How do you create a novel iPhone / iPad app?

This is a guest post by Robin Harris, who lives locally.

As easy as 1,2,3?

1. Come up with an idea and check if an app already exists

2. Get some guidance on developing and marketing an app from some who knows their stuff

3. Develop the app and submit it to Apple

OK, so its not so easy! Of course the hard part is finding an original idea. I didn’t even think about developing an app -I already had initiative overload. One evening my daughter phoned to ask if I had ever seen an app to identify schools in a particular locality as she couldn’t find one. I was intrigued – given all the school performance data that exists and the amount of interest in this amongst parents, surely there would be an app to make it quick and easy to find relevant information? But she was right – nothing exists on IOS or Android. My son-in-law suggested we should build one as there must be demand. I’ve worked in IT for 25 years but wouldn’t consider developing anything like this so where would we start?

I went to various government web sites and found that all the required data is freely available to download – a good start. Next I needed some advice and John Connolly kindly gave me some time to get me started. John thought it was a viable project and suggested we find a developer who would create something fairly simple at a modest cost (we are a small business!). My son-in-law, Nathan, is also my business partner and has a wide network of contacts so he managed to find a developer who liked the idea and would develop the app at cost using the app to promote himself. We set up a profit sharing arrangement (always hopeful) and got on with specifying the functionality.

In parallel I downloaded the Ofsted and Exam / SATs data and merged it into one database. There was a huge amount of data cleaning required because of the way schools are identified and then change as they close and re-open as academies.

It took 12 weeks from starting development to having the app tested and ready to submit to Apple. The Apple review process took 5 days and then we were ready to sell it. Of course no-one knew about it so in the first week downloads were in single figures!

So now we are into phase 2 – marketing. The download charge of 69 pence is intended to not be a barrier to anyone who is interested, but it means that the development costs will probably never be recovered. So we have started to experiment with marketing advertising and are targeting estate agents and the schools themselves. Where this will lead is unclear but it is enjoyable and challenging!

To anyone who thinks they have an original idea our advice would be to go for it!

You can download the app in the iTunes store by clicking here.


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