It’s no secret that the world has become mobile. We live in an age where our smartphones are at hand anytime, day or night.
What is everyone doing on these devices? Using mobile applications.
The potential use cases for mobile applications are seemingly endless. From small business apps to e-commerce apps, fitness apps, employee internal communication apps, religious apps and more – there’s an app for everything you can imagine.
Applications can be developed as an extension of your existing business or used to create new business from scratch.
Whether you want to develop an app for your business or create the next Uber, this guide is for anyone who wants to create a mobile app.
For first-time builders, non-technical users and anyone who has experienced a failed development attempt in the past, this resource will guide you through the development process in a way that is easy for everyone to understand.
Creating a mobile application is a complex process, but the return is worth the effort.
The process of creating a mobile application is not limited to coding. It involves several steps, including describing and clarifying the idea, communicating with a software development company, cost estimation, prototyping, design, back-end and mobile development, launch and marketing.
Yes, it’s complex – but the game is definitely worth the candle!
Mobile application development: a step-by-step guide
Mobile application development can be segmented into three categories – pre-development, development and post-launch.
This guide reads best from start to finish, but feel free to click on the sections that are most relevant to your needs. Some of you might start from scratch, while others might be further in this process.
1. Pre-application development
Although it is tempting to start building immediately, you have to face certain steps before you can start developing. These steps are essential to the success of your application, so don’t skip them.
1.1 Define your goals
Every mobile application development project must start with clearly defined objectives.
What do you want to achieve? What problems are you trying to solve?
Your goals will ultimately set the whole development process. If they are not clearly defined from the beginning, it is easy to get lost along the way once you start developing your own application.
Don’t set goals – set measurable goals.
Use it as a north star to make sure you’re constantly aiming for them. Otherwise, you will not use your time and resources efficiently. Because application development is virtually unlimited, it might be appealing to add features, bells, and whistles that aren’t essential to your goal.
You can set goals for the end user as well as goals for your business.
To ensure that you achieve your application development goals, you need to understand the difference between a goal and objectives. Goals are the end result you want to achieve. Goals are the steps you take to achieve those goals.
Break these goals down into SMART goals:
- At time
It is a common mistake for people to set monetary goals, such as “make more money.” But that goes without saying. It doesn’t make you any different from any other business on the planet. Instead, a big goal should focus on your purpose and mission.
Each objective should have clear performance indicators (key performance indicators).
Make sure you have predefined measurements for success. KPIs work best when they are numeric.
For example, if you’re creating an e-commerce app, one of your goals might be to reduce your shopping cart abandonment rates on mobile devices. To make sure you achieve this goal, you need to know your current dropout rates to compare them to your numbers when your app is finally launched.
1.2 – Carrying out market research
Once you have set your goals, you need to make sure that there is a market need for your application. Each application idea sounds good in theory, but you need to validate your idea before proceeding.
It is much better to do market research now before you start developing. Otherwise, you can waste valuable time, resources and money on an application idea that the market does not need.
If the app is for your existing business, talk to your customers to understand what they want. It’s easy to assume that customers want certain features, but the only way to know for sure is to take the time to learn more about them.
Create polls. Conduct interviews. Run a focus group.
How will an application improve the experience of your current or potential customers?
Research your competition. Are there other companies or applications out there that do the same thing? How can your application do better?
Your application must have a differentiating factor that separates it from the competition. This will be your competitive advantage.
Without differentiating yourself, users will have no reason to choose you over other players in the industry. Remember, you will probably be competing against the companies and applications that brought you to market. How are you going to get them?
For those of you who are lucky enough to have the advantage of the first step, how will your application be different from those built after you?
All this information must be clearly identified in market research.
1.3 – Create a Wireframe
If you’ve never built a mobile app before, you may be wondering what a wireframe is. Fortunately, it is very easy to create.
A wireframe is essentially a rough aspect of your mobile application. It doesn’t even have to be too formal. You can create a wireframe on a piece of paper, a whiteboard, a napkin, or you can use a digital wireframing tool.
The purpose of the wireframe is to simply illustrate the basic components of your application and arrange the diagrams.
