Where to begin

By Mike / On / In Knowledge

A lot of aspiring App Makers contact me, wondering how to get started turning their idea into an actual product. Should they hire a coder, or learn to code themselves? Or should they start with a designer? Or an investor? My advice, as always, is to start at the end. That is, make a video that shows people using your app.

This accomplishes several things. First and foremost, it establishes the story of your product, which is what people will tell each other about your product. It also gives you focus. People always tell you to do one thing and do it well. This establishes that one thing right up front.

When you’re making the video what you’re doing is you’re putting yourself in your customer’s shoes. You’re stopping to think, in a formal way, about what it’s like for people to use your product. As you go through those motions, you realize what the product needs to be, the genesis of design.

Making a video also establishes a vision of the product. I’m a big fan of generating marketing materials early in the product development process, because it helps everyone know just what exactly you’re intending to build. Great products come from great teams, but only if everyone agrees on what they’re building.

By the time your video is finished, you’ll know what you’re building, what it looks like, and how it works. You’ve also got the video itself, which you’ll show to potential recruits, investors, and customers. In addition to showing the world why they would use your product, the video shows them how they would use your product. This is Apple’s favorite trick: pre-training people with commercials, making the products seem intuitive.

App videos have become increasingly popular if only because they fill the gap left by app stores cutting out trial periods. If you can’t try it, at least you can see someone else trying it. For a lot of people, that’s the push they need to buy. That also means that app videos are as competitive as apps themselves.

The standard presentation rules apply. You want to entertain, inspire, and educate, in that order. A minute is a gigabyte of attention span, so try to keep the video short. Be creative, but don’t go overboard. Getting the audio quality right is more important than all the stunts in the world.