01 May Mobile App Development Process
Mobile apps are of particular interest for businesses across the globe, and they continue to see a surge in numbers each successive year. Mobile apps account for over 50% of time spent on all digital media.
This means that they can be a great resource for businesses wishing to reach both existing and potential customers.
Mobile apps contribute to increased sales numbers: Over 40% of all mobile sales generated by the top 500 merchants all came from mobile apps. Each year the number of sales from mobile apps continues to increase.
- In 2014, mobile apps accounted for $35 Billion in sales.
- In 2015, the number rose to $45 Billion.
- In 2016 it was $58 Billion.
- In 2017, it surged to $77 Billion and continues to increase.
The usage time also speaks in favor of mobile apps when compared to mobile websites. The average users spend about 30 hours on apps compared to 3 hours 45 minutes spent on websites on a monthly basis.
Over 85% of mobile users prefer to consume content on native mobile apps that they do on mobile websites.
Being able to reach out to a target audience through a company mobile app can help keep brand awareness in the back of consumer’s minds.
Why Your Business Needs a Mobile App
Other than being able to stay constantly connected with your customers, your business can benefit from having its own app in many other ways.
1. Mobile Apps Offer An Additional Sales Channel
Making it easier for a customer to make a purchase will increase the number of times they make one. The ability to deliver discounts and promotions to customers through your mobile in-app messages and push notifications can easily increase the number of product purchases on an ever-increasing basis.
Mobile apps also offer the added feature of mobile payments, which saves customers from having to spend time and money traveling to an offline, brick-and-mortar store.
2. Keep Your Brand in Front of Your Audience and Customers Continuously
People are spending more time on mobile apps than on mobile websites. With a mobile app, you can continuously engage them and offer them what they want, whether that be content, discounts, promotions, or reminders.
The combination of consistent awareness and valuable content builds a strong relationship between people and a brand which ultimately culminates in brand loyalty.
3. Living In Your Customers’ Phone Makes Marketing to Them Easier
You can also use different marketing methods to engage them without having to switch marketing channels. Your mobile app is an optimal cost-effective, time-effective approach to marketing:
- You send them promotional materials and discounts.
- You can also share content that helps establish you as a thought leader within your industry: articles, press releases, news.
- You can elicit feedback via polls, surveys and error reports, which gives you the ability to fine-tune your marketing and customer service.
4. Improve Business Operations Through In-House Apps
Mobile apps need not be exclusive to customers. Employee oriented apps help facilitate workflow among daily tasks, and special team projects. Such tasks can include data exchange, statistical aggregation, file sharing, task monitoring and more.
Employee mobile apps are a great way to keep everyone within the company on task and moving in a cohesive direction.
5. You Will Get Access to Analytics & Personalization
Attaining customers is hard, keeping them is even harder!
Understanding your customers allows you to personalize particular app features for them and offer more personalized marketing campaigns.
Some other beneficial key points of data you can gather through mobile analytics include demographics, locations and other interests.
For instance, if you know which products your customers purchase the most, then you can continue to offer them such products in your marketing to increase the likelihood of sales.
Likewise, if you know which features and content on your app customers engage with the most, then you can continue to provide them with similar content and features and even make them more customizable to fulfill their wants and needs.
Just make sure your customers know that you will collect this data, and how you’ll use it.
6. A Mobile App Gives You a Competitive Advantage
Although more and more people are downloading and using mobile apps, and the benefits that mobile apps can bring to a business, many companies still have not gotten on board the “mobile app train”.
This is good for you and your brand, though, as you can take full advantage of all the benefits mobile apps provide while your competitors who have not invested in building a mobile app or who have not optimized their current app sufficiently cannot.
While your competitors are struggling to increase sales, audience engagement, brand awareness, and brand loyalty, you can get all of if you build your app the right way. But how do you build an app that can help you achieve this?
While there are many guides on building an app from a developer’s standpoint, not much is being said about the business side of things. As a business owner, you should be aware of how the app building process should look like from your point of view, and this is exactly what we want to help you with.
Step 1: Ideation Phase – Coming Up With a Mobile App Idea
If you are convinced your business will benefit from a mobile app, think about the type of app you want to build.
A successful business is all about solving problems, so their mobile apps should be an extension for problem-solving.
To begin the ideation phase of mobile app development, think about what problems your customers have and check to see if anyone else has solved it yet – if not, then why?
How to Find Pressing Problems
According to Google, 25% of installed apps never get used and 26% of installed apps only used once and never again!
To avoid being part of this statistic, your app should solve specific problems within your marketplace instead of just tackling general issues.
The following questions will help you detect existing issues that are waiting for a solution:
- What problem is most commonly mentioned by your customers?
- Where would the customers go to find solutions?
- Would they benefit from the solution?
Your market is a gold mine of data to draw from when identifying problems:
Current Customers: People who have purchased your product or done business with you before.
Prospects: These are people who have not yet purchased from your business but have shown an interest in doing so.
Target Audience / Market Users: People within your target market who are not even aware of your business yet.
How to Build the Right Solution
After you have successfully detected there’s a problem your customers want to be solved, it is time to focus on coming up with that solution.
Before you start working on that solution, do make sure to check whether others have already created an app that tackles that specific issue.
You have two options here:
Improve on an existing app: If there’s an app out there already, you can still move ahead and work on your solution. You just have to provide a better solution.
Take a whole new approach to solving the problem: Find a completely novel approach on how to solve the issue.
Following trends gives you a good overview of the type of apps already on the market, and what specific apps are being launched within your industry and niche.
