Android application development ….. for dummies.. by a dummy

•January 14, 2012 • 3 Comments

About me: I am not a developer, rather I am someone who came up with an idea for an application from his personal experience and need. I am writing this post to share my experience from the inception of idea till today (after a month of publication); by no means am I claiming these to be best practices so please be mindful that YMMV.

I am parsing my journey to develop SMART KEYS NINJA   (Try it out…it’s free)  in phases outlined below:

Phase 1: No programming skills, have ideas for apps?

Phase 2: Define project & budget with the developer.

Phase 3:  Hundreds of android devices, how and where to test?

Phase 4: App is ready (as ready as it can be), what to do now?

Phase 5: Marketing?

Phase 6: Android market limitations..!! Alternative markets….workaround for android market shortcomings.

Phase 7: Are the $$$ raining yet ?

Phase 1: No programming skills, have ideas for apps?

I came across idea for SMART KEYS NINJA from my personal need and thought how hard it can be to learn to code and create an application. After some due diligence (half an hour of googling) I realized that I want to focus on the idea front not “under the hood” shtuff.

Google keywords changed and I narrowed down my search to these 2 sites to find an apt android developer >

Like any other site, it’s pretty straight forward to setup an account and post your job/project ( provide a general idea with enough details to attract the right candidate) . Responses are plentiful and prompt on both sites so you are on your own to sift through candidates.


  1. Use Skype to interview potential candidates.
  2. When posting a job ask for (in response) specific and relevant project experience.
  3. Be aware: developers from non native english speaking countries usually quote lower but communication can be a tricky affair in such cases.

I worked with someone from eastern Europe (very talented individual) and between both of our accents some things took a little longer than expected. Having said that, eventually it worked out fine   and I am working with him again :) 

      4. It is a good idea to have a NDA (non disclosure agreement) in place    before you reveal confidential information to developers.

Google it – Lots of sample NDAs


  1. It’s more of a FYI: Budgeting > I have had folks quote 500$ and 5000$ bucks for the same project, so don’t know what to tell you except be mindful and patient.
  2. Assume: that lowest bidder is the least capable or the highest bidder is the most capable of doing the project.

IMO: Start a dialogue and let the ideas flow and see who is the best match on that wavelength , then negotiate on the budgeting.

Phase 2: Define project & budget with the developer.

After you have finalized the right candidate, define your project in detail so that the developer has a good base.

In case of SMART KEYS NINJA we started off with a very basic idea (shortcut to watch game score) and as we kept on discussing the feasibility and possibilities the project morphed into a broader application. That increase in scope/feature did increase the budget (as it should) so if possible write up detailed features and function in initial phase.

Phase 3:  Hundreds of android devices, how and where to test?

There are quite a lot of different makes of android devices and it is   quite a different scenario when compared to iOS environment.

Other then testing on emulators I felt that testing on actual device is needed hence came across these sites

They offer hourly based devices ( via web portal) and seem to have a variety of devices.

I used their demo services but as Smart Keys Ninja involves some manipulation of power key/volume keys it did not pan out for my specific purpose , I might use them in future.

Phase4 and Phase 5 : Go hand in hand

You should actually start marketing (rather creating a buzz) whilst the app is in last stages of development.

There are several channels you can use to accomplish the same:

1. Create a lite/trial version: It is highly advisable to create a feature limited/time limited version of your app so that people can try it out and get a firsthand experience of all the fabulous features/graphics.

I created a lite (limited features) version of Smart Keys Ninja  so that people can try out the app on their phone and if folks like it they can purchase the full version confidently. 

2.  Create a site : Google offers free site space (use it !!) and I am sure other providers do too .

Use this site to provide updates on your project and keep folks interested and awaited for your app.

I created a site post app release and also used this site to provide a landing page for app:

3. Twitter : As one can guess it is one of the most hottest channel to spread the word….

I was not using twitter previously and had no connections so I could not really harness the twitter power. I guess if you are already active on twitter it can be a great ramp to gain momentum

4. Facebook : No brainer..!!

5. Create a youtube video: I think this can potentially be the best way to introduce  your app to people….link it on twitter/FB/Android market.

This a MUST in my opinion !!

I created this video for Smart Keys Ninja

6. Android Forums : There are bunch of pretty busy android centric forums and posting the free/trial version of your app on these forums can really drive up the number of downloads.

