Mobile apps are the most innovative way to interact with customers and build a loyal following. As we move away from desktop computing, smartphone apps will be essential for businesses looking to grow in today’s digital world. Whether you’re an established company or just starting, this blog post contains what you need to know about mobile app development. So, let’s get started!
Stages of Mobile App Development
Step 1: Validate your app idea
Before you spend time and money on your App, you must validate the idea.
As a business owner, it is essential to think of the next big thing, but to do so, you have to know what your customers want.
Find out if people are looking for an app that does X, and then build it!
How do you find out what people want?
User research is an excellent way to start.
Talk to your customers, ask for feedback on specific ideas, or conduct surveys.
You can also use Google trends and other tools to validate your idea.
Do not forget about competitors too!
They may have an existing app with similar functionality that is a good example for you.
As with any business endeavour, one key metric you can’t ignore is what our team here at Bilue like to refer to as “Business potential Score.”
This metric is a top-level indicator of the potential for an app to be successful.
- Whether your App would be a solution to something so unique or specialised that no other solutions exist
- If the problem can’t be solved in any other ways – apps, websites, or traditional channels
- And how easy it would be to build an app for the problem and monetise it
If your app idea fulfils all three of these factors, it will have a high business potential score, and you will have a better chance of success, and if it is poor, you might want to rethink the idea.
When a client contacted us to build a mobile wallet for a specific category of consumers, we were able to help them validate their idea quickly.
The problem the App would solve was unique. We found some potential competitors, but the App would be much easier to build and monetise, resulting in a high “Business Potential Score,” and we were able to get the project underway.
Next time you have a great app idea in your head that you want to build, think of it like a mirage in the desert. It may look like an oasis of sorts, but it’s not water that you are going to be drinking from. It’s not until you validate your app idea that you can see the true potential and be successful.
Step 2: Create Your Buyer Personas
Buyer personas are a vital part of the mobile app development process.
A buyer persona is a description of your ideal customer. It helps focus on your customers, what they need and wants from your App, and how you can engage them throughout the development process.
- Joe is a father of three kids who takes care of the house and spends most of his day watching TV.
- He wants to keep track of what food he buys at grocery stores and how much time he spends doing different household chores.
- He doesn’t want to spend much money on an app but would be happy to pay a monthly or yearly subscription fee.
- Joe would likely use the App on his mobile phone and occasionally on his tablet.
Creating a buyer persona lets us know what Joe’s needs and wants are before he even knows them. It also helps us understand what features to emphasise and downplay.
With a user like Joe, we would build an easy to use app that would cover all the basic features he needed. We would also focus on getting him to sign up for a monthly fee to make money off of him for a long time.
To get a holistic understanding of who your customers are, you need to go beyond the surface and investigate their needs.
The result of this customer research would be things like:
- What they want from the App
- How they use the App
- What devices do they have
- What will motivate them
- And what their demographics are.
The better you know your customers, the better you can build them into a persona.
Tip: Step away from your computer and go out into the world to study your customers. Immerse yourself in their world for a few hours.
Additionally, you can use digital tools like Qualaroo, Survey Monkey, or Google Forms to conduct your research more formally.
Step 3: Define your App’s Features
An adage we often use in the app development space is that every new feature in an app should justify its existence.
The truth of this statement can be seen when you consider that the average person can only remember three to five features on a given app which means that if you have ten or more different features, you’re going to have a difficult time making your App memorable.
To solve this problem and get the most bang for your buck, you need to identify essential features for your customers.
Pick three or four of these and focus on these features.
If your App is meant to carry out a specific task, focus on that one aspect and either remove the other features or make them secondary to the main feature.
If your app is meant to help people find the nearest gas station, then make sure that you focus on finding gas stations.
Don’t distract users by showing them the nearest restaurants or different types of gas. It’s easy to get caught up in adding features but resist this temptation to keep your App focused.
Once you have a clear plan of what features to prioritise and how they work, it’s time for the next step.
Step 4: Map out your user journey and wireframe
Here’s an example :
Alice is a busy woman who is always on the go.
- She needs to keep track of her spending but doesn’t have time for an app with many features.
- She would rather use her phone over a laptop to access an app, but she also wants the convenience of using the App on her tablet – this means that Alice needs an app that is always available, has a simple interface, and can sync seamlessly between devices.
The user journey map should include where the person begins, what they want to accomplish when they start using your App, and where they finish.
In Alice’s case, she would need to:
- Install the App on her mobile phone and sign-up
- Log in with a username and password (or use her fingerprint)
- Enter what she wants to track (her monthly spending) and the date range for when she needs to have it tracked
- Select her saving goal, her monthly budget, and the frequency with which she wants to be alerted
- Select what alerts she would like (text message or push notification).
- She could also switch between mobile phone and tablet, logging in on either one and accessing her data.
Once you have a clear picture of what she needs to do, you can create wireframes that map out how her App will work.
