Developing and building a mobile application for a local business is a very common practice today. The advantages associated with mobile apps are numerous: increased sales and profits, ease of marketing, brand promotion as well as saving of time and resources. These benefits make the mobile app a very fundamental tool to have for a successful business enterprise.
For those considering developing a mobile app for their businesses, it’s crucial to get all the facts right before they begin. The design and development process for an app is complex, however, business will receive a lot of benefits in the end. Lots of planning have to go into it for the endeavour to succeed. Medium-sized businesses are particularly taking the mobile app development issue seriously. About five SMBs were found to have each built a mobile app while the same number was expected to launch theirs in 2016 in a study.
For the businesses that are still second-guessing themselves whether to go with the flow or not, some mobile use statistics may just convince them to stop sitting on the fence and charge into the fray.
- Mobile applications take up more than half of the time spent on digital media.
- In the year 2016, revenue from mobile apps alone amounted to an excess of $60 billion in the US.
- The average mobile app consumer has approximately 30 apps on their device and takes about 35 hours per month using them
- Smartphone owners spend use approximately 90% of their mobile time on apps.
- For the Fortune 500 companies, mobile applications take up 42% of all mobile sales.
- 85% of smartphone users prefer using mobile apps to mobile websites.
All these statistics simply point to the critical role that mobile apps are playing in the business world today. Yet, with all these positive stats, the decision to build an app still needs serious consideration. There are approximately 1.5 million apps on each of Google Play and Apple App Stores. The implication is quite clear here: there is very fierce competition as business try to draw the user’s attention to their app through differentiation. It’s therefore important to be familiar with the entire mobile app development process if you intend to release a product that will appeal to consumers. This article outlines the mobile app development lifecycle and discusses the goals and objectives of each phase, as well as outlining the challenges to expect so that you are adequately prepared.
Phase 1: Market research and planning
Planning is a crucial part of any app development project. It allows you to set the ground for the whole project. Even though you may already have several app ideas that may seem workable, it’s recommended that you carry out market research to establish the viability of each idea. Exhaustive research of your own business sector, competitors and the target market will provide critical information to allow you to plan on the best approach for developing the idea. The research and planning is supposed to deal with the following concerns:
- What do you expect to accomplish with your mobile app?
- Where does it fit into the larger organisational mobile marketing strategy?
- Who is the target audience?
- Ways in which customers will use the app.
- Which platform(s) will be used in developing the app?
- The framework and app development language to be used.
- Budgetary estimates for the entire project.
- Timeline and scheduling considerations.
- What does your competitors are doing and whether is it successful or not?
- Marketing strategy for the mobile app.
This phase requires input from all team members that will be involved in the project, including marketing/sales, executive leadership and the product development teams. It is crucial to establish effective channels of communication, so that information and feedback be shared seamlessly amongst stakeholders.
Phase 2: Developing the design and prototype
This phase involves the development of the app designs and prototype. At this juncture, you should have a pretty good idea what the final product will look like, including a list of its features. Scope of the work to be done is also developed at this stage to establish what aspects of the project will be handed to the in-house designers and which services will be outsourced. The design stage consists of three steps.
A wireframe refers to a sketch of a mobile app that shows how it will function when it’s complete. It is similar to the blueprints for a building. Sketching and development of wireframes is essential to mobile app development. Its purpose is to generate a clear picture of what the app is all about together with its features for purposes of functionality. A storyboard/roadmap is also created at this point to shows the relationships between each screen as well as the navigation through the app. Various online tools are used to develop wireframes for mobile apps.
The storyboard and wireframes created in the previous stage will guide the making of backend structures that will provide support to the app. Backend structures include servers, data integration, data diagrams, APIs and push notification services. Selecting a mobile backend as a service platform is usually a wise choice because they help deal with common challenges like inadequate in-house talent and scalability.
Prototype development and testing
During the backend planning process, changes are made to the wireframe to make it more functional. Moreover, upon settling on a common wireframe and storyboard, the prototype is then built and tested.
Prototyping is critical for the mobile app development process. It provides a good platform for evaluation of the designs, collecting feedback and identifying the flaws and links that don’t work to enhance the usability and flow of the app. Luckily, there are numerous tools online that can be used in prototyping so that the entire process becomes easier and simpler.
Prototyping and testing should be done in the presence of people who are not necessarily on the development team. Such are capable of providing honest feedback that is crucial for ensuring that the app is functional. The flaws identified at this stage should be dealt with before moving to the next phase.
