A Beginner’s Guide to Building and Marketing an App

On May 24, 2013, a Vietnamese developer, Dong Nguyen, launched his mobile game app, “Flappy Bird,” in the App Store. For the first couple of weeks, it sat there, with a few reviews and not much action. He then moved the app over to the “Family” category and things began to happen. Within 4 more weeks, it was literally the hottest app in the store, and Nguyen was a millionaire.

Apps are a bit like a hit song. No one can know for sure what will take off and what won’t. If you have an idea for an app, and you think it’s a good one, you should go for it. But don’t go for it without some practical advice on development and marketing. Here is a quick beginner’s guide that may help.


Get Your Idea and “Prototype” Down on Paper. Go screen-by-screen and make it clear and detailed. You can find prototyping tools online to help. Do not get lazy about this initial phase – whether you develop it yourself or hire someone else to, the detailed requirements must be in place.

Begin the Development Phase. If you are developing the app yourself, it will probably help to enroll in a mobile app development boot camp. You will develop your app with help and support, and the chances for bugs are far less.

Marketing: Pre-Launch Steps

Begin Before Launch. Select important keywords to identify your app to customers who will be searching for it. This can get a bit tricky but you can use the App Store Optimization tool. It will identify the keywords most frequently used by competitors’ apps and how often those keywords are searched for in the stores.

Craft a Great Name. The name itself can be an enticement to a potential customer. Make sure a keyword is in it, and make it memorable.

Get the Right Category. Choosing a category that is filled with lots of high-ranking apps will not get you too far up in the charts. And your toughest competitors may be in those categories. If you choose a related but less popular category, you may move up faster. Either choice involves some risk, but you can always change categories later.

Create a Great Icon. If you find yourself not too creative, you can use any number of online tools or a site like Fiverr. The icon must relate to your app and must be eye-catching. Apple will not carry an app without a great icon, so get this one right.

Get Great Screenshots. When a visitor comes to your app detail page in the store, s/he want to get a preview of what it “looks” and “feels” like. Choose great screenshots and you can entice a sale.

Marketing: Post-Launch

Get Reviews. You will have to find niche app review sites, and this will also give a boost to download numbers in the stores. There are also popular bloggers who review apps. Find those that reviewed your competitors. Keep on this one.

Use Social Media to Promote Your App. There are proven tactics for app promotion on social media, and using what others have already done successfully means you don’t have to re-invent anything.

Encourage Users to Review. Provide more currency or one of the upgrades in exchange for a 5-star review. The more you get, the higher your search rankings. Do this consistently.

Run Burst Campaigns. This will be paid advertising, of course, but here is a list of top sources. Do this as you are getting close to those download numbers that will be moving you up on the charts.

Get a Website that Features Your App. Your store detail page will only go so far. Your website can feature much more and provide user experiences with the app. Make sure reviewers link to your app in the store and to your website.

This short guide should get you started. You can find more complete information on app marketing with a bit of research. The important thing is that you pursue your good idea and get it out there.

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Written by:
Dianna is a former ESL teacher and World Teach volunteer, currently living in France. She's slightly addicted to apps and viral media trends and helps different companies with product localization and content strategies. You can tweet her at @dilabrien
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