A wireframe is a rough sketch of the user interface for one specific screen or page. These will include screens, navigation paths, and images that illustrate how the App will look if it were ever built.
Wireframing is a crucial step because this rough sketch will help you understand the flow of your App and what screens are necessary to get the job done.
Many tools like Balsamiq and Sketch are available to create these wireframes, but there’s nothing wrong with sketching it out on paper as long as you can keep it as simple and uncluttered as possible.
The implication is that if someone is using a mobile phone, the interface needs to be minimal and use large buttons.
If the person is using a tablet, they need to have more screen space to take advantage of that with more features and a slightly different layout.
The wireframe should also include critical points of what the person will see on each screen.
When Alice logs in, she will see a dashboard of her ongoing spending.
She can then select an entry on the list and see a breakdown of her spending.
She can also click on an entry to get more information about that purchase.
If Alice clicks on the date header, she will see a list of transactions for that day.
The above illustration is just one example of how a wireframe can look – it’s important to keep this as simple and streamlined as possible.
Step 5: Decide on the type of App you want to build
Frequently we get asked: “Android or iOS, which one should I choose?”
This question is difficult to answer because the best choice depends on what you’re building. As professionals, when we talk about “types of apps” in mobile app development, we’re speaking more in terms of the platform and operating system on which the App will be running.
There are currently three major ones. They are:
Native apps are built specifically for a single mobile operating system such as Android, iOS, or Windows Phone. They provide the user with an optimised experience for the device and platform.
Mobile Web Apps:
A Mobile Web App is a simple web page accessed through a mobile browser, such as Safari or Chrome on iOS. It’s an app that runs in a browser like any other web page. These types of applications are often referred to as “HTML5 Web App.”
As to which type of App you should choose, it’s primarily up to the kind of business you’re running.
If your goal is to primarily reach customers on Apple devices or demographics with a higher app spend, you will want to build a native iOS app.
If you want some of your apps to work on Android or Windows Phone platforms as well, then you could go with a cross-platform app.
If your goal is to reach the widest number of customers and grow as quickly as possible, you should go with a mobile web app that can work on any device with internet access from anywhere.
Android also has a larger market share globally of the mobile operating systems in use, so it’s more likely that your potential customer will be on an Android phone than any other device, so consider this also when making your decision.
In general, the most important thing to keep in mind is that you should have a clear goal in mind for your App and then decide which type of App will best suit that need.
Step 06: Write the code and develop the App
Chances are you’ve seen, read or have been told that for your App to be successful, it needs to have great design and function, should be stable, secure, perform well, be easy to use and have a great user experience.
Yes, these are all important things. And this is where mobile app programming and development come in.
The code is the programming behind your App; it’s what makes all of those things happen.
If you’re thinking about building an app, you’ll need to start thinking about what kind of programming language you want to use and find reliable app developers who can write the code for you.
Three common mobile app development programming languages
In simple terms, mobile app developers can use Kotlin to build Android apps, iOS apps, and many other types of programs.
Swift is a powerful, intuitive programming language for iOS, iPadOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS created by Apple and first released in 2014. If you want to build iOS native apps, Swift is the programming language of choice.
The programming languages mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg – there are a lot of them. What’s suitable for you depends on the type of App, your skillset, the complexity of your App, the platforms you want to develop for (iOS, Android), and more.
Have this at the back of your mind:
There are a lot of languages and frameworks that developers use when they write code. The development process is extensive and complicated, often requiring a collaborative effort that involves many different specialists, including designers, QA engineers, UI/UX designers, project managers and more.
A typical process for building a mobile app would include:
- Defining metrics for success
- Creating a project plan and timeline
- Collaborating with the design team
- Developing a prototype of your App to test the feasibility
- Writing the code/Programming.
For programming, three areas need to be addressed:
Front-end mobile app programming
Front-end, also known as “client-side”, deals with the code that transforms the back-end data to what the user sees or interacts with is the front-end.
Back end programming
It concerns itself with writing the code that handles all of your App’s logic, business rules, access to databases, security and more. It is where the data is stored and manipulated as well.
Application Programming Interface (API)
APIs give your app access to external data and services. Note, your App won’t operate in isolation; it will need access to data from other systems, websites and databases.
For example, a weather app would use APIs for the current weather forecast.
The whole programming process is complex, time-consuming and full of details that need to be done correctly for your App to be stable, secure and perform well.
So, if you want to give your mobile App the best chance at success, you’ll need to invest in the app development process and then find an experienced team that can help you write the code and develop the App. This approach would save you time and money in the long run.
Step 07: App testing
After you’ve built your App, you’re not going to know how well it works until you’ve tested it on a variety of devices and operating systems.
There are a few different types of tests that your App should go through to make sure it’s ready:
- Alpha Testing is done before you release it to a broader user base. It is done to catch any bugs and errors when the App runs on different devices and operating systems.
- Beta Testing is done externally on a small group of users representing your target demographic and can give you feedback about the App’s user experience and performance on different devices.
