An Ultimate Guide to Mobile App Development
- Mobile App Scenario in 2020
- Discovering Your Idea
- Building a POC (Proof of Concept)
- Building a Wireframe
- Building an MVP
- Mobile App Development
- Technology Stack
- iOS Vs Android
- Bonus - Mobile App Success
- Bonus - ASO (App Store Optimization)
Mobile App Scenario in 2020
2018 and 2019 were the pivotal years for mobile apps. With the launch of the copious smartphone brands, with over 2.7 billion smartphone users across the world, the app-based business was booming. The usage of apps and smartphones are still growing at a steady rate, who knows what the future holds for us.
Some studies show that the average American checks their phone every 12 minutes. 10% of people check their phones once every four minutes. Sounds astounding, doesn’t it?
Phones are used at home, at work, while shopping, in bed, in our cars and even while we’re eating. Begs the question, what’s everyone doing on their phones? Well, 90% of mobile time is spent on apps.
This is good news for anyone who owns an app or plans to develop one. But to be successful in this space, two things need to happen.
- Users need to download your app.
- Users need to use your app.
Key Mobile App Statistics
- Mobile apps are expected to generate $189 billion in revenue by 2020.
- The Apple App Store has 2.2 million apps available for download.
- There are 2.8 million apps available for download on the Google Play Store.
- 21% of Millennials open an app 50+ times per day.
- 49% of people open an app 11+ times each day.
- 57% of all digital media usage comes from mobile apps.
- The average smartphone owner uses 30 apps each month.
Space and the opportunity are huge and so is the competition. Mobile app development is now among those areas that are developing most rapidly. With over 2.2 million apps each in Apple’s App and Google Play Store, it’s important to run through the mobile app development process and how your application will fit in with both your marketing goals and your market niche. Mobile App Development Lifecycle is just a representation of the conventional Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) from the perspective of a mobile device. According to experts, the trend will only increase.
So if you are someone looking to get their app out there in the market, get it developed by a mobile app developing company to take advantage of this colossal opportunity, this is the right time.
This is an ultimate guide to mobile app development designed to escort you through the various steps and stages of mobile app development.
Discovering Your Idea
All the popular mobile apps that we know of have originated from an idea. Now comes the interesting part, you have to redefine that idea and think on the lines of an app. How would you implement that idea and develop it into an app?
- Market Analysis and Feasibility: Make sure your initial analysis includes actual demographics, motivations, behaviour patterns and goals of your buyer’s persona. To create a successful app, you have to define a specific target demographic that you will cater to. Some useful metrics are age, gender, location, hobbies, etc. During each stage of the process, keep the end-user in mind.
- The feasibility study asks: Why should this project be given the green (go ahead), amber (needs more work) or red (kill) light? Now it is time to think of your customer’s lifecycle, once their characteristics are recorded. When you reach your users, they would be acquired, converted, retained and their loyalty nurtured. Eventually, you should understand how the customer will use your digital product.
- Identify USP, Loopholes and Opportunities: Your USP (unique selling proposition) is the unique thing that you can offer that your competitors can’t. It is your “Competitive Edge.” It is the reason why users will download your app.
There would be other services or products that offer the same thing that you are planning to offer. So try to recognise what separates you from the rest. Try to find these loopholes so that you can tap on these opportunities and invest properly in marketing.
- Technically Feasibility: A mobile app project requires a comprehensive evaluation of its technical requirements; implementation plans and roadmap; company and customer readiness; legal and cultural issues and timescale. Try to keep these things in mind while creating the whole ecosystem for the app.
- Creating a POC: The proof of concept (POC) is a method that revolves around testing if an idea is doable or not. In other words, POC is all about testing if a specific idea or concept is workable or not. This method implies that everyone involved has an understanding of whether the idea has legitimate potential or not.
Building a POC (Proof of Concept)
POC (Proof of Concept): The process designed to determine whether an app idea can be built in the real world, what technologies should be used to develop this app, and whether the app will be adopted by the target users.
Need for Proof of Concept: All the entrepreneurs who come up with an idea are convinced that their idea will work. Creating a Proof of Concept tests your idea and helps you to come up with the best version of your app, in return saving time and money. POC also allows you to persuade investors and stakeholders to invest in your app. It could be adding a new feature to an existing app or building something from scratch. POC will ensure that the app will help you take the faster and a precise route to success.