The latest trends in mobile applications show there is a surge of apps employing:
- Artificial Intelligence
- Augmented Reality
- Virtual Reality
- Internet of Things (IoT)
- On-demand Apps
- Telemedicine / Telehealth
- Chatbots / Business Bots
Which of these trends would translate best to your business? Answer this question and you’ll be one step closer to the type of app you want to aim for.
Examples of Apps Offering Unique Solutions
If you decide to go the second route and come up with a completely new mobile app solution to a current marketplace problem, then it may be of interest for you to look the past examples of entrepreneurs and businesses who have come up with successful apps using this approach.
Talkitt – The app uses smart technology to identify words through specific algorithmic patterns and actually sound them out clearly. Danny Weissberg came up with this idea in response to his grandmother’s stroke, which left her vocally-impaired.
Refunite – This is a completely unique app which helps refugees reunite with their families. The founders of this app thought up the idea after meeting a refugee from Afghanistan who had lost contact with his family. The app is actually a digital tracking system that relies on data inputted into the app by family members, friends, or acquaintances of the lost refugee.
Of course, coming up with a unique app idea does not have to be limited to such situations.
Basically, any activity which one does during the day can fuel the creative juices and help you think up a completely new solution to a problem that has not been uncovered or brought to the market yet.
TIP: Don’t get lost in the moment: Always be sure that you are working on a problem your target market is facing and that they feel needs a solution.
Do Customers Need or Want Your App?
No matter if you decide to create a completely new solution or improve an already existing one, the final test of whether to bring your mobile app idea to fruition or move on to another one is to identify whether the app offers a solution to a need or want.
Needs are necessary, wants are optional!
If you can fulfill your customers’ needs, then they will, in turn, fulfill the needs of your business.
Your app should follow suit and offer a solution that your customers, prospects, and target audience absolutely need even if they do not know it just yet!
Step 2: Market Analysis Phase – Understanding How Your App Fits Into Your Market
Uncovering a problem and coming up with an idea is just the first step – you will have to verify it through extensive and intensive market research.
In the end, market research is all about focus. You should focus on the problem at hand and develop features on your app that deal with the problem you have identified.
Once you get some usage analytics, you will have more insight that will help you develop more features to address the problem more efficiently.
Everyone knows market research is paramount these days, but most don’t know HOW to conduct it. Here are 5 things you “must” do when performing market research:
1. Speak to External and Internal Resources
Listening to the needs of your customers, prospects, and target audience will give you a lot of data to work with during your research, but don’t forget to consult with contributors as well – those who are helping you research, design, and market your app to the public.
These can include:
Decision Makers/Upper Management: They can help you to stay on point, making sure that your app also stays in line with the goals of the company.
Developers: They can help you decide how feasible your app idea is. There may not be enough resources, current technical know-how, or money to make your app idea a reality.
Marketers: Not only will they give you insight on how best to bring your app to the world, but they are also a great resource for acquiring customer and marketplace data as they always keep their pulse on the latest information and trends impacting both.
2. Consult the Middlemen
If there is a layer between you and your end-user, then you should definitely consult them in regards to any problems they see coming up again and again with customers.
Here are some questions you might want to ask any merchants or agencies who deal directly with your end-users:
- What challenges do they encounter when dealing with customers?
- What challenges do they face when delivering your product or service to the customer?
- What obstacles do they meet with when communicating with your company?
If you can design an app that addresses both customer and middlemen problems then you have hit the jackpot and are sure to see a better user experience, conversion rate, and increased sales.
3. Ask Focused Questions
Narrow and focused questions are what is going to give you the advantage over your competitors when developing a problem-solving app.
Surveys that start with some open-ended and broad questions and end with specific, narrow-focused questions are a great way to gain feedback from your current customer base.
The following three are the most popular tried-and-tested options when it comes to easy presentation and simple data collection.
- Survey Monkey
- Google Forms
Invite your prospects, target audience, middlemen, and other interested parties to fill out surveys and compile and analyze the resulting data to get a good idea of what the common problems are the possible solutions, as well.
4. Make Data Collection Easy for Everyone Involved
Offering a more personal data collection experience, such as direct message, email, or a phone call is a great way to gather even greater market and app development information.
Think about it, surveys are narrow in their approach, which can be a good thing, but speaking with someone directly allows them to communicate their wants, needs, and desires more clearly and allows you to uncover problems and solutions that you did not have the slightest idea were even a possibility – it can lead you on an entirely different direction, one in which no one has ventured on before.
This is what can separate your app from your competitors!
Be sure, however, to make any personal contact surveys such as a phone call short and sweet. Fifteen to twenty minutes is enough to gather the info you need without boring your resource to death.
While gathering information on a one-to-one basis may not be feasible when considering your entire customer base, prospects, and target audience, do what you can.
These types of surveys make it much easier for your customer to provide the relevant data you need to develop a mobile app solution for their present-day problems.
5. Say Thanks
Business is not only about solving problems, but it is also about building relationships: a simple “thank you” is a great way to do just that!
Show your appreciation for any resource that has helped you conduct your research.
A simple little act of gratitude goes a long way, especially if you want more feedback on your mobile app once it’s available to the public.
You can offer bonus items, coupons or discounts, extra loyalty points, or free trials and downloads as a thank you.
Putting It All Together
Once you have gathered all the data you need, thorough data analysis will help you recognize common patterns and topics.
Detect topics mentioned the most to know what to focus on. Initially, it’s best to focus on just one topic.
