What You Need To Build An App

What You Need To Build An App

Building an app is a big step for any business, especially a small business. So it’s helpful to know what exactly the moving parts are for your app to come to fruition in the fastest, least painful way possible. At Tercera, we specialize in helping small businesses create and maintain their mobile applications, and that means helping folks start from the very beginning.

So we wanted to give a high level overview of all the pieces you’ll need before you even start talking about or developing your app.

A Business Model

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that an app will replace, or become, a business for you. While an app can be an important component of your business, a business driver, a source of engagement with your customers, it cannot replace a good, ol’ fashioned business model.

If for no other reason than the way the app stores handle in-app purchases. Apple takes 30% from every purchase that happens in your app with some considerations (more info here and here), but once you factor in costs and taxes, losing 30% off the top of everything isn’t likely to make you rich. And since iOS users spend up to twice, to two and a half times, as much as Android users, and most in-app purchases happen in games, it’s hard to mount a business purely based on this model. 

Having a business model results in everyone being focused on the same set of priorities and objectives, and to make sure you can meet your needs in a timely fashion. Though focusing on what your app looks like is often what folks think of first, the requirements of the business are the most important message you should convey to anyone building out your app. Some examples of utilizing an app to augment a business include providing content or “premium” content, creating unique user experiences or interactions, or giving folks the social distancing treatment, creating educational experiences, and there are plenty other examples. The idea is to use the app to work in concert with your business, not to stand in place of it.


Mobile apps, like websites, need to be designed to be visually appealing, useful, and provide users feedback about what’s happening. There are several pieces to this so let’s review them.

Visual design is not only the colors and the logos being used, the information you want to include in your app, the language, the content (videos, images, etc) and how all of these work together.

How easy is your app to use? Will people come back after the initial download? You’ll want to prioritize the most valuable features and content for your users, which will help you early on as you build your app, and also as you continue to develop it so you can tell your customers a compelling “story”. If you do not have a designer who can help you with this process, Tercera can help.

Data Storage

Creating a mobile app means you’ll have to either add, or extend, the ways in which you collect data from your customers, and send data to your customers. This means you’ll have to have things like a way for users to log in and create accounts, to store data about them like what they put in their shopping carts, and gather analytics on the parts of and ways in which your users are interacting with your app.

All of this requires data storage.

Specifically this means you’ll have to make sure you have a way for folks to login (authenticate), store their data (database, API), and make sure all of that data is secure. What does your app need to know about your users, what do you want to measure and how are you going to message your users? These types of questions will uncover answers to your data strategy. It sounds daunting, but there are tons of solutions for small businesses to do these things that are not cost prohibitive.

A Marketing Plan

You’ll need a way for customers to find your app, as well as a set of reasons why they should want to be using your app. Think about 2 or 3 apps you use everyday: they have something you want or need — directions, social contact, recipes, information, etc. Your app should fill a similar need for your customers.

Secondly, how are you customers going to find out about your awesome app? Do you have an email list? An ongoing class? A text message service? A discount code? You’ll need to think about how you can consistently drive folks to download and use your app so that you and they get the most value out of it.

Tercera has access to brand and marketing experts that we are more than happy to connect you to.

A Maintenance Plan

Building an app is going to have baked in costs immediately (for example it costs $99 a year to have an app on the Apple store), but more long term as well. As you begin to enjoy the successes of your app, you’ll want to expand on the features, incorporate user feedback, as well as augment existing features.

What are you going to do when you want to add push notifications? Streaming? Online checkout? Investing in your business by building an app means that you need to think about the app and its future versions, which means your marketing budget should include regular maintenance for updates and features.

This list is not meant to be comprehensive or exhaustive, it certainly does not cover everything, but it should give you a general sense of the factors involved in creating an app for your organization.

As a high level overview of the essential components of any app, we hope this was helpful. If you have questions or would like a free consultation to see if your business is ready for an app, please reach out at sales@tercera.dev. You can also see our services here, what we’re about here, and how to connect with us here.

Published by Sara Inés Calderón

Sara Inés Calderón has worked tirelessly to create more diverse and inclusive tech spaces in her home of Austin, Texas for years. As a former Director of Women Who Code Austin, and Women Who Code Board member, she’s also a founder of the annual Austin Diversity Hackathon where folks from across the state come to participate and learn technology together.