Steps to create a Proof of Concept
Mentioned below are the steps that are involved in making a good Proof of Concept.
Step 1: Prove the Need of your app: You have to be crystal clear of the pain points your target audience is experiencing. You have to be crystal clear before you start development. Interviewing people and potential customers will help you identify the pain points and loopholes in the society which your app can resolve.
Step 2: Map Pain Points to solutions and takes feedback: Identifying the pain problem is the first step in this brainstorming process. You have to evaluate every potential solution to ascertain how it accumulates in context to cost, timeline, competition, technology challenges etc.
Step 3: Prototype the solution and test: Your next step is to build a prototype that envelops your solutions into a simple product that you can use to test with those you interviewed previously. This prototype should have the required feature set and UI/UX.
Step 4: Create an MVP: An MVP (minimum viable product) is different from a prototype in that it is a fully-functional solution that you can put out into the world for use. While it will include only the required features that are essential for solving the primary pain points you identified, it should function on the user’s side just like the final product.
Step 5: Roadmap: With all the information gathered, you can create a roadmap of your product from its inception to the future, where you want to see the app. You can plan your updates, new feature launches, UI/UX changes etc.
Building a Wireframe
What is Wireframe?
A wireframe as Wikipedia described is a screen blueprint or a page schematic that is created as a visual guide to help us establish the skeletal framework of an app/website. In other words, a wireframe is a two-dimensional representation of a screen to give a more definite visual concept to the app. It does not draw or design the app but shows how the application will work in a simplified manner.
Purpose of a Wireframe:
As mentioned above, a wireframe is a two-dimensional representation of the look of the app. The purpose of a wireframe is mentioned below.
- Content prioritization: Helps prioritize what content do you want to show your users during the MVP (minimum viable product).
- Space distribution: Assists you to create breading spaces in the app screen. You can have a less cluttered screen and enhance the apps look.
- Intended actions: Gives you a clear picture of what all actions you want your users to take and guide them from screen to screen.
- Available features and functions: Helps you to visualize the features that your users are going to interact with and the functions associated with it.
- Transitions between screens: Wireframe helps you to understand and manage the sequence of consecutive screens which will appear in your app.
Building an MVP
Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
Like the name suggests Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is a set of most essential and minimum features that allows the development team to check the viability of the product & determine the validity of the idea or app through user feedback and app’s usability.
Why is MVP Necessary to Develop?
The concept of MVP was introduced in 2001 and since then its range and advantages have become much more comprehensive. MVP helps you set the Core Functionalities and App Features to get an early version of the product after viable testing. MVP helps to be cost-effective allowing to evolve the product through the constant process. It minimizes the risk before launching the app.
Purpose of an MVP
The purpose of an MVP is to launch the app quickly with a small budget. The basic idea is to collect user’s feedback for the primary app and include other features for future upgrades. MVP allows you to find the right audience and take decisions based on experience and save time.
Benefits of an MVP
- Focus on building the core: MVP app focuses one the basic idea and is independent of any other functions. This ideology was coined by lean StartUps’, who developed the app with a minimal budget in a given time frame. Having minimal but important features can help reduce the cost of mobile app development. With this method, you can test the app with minimal risk.
- Early Stages of Testing: It is always good to find out from the inception of your idea if it will work without investing your whole budget.
- Gather Feedback and User Intelligence: The MVP offers the possibility to find out your potential users’ opinion, and how they want to see your final product.
- Market Validation: MVP helps you to gain insight to understand your app. You can know whether your app is the right fit for the target market. It will help you present your brand in a unique way which appeals to the users.
- Takes less time to develop your app: Less development time leads to lower development costs. The faster your mobile app is launched, the faster you will receive feedback. This leads to improvement of your app and releases app updates at a quicker pace.
- Budget-friendly: It avoids spending all your resources in one go. MVP helps you to plan your steps in mobile app development so that you can focus on stages of development and come out with a genuinely good product.
Steps to building an MVP
MVP is all about testing your idea and deciding what will work to properly target your users moreover assuring that the MVP meets their needs. If everything is done correctly, then it is apt to finalize the product and construct a proper marketing plan.