As this is most likely going to be your first app, don’t try to go and solve all the problems you find, just the one you think you can offer a superb solution for.
Once the app is on the market and already in use for some time, you can gather more feedback to improve the app or branch out off into more solutions for more problems, which is a good idea for staying ahead of any “copycat” apps that might try to piggyback on your success.
Step 3: Deep Analysis Phase – A Look Into Your Business, Competitors and Target Audiences
Planning out the execution of your idea is going to take more analysis.
This means going deeper into how the app will align with your business goals, searching whether competitors are using similar apps, and how to manage the building and marketing of your app.
1. Company/Brand Goals Analysis
Your app goals must align with your business goals.
If you are looking to improve your reach and sales with a mobile app, then you should already have a set of goals for your business.
If not, then you better go back to the drawing board and come up with some because an app is not going to help a business if you have no clear direction.
If your app is focused on improving customer satisfaction but your company’s main focus is increasing revenue, then how will you even be able to convince your managers, staff, or investors why your business needs a mobile app?
Although customer satisfaction and increased revenues are not necessarily at opposites with each other, businesses are leery about starting a project which does not clearly identify with their current goals.
Such projects often end up being energy, resource, and monetary drain that produces no results for the objectives at hand.
The following are 6 major objectives businesses seek to realize through their mobile applications:
Brand Awareness – Providing free and valuable content through your app is a great way to increase brand awareness. Backend tracking features like number of downloads, number of page views, and number of sessions can all help you gauge how successful your app is in creating brand awareness.
Engagement – Maybe your company wants to build stronger relationships with its customers and prospects. Creating interactive content with your brand is a great way to achieve this through your app.
Think of it like your brand’s very own “mini” social media platform. Not only can you provide content to your app users but can also allow them to upload their content as well, keeping them on your app and engaging with your company for long periods at a time.
Communication – If you want your app to allow your customers to be able to communicate back and forth with the company then direct messaging features are a must.
Productivity – Decreasing the time it takes to complete a task is a boon for anyone who wants to get more stuff done in less time. Not only can you help your end-users save time and increase productivity by making mundane tasks easier to complete but can also build a complimentary app for employees at your company if that is one of the goals your company wishes to achieve.
Loyalty – Of course, engagement and communication are going to help lead to brand loyalty but if your company’s main objective is to retain more loyal customers then your mobile app should reflect this.
Loyalty programs that reward actions like new sign-ups points earned & redeemed are a great way to keep customers coming back to your app and to your company.
Revenue – If you are going to create an app that assists your business in creating revenue, then it should be tailor-made to include promotional material. The key here is not to go overboard on the promotion without giving any value to the end-user.
A great way to generate more sales through an app is to entice customers to download it so they can get special discounts and be contacted instantly of any sales that your business may run in the future, or you can provide them with a full e-commerce solution too.
2. Analysis of Target Customer Preferences
The success of your app is going to depend highly on your user’s experience with it, which is why you have to know as much about your customers as possible.
You want to know some key elements that are going to boost the popularity of your app among its users.
You should try to find out:
- What kind of apps are they already using?
- What kind of mobile devices are they accessing their favorite apps from?
- What is their preferred screen size?
- What app features does my target audience prefer?
Aside from these questions, you should also be aware that app users prefer different ergonomics which can drastically change the way they interface with your app, if at all.
This gets really granular, to the point where you want to uncover where the majority of your target audience holds their mobile phones and where their fingers are positioned when they use their favorite apps.
To help you out in considering particular interface features that your end-users may like, both iPhone and Android offer general human interface guidelines which would be wise to follow check iPhone Human Interface Guidelines, and Android User interface Guidelines.
3. What are the Competitors Offering?
Often times there is no need to invent a new app, especially if your competitors have one that is achieving the objectives you wish to achieve with your app.
Research your competitor first! Simply use Google and type in any keyword that matches the objective of your app plus the word “app”. You could also type in your competitor’s name and then the word “app” and see if anything comes up.
Once you have found a relevant app meeting your search criteria, it is time to dig a bit deeper and examine some key metrics to gauge your competitors’ app’s success.
The metrics you should look into are:
- Number of Downloads & Price
- App Ranking
- App Income
- Web Presence (Promotional Statistics)
- App Keywords (Keywords Used To Drive Traffic to APP)
- Marketing Campaigns (Paid Campaigns Used to Promote App)
- Public Relations (Sentiment Analysis)
The following tools can help you uncover such information:
- App Annie (App Ranking, App Income)
- App Figures (App Ranking)
- AppTrace (App Ranking)
- Mention (Promotional Statistics)
- SensorTower (Keywords)
- AdBest (Marketing Campaigns)
TIP: Do not just build a replica of a competitor app. Look into their customer’s feedback and see what they might be doing wrong and whether some features are missing. Include these in your app to increase your success chances.
4. Analysis of the Technology Stack
What platform should you build your app for? What programming language should be used? Which framework is best for your app? How to find developers for your app?
The benefits of using the right technology stack include:
- Lower Costs
- Quicker Development Time
As for the mobile-programming options, you have two main choices: Native or Cross-platform.
Native: This uses specific platform programming, which means it is a good option if you are only choosing to run your app on one platform.
Cross-Platform: A single code base is used to allow an app to run on multiple platforms. It is the ideal option if you want your app to appear on more than one platform.
If you choose to develop your app Natively, the following table shows recommended technology stack options:
5. Finances & Timeline Analysis
Finances are something that should be addressed early on. How much money you can raise will depend on your actual app idea and how good your pitch is.