Don’t worry about application design elements in a wireframe. This tool is not meant to be an individual relationship of how the final application will actually look. Instead, the focus of your wireframe should be on structure and flow.
Plan the user’s trip. Show what happens if I click a specific button. What will the next page look like? What happens on the screen when a user clicks Option A over Option B?
Here is an analogy to express the importance of wireframing. Suppose you wanted to build a house. You wouldn’t start clearing the ground on the first day, would you? Instead, you would sketch the plans on paper. Then you can take these plans to an engineer or an architect and explain what you want. They will take these plans and use them to create the blueprints for the plans. It is much easier to make these changes on paper before you start pouring concrete or laying walls.
The same concept can be applied to mobile application development. It’s much easier to make changes on paper before you start building something.
A wireframe can also help you bring your team to the same page in terms of your vision of how the app will work and work.
1.4 – Choose your development method
There are a lot of different ways to create an application. Before you begin, you will need to determine which method is best for your unique situation.
The best option for me may not be the best option for you.
Choosing the right method is based on factors such as your budget, level of technical qualification, type of application and launch time.
In general, there are five different ways to create a mobile application. I will explain each method in more detail below, to let you know which choice is best for your application.
Native development involves low-level coding. So if you are not a developer and do not know how to code, you will need to hire a specialized developer to create the application for you.
If you plan to launch the app for both iOS and Android, you will need a developer for each platform. Each platform has its own programming language. While some developers know how to build for both, it will take you twice as long as one person to do everything and will not save you money. Alternatively, you can have two people working on the app simultaneously to get to the market faster.
In addition to hiring application developers, you’ll also need a complete web developer to create your backend infrastructure for cloud-hosted data.
Your application development team will not be complete without a quality control specialist testing and a project manager overseeing everyone’s duties.
Native development gives you the greatest flexibility of any development method. By coding from scratch, your application can do anything. It is an ideal option for anyone trying to create a games application or an augmented reality application.
Development of hybrid applications
The flexibility of a hybrid application is still quite high in terms of what the application can achieve. Although you will not need a low-level coding developer to build it, you must still have web development skills.
In general, hybrid development will save you time and money compared to native development. However, you can expect the performance of a hybrid application to be slightly below the performance of a native application. Fortunately, for most people, poor performance will not make a difference in the success of the application.
With today’s internet speed, the performance gap is narrowing dramatically. You can create an intensive application in the user interface using hybrid development without any visible problems.
Rapid Application Development (RAD)
Rapid application development is a popular choice for non-technical users who want to build an application on their own. It is much cheaper than native and hybrid development and you will be able to reach the market even faster.
With RAD, you will use an existing tool to create an application with an online interface.
These platforms are usually promoted as solutions for non-technical people. However, you will need to have an idea of what you are doing from a technical perspective if you want to create an application using this method.
We won’t have to learn how to code or do such a thing, but you will definitely need some technical skill to make applications do anything beyond a basic level.
Rapid application development limits the builder to any tool it uses to create applications. You will only be able to use whatever platform has to offer for functionality. Simply set up these tools in a way that works for your application
For something basic, such as a mobile application for internal processes, RAD will be a viable option. Just understand that you will have limitations.
Cookie Cutter applications
A cookie cutter is exactly what it sounds like. Essentially, take a single application and configure it for your needs.
You’ll add custom text, images, color schemes, and other graphics that align with your brand. The platform allows you to easily turn on the features you need and turn off features you don’t have.
No coding is required for this development method. You don’t even have to be technical to figure it out.
Although the level of difficulty of creating an application in this way is quite low, the flexibility is too low. You can’t create anything too interesting or personalized with a cookie cutter app. Functionality will be extremely limited. If you want your app to expand, the platform you’re building will restrict you.
That being said, cookie cutters are fine for those of you who build applications as a hobby. It is a good solution for people on a budget who want to reach the market as soon as possible. Just understand that the potential of your application has a very low ceiling. It is not really viable for commercial purposes.
1.5 – Research of existing solutions
The last step you need to take in the pre-development process is to research existing solutions. Before you waste time and valuable resources building something from scratch, make sure that solution is already available on the market.