- Final Testing is done just before the public release of your App to ensure that all bugs have been fixed, functions correctly and that it’s ready for the public.
The following are a few tests you should complete before launching your mobile App:
This type of test is a process that ensures your App performs well, offers an optimum user experience and is stable. Load Testing, Stress Testing, Concurrency testing and more are all part of this process.
Compatibility testing is a process that verifies your App’s compatibility with any operating system or device.
This test verifies the usability and user experience of your App.
Security testing is a process that checks for potential security risks in your App, including vulnerabilities, malware, viruses and more.
System testing is used to verify that all of your App functions are working as they should be and offers an optimum user experience.
User Acceptance Testing
This process verifies that the App meets your users’ expectations, requirements and objectives.
This test is a process that verifies that your App meets all the necessary standards.
Testing your App is a crucial step in the process of building an app, don’t forget this when you’re in the process of creating and designing your App.
Several tools and technologies are available for testing your App, including:
- Apteligent for performance testing;
- BrowserStack for compatibility testing;
- Loop for usability testing;
- Google Nogotofail for security testing;
- Selendroid for functionality testing;
- Coded UI for user interface testing, to mention but a few.
After every test, you’ll need to identify the bugs or errors found and then fix them.
App testing is a never-ending process, but it’s necessary to ensure your App performs well, is stable and offers the best user experience possible.
It is highly recommended that if you don’t have experience with testing mobile apps or if you’re outsourcing your app development, you should consider hiring professional app developers to put the App through its paces.
Step 08: Publish your mobile application
The moment your App is ready for the public, it’s time to go live.
One of the most critical steps in this process is submitting your mobile App to the appropriate app stores – your primary distribution channel for getting users.
How do you submit your App to the appropriate stores?
App Stores vary in their policies and submission requirements, so it’s vital that you research what you need to do to submit your App.
Here’s a quick summary of some key aspects that are specific for each app store:
Submitting your App to Apple Store
- You need to create an Apple developer account
- Create an iTunes Connect profile
- Submit your App to the store by using Xcode
- Wait for the Apple review
Submitting your App to Google Play Store
You can upload the APK file using the Google Developer Console and publish the App.
Submitting your App to Amazon App Store (Android apps)
- Create & Log In to Amazon App store account and Add an App
- Add General Information
- Add Availability & Pricing
- Add Descriptions, Images, Multimedia, and Content Rating
- Upload App Files
- Submit Your App and Check Status
Following approval, your App will be available for download on the respective App Store.
Here are some tips for successful app store submissions:
- Make sure your App is ready to go before submitting it
- Use the appropriate SDKs for each platform (Android, iOS, Windows Phone)
- Research the policies of each store and be familiar with their submission requirements
- Provide your contact information so they can get in touch if any issues arise
- Do not copy someone else’s App, description, logo, or screenshots
- Use relevant keywords in the app description
Step 09: Market it for success
We would have loved to tell you that your job is done once you’ve submitted your App to the store, but that’s not entirely true.
To stand out and appeal to the masses, you need to market it.
How do you know what marketing channels are the best for your App?
Doing some research and understanding your user base and demographics will help you make the right decisions.
For example, to promote your App, if it’s a fitness app, you could use social media channels such as Facebook and Instagram to reach your target users.
Another option is creating marketing content that includes videos, blogs, and infographics.
You could also go the traditional route of hiring a PR firm to promote your App in magazines and newspapers.
Just make sure to get your PR strategy in place before promoting.
App promotion is another area where hiring an app development agency can be helpful. They would have some great ideas about getting your App in front of more people, or they can provide other services from the get-go, such as marketing and PR.
Here are a few other tips for promoting your App:
- Make sure you have clear calls to action that are easy for your customer to complete
- Add social media buttons in the App so people can share them with their friends
- Consider paid advertising on sites like Facebook and Google Adwords
- Find influencers in your niche and pay them to promote your App
- Create a promotional video for the App with testimonials and case studies
- Target the right audience with your marketing to avoid wasting time and money as well as preventing app abandonment which can hurt your ratings
- Be sure to check your app stores regularly because the number of downloads is a good metric for how successful you are at marketing it.
Step 10: Continuous app updates, improvement, and support
Mobile apps are constantly evolving.
The implication is that your App should constantly change and improve to keep up with the latest trends, which means that you need to be ready for change and keep your App updated.
To do this, make sure you have a good Q&A and customer support strategy in place.
Customer support is also a crucial part of the mobile application development process because customers will have questions about installation, account creation, and more
Here are some tips for providing excellent customer service:
- Respond promptly to any questions and concerns
- Make sure you have a clear feedback or contact form that customers can use to provide their thoughts on your App.
- Collect customer reviews; this will let you know what your customers want, which will help keep your App current and relevant.
Bilue is located in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia. If you would like to meet us to talk through a project or find out more, we’d love to hear from you.