Today, there are many funding options you can choose from.
The most popular funding options include:
- Venture Capital (approaching agencies & companies whose business it is to fund special projects)
- Angel Investing / Seed Funding (approaching wealthy individuals)
- Bootstrap Funding (using personal or business savings)
- App Contents (usually judged and held by venture capitalists)
- Personal Network (friends, family, acquaintances, business backers, etc…)
- Loans (banks & financial institutions)
- Crowdfunding (a large pool of investors – Kickstarter)
Here are some tips on how to ensure your app will be funded successfully:
Know your app inside out, so you can better pitch it. If you don’t know what it does and how it will benefit your business and your customers, then how are you going to convince anyone to invest in it?
Pre-brand your app with a domain name, landing page, and logo. The more professional your project looks, the more likely that someone will fork over the cash to get it off the ground.
Create an interactive demo before pitching your app to anyone. This will increase the chances of you obtaining funding from those your approach, especially if they see the value in the app through the demo you have supplied. Your developer can help you with this.
The timeline is a crucial component too – you need to let investors know when your app is expected to hit the market so they can calculate how long it will take to start reaping the rewards of their investment.
The general rule of thumb for time to market for a mobile app is 4 to 6 months, but this timeline can vary greatly based on factors like app features, your budget, developer skills, and expertise, as well as the development process.
Each of these factors will either delay or advance the expected timeline, so be sure to use them when coming up with your estimations.
TIP: Your developer and anyone in your company with prior app experience can help you a great deal with figuring out a realistic timeline and costs.
6. Marketing Analysis
How do you plan to promote your app? Early research into marketing options will give you a good insight into ways your competitors are promoting their apps.
See what they are doing right, and what might be a total flop on their part, to be able to adequately prepare for your own marketing campaign.
Some popular marketing techniques businesses use to promote their apps include:
QR Codes: You can add QR codes to your website, brochures, business cards, and mailing lists, making downloads easy.
Mobile Ads: It just makes sense to use mobile advertising when promoting a mobile app. Google offers a particularly effective mobile ad platform.
Social Ads: If you know the most likely demographics, interests, and psychographics of your mobile app then social media advertising is a great marketing avenue for your app campaign.
Guest Blogging: Posting on technology device blogs and blogs whose topics interest your audience is a great way to reach a new pool of possible users.
Mobile App Marketing Agencies: There are agencies who specialize in marketing mobile apps such as Appspire.me, Appency, and Appular.
6. Stakeholders Research
It is very important to identify the key players in developing, funding, and marketing your mobile app in order to get important feedback and advice from them.
In order to identify stakeholders, you have to look at every stage of your mobile app project, from beginning to end, to see who all will be involved. Here is a list of some possible stakeholders within your business:
- Marketing Team
- Sales Staff
- Software Development Teams
- IT Department
- Project Managers
- Customer Service Department
- Administrative Staff
- Company Stakeholders
- Legal Staff / Legal Department
Again, go through each phase of the development process, including the pre-development phase and the post-development phase, to find your list of key players.
Step 4: UI/UX Phase – App UI/UX Design Considerations
The success of any mobile app design relies upon whether its users enjoy using it.
An app that solves your end-users problems might still flop because of its design. In most cases, bad app design means users will abandon the app and look for solutions elsewhere.
Therefore, make sure that your app offers an effortless and seamless experience.
1. Choosing Developers
Your app developers can make or break your app. When choosing the developer who will work on your app, choose developers who:
- Have experience with developing apps within your industry or business model.
- Have a good portfolio and care about user-interface functionalities.
- Have good references from their earlier projects.
- Know the difference between mobile app design and coding.
You want a developer who you can build a long-term relationship with and one who knows every aspect of successful mobile development, from the coding to the design to the functionality.
2. Platform Considerations: iOS or Android?
You really have two major platform choices to consider: iOS or Android. There are major differences between them, and each has its advantages and disadvantages:
iOS: Faster Development, Smaller Market
iOS-based smartphones perform better than Android phones because there is always a limited number of models running that operating system. This speeds up the development phase, which ultimately means you will arrive at a release date faster.
iOS is also a more secure operating system – your app will have to undergo detailed inspection by the Apple team before it can be officially available in the App Store.
Android: Lots of Models to Cover, Much Bigger Market
Android is a bit more complicated. The biggest issue you will face with developing an Android app is that every major phone brand running Android runs its own customized versions because Android is open source.
- Android updates their OS more often than Apple.
- The number of supported phone models is huge.
- This means more users, but also more issues.
When you have to optimize your app for 150 phone models instead of 4, it’s almost impossible to run it well on each. How your app will perform depends on their processing strength, RAM and other components.
Still, with Android, you get access to a much wider user base because many Android-based phones are cheaper than the iPhone.
Ultimately, however, choose the platform your end-users use more.
3. What You Should Know About Information Architecture
The information architecture of an app is the outline and structure of the app’s content. All the displays, data, and content on the front and back-end of an app are part of it.
It plays a vital role in quality user experience and overall journey.
There are three main guiding principles which you need to adhere to when developing your app’s information architecture.
- Make it easy to understand.
- Make it easy to navigate.
- Make it scalable and easy to add new features for future updates and upgrades.
The structure of your information architecture is heavily influenced by the device and platform your app will run on, and how your app is going to be used (workout apps will need the motion detection and access to GPS to properly display data).
The following six patterns are the most common information architecture structures for mobile apps:
Hierarchy: This structure includes an index page which links out to other pages.
