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7 Tactics to Build an App Without a Technical Cofounder: Part 1

Inaka Blog wrote this on August 28, 2013 under advice, startup, tips .

When one Fortune 500 client first came to us with their movie app, they were struggling. They had a zip file of code that didn’t work. The app was live and wasn’t getting any traction. The founders were frustrated and looking for a fix.

They emailed us the source code that another agency had built them. Not only did it not function, but it was so twisted and tangled that the emailed code didn't even match the code in use at the app store.

Thankfully, Inaka was able to put them back together. Chad DePue gave them 7 Simple Tactics to follow, and slowly and steadily, things started turning around. Now, they have significant downloads and an app that’s loved by millions of people.

So what are these tactics, you ask?

Today, we'll just discuss the first: Knowing the Tools. In the example above, knowing what tools good developers use would have saved everyone a lot of time and headaches.

You don't need to have a technical cofounder, and you don't need to be an expert. But if you do a little research beforehand, you'll be ahead of the game instead of struggling to keep your head above water.

Here's what you should know before getting started:

Understand Github

With GitHub, groups of people can work on code at the same time in a seamless and efficient manner. GitHub makes sure everyone is on the same page at all times.

Code School has a great 15 minute lesson to get you started. You don’t have to be the best, and you don’t need to know everything – but you do need to familiarize yourself! You’ll be feeling like a pro in no time.

For more information on signing up and installing Github, check out this Lifehacker article.

Get an Agile Project Management Tool

Agile project management is an iterative project-planning strategy. Each project interation is evaluated in order to determine the next steps in development and improvement. Iterations are typically planned in two-week segments.

This approach enables the team to respond immediately to game-changing issues. Solving issues as they arise keeps the project on track and, in the end, saves time and energy that might have been otherwise spent developing poor design and other dead ends.

Because big decisions need to be made quickly and frequently, an agile project management tool will help you stay organized.

Understand Deployment

Software deployment is the process of finalizing program code into a convenient, ready-to-use file for consumers.

When the program is still in development, the code is written in an assembler program, wherein it can be tested and changed. Once it’s ready to be deployed, the assembler program packages the code into a consumer-ready file. This is also when icons will be decided.

Without deployment, future consumers and users would also have to possess the assembler program in order to run the code. It would be a messy (and expensive) process.

Take Advantage of Testing

After your app has been deployed, you’ll want to test it.

Something like TestFlight will help you set up a beta version of your app and distribute it to your beta users. From there, you can watch for crashes and receive feedback from users, among other things. The goal here is to gather information to determine the ways in which to improve the app before its official release.

For more on the process of using TestFlight, check here.

Take Advantage of Analytics

Analytic tools enable you to track visitors and watch data, like how long they stay on your site and how many pages they view, among other things. You’ve probably heard about Google Analytics by now, but we’ve got two other suggestions for you:

The first is called MixPanel. While most analytic tools put a lot of weight on page views, MixPanel divides information into events and properties, allowing you to filter data to target certain demographics in complicated ways, i.e. by platform, account type, etc. Users can then bookmark these data break-downs, or "events", and share the information within the company.

MixPanel will help you answer tough questions like, “Of the visitors who arrive from banner ads, how many book a room in Costa Rica?” or “Do mobile app users share more videos via Facebook, Twitter, or email?”

There is also Flurry, which has the same “event creating” data analysis, but also uses Big Data to estimate the age, gender, and interests of your app audience. Unlike MixPanel, however, Flurry analyzes mobile data only.

With these five bits of information under your belt -- git, agile project management, deployment, testing, and analytics -- you'll know what's up and how to move forward.