By far this has been the most effective medium for me . The concept is give away your free/trial version for free so that the probability of the paid version getting discovered increases or alternatively your user base increases for ad supported version.

7. Submit your app to other bloggers : There are quite a lot of bloggers who have a wide spread audience following them so quite obviously a review from such a blogger increases visibility for your app.

There are some bloggers/sites which offer services such as :

  • Paid reviews ( you pay the reviewer)
  • Sponsored tweets ( one guy quoted me 150 $ for 5 tweets)

Unfortunately I had no luck with any of the bloggers I approached and I decided that I would   not invest  in paid reviews/tweets , primarily (now that I think about it ) because I saw good spikes from posting the free version/link to market in android forums.

8. Friends and Family… Good luck to them !!

9. Translate your app/app description: It doesn’t need to get done by fancy translation firms , just use google transalte and add localized description to market.

I have seen a spike in active installs from countries where I added localized versions.

Phase 6: Android market limitations..!! Alternative markets….workaround for android market shortcomings.

Android Market: oh Google…You are good at so many things can you please fix these kinks.

  1. You can only sell paid applications if you are from one of the following countries

Having said that you can publish a free version of app from any other country.


a.      If you have a friend/relative in any of the supported country you can ask them to publish the app on your behalf

b.      You can create a free version supported with ads, although it is generally believed that revenue from ads is lower (way lower in many cases) then revenue from paid versions.


I could not use this approach as Smart Keys Ninja app’s intent is to mostly work in the background and thus is not suitable for displaying ads.

c.       Use agents/publishers who will publish your app for a cut in sales revenue😦  (No longer publishes)   ( Agent’s cut 19% as published on their site)   ( No support for market , may be useful for other app stores) ( Never heard back from these guys)  (I am currently using these guys to publish Smart Keys ninja’s paid version; I will keep you guys posted on my experience with them.)

Smart Keys Ninja PAID VERSION

d. Alternative app stores : There are quite a lot of alternative app stores to sell paid version of your app , I am going to refer you to a blog link which (IMO) is very well written summarization of alternative app stores

I will also share my experience with these stores below in the post.

e. Setup a company : you can setup a small LLC/corp and get a tax identification number for same .

I think this only makes sense if you are making a substantial amount of money already with your apps and want to save on the cut to publishers.

2. No just-in section in android market:

Previously android market used to have a just-in section (like iOS) where all the new apps for that week will show up , it is no longer there. Instead of just-in android now has sub categories such as top free , top new free. IMO this is not all bad rather it is just different and promotes meritocracy for long lasting/performing apps.

What that means for new apps is :

  • really low probability of getting discovered
  • even more emphasis on marketing
  • even more emphasis on making a lite/free version.
  • once you make the threshold to come up in the respective section , it is not so easy to get pushed down the ranks
  • Less noise/spammy apps to overcome once you have made the threshold.

3. Alternatives to android appstore:

There are quite a lot of different app stores serving as alternative to official android market , in concept I do not see any reason why not to publish your app in as many different stores as you can.

Having said that , different stores have served a niche purpose and drive different result. Below, I will share my experience with some of the stores I tried out:

For Comparison purposes : Android market free downloads in a month = 711

 a.       SlideMe:

For the free version>

 I got great response from this store in initial few dasys, 70+ download on day1. After a month I am looking at 377 downloads.

For paid version>

I released the paid version on Dec 29 , so far only 1 download.


Allover I like SlideMe, the support is fast and app upgrades /uploads show up pretty fast on the app store.

 b.       Appia:

My initial  impression of appia was that it generates huge number of downloads , unfortunately I have only seen very low numbers from this store.

So far 26 downloads for the free version.


Only complaint I have with appia is that everything(approval,upgrades) moves too slow on this store.

Appia is a white label store ( they sell to other smaller stores) so I anticipate that it will take few months to gain some momentum and smart keys ninja to grow .

c.       Mobango & Getjar: I am not impressed , atleast for my model which did not involve any pay-per download campaign.

Mobango -60+ downloads

Getjar- 9 Downloads

 I will keep the stats updated for coming months , my assessment after a month is that I am going to focus upon these 3 stores > Android Market , SlideMe , Appia.

Phase 7 : Coming soon..!!   Hopefully😉  


Comments /feedback is welcome