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Defining Your Concept

This post is supplemental to Unit 102 of the App Building Course.

You've got an idea...that's why you're here!

It may already be a fairly developed idea, or you may be working from a raw concept that you need to chew through. Regardless of how far along your idea is, let's talk about some of the key questions that will help to define your concept.

What do I mean by defining your concept? Well, it's just not enough to say "I want to make it easy for people to buy coffee." You can't build technology that makes it easier for people to buy coffee without determining what that means specifically. For example, you might have noticed that people spend a lot of money throughout a given month at all different coffee shops. Each individual shop has its own frequency program, but you want users to be able to collect points regardless of where they buy their coffee. You plan to generate a large user base and sell sponsorships from different coffee shops.

So, on its face, yes, you're making it easier for people to buy coffee. But now you're zooming in to the actual concept, which can be used to start building an app! Let's continue...

The first question we want to tackle is: is this a totally new idea that will stand alone? Or is it based on something you're already doing offline or manually?

This question usually applies to businesses that have a system they run offline that they are looking to digitize. Things like project and customer management, real estate systems, etc. Things of that nature. So with this question we need to identify if there is another system we are recreating, or one that we need to hook up or incorporate...or if this is a completely novel system.

Let's assume in the case of the coffee app example that this is a novel idea.

Now I want to ask you, how did you come up with this idea?

What made you think about this...and what problem are you looking to solve? Going back to the moment that the idea sprouted in your brain will likely help you to verbalize not just the solution...but the problem as well. It's important to always keep the problem in mind so that you can always go back and ensure that you're sticking to your original idea.

In our coffee app example, the key problem we're looking at is the dollars that are being spent inefficiently at Dunkin, Starbucks and hometown coffee shops. Wouldn't it be nice if all those dollars were going toward one goal? So as we're building this app, we can compare any new feature ideas back to this point.

Who is your target user?

Now if you're particularly optimistic or high on your idea, you'll likely say EVERYONE! This is for EVERYONE! But this is a bad rabbit hole to go down. Even if eventually this is something that catches fire in a universal way, you need to identify a target based on the primary person you expect to use the app. In this way you can tailor the app to them, rather than trying to be all things to all people.

In our coffee app example, we're probably talking to young professional. Not only are these the most adept coffee drinkers, but these are also a loyal customer base that has little to no technology learning curve.

Now at the same time, we are going to take into consideration usership outside of that demographic by making the programming universally simple. Although we are targeting toward a specific demographic, you can never go wrong with being generically user-friendly in such a way that anyone, yes anyone can pick up the app and be fairly confident in how to use it.

You also need to ask yourself why will people use your app?

Although obvious, this question will help determine how strong your concept actually is. You could have the greatest idea in theory, but if it's not truly something usable, you need to go back to the drawing board. This also being us into the competition question. But competition doesn't just mean are there any other apps like this out there...the question really is: is there another way to do what you're trying to do here? And if there is, what advantages does your idea have over the others? See, you need to clearly define why people will download and use your app.

Let's return to the coffee app example. A legitimate question is, if users have individual apps for Starbucks and Dunkin and are collecting points separately...why would they use this app?

Now having competition present doesn't discredit the idea at the getgo. Quite the contrary. It gives you the opportunity to build in key differentiators at this stage. What do those other apps lack that you can offer? Well, if you're going to unify all coffee purchases, what you're giving in return for usin the app has to be comparable to what the other apps are giving.

This is the direction you need to be thinking in.

I recommend you take some time to pour over these questions as it relates to your idea. There' slots more in the next session - but if you're ready to start a conversation with one of our experts about making your app idea a reality, visit us at

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