Hub & Spoke: Uses one hub page with navigation spokes. To access each spoke the user has to go back to the hub page (index page), which helps them to focus on a singular task at a time. (A very common design for iPhone apps.)
Nested Doll: A linear structure that makes it easy for users to switch from the navigation page to other pages within the app. This pattern is clear and detail-oriented.
Tabbed View: Similar to desktop tabs with a toolbar that helps move to different sections of the app.
Dashboard: Uses an index page to display the most important information, sections, or content at a quick glance.
Filtered View: Allows users to choose different views so they can explore the app’s content the way they want to.
4. Choosing the Right Style Guides
A style guide helps you choose all formats, typography, colors, navigation options, and search patterns. There are two major style focuses are a brand-specific focus and platform-specific focus.
DID YOU KNOW: UX refers to User Experience Design and UI refers to User Interface Design. While they work together to create a functional and usable mobile app, UX deals with the more analytical and technical aspects of design and UI the more graphic nature of the design.
The brand-oriented design is a UI-based design approach in which the brand disregards many of the platform’s rules to create features and functions which help the app achieve its goals.
They cost less than standard designs but often “misbehave”, which can upset both the platform and the end-users. They get their intended job done though. This design approach is a good option for apps that want to be different and stand out.
This design approach costs more money and takes more time as it has to conform to platform-specific requirements. Usually when following this approach both the UI and UX design elements have to be created from scratch to stay in compliance and alignment with the chosen platform.
Here brand identity is not as important as the standard user experience.
5. Technical Feasibility
Once a specific design approach has been chosen, it is time to see what the technical requirements are. Is it technically feasible to design your app the way you want?
Nobody wants to waste time and money on trying to create an app that is improbable or even impossible to create, at least technically.
Things to consider are:
- Proper technology to put the app together.
- The required technical skills to construct the app idea and also to stay in line with the device and platform requirements.
- The right management and support to see the project through to completion.
- Proper back-end integration systems.
- The ability to scale the app and change or update it, if need be.
To get unbiased feedback on the app’s technical feasibility, choose a person with no vested interest in the project. They should also have mobile app technology experience, understand your business goals and have good reporting skills.
After finding the right person, ask them to assess:
- The most appropriate platform, technically, for the app
- The availability of the required technologies
- The current development environment
- The app’s planned features
- Internal IT system integration and customer database
- In-house technical skills
Also, ask them to consider the project maintenance environment and current schedule expectations.
6. Wireframes, Mockups, & Prototypes: Making the App Come to Life
You can preview and showcase your app early on through wireframes, prototypes, and mockups.
Wireframes: A low-quality / identity representation of an app’s final design. It gives the developers an idea of what, when and how the app should look.
They are the “backbone” of the final product as they represent all the important pieces of the app and give everyone involved a good estimation of the final product. You want to use wireframes during your documentation phase.
Prototypes: The prototype represents the middle (high-fidelity portion) of the final product. Prototypes help simulate user interactions, which is great for testing how the user will interact with the app’s content and features when it is ready.
Prototypes are typically used during the user testing phase.
Mockups: Mockups can be middle-fidelity or high-fidelity static representation of the final app. It can either represent a draft of the visual design or the actual visual design itself.
A mockup gives a good look at the content, functionality, and structure of the app, albeit in a static way.
It is essential for getting stakeholders to review and offer feedback on the visual portion of the project. Mockups are usually used to get all stakeholders on board with the app during the early stages of the project.
Each of these forms of pre-launch app designs acts both as blueprints and test-drives of the final product but in very different ways and during different stages of the app development process to produce various desired outcomes.
Step 5: Development Phase – Building the BackEnd, API, and FrontEnd
During the development phase, your programmers will work on the back-end/server, API, and front-end of your app.
Back-End / Server: Back-end architecture typically includes a database server, application server, and a database to save specific user information, display dynamic data, and support configuration functionality.
A mobile app backend helps define and manage its multi-platform data synchronization, data storage capabilities, HTTP support, and notification messages.
API: Application Program Interface, or API for short, is an environment within the back-end where another party’s platform or application can be accessed.
The most popular mobile API is Facebook.
Through this API, mobile developers can gain access, albeit limited access, to Facebook members’ profile identities to verify login information.
It also makes it possible for Facebook members to sign up to third-party apps and to post content to their personal News Feeds from third-party mobile apps.
Some other famous APIs include: Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google Maps
Front-End: The front-end is comprised of all the events and activities that take place on the display-side of a mobile app. Think of the front-end as the outcome of the back-end processes.
The back-end is the “behind-the-scenes” crew and the front-end is the actual stage where all the action can be seen.
App Coding: Which Approach Works Best?
Many businesses assume that they either have to code the app with their in-house team or hire someone on the outside.
While this is true, there are several approaches to coding, no matter whether you use an in-house team or external sources.
As most apps require a database, a database query language will also be used. One of the most common ones is SQL.
App Development Platform – A mobile application development platform (MADP) is a software that lets businesses quickly develop and test their mobile apps without having to code it themselves.
The most common features offered by MADPs are Mobile Backend Service, Front-End Development Tools, and Programming Interfaces. The topmost MADPs allow developers to build, test, and maintain their apps.
Mobile BaaS Providers – Mobile Backend-as-a-Service (MBaaS) providers deal strictly with the functionality and maintenance of mobile app backend processes.
The developer does not have to worry so much about the back-end portion of the app as the providers will take care of this portion including its coding, functionality, and maintenance.