Let’s refer to the analogy of building houses that we used earlier. You could get a carpenter to build every aspect of your kitchen from scratch, from custom drawers to windows and cabinets. But why would you need that? You can simply buy cabinets that have already been built and install them in the kitchen.
In terms of application development, there are services to achieve the standard functionality that every application needs. I mean solutions for things like infrastructure, hosting, design, analysis and push notifications.
Once you have completed the work in the pre-development stage, you can start building your application. By now, you have already validated your application idea, done all the necessary research, and have a basic understanding of how the application should work.
2.1 – Technical specifications
Take the wireframes you created during the pre-development process and use them to create a “technical specification”.
Think of this in terms of building an analogy of houses that I refer to below. The technical specifications can be compared to the civil engineering process. There are a lot of factors to consider before starting construction. You have electricity, plumbing, ventilation and things like that.
These are the interior works behind the walls of your house that no one sees. Sometimes it makes sense to logically change things around you, because it will save you a lot of time and money.
For example, in a two-story house, you could put a bathroom on the second floor above the kitchen, because the plumbing can be easily connected. In the original design (wireframe), the bathroom could have been elsewhere. But the civil engineer says that if you align them, it will save time and money.
The same concept can be applied to mobile application development. The technical specifications process gives you an additional perspective on the internal workings of your application.
Developers need to look at your wireframe and evaluate the technical challenges – not just the visual ones.
Technical specifications can find alternative ways to achieve your goals.
At the very least, get the information and then you have the opportunity to weigh your options.
You can always say that the user experience is more important than eliminating costs and building more efficiently. But the process of technological specifications is still a crucial part of development.
It is better to do it immediately, as opposed to three or six months, thinking: “I would like to do things differently. It could have saved us so much time. “
2.2 – Set measurable benchmarks
Setting milestones will help keep you and your team on track during the construction process. Without benchmarks, you will have no way to track your progress.
The idea here is to separate your massive development project into smaller pieces. It is much easier to destroy many smaller projects than to look at a huge project from start to finish.
Each small project should be completed within a specified time frame. Depending on the complexity of the pregnancy, it can range from a few days to a few weeks.
You can measure your progress against this milestone to ensure that you and your development team meet deadlines.
The best way to optimize this process is by learning a project development system. Agile development and ash development are both predominant project management methodologies among software developers.
If you have decided to manage the project on your own, it is certainly in your best interest to learn one of these methodologies. For those of you who decide to hire a project manager, they will probably implement their preferred management methodology.
Whatever decision you make here, you need to make sure that you have a way to track your progress.
This will give you a better understanding of when you can go to market with your app so you can plan accordingly.
2.3 – Create an MVP
As you begin to build your application, you should always develop an MVP – minimum viable product. The idea behind an MVP is that it forces you to think about the most essential features of your application.
Why does your application actually need to work? Build those features first, then worry about everything else.
Application development is virtually unlimited. It’s easy to get distracted during the construction process and lose sight of your goals. After a month or two in the project, it’s easy to say “add this feature” or “Wouldn’t it be great if the app could do this?”
You can always go back and add features later. In fact, we will address this shortly in the guide in the post-launch section.
An MVP is essentially the bare bones of your application. It has just enough basic features to complete the simplest features and use cases. Don’t worry about a beautiful design or distracting bells and whistles. It doesn’t matter now.
For example, suppose you are building a messaging application.
Your MVP would be an application that allows two users to send messages to each other. You wouldn’t start creating a video chat feature or configure settings to change the font, upload photos, or adjust the background color of the application.
Let’s refer to the analogy of the house. MVP for a house would be four exterior walls and a roof. It wouldn’t be a tent and it wouldn’t be a kitchen. You can’t move from a tent to a house, and a kitchen can be added later.
2.4 – Quality assurance
Once your MVP is complete and you have a working application, you need to test it before deployment.
The application must be tested on real mobile platforms. There are many different ways your application can be used, so the quality assurance person will need to check it all out.
Between iPhones, iPads, Android devices, PWA, smartphones, tablets and more, you will cut things. Make sure the app works online, offline and so on. Devices with different software versions or screen sizes may have issues not found elsewhere.
So, don’t just test the app once on your phone and assume it works correctly.
