Have an idea? Build an app

If you haven’t heard of a dap, then you need this app.

a dap, to the uninitiated, is a typical fist bump, that ubiquitous guy greeting. as a high school business teacher, Loganville resident Nick Johnson sees them constantly.

Which then set Johnson and his friend, former University of Georgia fullback Jeremy Thomas, to thinking: how many variations could they come up with for the traditional fist bump?

Close to 200, it turns out.

"We said, ‘Dude, you need to do an app for that,’ " Johnson said. the result is Dap App, an iPhone application that offers instructions on all the custom daps the friends put together. within days or weeks, Thomas will submit the app to Apple and await approval for the iTunes Store, a process that can take five to 20 days.

and while there is a free version of the app, it also comes with an enhanced paid version, which will hopefully set Johnson and Thomas off on a new entrepreneurial journey.

Whether or not it pays back their investment is yet to be seen.

Developing an app for use on a smartphone such as an iPhone or a Blackberry takes a mixture of marketing skills and technical know-how. With thousands of apps already available, you not only need to come up with an idea for something others will brag about to their friends, but you have to actually put it together.

"It’s hard — this is not casual, like somebody doing a Web page," said Clate Sanders, a lecturer with UGA’s New Media Institute who is leading a class this semester in which Grady College students develop an app. "It’s getting easier, but it’s not getting as easy as WordPress," a website-building tool that uses templates for Web pages.

Students in his class are using "widgets," or pre-built sections of programming, to build their app. But to build a fast, graphics-heavy smartphone app, the programming needs to be lean and fast, Sanders said, which is best achieved by a professional.

Jeremy Minnick, director of development at J House Media in Athens, said in addition to the phone-based apps, there are ones that start as an icon on your phone’s screen and then open a Web page rather than a miniature computer program.

"There are two different types of apps when you look at developing a mobile app," Minnick said.

"There’s the kind that’s developed specifically for your phone — iPhone, Android, Blackberry or whatever — and then there’s ones that are Web-based, and you install an icon (on the phone) and it opens a frame that’s a Web page. Those are the types of apps we develop because of the competition (among other apps)."

In other words, one app is just a drop in the bucket compared with the thousands already out there. among Apple devices alone there are 425,000 apps available, for free or a fee.

Still, according to Apple, there are more more than 200 million iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch users out there, and as of July they’ve downloaded more than 15 billion apps. many of these downloads are free, but some popular apps, according to Apple, can be downloaded as many as 10,000 times a day.

When it’s a 99-cent app, even after Apple’s 30-cent cut, that’s still some serious money for the app developer.

But before you start seeing dollar signs for your own app idea, Minnick advises you take a long, hard look at what you have in mind. Think about your audience and how you would market the app, he said, before you even start to think about how you’re going to develop it.

"It’s got to be something that has a lot of appeal," Minnick said. For the Dap App, "if you break it down by gender, you cut (your market) in half. and then, in the male demographic, you’re looking at ages 18-35."

That makes it harder to market, he said.

"I’m on the fence about it, but it’s a cute idea. I think for an app to have success, it either needs to have a crap ton of marketing, it needs to be bundled with an already popular service (such as anything made by Google), or it needs to be something that you look at and go, ‘I’m going to share that with my friend,’ " Minnick said.

While any business venture involving a smartphone application should be available on all platforms, Sanders said, Apple owns the tablet market, and an app developed for an iPhone or an iPod will work the same on each device.

That’s not the case for Android phones, which can vary by manufacturer. That means what controls the game, for example, on one phone might be different for another phone, requiring another set of programming skills.

"most (Android phone) manufacturers want to differentiate themselves, so if a developer that wants to develop a game, it’s hard for them to develop something that will play across all the devices," Sanders said. "Whereas something you develop for the iPhone, it will play the same way on every phone."

That said, Minnick acknowledged that an app made for, say, business clients might do well on multiple platforms, since it’s exploiting a certain portion of the smartphone market simply by its subject matter. For an entertainment app, such as the Dap App, it’s probably better suited for just the iPhone, since the phone and the platform lends itself more to games.

"I think iPhone users, they like the experience; it’s more important than (an app’s) functionality," Minnick said. "Apple was the first company to market themselves as a lifestyle choice. … so this is a unique-experience app."

around town, some organizations are experimenting with apps for various entertainment or educational purposes. the annual music festival AthFest debuted an iPhone app this past summer, and a couple University of Georgia departments have developed apps to help in the classroom. Turfgrass Weeds and Turfgrass Management, for example, are apps developed by College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences professor Patrick McCullough to help students identify grass pests and problems.

But Thomas and Johnson have big plans for Dap App. After investing $7,000 to get it developed, Johnson said he’s focusing solely on marketing and hopes they can serve as consultants or partners for others who want to develop an app.

"We are paying a guy to develop it. That’s where people get frustrated," he said. "We outsourced to India; (Jeremy) has a company he works with. the price is the one reason we went with it." the starting price to develop an app in the United States can run $20,000, he added.

as a business major at UGA who now teaches business to the next generation, Johnson’s already involved in helping students develop their ideas and market them. Earlier this year he got his own reference book on marketing apps, and he and Thomas have the website (thedapapp.com) and YouTube channel set up with dozens of hilarious videos showing their daps.

if the app is approved for sale in the Apple Store, the free version will have video tutorials featuring Johnson and Thomas and the daps they came up with. a paid version will give the user the ability to upload his own videos and share them within the Dap App community.

"this is definitely a business venture. … I have a few ideas right now and one is for a game, and I know for sure of another buddy who wants to run with us for an idea he’s been brainstorming and it’s a pretty good one," Johnson said.

"it takes a lot of time and research, and we’ve done a pretty good job of that with ours, I believe. so hopefully it’ll pay off in the end."

Originally published in the Athens Banner-Herald on Sunday, September 04, 2011 report an error

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