An MBaaS-supported back-end automatically allows for cloud-storage and APIs and offers features like push notifications, social networking services integration, and user management.
The table below lists the pros and cons of each approach:
Additional Considerations When Choosing Your Coding Approach
If you develop your app on a development platform, setting up the account may take several days so factor that into your project timeline.
If you hire external developers to code your app from scratch, be sure to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) and convey to them your estimated project timeline, milestones, and deliverables so they understand what your expectations for the project are right from the start.
If you are not happy with the deliverables and revisions your programmer and developer has supplied you with, waste no more time with them and look for another developer/programmer to complete the project.
When working with BaaS providers, be sure to read their terms and conditions carefully, especially for data/source lock-ins.
If you want your developers to have access to back-end data and source codes, then find a provider who will allow for this.
Step 6: Testing Phase – Functionality, Performance, Security, Device & Platform Testing
The testing portion of your app development project starts during the analysis and design phases of your app.
During that time, you will engage your Quality Assurance stakeholders (i.e. QA Team) and derive feedback from them as to your app’s objectives and functional requirements, which will help you produce effective test cases.
Testing cannot be overlooked as first impressions are very important for mobile app growth – if your customers have a bad experience on the first try, they will not use your app again no matter how many revisions or updates you provide.
How your app looks, how it functions, and how it interacts with your end-users is what will determine if your customers accept or reject your mobile application solution.
To mitigate the chances of lags, bugs, and crashes, you and your QA team should follow a proven set of standards and testing methods that will ensure a seamless and issue-free mobile app.
To guarantee a good workflow, enticing visuals, and seamless interactions, you should test:
- Consistency of Fonts
- Color Schemes
- Style Treatments
- Data Padding
- Icon Design
While testing for user experience, make sure that your current app design matches the original design guidelines laid forth by you and your mobile app stakeholders.
1. Checking the App Functionality
It is virtually impossible to test all scenarios of functionality.
How all users will interact with your app can’t be predicted, but you can still reduce the chances of bugs and crashes by running as many testing conditions as possible.
Have as many test users interact with your app as possible.
Even when two different users test the same features on your app, one user interaction may work seamlessly, while another will uncover a whole new set of problems just because different data points entered into the app by the tester.
To get the most out of your functional app tests, you can separate them into the following 2 segments:
- System Testing (how the app functions)
- Unit Testing (how each feature of the app functions)
TIP: If your app will run on both iOS and Android platforms, then your functional tests will have to be separated between the two and stacked against each versions’ system requirements separately.
2. App Performance Testing
Performance testing is all about how your app handles the workload. Can your app operate on all the devices or handle lots of users making requests?
Some things to test here include:
- User Request Response Time
- Screen Loading Speed
- Battery Drainage
- Memory Leaks
- Network Bandwidth Efficiency
- App Size (bigger than what it should be)
Besides the above, also test the front-end, the API, and the back-end by simulating a heavy usage during a concurrent time period. This will let you know how your app works under heavy duress.
If your app becomes popular, it will be used heavily and you want to make sure it stays popular by working optimally under heavy use.
3. Security Testing
App developers and companies will hire outside agencies to test and secure their app. However, your in-house QA team can test your app against vulnerabilities such as data leaks and hacks.
These measures are:
App APIs must use “HTTPS” Protocols – SSL certificate must be installed on your back-end
Automatic User Session Terminations – after a user has remained idle for a specified length of time – 10 minutes or less
Login Tracking – on both the device and the back-end
Trusted App Credential Service – necessary for when credentials are stored on a device – for example, iOS Keychain, which stores users account details for specified apps
Secure Data Entry Forms – test for data leaks
Remember, for your app, it is not just about the solution it provides your end-users with or how easy it is for them to use, but also how safe it is for them to use it.
No one will use an app, regardless of how many problems it solves, if they can not use it without fear of losing important data!
4. Device & Platform Testing
The most difficult mobile app testing procedure is device and platform testing – as multiple mobile devices and at least two platforms must verify whether your app will work efficiently and effectively on each platform and their respective mobile devices.
If you use only one platform, the process becomes much simpler.
Many businesses use iOS initially as Apple controls both the hardware and the operating system and even provide their customers with the mobile device they know their app works on.
However, this may not be feasible for companies whose end-users gravitate towards Android.
Here, a lot more app testing has to be done, pre-launch and post-launch, as mobile device manufacturers who use the Android platform continuously customize it to fit their mobile devices.
There really is no way around not testing how your app works on various devices especially if you are targeting the Android platform.
Beta testing is a good tactic to get more feedback on app performance. The idea here is to make the official launch as smooth as possible and not have to start from scratch after bringing your app to market.
Some considerations for beta testing you should think about:
Choose whether a closed beta test (20-200 people) or an open beta test (1,000 – 20,000 people) will give you the feedback you need in the time you need it.
Use multiple-channel beta testers to get the most exposure and as much varied & relevant data & feedback as possible.
Choose the platform you wish to target for beta testing (TestFlight for Apple & Google Developers Console for Android).
Step 7: Marketing Phase – Letting the World Know About Your App
At this point, you are probably eager to launch the app as soon as it successfully finishes all the tests. Patience is key here – a successful launch cannot be done without the right marketing campaign.
How will people download your app, if they don‘t even know it exists?
Take your time to make a good mobile app marketing campaign, and make sure to include:
1. Have a Landing Page for Your App
The landing page will be your app’s main web presence – a specific website dedicated solely to your mobile application.
Be sure to present the specifics of your app, including the solution it offers to your customer’s problems so that its benefits can be clearly understood.
