How much work goes into developing a successful mobile app?
Hell of a lot.
Also, in the race between mobile and desktop, mobile is winning the race. The number of mobile app users and time spent on mobile devices are increasing at the speed of light. According to 2018 Internet Trends, users spend 3.3 hours of their media time on their phones.
Mobile apps are indispensable when a company’s goal is to engage and communicate with the users to drive customer loyalty.
There are so many ways in which a mobile app can benefit a business, namely
- Helps provide more value to the customers
- Useful in building a stronger brand
- Gives a boost to sales, resulting in more revenue
- Enhances mobile marketing strategy
No matter how many advantages a mobile app has, building one from scratch can be a daunting task. Especially if we look at the efforts, time and cost involved in building one.
Even if you were to hire a Mobile Application Development Company, it’s important to have a thorough idea of the steps involved. This information can prove to be really beneficial and the end result is more likely to be in sync with your expectations. Here is a step-by-step guide of the process.
MOBILE APP DEVELOPMENT STEPS
- DEFINE YOUR OBJECTIVE
- LAY OUT THE APP’S FEATURES AND FUNCTIONALITIES
- RESEARCH YOUR COMPETITORS
- CHECK ON PLATFORMS & DEVICES TO SUPPORT
- IDENTIFY APPROACHES TO DEVELOP THE APP – NATIVE, WEB OR HYBRID
- CREATE WIREFRAMES
- TEST WIREFRAMES
- CREATE A PROTOTYPE
- BUILD BACK-END OF YOUR MOBILE APP
- INTEGRATE APPROPRIATE ANALYTICS TOOL
- DESIGN THE UI/ UX
- DEVELOP THE APP
- BETA TEST THE APP FOR EFFECTIVE GOALS
- DEPLOY THE APP
- NEW UPDATES, IF ANY
1. DEFINE YOUR OBJECTIVES
Building an app without defining your objectives is like shopping for clothes without knowing your size.
An app can have various objectives, but the two main objectives of any app are
- Improvement for audience
- Improvement for business
When the audience interacts with an app, the first question they ask is, what the app will do for them. If they do not experience any valuable addition or solution, they immediately move to a competitor with better offering. An app should improve the lives of its audience in some way or the other.
As for the business, improvement in business through an app can mean many things – increase in customer base, improvement in ROI, repeat customers, better productivity, boost in brand awareness, etc.
An app can have more than one purpose. So, start by asking the following questions to yourself:
- What are your business objectives for the app?
- Which areas of your business need improvement?
- What problem is it going to solve?
- How will you market your app?
- What is the potential result?
- How are you going to appeal to the users?
The answers to these questions will be your core guidance throughout the rest of the process. They will also help you to define the the MVP, i.e. the Minimum Viable Product. Although it means many things, the simplest definition for MVP is a testable product that doesn’t have the complete features.
Testable means that it will help you collect data and get feedback at the earliest stages of development by the users. Based on this, you can make improvements to the next stages of your app.
2. LAY OUT THE APP’S FEATURES AND FUNCTIONALITIES
By now it should be clear what you want your app to achieve. The next step is to note down the features and functionalities that will help you achieve the same. This is important because without it, you yourself won’t be able to figure out what is possible in the app and what isn’t.
Not only that, you will also be required to take permissions well in advance for certain features and functionalities. This will require you to have a list of all the features you need to add beforehand. It will be helpful to take the permissions prior to the launch so that there are no issues at the last minute.
Some of examples of features could be:
- YouTube integration
- Chat / Chatbot
- Social sharing
- Block-chain / Crypto-currency
- Sensor based integration
- IOT / Internet of Things
- Push notifications
- Upload a picture / Gallery Integration
- Events calendar
- Maps integration for directions
- Payment Gateway Integration
- Shipping Method Integration
- Multimedia / Entertainment
- Video Player Integration
3. RESEARCH YOUR COMPETITORS
Now that you are clear on first two steps of the mobile app development phases, let’s move on to the next important step of looking at what your competitors are doing. You may think this is unnecessary or a waste of time but let us assure you that it’s anything but that.
