
  • Surveys or questionnaires completed by end-users
  • Competitor analysis
  • Vision document
  • Value Proposition
  • Business model canvas
  • Features list

Conclusion

Now that you’ve completed the preparation phase, you can move on to the investigation phase where you’ll begin to wrap your head around your present situation. For example, what is your existing system or process? And how does it work? You’ll then identify alternatives to that existing system.

 

Follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter to learn more in Part III of our End-User Assessment video series.

Don’t have a tech idea yet? Find the sweet spot between what you know and what the world needs by downloading our free retooled SWOT framework. Get it here.

Creating an End-User Needs Assessment

By: Carol Vercellino, CEO & Co-Founder

Our clients often bring us pre-existing software or apps to fix. You’d be surprised how many of these solutions – that companies have spent thousands and thousands of dollars on – don’t come even close to meeting their end-user’s needs, or simply working as planned.

Even when they have the best or most practical designs, when it comes to testing or scaling the product, everything begins to unravel.

Now, we work with smart people. Really smart people. But even the smartest people can make seemingly obvious errors when it comes to technology. And most of the time those errors could have been avoided looong before the development process.

Which is why we encourage all our clients to perform an end-user needs assessment before finalizing the features list or development roadmap.

What is an end-user needs assessment?

If you’ve ever considered developing, or even just buying, technology for your business, you probably know what a technology needs assessment is. 

A technology needs assessment is an assessment of the technological needs of your company. Pretty straightforward, right?

Now, an end-user needs assessment is very similar except you’re evaluating the needs of…you guessed it, your end-user.

Basically, before you develop a software product, app, or other technology for your company, you should first understand the problem or problems your end-user is having, which product/service/feature best meets their needs, and how they’re going to use it.

A needs assessment can help you answer those two questions, plus it should also help you answer the question:

Will this tech or feature improve your bottom line, streamline processes, and increase customer satisfaction? Or will it simply drain your funds?

Obviously, we’re trying to avoid the latter.

How do you create an end-user needs assessment?

Okay, so you understand what an end-user needs assessment is. But how do you conduct it?

An end-user needs assessment typically includes 3 phases:

  1.  the preparation phase
  2. the investigation phase
  3. the decision phase.

The preparation phase

In the preparation phase, your goal is to choose your stakeholders, understand your customer’s problem or problems, identify the decision criteria, and gather the information needed for your project.

We’ll dive more into the preparation phase in Part 2 of this video series.

The investigation phase

In the investigation phase, you’re working to wrap your head around your present situation. For example, what is your existing system or process? And how does it work? Then, you want to identify alternatives to that existing system. 

You’ll learn more about the investigation phase in part 3 of this series.

The decision phase

Finally, in part 4 of our video series, you have the decision phase. This is when you’ll flush out the new proposed system and how you’ll build it

Conclusion

With a needs assessment, your ultimate goal is to ensure you’re meeting your end-user’s current needs and creating new opportunities for your company to upstage the competition and wow your customers.

Understanding what an end-users needs assessment is just the beginning. Follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter to learn more in Part II of our End-User Assessment video series.

Don’t have a tech idea yet? Find the sweet spot between what you know and what the world needs by downloading our free retooled SWOT framework. Get it here.