Some other things to include are:
A timer so that visitors know when the app will be available for download.Social media buttons to encourage visitors to share your site and spread the word about your app.
An email opt-in form where visitors can submit their email for further information and updates regarding your app.
A promotional video further showcasing your app’s design, features, and value to your targeted customers.
2. Drive Existing Website Traffic
The most targeted traffic to drive to your app is to utilize the traffic you already have – the visitors that are already coming to your business’s main website.
These visitors already know who you are and what you offer, so selling them on your app will not be that difficult.
A simple banner, text ad, or a blog post redirecting your existing visitors is a cost-effective and time-efficient way to foster awareness about your new app.
3. Don’t Forget About Email Marketing
Remember that email opt-in form on your mobile app landing page? Don’t forget to reach out and remind those who have subscribed to your newsletter about the launch date.
Even if visitors have shown interest in your app if they are not continually reminded they may forget – life happens and even the best of intentions are forgotten due to both seen and unforeseen daily circumstances.
Continue to reach out to your email subscribers on any upcoming updates, additions, or revamps of your mobile app.
Keeping customers engaged keeps your brand on their mind more often – this leads to more interactions and thus more sales down the road.
4. Leverage the Power of Your Social Media Channels
Again, using an existing traffic resource already available to you, your social media profile is another quick, easy, and cheap way to drive traffic to your mobile app landing page.
92% of marketers claim that social media is perhaps the most important promotional channel for business, and 80% of them also believe that it is a great way to drive targeted traffic to business websites.
Social media helps you with brand recognition, building authority and getting valuable customer feedback.
Do not just share a pic of your app but use engaging and useful content to entice and allure your social media following to your landing page.
This can include:
Thematic Infographics – choose themes relating to your app
Blog Posts – articles your site concerning topics associated with your app
Trending News – especially if it relates in some way with your app
App Teasers – you can use the promotional video already on your landing page and can also upload it to all the leading video sharing sites like Youtube, Vimeo, and DailyMotion
5. Work on Content Marketing for Your App
Guest blogging is a great way to reach a brand new audience to create a “buzz” about your app and increase its user base.
Locate and reach out to as many relevant sites and blogs whose topics either deal with your industry or niche or with a particular technology relevant to your app.
Ask them if they are interested in your contribution to their site – here, you should shoot for writing a useful, in-depth, and relevant article about a particular topic their readers might be interested in.
Promotional articles won‘t usually be accepted.
TIP: If you do not want to write the article yourself or feel that you do not have enough knowledge or writing skills about the topic you have promised to write about, you can hire a freelance writer to do it for you. Just be sure they have experience in writing about the topic at hand. You can ask to see their past work in this case just to be sure.
6. Submit Your App to Listings
Submitting your app to weekly and monthly app listings is a no-brainer. People visit these sites to see the latest available apps and they are prime for downloading right there on the spot.
Usually, such sites ask for the following information:
- App Name
- App Description
- App URLs
- Screen Shots
- App Icons
- Promo Codes (usually for paid ads)
Some of these sites may charge a fee for listing your app. If that is the case, make sure you inquire about their success rates to get a good idea if it will be worth paying for.
7. Get Influencer Help
Building relationships with influencers within your industry help you market your app too.
The large audience that influencers have is a gold vein of new leads, and you should work on tapping into it.
Having a large following is not as important as having an interactive one. When given the choice between partnering with an influencer with a large but unresponsive following and one with a small but highly responsive following, always choose the latter.
You may also want to give them a free download and trial of your app and have them give you honest feedback on it before partnering with them.
It makes sense that if they like it, they will most likely “pitch” it to their tribe, which is a good sign even if you pay for that pitch.
8. Work on App Store Marketing
Choosing the right app store will mean nothing without proper optimization. App store optimization is similar to SEO (search engine optimization), with some slight differences.
The big two, Google Play & Apple’s App Store, both use various factors to rank apps in their store’s search results.
The most important ones include:
- Mobile App Title (highlighting its purpose)
- Keyword-Rich Description
- Additional Relevant Keywords
- Relevant Screenshots
- Number of Downloads
A great resource for uncovering competitive and relevant keywords for your mobile app is SearchMan.
9. Use Mobile Marketing Agency Services
If you want to increase your downloads by a wide margin, consulting the experts will be your best choice. Mobile marketing agencies are experts in helping brands gain more customers through their mobile apps.
If your advertising budget allows it, it makes sense to get offers from several agencies, but also look into the success of their past campaigns.
They will take the advertising load off of you.
When running your mobile app marketing campaign with an advertising agency, be sure to go over the following points and metrics:
- Campaign Goals
- Retention Rates (expected)
This will help them optimize your campaign properly so you can get the most out of your advertising dollar.
Step 8: Launch Phase – Launch Preparations and Official Launch Considerations
Every app store has its own specific guidelines and requirements that you must follow to successfully upload the app.
The information you need to supply to complete your launch process is:
Your Icon: Must be configured and designed to platform’s guidelines.
Screenshot / App Preview: Can include images or brief videos.
Metadata: Name of your app, category of your app, a detailed description of your app, additional keywords related to your app, and your app’s version number. Here are more detailed metadata specifics for Apple and Android.
Be very honest in your description as Google Play and Apple don’t like when developers use misleading, grandiose, and ambiguous descriptions. They will remove your app from their app store without warning and may ban you from ever being able to upload any further apps in the future.
IMPORTANT: If you’re uploading your app to Apple’s App Store, you will need to archive it first. This allows you to build, store, and debug your app in a single bundle.