Phase 3: Coding and development
This where the real technical work in app development is done. It requires attention to detail. Otherwise, the app developed will be full of bugs and end up failing in the market. The coding process occurs in stages. You can choose between having a mobile BaaS (Back-end as a Service) provider (app development platform) or get an independent provider who will then have to take care of the servers, APIs, databases and storage solutions for the app’s backend.
Deciding to hire app developer in Denver in case you don’t have an in-house development team can be a good decision. However, care should be taken to hire the developer who is the right fit for the job. An app developer who knows what they are doing will give you much peace of mind because you won’t have to keep supervising them round-the-clock. Be sure to sign a non-disclosure agreement with them that your work is not exposed. A good work schedule and a list of the expected deliverables will make the developers time easier since they know what is expected of them in what duration of time. It’s usually recommended that you “hire slow and fire fast.” Finding a way to end the contract fast when the developer is not delivering may be critical in salvaging the project before it is extensively damaged.
All the results obtained from prototype testing and the feedback should be incorporated into the coding phase of the app development. This will ensure that the resulting app is functional enough to be used by your customers.
Phase 4: Testing the app
The testing phase comes after both the graphics and user interfaces have been successfully completed. The testing is intended to identify and iron out any flaws that may affect the functioning of the app. The app undergoes a variety of tests with real-world scenarios to ensure every aspect of app functionality is covered. The testing process is usually iterative: the app is tested until a flaw is discovered. It then goes back to the design and coding stages for the problem to be ironed out, after which it is tested again. The back-and-forth flow is repeated until all major problems are handled satisfactorily.
Just like in the prototype testing phase, bring in users who are not part of the development team to provide genuine feedback on the app’s usability. Such may end up discovering laws that may have escaped the eyes of the developers. It may even be good to consider using an online mobile UX testing tool. Such tools provide access to real-time analytics and feedback. Many are also cost-effective, making them convenient or use by the SMEs.
Mobile app testing occurs in two stages: UAT and Beta testing.
UAT testing: also known as user acceptance testing. It is usually done by those who actually use the application. At this point, the application is tested by the real users of the app, thereby allowing the developers to gauge the app’s real potential, as well as establishing what the real user experience is.
Beta testing: it is usually confined to the beta testers. Beta testers are users who have signed up to test the apps before being launched in the market. They thereafter provide feedback that is then incorporated into the final app version prior to being rolled out officially.
Phase 5: Launching the app
This is the final phase of the app development process. This is where it is released for general use in the local market after passing all the necessary tests. It involves registering and releasing the app onto the major app stores, Google and Apple App stores. However, before launching the product in the market, it is wise to target a specific market segment where the app can be most popular. This is accomplished through targeted marketing and promotion. Inadequate marketing can result in low levels of engagement and uptake in the market. And given the high cost of app development, it makes sense to promote your product as much as possible. Another market research at this point might prove to be instrumental in targeting your product towards the right audience.
A website can be created, or even a landing page to provide information about your app. This can be used appropriately to enhance the app’s discoverability on search engines. The critical components of the landing page for the app include:
- The name and icon of the app.
- Names and badges of the stores where the app can be found and downloaded.
- App screenshots and, if possible, a promotional video.
- Links to social media accounts.
- A press kit.
- Support and contact information.
- Subscription form or a mailing list.
- User reviews and testimonials.
Take advantage of social media platforms to extensively advertise and market the app. Use the company blog and create an email campaign to provide updates and engage with users.
The official Release
The app development process should culminate with an official release to crown the entire project. You might need to get in touch with some influential journalists, bloggers and media personnel so that the app can be featured on various platforms. These will help you spread the word out there that your app is up for an official release. The idea is to generate as much interest as possible so that the app picks up immediately after release.
The work does not just stop after the launching of the app. Much is still to be done in engaging users and handling their concerns about the app. Create a platform where users can provide feedback and comment concerning the app. Have a strategy for quickly and effectively handling all their concerns as well. Marketing and app promotion should be an ongoing process.
The Bottom line
The mobile app development lifecycle takes time and requires lots of dedication from all the stakeholders involved. And it does not just end at the official release: the app has to be updated from time to time to keep up with the changing technology. Taking the time to create a great and appealing app will definitely pay in terms of revenue and customer loyalty.
Get in touch with Vivim to find out how our team can help you to launch competitive app that will grow your company.