Episode 022 – Thomas Grayston of Note Rush on Developing and Launching an App (Part 2)

Subscribe on iTunesStitcherGoogle Play Music, or wherever you get podcasts!


Today’s podcast is part two of my interview with Thomas Grayston, the developer of the Note Rush app. 

In it, Thomas puts on his app developer hat and guides us through the first steps teachers can take if they have app ideas they want to bring to market. There is a TON of information in this episode, so be prepared to take notes!


The majority of apps that get launched to succeed and don’t have longevity. A big reason for this is that people don’t validate their ideas before jumping in. Here are some of Thomas’ tips on how to plan and develop an worthwhile app.

Validating an App

  • Check app stores to see if someone has already made your idea.
    • If it’s already there, it doesn’t mean you should abandon the idea, but you want to think about your app’s points of differentiation. Are these points something people are looking for?
    • If a similar app isn’t there, ask yourself why no one else has done it. Is it not viable for business, marketing, or technical reasons?
  • Product-Market Fit – Do people want the app? Are they searching for it?
    • To test, talk to people in your market about the idea and see if they get excited about it.
    • If people respond positively, draw a mockup of sample screens on paper (or go higher tech with mockup software like POP) and test more.
  • Marketing Fit – Can you cost-effectively reach the people who would be interested in your app?
    • For instance, is your market a group that is well-defined and congregates in a group? This could be a physical group or online, such as piano teachers, who gather in Facebook groups.
    • Even though Note Rush is used by students, Thomas markets mostly to teachers because the parents of music students don’t often congregate in groups.
  • Business Model – How will you make money?
    • We discussed different app business models in Part 1 of this interview and Thomas explained how he decided to launch Note Rush as a one-time paid app and why he has considered trying other pricing models.
    • If it’s a free app, how will you fund the ongoing development and app store fees?

Working with Developers

  • There is no “normal” when it comes to developer fees. Thomas’ previous employer charged an hourly rate of $120 AUD (approximately $87 USD). Both contract (fixed-rate) fees and hourly arrangements are common.
  • Thomas recommends negotiating a fixed-rate contract with a developer so you can better control costs, and to define certain benchmarks and stages of completion for the project.
  • For the first stage, develop only the most essential features. This is called the minimum viable product (MVP). From there, scope out other features for subsequent stages of development.
  • Write a specification document that outlines everything you want to go into the app, and include the mockup images you created for reference. Define what fits into each stage of development.
  • Consider the developer’s design skills, not just their coding skills. Look at previous work to see if it meets your design standards.
  • A developer who gets excited about your idea is more likely to do a good job and not just do the bare minimum according to your specifications.
  • A good developer will have valuable input to offer in every stage of the project.
  • If you have the budget for it, a designer can also be a valuable asset on your development team.


  • Consider how easy/difficult it would be for someone else to copy the idea.We tend to be overprotective of ideas. Successful products have much more to them than what is expressed in an initial pitch.
  • An idea that we keep to ourselves might be safe, but we’re missing out on valuable feedback we could get by talking about it to others.

Getting Feedback

  • Get fresh eyes on the product at each stage.
  • Let people USE the product themselves, don’t just demonstrate.


  • Look at the top games in app stores to see what’s currently trending. For instance, there had been a trend for free apps with consumable purchases (like purchasing “jewels” that get used up in the game).
  • Lately, there has been a trend, especially in educational apps, back toward one-time paid apps.
  • Thomas is excited about the potential of virtual reality and augmented reality as these technologies become accessible to more people. I’m right there with him!


Thomas Grayston interview Part 1  

Prototype on Paper – Mockup app

Book: Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience by Jeff Gothelf with Josh Seiden 

Note Rush App: iTunes and Google Play

Note Rush Dinosaur Theme: http://noterushapp.com/musicstudiostartup

Note Rush Teachers on Facebook

Connect with Thomas

Website: https://www.noterushapp.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/noterush/

Previous Episode
Episode 021 – Thomas Grayston of Note Rush on Developing and Launching an App (Part 1)
Next Episode
023 – Eric Branner of Fons on Building a Payment System to Transform Teaching Studios