This is very important as the platform will run validation checks to make sure your app is built to their standards, violates none of their policies, meets all of their requirements, and has no inherent bugs present.
If your app does not pass the validation test, it does not get launched!
For further information about validation checks and archived bundles, go here.
Once you are sure you have submitted all the files and data needed, you can schedule your app launch. And while Android doesn’t require any additional validation once your app is uploaded, for iOS App Store, you will have to submit it for review first.
This is a standard procedure to make sure it is in compliance with the store’s guidelines and requirements.
It usually takes around 1 to 3 days to get an answer back from the review team.
Once the app has been approved, you can release it either manually or automatically.
If you choose an automatic release, it will be released over a 7-day period to an unspecified percentage of randomized users. If, however, you choose a manual release, you will be able to choose when to distribute it.
The distribution process will happen almost immediately and anyone already expecting the app can download it immediately.
Let Everyone Know Your App is Live
There is not much difference between your pre-launch marketing activities and launch marketing activities.
All the basics are covered here too:
Approach influencers, publishers & editors to review and speak about your app and its recent launch.
Send email updates to your email list to let them know that your app has just launched.
Let all your social media followers know that you have just launched your app and where to go to download it.
Aside from this, you may also want to offer special coupons, promo codes, bonuses, and other incentives to those who download your app and those who tell others about it to increase the number of downloads and user base.
Important Post Launch Activities
Mobile app marketing and development don‘t just magically stop after the app has been launched.
Your activities after the launch are just as vital as those before it. They will determine whether or not your app is a one-shot wonder or a staple tool in your company’s growth strategy.
1. Getting User Feedback
You are going to want to collect user feedback so you can gauge the success of your app, fix any bugs or issues that slipped by during the testing & review process, and for reference in future app updates.
Some of the main ways in which you can collect user feedback are as follows:
- Check user reviews and ratings.
- Ask for them on startup platforms (i.e., Betalist, ProductHunt).
- Ask your email list what they thought of your app.
Remember, negative feedback is just as helpful as positive feedback as it often can give you detailed information on how to improve your app.
2. Collecting & Analyzing Data
Your mobile app analytics is going to prove to you beyond a shadow of a doubt if you did a good job during the developing and marketing phase or not.
Here are some of the metrics you should measure:
- Number of Installs
- Churn Rate
- Daily & Monthly Active Users
- Average User-Session Duration
- Sales & Revenue
- App-Specific Engagement Metrics
Besides these, it’s absolutely essential to track customer satisfaction rate based on customer support activities.
3. Providing Support
Don’t feel bad if your app does not work as perfect as you wanted it to right out of the gate. App issues do sneak by even the best of tests and testers. The important thing is being ready to fix it immediately!
Mobile app support is two-fold: Addressing issues quickly and staying in constant communication with end-users while those issues are being resolved.
If you are able to respond to any issues in a timely and communicative manner, your followers will award you with their patience and give your app a second chance. If, however, you do not respond quickly to any problems, then they are likely to lose interest and forget that your app ever existed.
4. Monetizing Your App
While you should always see your business as one solving problem, you can‘t do that without making money.
If your app is a big hit among your customers, you can then think of making money off of it, but make sure you don’t come off as a money hungry predator.
Monetizing should be done in a way your end-users not only tolerate but are more than happy to accept, like offering premium features or bonuses to your products and services. If your customers already love what you have given them, they won’t mind paying a little extra for further value.
As a general rule, people hate ads.
Therefore, it is not advisable to run generic ads on your app. You may, however, offer discounts and coupons pertaining to your products or services from time to time, as your customers are already familiar with your company, your app, and your offers.
5. Keeping Engagement Levels
You have spent a lot of time, money, and effort to tailor your app to your target audience and get it on their mobile device.
It makes little sense not to put more time, money, and effort to keep them there, does it?
Remember, mobile apps are a great way to build loyalty for your brand. So, how to keep your mobile app users engaged and loyal?
Here are a few ways to achieve these results:
- Offer exclusives – things like discounts, coupons, free items, contests…
- Update your app to provide more customizable features to make your customers’ lives even easier.
- Personalize your app – use user’s name, offer personalized product suggestions and offers based on browsing and search history
- Create a social forum – it should be based around your app and app theme to foster a sense of community.
- Make your app fun to use with videos, augmented reality, or gamification.
You could also create “reminders” and “whitelists” right on your app where your customers can record their to-do-lists or store products they would like to purchase later.
Developing an app is a long and extensive process, but it should not deter you from going ahead. In the end, the benefits far outweigh the obstacles and challenges you must overcome to get it completed and delivered to your end-users.
Just use the steps listed here as a foundational roadmap in which to keep you on track and moving ahead with your mobile app project.
Come up with a mobile app idea that solves your target audience’s problems.
Uncover, locate, and define your market to get more information about what challenges and problems they face.
Analyze your market data, and your current business goals, stakeholders, and competitors to see if your mobile app idea has merit and is feasible.
Consider all the design options particular to the platform you wish to use, the overall app style you want to convey, and the testing formats which need to be adhered to get proper feedback.
Choose developers and developer platforms wisely.
Test, test, and test your app before even thinking of bringing it to market – a bad first impression can kill even the best of app ideas!
Create a “buzz” about your app through various marketing campaigns and strategies before launching it.
Consider all the required metadata needed before submitting your app to any platform. Launch your app and offer awesome post-launch support, and further marketing and engagement activities to foster app and brand loyalty.