Below mentioned are the steps required to build MVP
Step 1: Market Research: Before you initiate an idea, ensure that it fulfils the target users’ needs. Conduct surveys, because the more information you have, the higher your chances are of success. Also, do not forget to keep an eye on what your competitors are offering, and how you can make your idea unique.
Step 2: Express your idea: There are some important questions that you need to keep in mind while expressing your idea to the world. What value does your app offer to its users? How can your app benefit your users? Why would users pay for your services or products?
Step 3: Design Process & User Flow: Always look at the app from the user’s perspective from the starting of the app to purchase or delivery. The design of the app should be convenient for users. Ensure you do not miss anything while keeping the future product & its user satisfaction in mind.
User flow is the path taken to reach the desired objective. The focus should be on the basic screens that a user will follow to reach the desired trigger point. A well-defined path makes the users experience pleasant and journeys easy.
Step 4: List the product features: List down the features that you want your app to have. Once you have the list ready, prioritize them with the stages of your app updates. Ask yourself, what all features are compulsory with on the initial stages of the app? What does my user want? Am I offering them something beneficial? Next, categorize all the remaining features based on priority and your updates planned.
Step 5: Develop, Measure & Improve: Once you develop the app, you need to measure and improve it. Have a quality assurance team go through the app and find out important issues and bugs. When you release the MVP make sure you measure the action taken within the app. Try to find out how the user is using the app. Once released you will also start getting user reviews which are considered to be very vital for improving the app and making it more user-friendly.
Measuring success after developing MVP
There are multiple ways that you can measure the success of your app. Some of the most basic and effective are mentioned below.
- Word of Mouth: You can ask for feedback from your users on how to improve your app. These feedbacks are very essential because these would be the pain points that your user would be facing and if you cater to their needs, they will surely speak good things about your app.
- Engagement: It plays an important role in understanding the current standing of your app in the minds of your users. More engagement means that people are spending more time on your app. They are enjoying what you have made. Which means more opportunities for in-app purchases & ad clicks.
- Sign-Up: Sign Up is an instant sign that your app is creating interest in the users. They are signing up because they want to know more about the app and stay connected. Which means that you can send them promotional emails, inform them about the upcoming updates and news related to your app. It also allows you to show them your product offering and hence become your future customers.
- Active Users: Active users are those users who are active on your app for a given period. More active users which signify that more downloads have occurred and more users are showing interest in your app.
Design is just not about designing software but understanding the product inside out. It is about knowing the app’s features & functionality and designing everything keeping the end-user in mind.
Firstly you have to figure out what you want to see in your app. Once you have that figured out, your next step is to design a user flow diagram. A user flow or a user path diagram is a detailed illustration of a user’s journey within the app. It will help users navigate within the app and it gives a better picture to the mobile app development team.
Usually, a user flow diagram is made up of 3 basic shapes.
- Rectangles represent screens.
- Diamonds are used to signify decisions. For example, the login button, swiping to the left, zooming in etc.
- Arrow link-up screen and decisions together.
User-flow diagrams are useful because it helps you to visualize what the app would look like in reality.
Wireframes are essentially low-fidelity illustrations of how your app will look. Once you’ve prepared the design for the user flow for each screen and designed the users journey, you can start working on the wireframe for all screens. It is a basic representation of where images, labels and buttons would be placed. It is a rough sketch of layout & positioning and how your app will work.
Design Patterns & Colour Palettes
Choose the design pattern that suits your user journey. Should be pleasant and should not hinder the user path. Colour speaks a lot about your brand and all over the feel of the app. Be very particular about the colour.
This is when you finally design the whole app. It should be realistic and should be how the real app would look once it is on the device. It should be hyper-realistic. You can make multiple mockups with different colours so that you can later choose which suits you best.
Mobile App Development
It is established that you and your business need a mobile app. Depending on what kind of app you are going to make, the next step is mobile app development. To create a successful mobile app you need to follow a systematic approach to mobile app development.
If you are confused and have trouble deciding on what platform to choose from or which app developing company, I understand your dilemma. With so many amazing platforms for building mobile apps, choosing the right one seems impossible.
I have divided the mobile app development into 3 phases which will help you understand the scope of work required for it. The mobile app development process further consists of multiple phases.