Application builders for the first time always seem to question the quality assurance process. Do you really have to pay someone to test your application? Shouldn’t developers be able to create a code-free application?
Of course, in utopia, applications are perfectly built and do not need to be tested. But in the real world, developers write bugs – and are notoriously bad at finding their own bugs.
So it does not undermine the quality assurance process. A quality assurance specialist may come in and find issues with your application before entering the market. It is much better to identify them now; otherwise, users will find them in real life.
If a client finds errors, it will cause problems for the long-term success of your application.
In addition to testing your application with a QA specialist, you can also go through usage tests with test users. Offer the app to friends, family and colleagues as well.
The application does not have to be perfect when you launch it. Ideally, you will want to eliminate all errors and omissions. The user experience and user interface changes can be configured later.
2.5 – Implementation
The final stage of the development process is implementation. It’s time to put your application live and in the hands of real users.
Don’t worry about compatibility with previous versions or anything like that. At this point, your main goal should be running time and visibility. Make sure the application is fully functional for the end user. The last thing you want is for your servers to crash or something.
There are many different software options and tools on the market that you can use to ensure that your application is healthy and that your software is responsive.
To market the app, you need to send it to various app stores. There are various requirements for the Google Play Store apps and the Apple App Store apps. So you need to understand all the referral guidelines before you go through this process.
Otherwise, your app might be rejected from the store, which is obviously something you don’t want to deal with. It delays the launch and gives you more headaches that could have been avoided.
The process of implementing your application will vary depending on the development method you choose, which we discussed earlier in the pre-development section of this guide.
For those of you who decide to hire a development team or code the app on your own, you’ll have to go through extra steps during the deployment process. There won’t be any magic button to push where a team of experts can come to the rescue.
3. Post Launch
The mobile application development process did not end once the application was implemented. There is still a lot of work to be done after the launch.
Make sure you plan your post-launch steps properly and don’t waste your entire budget during development.
3.1 – Marketing your application
Your application is a business; treat him accordingly. Would you launch a new business without any promotion? Obviously not.
You may have the best app on the planet, but your efforts won’t matter if no one knows about it. Your application needs to be marketed properly to get eyeballs on it and stimulate user interest.
Start by attracting visitors to your site and application. Visitors become users. Users become paid members.
Make sure you have a digital presence on as many marketing platforms as possible. Give priority to the channels in which your user base spends the most time. Promote your app on social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. If you’re targeting a younger generation, you can even promote the app on Snapchat and TikTok.
Create video promotions and application demos. Upload these videos to YouTube. You can play these videos on other distribution channels at any time.
The idea behind your mobile marketing strategy is to focus on attracting new users. So broaden your coverage and use a combination of both inbound and outbound marketing strategies.
In the short term, you can run paid PPC (pay-per-click) and CPI (cost-per-installation) ads to generate downloads. But in the long run, you should be blogging and focusing on SEO (search engine optimization) tactics to drive traffic to your website. Ultimately, this will help the app capture more attention when users search for solutions through search engines.
You should also understand the basics of ASO (application store optimization). Using ASO techniques increases the chances that users will find your app organically while browsing the app store.
Marketing for your mobile app will never stop. Your strategies may change over time, but it will always be an ongoing process.
The early stages of your marketing campaigns can ultimately define the future for your application’s success.
3.2 – Track KPI indicators
Is your application successful? The only way to answer this question is by setting and tracking KPIs – key performance indicators.
Your KPIs should exceed application performance values, such as speed and uptime (although they are obviously good for performance and reliability).
Track and measure KPIs based on how users adapt to your applications.
Do people download the app? How much? Do users keep applications or uninstall it? How often do people reuse applications?
You need to make sure you have a system to log in and see the values for new users, repeat users, time spent in the app, and where you spend the most time. Without such analysis, it is impossible to measure the success of your application. You cannot run a successful business with assumptions; you need to have concrete numbers to support your theories.
Tracking KPIs can show you which components of your application are generating the best results and which need to be improved.
For example, suppose the vast majority of users take advantage of an app feature that you didn’t initially consider a core component of your app. You can take this information and decide to make that feature more accessible across all screens. Add it to your homepage or move it up in the side menu.