It’s not necessary to focus on your local competitors, you could even look at the people doing similar work in the entire world. It could spark new ideas and even find out the gaps that need filling.
Let’s suppose you are making a social networking app. If you go to the app store and open the Social category, you will be able to see hundreds of social networking apps. How will you make your app stand out?
When you look at your competitor’s app, notice their app layouts, their functionalities and note down anything and everything that appeals to you or you feel is missing. Apart from this, you should also look at the metrics. This includes the number of installs, user reviews and ratings, company’s history, etc. It will help you understand what level you need to reach in order to overtake your competitors.
Studying your competitor’s apps will also lead you to understand the type of functionalities that they are providing and what you can do to make it better. You’ll be able to understand the audience and their demands as well.
4. CHECK ON PLATFORMS & DEVICES TO SUPPORT
Knowing your audience through your competitors will have an added benefit – you can also know the type of devices they tend to use. This is crucial information when developing an app. Phones (like any other man-made objects) have limitations and issues.
Based on the hardware performance, battery life, and other required peripherals, you need to select mobile platforms and devices where you will deploy the app.
Certainly, there are some factors that you’ll need to consider while selecting mobile platforms and devices. They include coverage, device support, performance, mobile OS, it’s version, etc. You’ll also need to keep in mind the screen resolution, color saturation and other similar specifications when developing your app. This will help you ensure that your users don’t face any issues while using your app.
5. IDENTIFY APPROACHES TO DEVELOP THE APP – NATIVE, WEB OR HYBRID
The approach you select to develop the app can either make your business or break it. Hence, when you’re selecting from the web, native and hybrid mobile apps, there are a variety of factors that you should take into consideration. Let’s take a look at each of these categories in detail before moving further.
- Native apps
- Web apps
- Hybrid apps
- Native apps: Undoubtedly, these types of apps are known for delivering the best user experience, but they require a good amount of time and skills to be developed. These apps are platform specific. The app developers are required to have a significant experience and knowledge in native app development. These apps are best in performance but they are most expensive to develop.
6. CREATE WIREFRAMES
So far, you have decided the purpose of your app, researched your competitors, sketched out the app and decided the approach to app development. Now, it’s time to give the first skeleton to your mobile app and arrange the above points together with wireframing.
To elaborate, wireframing is a visual guide that represents the app’s layout and the flow between screens without any involvement of designs and graphics. It is sort of a bridge between the raw thoughts about the app and technical development of the app.
Basically, there are two ways to create wireframes – offline and online.
The offline way of creating wireframes is to use pen and paper and design wireframes on your own. Apart from this, you can also use templates like the ones from SneakPeekIt
For online creation of wireframes, there are multiple options to choose from. Some of these options are:
For templates: Adobe Suite
Specialized tools like:
Here’s an example of wireframes:
7. TEST WIREFRAMES
Now that the wireframes are ready, it is time to test the wireframes for app’s flow and user experience. This can help to identify and friction points. It allows you to compare your screen flow with user’s expectations. This can help in avoiding any frustration that may arise in the users due to improper flow.
8. CREATE A PROTOTYPE
A prototype is very close to a finished app. In a prototype, the processes that the app is supposed to perform can be simulated and the app can be tested for user interaction. That’s how, creating a prototype helps saving development costs and time. It can also help in obtaining user feedback and testing the product.
Invision is an excellent app for creating prototypes. It helps you connect screens and simulate an actual experience of using the app. Moreover, using Invision to create prototypes is really easy.
- Create an account for free.
- Create a project by clicking ‘+’ button.
- Click ‘Create new prototype’.
- Name the prototype and select its type. You get two options: sync with Sketch/ Photoshop, or add images from computer.
- Then, you can add images of each screen from wireframe and link the screens to one another.