Phases of Mobile App Development
1. The Alpha Phase: It is that phase in mobile app development wherein just the core functionality of the app is developed, but it isn’t tested. At this stage, the app can barely function and has a lot of bugs and glitches that need fixing.
2. The Beta Phase: This phase involves the implementation of all the important features and functions of the mobile app. The app is developed such that it can go through a round of light testing. Even though most of the bugs are fixed, a few remain. However, in this stage, the app can be selectively released to some users for testing.
3. The Release Phase: This is the final phase and comes after every bug has been classified and fixed, obviously after several rounds of testing, and the app can be finally released to the users.
There are various options available for mobile app development. Today’s technologies allow you to choose between four main approaches.
- Native App Development
- Hybrid App Development
- Compiled App Development
- Web App Development
Native App Development
The native application is the most common amongst developers. As we all know that Android and iOS have different mobile application designs. Android requires coding in Java or Kotlin, using Android Studio for the environment. With iOS, you require coding in Objective-C or Swift and the IDE is Xcode. Therefore, this approach requires at least 2 developers or even a mobile app development team to build the two versions of one application.
Hybrid App Development
So you get a real native app that you can download from the app store. It has that WebView UI component which then loads your app as a web page. To develop a hybrid mobile app, you will need middleware like Cordova, PhoneGap, or Ionic. These tools allow you to create a mobile app with native language wrapper.
Compiled App Development
Now let’s discuss in-depth about NativeScript and React Native.
Web App Development
It is a web app in an approach to developing a mobile app. However, if you need to create an app that is good, trustworthy, & user-friendly, opt this one out.
iOS Vs Android
A few years ago, there were various mobile OS (operating systems) in the market such as Microsoft, Symbian, RIM, Android, iOS, plus several smaller ones.
Today, there are only two major mobile operating systems left: iOS and Android. iOS has kept a more or less stable market share over the last six years. But Android skyrocketed in 2009, outgrew iOS, and reached a similar sales volume to it in 2013. Together, iOS and Android now represent a staggering 99% of the mobile operating system market share.
iOS is popular in the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, and Western Europe. Android dominates Central and South America, India, Africa, China, the Middle East, Russia, Eastern Europe, and some other countries.
The logic is simple: go for the operating system that’s most popular in your key markets. If your app’s target audience is outside North America, Australia, Japan, and Western Europe, go with Android. This way your product will have more opportunity to spread and succeed.
To design an Android app, designers generally follow Google’s Material Design Guidelines. These guidelines have everything from table size, icon spacing, colour palette recommendations etc.
For iOS, designers can refer to Apples’ Human Interface Guidelines. These guidelines don’t speak of details, instead, offer suggestions for achieving the instinctive design. Some may argue that Apple’s guidelines give designers more freedom than Google’s.
Without getting into too much detail, there are three main differences between the Material Design Guidelines and Human Interface Guidelines.
Depth and perception: Google supports the material design, which mirrors sheets of paper stacked on top of each other. Apple favours designs that have depth. In iOS, thin lines and blurred margins make elements seem to float in their own spaces.
Animation: Google wants animations to enhance the user experience and excite the design; lights and vibrations create a more hands-on user experience. Apple sees animation as something with pure utility. In iOS, animations should be simple and discrete.
Navigation: Google’s take on navigation is rather laid back. It can be anywhere; just make it obvious. This freedom can boost creativity but can also lead to designs that aren’t all that user-friendly. Apple limits navigation options, making designers think carefully about what functions to include. But this restriction usually leads to comfortable and intuitive designs.
Keep these differences in mind when coming up with your app’s special look.
Device and Platform Fragmentation
Android is an open platform. Developers can use the Android source code to customize the Android operating system during the mobile app development phase.
Although this is advantageous, however, an open environment can make mobile app development problematic because:
- Smartphone manufacturers tend to alter Android to suit their devices, which forces developers to tweak apps to make them work on particular smartphones and tablets.
- Some devices have cheaper components (such as processors and cameras), which can cause bugs or slow down apps, making your app less appealing to some users.
The takeaway is that an iOS application will run on more devices for less development time than its Android counterpart.
App Store Submission
When dealing with deadlines, the time required for app store submissions can be a crucial factor.
The App Store practices manual quality testing with real people performing step-by-step app reviews. On top of that, they also use automated tests. The waiting period for a single app review is one to two days. If your app is rejected, a review team member can explain the reason.
