5 steps to creating an app: an entrepreneur’s guide

“fitbook should be an app!”
“have you thought about creating an app?”
“you know what would be a good idea? create an app.

yes, i hear you loud and clear. i’m not ignoring you, i promise. and our app has been in development for over 18 months. we’ve been workin’ on it – until now. it’s here. oh yes, it is. our long-awaited app has arrived.  what took so long? oh i’m so glad you asked.

here’s a little glimpse inside my world of creating an app, step-by-step.

1) identify if you really need an app
our bread n’ butta is fitbook. a brilliantly designed (in my not-so-humble opinion) pen + paper product that 6 years running now has proven to be the driving force behind fitlosophy’s growth.  so why would i create an app that would take away from that? at first glance, my thought was, “uh, no.”  but, i’ve always operated my business on this philosophy: give customers what they want. that said, my mission was to delve deeper and give you something that you maybe didn’t even know you need. so here’s why we moved forward designing an app: i knew that i could create an app that adds value to my existing customers and would simultaneously attract new users; people that have and never will use a tangible fitbook but want our design in a digital format.

app tip:  in business, there are always trends and you have to have a clear picture of which ones you will follow and which ones you will set. part of fitlosophy’s success has been in its ability to buck the trend and go against the flow. i mean, who creates a paper journal in the age of technology?  please head to your nearest Target location and you will find fitbook lining the shelves of all 1790+ stores nationwide. sometimes being different, works.

2) don’t deliver the expected
i didn’t want to create an app just for the sake of creating an app. would creating a replication of fitbook in an app form add value? not really. there are a ton of calorie-counting, workout-tracking apps out there and to create one this late in the game that was more of the same, well that’s just silly. instead, i approached this with one question in mind: “what would help my fitbookers reach their goals?”  when using fitbook, the single factor that affects whether or not someone is successful is two fold: 1) having a very clear, measurable goal and 2) identifying that driving factor and underlying motivation behind wanting to achieve a goal. for me, solving that piece of the puzzle for my existing customers and adding value for those individuals was my key priority.  coming up with a solution for someone who had never used fitbook before would come second.

app tip: figure out how to add value and who you’re adding value for. delivering an app for loyal, paying customers who support your brand should supersede creating a solution for people who aren’t even familiar with who you are. it’s tempting to want to provide all things to all people, but as a small business you have to stay intently focused on who your customer is at all times and keep them happy first and foremost.

 3) be on-brand.
when i sat down to design this, i literally walked through every single scenario, goal, motivation, and outcome possible.  from writing every single goal that you might have and determining how you measure progress to identifying where you are now and what will motivate you to get where you want to be, i spent hours upon hours configuring just how the app would work so that you got to the end of it and said, “wow.”  i want to wow you.  it was crucial to me to design an app that stays true to our goal-setting methodology and focus on journaling, but also harnesses the power of technology to be able to analyze your goal and tell you if it’s achievable.  yes, it’s that smart!  i designed it so that if you have a goal to lose too much weight too fast or your goal weight isn’t healthy, we give you a big red X.  now that, adds value.   so if you go through the app and feel like you just had a mini coaching session with me, then mission accomplished!

app tip:  creating an app reflects on your brand, so it’s important that the app is a piece of your overall strategy, rather than being your only strategy.  for fitlosophy,  that meant complementing the fitbook user’s experience.  from design elements and verbiage to flow and functionality, the goal is to create a seamless, familiar app experience so they aren’t seen as separate, but as cohesive parts that work together in unison.

4) find your blue ocean.
i was intent on designing a goal-setting app related to your fitness + nutrition; not to design a weight-loss app that helps you set goals.  why? well first off – our mantra is live life fit, meaning we take a lifestyle approach to health.  not everyone’s goal is to lose weight so by creating just (another) weight loss app we alienate a majority of our customers and send the message that weight loss should be your only goal. not true!  plus, we wanted to set ourselves apart by focusing on healthy, achievable goals that can help someone whether they’re looking to lose the baby weight or training for a triathlon.

app tip: if you search in the app store for ‘weight loss’ there are over 2200 apps. but search for ‘goal setting’ – only 72. and of those, only a handful are specific to your fitness and health.  ah, in grad school we call this finding the ‘blue ocean’; an area of opportunity to stand out from the crowd.  and when you’re an itty-bitty company, it’s even more crucial that you are laser-focused on what sets you apart; that should be the nucleus around how you grow the business. for fitlosophy, it’s all about goals. so when faced with a new idea or direction, all you have to ask yourself is, “does this support our key focus?”.

5) just launch it.
go figure, i’m a perfectionist.  truth be told we probably could have launched this maybe 3 months ago, but i wanted to finalize the sharing functionality on the very last screen of the app because i’m adamant that sharing your 12-week goals via social media will help you reach them (because research shows it does, by 76% in fact). then of course we tested and tested and every little teeny tiny bug had to be fixed because the last thing i want is cranky, confused fitbookers! of course i also wanted to launch the upgrade at the same time which allowed you to take that app-generated 12-week goal and then track your progress!  but here’s news for you: technology projects move like at a snail’s pace (especially compared to fitbook: print, ship, boom – done!). so rather than further delay launching the free version of the app just to finalize the upgrade, i decided to just roll with it. launch it, get some feedback, finish up the upgrade, and launch it this summer (God-willing!).  is it ideal? well not in my perfect type-A world, but i’m learning that my perfectionist approach doesn’t always serve me (or my customers) well. 

app tip: whether it’s developing an app or just running a business, nothing ever goes as planned. successful people are those that adjust, adapt, and change.  attempting to force your plan in any situation actually further delays the outcome (trust me).  if this is you, surround yourself with a team who pushes you to move forward even when you don’t want to.

with that, here is the latest + greatest from fitlosophy, introducing:
fitbook+ lite goal-setting app
[now available for free download on iphone + android]

comment below…let me know what you think! i hope we wow you.
appily yours,
angela 



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