HAVE AN APP IDEA? – Turn it into a successful business!

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Nowadays, pretty much all businesses can benefit from having an app available on iTunes or Google Play. An app itself can even be the starting point of a great business – just think of how they enabled Uber to disrupt taxi services, or Airbnb to change the way we share living space. Gibraltar is no different, with one great example being the rise of the food delivery service, Hungry Monkey – changing the way thousands of people order food in Gib.

Many factors contribute to the success of these services, but the technology at people’s fingertips is often the primary interface between customer and service, which usually means apps these days. In fact, that’s going to be the focus of this column. From my experience, working as a designer at IBM, and as the founder of a design publication with an audience of over 60,000, I’d like to share some design tips that can help anyone turn simple ideas into real products.

Let’s explore how Hungry Monkey was brought to life in collaboration with the digital ordering technology company, Preoday. I got advice from their COO, Matt Graywood, to find out how Preoday gets ideas off the ground based on their experience with Hungry Monkey:

Start with Paper

How do apps like Hungry Monkey come about? In the beginning, it can be as simple as pencil and paper. Have a look at the original paper sketche Preoday used to build out the Hungry Monkey app.

Many people only discuss their ideas, and through talking, you can be quickly discouraged by those who shoot your ideas down. To really find out if your idea is worthwhile, you’ve got to prove it works – and one of the best ways to do so is by starting small and sketching it out. A picture tells a thousand words, so being able to show your idea is a much more powerful tool to get people on board.

Think beyond the app

When designing an app, don’t just think about how it looks and feels in the customer’s hand, but explore how it works with all areas of your business – keep in mind the experience beyond the app. When the ‘order’ button is pressed, what happens in the background to deliver the product and make a memorable customer experience?

In the case of Hungry Monkey,  they coordinate drivers and ensure food orders are prepared on time by restaurants. Therefore, as highlighted by Graywood’s advice below, the technology powering the app from behind the scenes adds to its success:

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs in Gibraltar when it comes to building an app?

First off, go beyond the idea of an app. Preoday itself is a platform with a data portal that collates orders, customer information and facilitates direct communication between the consumer and the business. On the consumer-side that appears as an app or web-portal, but consumers only see a fraction of the technology in play.

In general, it is essential to start with a brilliant business theme. Great companies do not grow out of weak ideas. Once that idea is formulated, find the technology that will deliver on the vision. Finally, make sure your technology is built to evolve and meet changing market requirements.

Build it on the cheap first

Whether you’re designing an entire app, or an additional feature, it’d be a waste of time to build the real version before you know it’ll be successful. This is where design tools come in. They can help you create life-like versions of a real products that people can use like the real thing. Based on their reactions, you can better determine if a feature will be loved.

Pretty much every tech company in the world uses design tools to prototype in this manner – from Netflix and Spotify, to Facebook and Google. Preoday also used a range of these tools to make sure Hungry Monkey would be a success.

What tools do you use to design apps?

Well, we start with good, old-fashioned pencil and paper.

Then, we’ll wire frame in either Balsamiq or Axure, depending on the complexity of the project. We do our high-fidelity art working in Sketch and then prototype in Flinto or InVision, if required. Finally, we use Zeplin as a means of transferring our Sketch files over to the dev department for build. We love Zeplin. It’s a really great tool for narrowing the gap between design and development; we’ve had much better results since using it.

You might not have heard of all the tools, but I encourage you to find out more on my website: prototypr.io.

Put customers first

In the design industry, we often go by the phrase: “You are not your user”.

It’s an important philosophy to keep in mind, because what may seem a fantastic idea to you, might be the complete opposite to the users of your app or service. A similar user-centric approach is followed by Preoday, who are looking to expand the Hungry Monkey service based on the needs of customers:

What’s next for Preoday and Hungry Monkey and why?

Hungry Monkey has already been used by more than a third of the Gibraltarian population and has over 40 venues listed. In the immediate future, it will be continuing to serve these customers while seeking to introduce more people to the benefits of mobile ordering. In the future, who knows? The Preoday platform is flexible, it can expand and evolve alongside Hungry Monkey – so the future is full of potential.

Off-the-shelf or bespoke solutions?

In this mini case study of Hungry Monkey, we saw that the Hungry Monkey founders didn’t actually design the app from scratch, but opted for the best off-the-shelf technology that fit their needs and business model. They found the perfect partner in Preoday, as Graywood conveys:

How did you collaborate with Hungry Monkey?

Preoday provided Hungry Monkey with an e-commerce platform offering mobile and online ordering services for its own customers in Gibraltar.

Our collaboration process was simple. We listened to Hungry Monkey’s requirements and then adjusted the platform configuration to meet their needs. The relationship is ongoing, we provide constant support and regular technology updates.

Hungry Monkey is successful because it chose a great technology partner! But more than that, because it works hard to deliver a great service to both restaurants and consumers.

This is certainly a great way to go, especially if the technology partner is experienced and understands your business. However, as things become easier and faster to build, great app design is increasingly becoming a competitive advantage. Next time, I’ll show you the steps you can take to create your own bespoke solutions, without any technical knowledge.

words | Graeme Fulton, Prototypr