Mobile App Development 101:

Getting Your App from the Idea Stage to the Product Stage

If you are developing an app for the first time, here are some things you need to consider before engaging with any consultants or making any financial commitments. The first thing you want to do when you develop a mobile app is to consider:

  1. What problem am I solving? (solution)
  2. Who are my audiences? (market)
  3. How many different ways can my audiences benefit from the app? (utility)
  4. What do I want to achieve by building this app? (purpose)
  5. How much money do I need to build this app? (finance)

Building a great app really starts with defining the problem and how you intend to solve it; however, there are always multiple solutions and functions to uncover when solving a specific problem.  For that reason, it is important to figure out the multitude of uses that your app can have for your target audience. These multiple uses are great ways to differentiate your app from the competitor’s app and can lead to multiple revenue streams for your app.

When developing a product and discovering user case scenarios, I like to explore the various uses of the app and how to monetize each of them.  Since every app is different, it’s important to analyze your audience with surveys and determine how much your audience is willing to pay for the utility you are creating for them in the app. 

The important take away here is to find as much utility as possible, but not to the extent that the app tries to solve too many problems. Developing a ton of features in the first version of your app is a two-fold mistake. It drives up the cost of your app before you have even tested your app and received any feedback. Additionally, it lengthens the amount of time to develop and test the software, thereby delaying your time to market.

I encourage all clients to adopt a lean approach to app development.  Defining the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is the best route.  The MVP is essentially a scaled-down version of your app that focuses on the core functionality of the application. It is a “no-frills approach” to developing an app that will help you get to market fast, keep costs low, and allow your app to receive the necessary feedback to move forward with an update or second version of your app.

All the steps listed above are meant to guide you to the next step, which is hiring a development team to build your app.  Once you’ve done the research and defined an MVP, a professional development team can formulate a solid plan of action with a data model and engineering blueprint to build your app.

 

Mobile App Development 201:

Developing a Robust Feature List, a Data Model, and a set of User Experience Wire frames

Building software is much like constructing a home or office building.  You need a plan, a blueprint, a contractor, the right engineers, and a project manager to see all the construction through to a finished product. A great development team will use your MVP to develop a robust feature list, an exact data model, and the User Experience (UX) wireframes** for your app.

**(This step is best left to engineering professionals, but you can take your best shot at creating some wireframes on your own.  Developing your own wireframes does not guarantee that a product development team will base an estimate off of your wireframes.)

We encourage all clients to use architects to scope and design the feature sets of their app.  By doing this, you have an expert who knows the inner workings of software development.  An architect will immediately add value to your app by offering integrated solutions to reduce the software development cycle and improve app performance.  The architect works side-by-side with you to help navigate all possibilities of a robust feature list and uncover new possibilities for your app. Once the feature list is developed, the architect has a set of instructions from which he can design your database and data model. 

Once an architect has flushed out the required features for your app with a data model, the instructions are passed along to a UX team to help create the wireframes for the app. The wire framing process paints a clear picture of what your app will look like, how your app will function, and how users will interact it. A great set of wire frames goes a long way in providing an accurate depiction of the app’s functionality and features. In most cases, a set of clickable wireframes is preferred to demonstrate the exact use of the application. 

 

Mobile App Development 301:

App Design, App Development, and App Testing

Once the UX Wire Frames (blueprints) and engineering plans (data model and feature list) are created for your app, a development team starts the construction and development process. During this phase, a development plan is created for the project. Next, a team of engineers and designers are assigned to build the app. The team will develop your app feature-by-feature in short sprints during the entire development process.

As the app gets closer to the last rounds of sprints, the testing process becomes more intense.  Testing the software and patching bugs during these sprints are a major part of the app development process.  A good team of engineers has a process in place to test the software, discover the bugs, and apply patches in a fast and consistent manner. The best advice I give to all clients is to expect ALL software to have bugs to some degree prior to a full production release.

Once the app has been fully tested and the quality of the app has been assured, the app is ready to move into an Alpha release for another round of tests.  Testing in the Alpha stage is a real-world test of the app with between 20-50 users. As the users sign-up and interact on the app, in app analytics and bug tracking software capture and report any stray bugs that have not been addressed or caught during the first testing cycle.  The development team patches the remaining bugs and the app moves into a production-ready Beta stage.

 

Mobile App Development 401:

Launching a Production-Ready App, Getting User Feedback, and Developing Version 1.1

In the Beta stage, the app is ready for real world users and can be submitted to the app store. The beta stage is usually a good time to start acquiring feedback from user experiences. A good development team will set you up with at least 3 tools for feedback and bug reporting. Feedback in the Beta stage is important for app traction your audience will tell you what can be improved and what works well.  Expect to spend between 7-10% of your total app cost to gather feedback, fix any minor outstanding bugs, and make minor user interface and user experience improvements for Version 1.1.

 

Summation:

For first-time app developers, building software can be an overwhelming and unpredictable series of events.  With this guide, we aimed to explain the steps in the software development process so that any novice could completely understand the risks involved. No matter how you skin it, there is not a 10-step guide to building an app and there never will be.  Having the right expectations when entering into an extended engagement is key to success for all parties.   a solid team of seasoned professionals can help make the journey of developing an app a lot more comfortable.