You have an idea for your startup, and you are ready to build it. Great! But how do you start? What if you don't have all the resources to develop the software yourself? What is the process you need to follow and should you do it yourself or with a team or –
Okay, take a breath. And let's go over some things you need to think about.
Steps to build the product
Business analysis and market research
First things first: determine your idea and your target audience. Their needs, and the solution you want to offer, will determine what kind of features you need. Dare to think creatively: a lot is possible nowadays.
To understand your target audience, you have to do customer research. Interviews and surveys can help you understand more in-depth what they are looking for, but check out forums and so on as well. If you see the same pain points return and your idea can solve it, you're on to something.
Next, do some market research and look at your competitors. By trying out their solutions and analyzing their approaches, you can not only find out what works well, but also how you can set yourself apart.
Define the technical requirements
You need to understand what your target audience needs to achieve their goals. This determines what kind of functionalities you'll need. Make a distinction between the must-have features and the additional features, in case you make an MVP first.
So what kind of technical requirements do you need to think about? For example:
- Do you need a web platform, a mobile app, or both?
- Which database will you use?
- Which cloud provider will you use?
- How many data points will you have?
- How will you protect the data?
- Do you need any integrations?
- How will you take care of the maintenance (bug fixes, software updates, database backups)?
To visualize your idea, you start with a wireframe. In the very early design stage, it provides a rough idea of design ideas and direction. It is a basic and usually black and white sketch of the interface design and can be made with accessible design tools or with pen and paper. Because of its sketch nature, wireframes can also be made by non-designers.
Next in the design process are the user interface or UI designs. This is what the user sees when they use your app. You create your solution in the first place for them, so you need to make sure it's user-friendly. You can make the UI designs yourself with tools such as Figma and Mockplus, but you can also opt for a professional UX/UI design agency. They will often also take the whole user experience into account and distill your ideas in the most accessible way.
Develop your product
It can be a good idea to first develop an MVP to test the market and get a better idea of what your final product should look like. Developing an MVP versus the full product might require a slightly different approach on the development side, depending on your capacities.
We're leaving low-code options out of the picture in this article and focus on traditional software development. If you have the expertise yourself, you could do perhaps most of the coding yourself. But if you're not so strong on the coding side or only on part of it, you need help. You can build a team of your own developers, with skills complementing each other. The advantage is that you can create a team of like-minded people and enjoy the journey together. If you want to scale your product without scaling your team, you can opt for a software development company. They come in all sizes and have different skill sets under one roof. When you determine your agency, you need to take a few things into account:
- Do they have expertise in the things I need? Depending on their size, agencies might not be able to help you with everything.
- Do they provide product design services? If you don't have the designs yet, you could opt to have everything done by one place.
- What is their mindset and way of working? If you're a small team or on your own, you might want to look for an agency with more flexibility regarding time or with more support.
- What technology stack do they use? The tech stack you choose, will impact the functionality, scalability, and security of your platform. These are things like the programming language, database, and hosting environment.
- What is the ownership of the software afterward? Some agencies keep the ownership rights, others hand everything over to you.
Launch, monitor, improve
Time to deploy the software and show your idea to the world! Building a software platform is an ongoing process, and it's important to continuously monitor and improve your platform based on user feedback and changing business needs. If the development has been done correctly, the developers should normally have implemented tests during the development to minimize the chances of bugs. However, you should always keep an eye on them and be able to respond quickly.
As an entrepreneur, you learn many things along the way, and making mistakes will be part of it. But you don't have to be alone for the ride. If you have an idea for a software startup and are checking out the possibilities to develop it, reach out to us. We understand how challenging the whole journey can be and want to help you make the most of it. Good luck!