Mobile App Development Lifecycle: The 8 Steps To Master
For small to medium-sized businesses that want to build mobile apps, you need to know exactly what steps to execute to ensure the project’s success. According to Clutch’s study, one in five SMBs has been building mobile apps and about to launch one. The trend has been continuing since 2016.
The mobile use statistics reveal:
- Mobile applications account for more than half of the time spent on digital media.
- Smartphone users spend approximately 90 percent of their mobile time on apps.
- Eighty-five percent of consumers prefer native motive applications to mobile websites.
- Mobile applications account for 42 percent of the total mobile sales of Fortune 500 companies.
- The average consumer installs about 30 applications on their devices and spends about 35 hours using them every month.
But of course, even if all evidence supports the idea of building an application, the decision to proceed forward isn’t an easy task. There are more than 1.5 million mobile apps in Google Play and Apple’s App Store; therefore, it is vitally important to understand mobile apps’ development process and how your app can fit into the niche market and your marketing goals. With that being said, in this article, we will look at the mobile application development life and understand the goals and challenges in each development process along the way.
The discovery stage
Hypothetically, you’ve already had in mind a few good mobile app ideas for your business; that’s a good starting point. However, before entering the design and development phase, the first step you should take is to conduct in-depth research to understand where your business is at in the market, gain insight from your target audience, and be able to analyze each step your competitors take. To do so, you’ll need to answer the following questions:
- What is your targeting achievement? Does it fit in your mobile marketing plans?
- Who is your target audience? Explore their behavior and thinking patterns.
- Which platforms will you use?
- Which mobile application development framework and language should you use?
- What are your competitors doing? Do they build any apps? If so, what functions do they provide, and how can their apps help your customers solve problems?
- Have you estimated your overall mobile app development budget?
- What is the timeline? When will you start, and at what point you expect to release the app?
- How will you promote your app? Do you have a budget to market your app?
If you cannot answer these questions, gather your development team with members of relevant departments such as executive leadership, marketing, and sales department, product development team, IT, etc, and hash out as much information as you can during the research and discovery phases. Feedback in these early stages will pave the way for a smoother development process later on.
Establishing goals and objectives
We know that you probably already have a goal in mind when thinking of starting any project. But because this step is too important to neglect, we decided to remind you once again: establish goals and objectives! You need to map out how your app will get you there: What problems will your application solve for your customers? What features will it have?
In many cases, defining an application’s functions and advantages balances the overall application development budget and internal capabilities. However, research shows that application design should emphasize customer engagement rather than exclusive services when prioritizing features.
And remember, your goals and objectives should be S.M.A.R.T (Specific - Measurable - Assignable - Relevant - Time-based)
Wireframes and Storyboards
At this stage, you should already have a good understanding of how your application will look like, how it functions, and what features are included. And you should also have developed a work scope - which parts of the process will be done internally and which elements will be outsourced. This is the moment for you to sketch out your app and create a storyboard.
There are many online tools available to install wireframing of an application; your goal at this point is to have a clear understanding of how your proposed ideas and features will be integrated into a powerful application. You should also create storyboards or a roadmap to show the connections between each screen and how users can navigate through the app. When sketching, keep the following pointers in mind:
- Look for opportunities to consolidate your brand.
- Focus on delivering the user experience.
- Considering the differences in how people use mobile apps and mobile websites.
Determine the backend of your app
The wireframe and storyboard will guide back-end structures needed to support the app, like APIs, servers, data integration, push notification services, etc.). In many cases, SMBs find it plausible to choose back-end-as-a-service (BaaS) platforms because they address common challenges like scalability or lack of internal talent.
*Note: If you encounter technical limitations during back-end development, you may need to modify the wireframe and/or schematic summary, so be flexible at this stage.
Finalize your wireframe and test the prototype
When reaching this point, you should define any identified wireframe changes during the back-end planning process. Once your team has reached a consensus toward the wireframe and storyboard, you can start building an interactive prototype.
Prototyping is an indispensable step in the application development process as it allows you the opportunity to truly evaluate the design concept, gather feedback, and identify dead and defective links in the process and usability of mobile applications. Many useful prototyping tools are provided online to streamline the process.
It’s best to invite people who aren’t part of your mobile app development project to test and evaluate your prototype. Observing them as they interact with the app and asking them to give honest feedback on the overall functionality and ease of use of the app. Adjusting the user experience and user interface to correct any shortcomings found at this stage.