Finally, you can share your prototype with others and ask for their feedback.
Make revisions and updates to your wireframe based on the feedback you receive. Then, test the prototype again and again until all friction points are removed.
9. BUILD BACK-END OF YOUR MOBILE APP
Now that your app is defined in a clear way, it is time, to begin with, the back-end of the app. You can choose to hire a mobile app development agency do the task for you. Once the app development company is on-board, they will set up the servers, databases, storage solutions, and APIs.
There are excellent DIY app-builders that can provide tools to do the above-mentioned things yourself. Some of them even do it for you. If you are not clear how to use it, you should probably use a service that provides hosting and a means of collecting data about your app usage.
It is imperative to create clear diagrams as they serve as directions for the app development.
Here are a few back-end services that you can check out:
In the meanwhile, it is important to sign up for developer accounts at the app marketplaces you are developing for. Google charges $25 for lifetime and Apple charges $99 annually. Account approval takes up to several days and it should not be put off to the last minute.
10. INTEGRATE APPROPRIATE ANALYTICS TOOL
Integrating analytics can help you track downloads, user engagement, customer retention, popular products, drop-off points, etc. for your mobile app. Having this kind of information helps to understand things that are working in your favor and things that are not working in your favor. You can then enhance your app based on the data you gather from the tools.
Here’s a list of a few tools that can be used:
11. DESIGN THE UI/ UX
It is now time to design the UI/ UX of the app. These are very important parts of the app as people get attracted to good looking and easy to navigate apps. While designing the UI/ UX, it is important to keep the feedback from the prototype testers in mind. Hence, you need to make sure that the design and navigation of the app reflect the feedback that you had received.
12. DEVELOP THE APP
This is one of the most crucial mobile app development phases. You may choose from hybrid app, web app or native app as discussed above. In many cases, people also start with MVP or minimum viable product. Actually, it is the very first version of an application with only the essential features. It allows to make a quick start with release and, consequently, to test the viability of an idea.
13. BETA TEST THE APP FOR EFFECTIVE GOALS
Once the app has been developed, it time to test the app for bugs and user experience. This helps in knowing if the app that has been developed is as intuitive as it was after you’ve created and tested your wireframes.
Android makes this process easy whereas iOS keeps things in a controlled environment. Because for Android, you simply need to upload your app’s packaged .apk file on any android device and test it in a live environment. Afterward, you can monitor your apps’ progress from your device. iOS requires you to use TestFlight to beta test your app. One great advantage of using TestFlight is that you can invite testers to review your app before making it live.
There are basically two types of tests to be done, they are as following:
Internal testing is done by the development team as if they are the end users. The goal of this testing to look for bugs or any other user experience issues.
Whereas, external testing is done by people who are not familiar with the app. The aim here is to pinpoint any user experience issues and unintuitive steps.
14. DEPLOY THE APP
This is the last mobile app development process step – to share it with the world. Now it’s time to distribute the app. Android and iOS are very different when it comes to distributing the app. Apple is a lot stricter when it comes to approving apps for their store. On the other hand, the approval process for Google Play Store takes a few hours at most, however, the approval time for App Store is around 2 days.
15. NEW UPDATES, IF ANY
After capturing the metrics, you can upgrade your app with innovative features and improvements. However, a mobile app that doesn’t have innovative features loses its usability in the longer run. Upgrading your app with features increases its visibility and downloads. Also, ensure that you keep updating your app to meet new guidelines offered by various platforms.
Once your mobile app is up and running, you realize that the simplest step was the development of the app. But the real challenge lies in getting more and more users for the app. That is where the marketing comes into the picture. If you do not market your app, then there is a bright chance that your app will get lost in the millions of app already present on the app stores. So, make sure you market your app well. There are various channels through which you can market your app.
- Email your potential customers
- Promote the app on your website
- Promote the app on social media platforms
So, are you ready to hire mobile app developers? Comment below.