What Non-Technical App Entrepreneurs Should Know
Joshua Davidson wrote this article
You have the idea. You even have hired your first developer to get started with bringing your idea to life! But you hit a snag. How do you communicate your idea to a developer? After all, you want your vision translated into workable code. Now, let’s assume that you have design skills. That makes it easier since you can show them your vision in addition to explaining it. Turning your ideas into workable code is what they are supposed to do, but how can you make sure that aligns when you are a non-technical entrepreneur? You don’t speak developer.
“Oh yeah, I’ll tell the developer the things I want, and they’ll go build it.“
But it’s up to you to communicate to the developer what parts are needed. Otherwise, if I’m a developer, I’m not going to know what you want. Think about it, if you don’t know the technical ins-and-outs of what your app needs, how is a first-hire developer ever going to know?
Non-technical app entrepreneurs need to know the ins and outs of what makes their apps work. Not understanding the underlying platform where you are building your app is a big red flag for your long-term viability as the founder. And UNDERSTANDING the technology behind your doesn’t mean that you need to be a programmer, but having an intimate knowledge of the architecture behind your app will make it so that you can become much more collaborative with your developer. You can bring creativity into the coding process. You can infuse your knowledge of user experience and let’s face it… sometimes developers need a sense of direction.
You need to know why your app is built the way it is
React Native vs. Objective C, vs. Swift vs. Java. Why is your app built on one of these technologies? What are the benefits of going with React Native? You understanding the best technologies to apply to your app will make it so that you can communicate what you want to a developer. That means being able to write technical requirements. Understanding how your app operates,
Has your car ever broken down and you’ve just been flummoxed as to where to even start when fixing it? You’re alone on the open road in a desert, you have a broken car, and don’t have the slightest clue as to what is even going on. Sure, it’s established that you can’t fix cars, but you can’t even think about identifying the problem. It’s the same thing with your app. If you know how your app works, you’ll be able to identify what’s happening when it runs into problems.
Understanding how your app operates
Here’s a cheat sheet of the concepts that you’ll need to understand at a minimum as a nontechnical entrepreneur.
1. What is a server?
2. What is a database?
3. SSL certificates / encryption
4. How data goes from the app to the server to the app
5. APIs! There are tons of APIs you can leverage, so understand how they can work with your app.
Steering the crew
While your technical team will be working to bring your app to life, it’s up to you to be on the hunt for new opportunities. What are the sweeping changes happening in the app industry that will impact your app? Some things I think about off the top of my head are Face ID and the iPhone X’s changing screen dimensions. Know what is going to on in the industry related to their app, and be on the hunt for the latest technologies and opportunities. Read online daily, network, follow trends relating to the industry.
But it goes beyond being a technical oracle for your team. You’re also the captain that steers the ship. You’ll be bringing on new developers too, so that means you’ll need to get good at asking questions when hiring. How do you know what makes for a good developer? Did you get lucky with the first hire? Is it imperative that you educate yourself on the basics before looking to hire a developer otherwise you have no way of knowing if what they are saying is accurate?
Talk to other non-technical cofounders or friends who are technical to establish that baseline knowledge and to learn what red flags signal that a developer is not a good fit. Find the right technical partner makes all the difference. They can help you see around corners and plan for what is coming next for your app.
In a technical world, non-technical people need to find their place
What can a robot do versus what could you do? Will your usefulness be eclipsed one day? I don’t think so if you understand how the latest technologies work. And furthermore, if you can identify what your human skills are versus what a robot could do. What are your skills that you believe that only you can do? What is the “human touch” that you add?
At Chop Dawg, we have learned how to become the go-to translator between our clients and our team. I understand what is being built for every client project so that I can speak to the client in plain-English about what is going on. This also keeps me fresh for optimizing the day-to-day. How can the gears of the company run better? How can I offer a sense of direction to the people that work for me? How can I connect the company and workers to new opportunities? That’s my daily responsibility as a non-technical founder.