By Andrew Sosa, Creative Director at Squareball Studios.

Mobile apps used to be the new thing. Now they're like underwear -- almost everyone has a drawer full.

Statista has been tracking the proliferation of apps in the Apple Store. As of January 2017, there were 2.2 million apps just waiting to be downloaded to your mobile phone. Perhaps "waiting" isn't the right word -- most of these apps aren't sitting still. According to Smart Insights, 90 percent of the considerable time Americans spend on their cell phones is spent actively using apps. As the creative director of a mobile app design and development firm, I often see people building applications incorrectly by simply looking to cover the needed basic assessments. You shouldn't jump into getting an app developed without the proper feedback regarding overhead costs.

The good news is that we've learned a lot from rolling out all these software options over the years. The bad news is there's so much competition now, you better not miss a beat -- or your app might flounder. So, what should a prospective developer or entrepreneur consider before building and marketing a new app?

The first step in app development is, of course, having the idea. But how do you know if the idea will hold water in an already saturated marketplace? We suggest to our clients that all budding app developers go through a product validation exercise before the build. With that said, we suggest a multi-step planning approach that will take time on the backend but ultimately save time (and money) on the front end.

Identify the demand for the app. 

Google Keyword Planner can help you determine the volume of people who are searching for what you're trying to sell. You will also be able to see the competition for your targeted product keywords, which will indicate "hotness" (or not-ness) in the market.

Shopify blog contributor Richard Lazazzera suggests using Google Trends to search for a more global portrait of how your product may do long term. At my company, we have standard market validation and business analysis procedures that entail interviewing/job shadowing along with testing several use cases via a prototype to the parties involved.

Identify competitors. 

Starting with a simple Google search, look for direct competitors as well as crossover competition that uses some of the relevant features of your app. SimilarWeb can help you deep dive competitor details like website traffic, organic and paid keywords and social referrals. How long have these competitors been in business and what kind of social media following do they have? All of this data will tell you something about your potential app.

Wireframe it. 

Map the features, flow and user experience of the app. How will users navigate it? How will you track downloads or other analytics on the back end? This mapping process will help you eliminate extraneous functions that will bog down the app. Our team gathers the needed data to create a solution that caters to all parties involved in using the final product to avoid any unforeseen gaps in the future. Remember, if your initial offering is successful, there will be version upgrades. Going to market with a lean and mean version will also save you money.

Product validation is a necessary first step on the road to app development. If you've completed these or other product validation steps, you're one step closer to knocking it out of the app park. Keep in mind that this is just the beginning of a process that stretches across research, pre-testing, go-live, feedback and new feature introduction.

Andrew Sosa is Creative Director at Squareball Studios, a leading Dallas based mobile app design & development firm for startups and large enterprises.

Published on: Mar 14, 2018