The Google Play Store uses automated testing only. This can leave some minor issues overlooked but simplifies the process. An app can be available on the Google Play Store in as little as one to three days after submission. If your app is rejected, however, it is difficult to get ahold of Google’s review team to discuss why.
Application updates take one to two days on the App Store; on Google Play, apps can be updated every two hours.
In my experience, the App Store is very precise in their reviews while Google Play hardly ever rejects applications.
The Current Situation and Future Prospects
The most recent version of Android is Android 9 Pie. Android 9 adapts to you and how you use your phone, learning your preferences as you go. Your experience gets better and better over time, and it keeps things running smoother, longer.
iOS 12.4.1 is the latest version of iOS. Apple and Google continue to improve these technologies with each update. If you’re looking to integrate AR and VR into your app, now’s the time.
Also, let’s not forget about machine learning. As interest in this technology increases, developers strive to simplify its implementation. And the simpler it gets to implement machine learning, the easier it is to create products that can learn from users and adapt to their preferences.
So it is up to you what to choose. However, I would suggest that you get your app on both Android and iOS as smartphones in the market are highly competitive and have their user base.
Bonus - Mobile App Success
Entrepreneurs with ideas, hire an app development company, get their apps developed, test them out, market it, reach millions of users, then they start making money. Which brings me to THE question. How to select the right app development company? Selecting the right app developing company for mobile app development is as important as your idea. Maybe your idea is cool and has potential, however, what is it the use if you don’t have a cool app to compliment that.
Mobile App Success
After the completion of mobile app development, the next thing is to measure its performance. This comes after your app has been listed in the app stores and is downloaded by the target audience. One thing that you need to keep in mind is to get some analytic tool integrated with your app. This will help you gather data about the app and help you make valuable decisions based on that.
Categories of tracking mobile app success:
- General Mobile App
- User Engagement
- Revenue Focused
- App store category ranking
General Mobile App KPIs
Most of people track these general mobile KPIs.
- Mobile App Downloads: This is the most obvious measurement for success is the number of times the app is downloaded in a given period. This KPI measures the app’s popularity among its users.
- Subscriptions: If one of the features you offer is content or upgrades subscription, then you should track the number of signups and unsubscribes. Unsubscribing assists you monitor the features to be updated or find out about errors that you have not noticed before. It tells how the users find the price/value ratio of the subscription You should also monitor the length of time it takes for a user to subscribe after installing your app.
- Upgrades: If you offer basic and premium versions of your mobile app, then this KPI comes in handy. You need to track the number of people who use the premium version, what percentage of all users they constitute, how long it takes for users to upgrade.
- User growth rate: You need to know how your user base is growing, and whether it is a steady or a spiky growth. For example, does it spike during certain events i.e. updates or advertisements or is the growth slow but steady?
- User Engagement: This requires answering questions such as when, where and how are users engaging with your mobile app and collecting details about it.
- Retention rate: A retention rate gives a number to the percentage of users who still use an app a certain number of days after install.
EU = number of customers at the end of a period
NU = number of new customers acquired during a given period
SU = number of customers at the beginning of a period
- Sessions (App Open Rate): This is the number of times a user interacts with the app or, to be more precise, opens the app.
- Daily Active Users (DAU): DAU is a user who created an account and logged in for any interaction.
- Churn Rate: Measuring the rate at which users unsubscribe or uninstall your app will help you improve your app.
Revenue Focused KPIs: An app is not only developed with the user in mind, but it is also built with money in mind.
- Average Revenue per User (ARPU): The average amount of money or value generated per user multiplied by the size of the user base, could give you a rough idea of your app’s monetary value.
- Cost Per Acquisition (CPA): Customers come at a cost. This might be the cost of advertising, devoted time as well as other resources.
- Customer Lifetime Value (CLC): This measures the net profit users generate over time, which includes users in and on the app in ratio to the cost of acquiring them.
- Return on Investment (ROI): When you spend money and other resources on the app (e.g. marketing the app through an advertisement) you expect to make profits out of it.
Measuring how effective a chosen method is, will help you discover the driving force for the downloads and in result focus on it and maybe get rid of the ones that do not bring in more users.
