Do you have a ground-breaking idea for a new website or APP?
One that you think is the next Facebook, Uber or Air BNB… or one that will compete with RealEstate.com.au or a dating site like E-Harmony? Perhaps your idea revolves around automating an existing business.
Big ideas don’t come easily and they absolutely can change the world. It can be equal parts exciting and frustrating when you come up with an idea that is so cool, so big and so unique. It’s exciting because this idea could change the lives of many and could be your big break. Frustrating because you don’t know who to trust to build it or how to proceed.
Protecting Your Idea
Before you start talking to anyone about your idea, make sure they sign an agreement to keep them tight lipped and to prevent them stealing your idea. Your lawyer can help with this. At the very least, look for a standard non-disclosure agreement on low cost law websites. Note, we are NOT lawyers so this is not legal advice, but it is exactly what we would do ourselves if creating “the next big thing”.
Before undertaking a large scale project such as this, we recommend you create a document that details your idea right down to the specifications. This document is referred to by many names including “Scope”, “Functional Specs” and “Requirements”.
Completed at the start of the project, it documents detailed descriptions of the purpose, target users, functionality, wireframes and even design concepts. In some cases it even includes business plan type information such as marketing and financial forecasts.
This document can help you obtain finance, investors, business partners and quotes for the design, build and even the marketing. Having as much as possible in writing provides clarity to any service providers that you approach for a quote and will result in a “tighter” quote as the service providers will not need to allow as much “buffer” to cover the risk of the unknown. It will also provide you with the peace of mind that you have provided a clear brief to the agency you choose to work with.
Whilst it might be tempting to skip this process and instead have verbal conversations with potential service providers or partners, there are several risks. There is far too much risk for YOU (idea theft, added costs, time blow out, your expectations not met) and also risk for the agency (absorbing never ending scope creep and changes requests, risk of falling out with the client etc). Some service providers simply will not take on projects that seem large and undefined as the risk is too great. Alternatively, you will find that others will require an hourly rate so that all the cost and time risk falls on you.
So how do you document your idea? Our best advice is to just start writing. It is never too early to put it down in writing. Bullet point format is absolutely OK to start with. Then explain each point in more detail.
As a minimum consider the following points:
- Target users
- Overall functionality
- Detailed user journeys
- Monetisation / financials / e-commerce
You can hire an agency or website developer to create this documentation. This includes a detailed document your project including custom wireframes (visual plans of the interface) and graphic design concepts to help you visualise your project. The fee for this service is usually a small percentage of the final design and build price and can save money and headaches later, so it is often well worth the investment.
Front End Design
As part of the process of bringing your big idea to life, we recommend wireframes and design concepts. Most new website and app projects require branding as well.
A wireframe is one of the first steps in the custom website/app/system design process that allows you to take control of the design in a strategic way. It is an efficient and effective way to communicate the structural flow of content on your website. This planning document allows you to focus on the key messages, user journey and calls to action that inspire action from your website visitors at the start of any strategic website design project.
Branding can be done before or during the wireframe process because wireframes do not include design elements such as logos, colours and specific fonts. We recommend a brand strategy and visual branding to document your brand and provide you with the design elements necessary in your new business.
Design concepts of the website take elements of the brand and details from the specifications to create the look and feel for your home page or key app screens. Design concepts provide something tangible and visual to help you bring on partners and investors as well as being the starting point for the actual coding of the website or app.
Financing Large Projects
Often large projects require external finance. This can take several forms including:
- Business loans
- Business partners
- Service providers
- Government grants.
The above, documented specifications and front-end designs will provide tangible evidence of a well thought out business idea. Your accountant can assist with feasibility analysis that can be added to your suite of documentation to provide you with the best change of securing funding.
A Quick Word on Apps
Remember when seeking funding, allow for a website for your app. Most apps will need at least a basic website to point any online marketing to, and some replicate the functionality of the app in a website. You will also need plenty of marketing budget to get traction. Unfortunately, we have met many entrepreneurs that have spent tens or hundreds of thousands on building their idea but have no money at all left for marketing.
Finding Someone to Build It
Once you have completed the above, you will need to find a service provider to build your project. The above documentation can be used as part of a Request for Proposal process whereby you approach several agencies or freelancers, asking for a proposal. Alternatively, you could put it out to tender and the above documents become part of that process.
If you have had an agency prepare the documents, they would normally provide a price at this point too.
Large projects are often broken down into stages. The above are components of the planning and design stage.
The second stage is often the prototype website or minimal viable product. This first cut of the website can be quietly launched to a group of internal stakeholders or a small group of users known as “beta” testers with the aim of making enhancements to the system based on their feedback and any issues that arise.
More complex functionality can be added in stages to spread cost and to ensure each stage is adequately developed, tested and completed.
A staged approach keeps all parties focussed and moving forward.
Large system websites are often a business in themselves. It is typical to have a warranty period of perhaps 1 – 3 months and then a hand over period that may extend longer, where the agency or freelancer that built the site is retained. You would need to budget accordingly for this. Generally, each enhancement idea is prioritised and costed to determine whether it is feasible.
For very large systems, enhancement ideas are never-ending. Think of your favourite websites and software programs – they are always adding new features. At this point you may want to consider internal development staff to keep your system evolving to suit your customers and grow your business.
Your big idea will need a big marketing plan if it is going to take over the world by storm. Most markets are crowded, so be sure to have strategies and budget in place that will give your idea its best chance of success.
Sound exciting? It is!
Blue Platypus can help create your specifications, design and project manage your large scale website projects. For more information, please contact us.