My brother organizes an entrepreneurship academy at the high school he principals. I play the role of technical advisor to teams that want to build apps. Last year’s team I advised won first place. This is the initial advice I’ve given:

When I talk to people about building apps I usually focus on two things:

  1. Can you prove out the idea without building the app at all? In other words, use a combination of low-tech tools (spreadsheets, phone calls, emails, google survey, etc) to create your first 10 customer transactions. This is really helpful to understand your customers and it’s much easier to tweak your product idea early on. To learn more, look up “Lean Startup”.

  2. Can you draw out how the app will work? Just using paper and pencil, you can draw out all of the screens. The best way to learn is to download a fresh app from the App Store (something you’ve never used before) and draw out the entire experience of a user. Try to recreate it on paper in such a way that you can explain to someone who has never seen the real app. To learn more, look up “Paper app prototyping”

Those are my top 2 most important things to do. For your business plan, I understand you’ll also need to have a solid budget and costs. I can’t tell you exactly how much your app would cost without knowing how complex it needs to be. The more time you can take in thinking through the details, the better prepared you’ll be when you take your concept to a local design and development agency.