3.3 – Gather feedback
Always get feedback from your users.
Before your first release, you probably did some research or asked friends for their opinions. However, most of these were based on their own intuition.
But after you implement it for the first time, you will have real customers using the application. Ask them what they think about it. No matter how much you hate to hear this, at the end of the day, your opinion doesn’t matter – it’s just about your customers and users.
Don’t be shy – customers like to be asked about their thoughts. People who don’t want to weigh won’t care if you ask. They will just ignore you. It’s not like they’re upset.
But participating users will invest in the success of your application and give you real feedback.
You will need to remember what feedback is related to fear of change or fear of rising costs. But you can ask questions to your customers in a way that gives them the opportunity to be honest.
User responses will help you prioritize the features you need to work on next.
Maybe you had something important in mind for you and planned to do it as soon as you had the opportunity. But if your customers don’t say that, then save your money. Spend this money on what you can ask for, so you can keep it in your software. This will eventually keep them from getting agitated.
3.4 – Make improvements
No application is perfect. Even the most successful applications on the planet are constantly coming up with updates. New versions of your application should be based on user feedback, which we discussed in the previous step.
When you come back and make application changes, you should follow these steps that you used during the development process. Always make the app quality-assured before the launch is available to the public.
There is something else to keep in mind when updating an application – it’s called regression testing.
Subsequent implementations for new features or updates could create new issues that did not exist in the past. In short, something that worked with the previous version did not stop working due to changes made during the upgrade.
So whenever changes are made to your application, even if they are small, you need to go back and do the quality assurance process again. This is the only way to ensure that the regression did not occur and caused a new failure point in the application.
Don’t underestimate the importance of launching new versions of your application. Users give you feedback and expect changes.
If you don’t improve your application, people may stop using it completely.
3.5 – Maintenance and assistance
There will always be ongoing maintenance for your application. That’s why it’s crucial to keep your development team.
In addition to your application that comes with new versions, mobile operating systems also come with updates. You need to make sure that your application is compatible with the latest software versions from Apple and Android.
Levels of compliance and regulations may also change. For example, you need to make sure that your application complies with data laws such as GDPR in Europe or CCPA in California. If you process credit card payments, you must remain PCI compliant. If you manage medical information, the application must be HIPAA compliant. The list goes on and on.
All these circumstances require continuous maintenance.
Think of your application as a car. You’re not done spending money on it once you kick them out of the lot. Next you have to pay for petrol, oil changes, tire rotations, filters, registration fees and much more.
As your application expands, you should eventually plan for customer support. What if an app user has a question or needs help? At first, you can handle this on your own. But on a scale, you probably can’t handle hundreds or thousands of potential messages.
You may also need to hire a sales team. All this falls into the post-launch “support” category.
These are the elements of mobile application development that you will always have to deal with. So make sure you plan and budget accordingly.
Things to consider when planning a mobile app for your business
Creating a mobile app can be exactly the right step for your business. As a B2C company, you can gain brand exposure, a new sales channel, and a direct line to your users.
B2B companies can use applications to improve their operational efficiency. To get all the benefits of a mobile app and to avoid the most common mistakes that business owners make, you need to properly plan your app development and take the right steps to test your idea.
The common mistakes that business owners make when developing mobile applications
It’s easy to get caught up in the hype of the mobile app. After all, the mobile market is huge and continues to grow. Reaching thousands, if not millions of users, who spend much of their time using mobile devices seems to be the best thing to do. And yet, it is easy to approach the situation from the wrong angle.
The first mistake often found on the market is to create an application that does not solve any problem. Remember that you are competing with a stream of attractive mobile applications. If you want to gain users, you need to address a real problem they have and want to solve.
The second (and closely related) trap that business owners fall into is building a Swiss Army knife application. The only application that masters them all, that solves any possible problem you could think of. The sad news is that such a lack of concentration often leads to an application that does not solve any problem effectively. Too many options make an application less intuitive, and users get confused.
Another common problem is designing an application for a single mobile platform, when it is meant to work on both. IOS and Android users have different expectations and habits that need to be considered. Remember that you don’t usually need to develop an app for every platform out there, especially not at the beginning. But make sure you know your user group and what platform they prefer.