- Install Source (Attribution): Where did your users find your app to install it? This knowledge is essential and can become a driving force for your campaign. Which sources attract more users to download your app?
- Channel Breakdown: This involves details concerning the type of channels your users use to arrive at your app. It involves analyzing their behaviour once they start using your app.
- Geo–metrics: Although geometrics is most often overlooked, it is essential to know your user’s location. It influences the revenues obtained from various locations. Analyzing the users’ behaviour patterns from the different locations will help you understand and specifically focus your marketing efforts. You will also know which areas in need of more marketing.
- Demographics: Do you know the gender of your target audience? What are their ethnicity and age? By comparing such information to the actual demographics of your users will help you analyze the success of your app.
App Store Category Ranking: Usually, the higher your rankings in the app store, the better your performance. You should make an effort to monitor and analyze your rankings in the app store over time. Bear in mind that the app store category ranking is directly affected by the following elements.
- Keywords: You want your app to come up when people search for the keywords or phrases that are relevant to your app on the app store. If you rank on the top, most likely is that your app will have more downloads than the apps ranked below your app.
- Reviews: A user who takes time to write a review about your app, no matter how long or short it may be, is a sign of being engaged with your app. Take note of the number of reviews your app has received. Take note of what the users are saying, compliments make you feel good about your app also take notice of the complaints as they may be more informative.
- Ratings: Just like reviews, the more positive ratings you have, the better.
Bonus - ASO (App Store Optimization)
Just like internet marketers use Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, to get their web pages ranking highly in Google’s search results, app developers must use App Store Optimization, or ASO, techniques to get their app to the top of app store search results.
Here are ten important steps you’ll want to take to improve your ASO in both the Apple App Store and Google Play.
Use a Descriptive Title
- The Apple App Store gives you 255 characters for your title. So, while a succinct title can help with your branding efforts, it will do you no favours if you’re trying to boost your Apple ASO.
- The Google Play Store titles are handled a bit differently in the Google Play store. There, you get a paltry 30 characters for your title, so you have to be extremely concise.
2. Use Keywords Wisely Just like with app titles, how you should handle app keywords differs from the Apple App Store to Google Play.
With Apple, you get only 100 characters for all of your keywords, so obviously, you need to choose wisely; it should go without saying that you should get as close to this 100 character limit as you possibly can.
With Google Play, though, there is no specific keyword field. However, the app description is searchable, and you have a comfortable 4000 characters to work with.
3. Describe Your App Well If you’ve brought your potential buyer this far, you want to be able to close the deal and make the sale! Therefore, your app’s description and page within the app store should be viewed as an important part of your App Store Optimization Strategy.
4. Use High-Quality Screenshots People only spend 7 seconds determining if they’re going to download an app or not. How your app store page looks is a significant factor in their decision, and high-quality app store screenshots are going to make a big difference.
5. Add an App Preview Video 85% of the US internet audience watch videos online, and over half of video content is consumed on mobile. You can harness the power of video for your App Store page to give prospective users a better insight into what your app can offer them.
6. Pick the Right Category Placing your app in the proper category on both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, is not only helpful for users who are browsing apps by category, but it is also best practice for helping your app to rank well.
7. Focus on Icon Design Knowing how to design and an engaging app icon is very important as well. You only get one image to show app store audiences why your app is worth their time for consideration, so choose carefully!
8. Encourage Positive Reviews Positive ratings and reviews, both in terms of quality and quantity, have a huge impact on your App Store Optimization efforts. It’s in your best interest to get as many as you can.
9. Use App Store Analytics Just like Google Analytics for web page marketing, there are several powerful app store analytics tools that are designed to help your mobile marketing strategy. Make sure you get the tracking for your desired analytical tool integrated into the app during the time of mobile app development. You will be able to see where your app stands concerning the competition, and boost your store ranking accordingly.
Just to name a few:
- Sensor Tower
10. Re-evaluate Regularly If it’s been a few weeks, and you’re not pleased with your app’s current app store ranking, it’s time to take a look at your data, make some assessments, and change some things around:
- Maybe the keywords aren’t right?
- Is the description isn’t persuasive enough?
- Are you sure it’s in the right category?
- Does the icon need some fine-tuning?
All the above-mentioned steps could help you attain a higher ranking, but always remember if your mobile is cool and people love it, then it will promote itself.