Your goal is to perfect the application design concept and create a high-fidelity prototype to guide you through the actual application development process.
Actual application development
There are many steps and processes involved in mobile application development. Suppose you are not using the application development platform or the mobile BaaS provider; the developer must set up the actual storage solutions, database, APIs, and servers for the application’s backend.
If you don’t have app stores to distribute your app, don’t forget to set up developer accounts; this step can take up several days to complete and easily overlook. You should also carefully read the app store’s guidelines so that your app won’t get disapproved during the review process.
Now, you can enter the programming and coding phase. If you’ve hired outside talent to develop your app, be sure to get a signed non-disclosure agreement and establish a timeline for delivering products. Remember the “hire slow, fire fast” principle. If you are not satisfied with the programmer’s functions after the project has started, give yourself a chance to a quick out.
At this stage, the designer will create an actual “skin” or actual display used in your app. The wireframes’ high-resolution rendering represents the interface end-user will use to interact with the app; therefore, make sure that your design incorporates all of the ideas and feedback collected during the initial software testing phase. Ultimately, you want to create an app that your customers enjoy using. Thus, UI and UX details are essential.
This is an exciting moment in the software development life cycle. Finally, you have a complete application concept with excellent graphics and a perfectly placed copy. Now, you need to test your application in different real-world scenarios to detect and correct any technical errors.
Going back to your initial planning and designing documents and browse through each feature; what’s better is to have a checklist beforehand to ensure you’re not going to miss testing any feature. Don’t assume that something works in the final stage just because it worked in the early stage (development).
Similar to the previous phase, you should observe the user as they are testing the application since they may come up with critical questions and insights that you haven’t noticed earlier and allow you to improve your mobile app. You might even want to use an online mobile user experience testing tool that provides you with real-time feedback and analysis; you can work on a freemium model for cost-effectiveness. Make sure to check the cross-platform compatibility of images, graphics, and user experience.
Once you are confident that the application will work properly in all situations and are satisfied with the interface and its usability, it is time to start the application for mobile devices.
Preparing for launching
The steps taken to prepare to launch the application may have the greatest impact on the ultimate success of the application, and getting the marketing team involved in the process as early as possible is one of the most important tasks to do. The team will help you with keyword research, which is essential for SEO and ASO (app store optimization), and necessary for discovery capabilities.
When you are ready to submit your app to various marketplaces for distribution, your market and keyword research will guide you in choosing an application title and description. At this point, you also need to obtain high-quality screenshots of the application, possibly even promotional videos or even a demo.
You will also need a website or at least a login page to support and promote your application. This is important for branding and bringing awareness, as well as for search and discovery capabilities. Google’s application indexing API uses content from its search result algorithm and content from the application’s website. The main components of the application’s landing page or website should include:
- App name and icon
- Badges and names of the store where your app can be downloaded
- Screenshots and videos of the promotional video
- Mailing list and subscription form (before launching) and the download links (after launch)
- Contact and support team information
- Your app social media accounts
- A press kit
- User recommendations and comments (after launch)
Make sure to promote your application on your business website and social media accounts; if you have a blog, remember to post updates throughout the development process to generate interest. You can also initiate an email marketing campaign. Depending on your market niche and the type of application you are developing, you may also need to seek help from experts and social influencers to help promote your application.
When reviewing the list of application advertisements, don’t forfeit to add app analytics to help you optimize your app and increase the app’s appeal to your potential users. Google Analytics is a good starting point.
Simultaneously, you can consider other application marketplaces other than Apple’s App Store and Google Play to distribute your products. Another option to think of before launching is to submit your app to PreApps, which is an app marketplace that connects developers with early adopters to gain valued feedback pre-launch.
The official releasing date should represent your marketing efforts so far. It’s time to create some big attention from the crowd with articles from influential journalists and bloggers, don’t forget to notify people who have shown interest in your app previously, Promote your product by sending large numbers of emails and mentions on all of your social media profiles (remember to pin the link in every post). The purpose of this is to build some momentum while degenerate downloads and ratings.
After the app is released, don’t rest on your laurels; you want to attract new users every-single-day. This is an excellent time to announce special offers or promotions using push notifications so that users will open your app. Considering offering discounts like one-time discounts or free services to the first 100 customers who download your app. Remember, promoting your app is an ongoing process, and the release date is just its beginning.
Lastly, have a channel where you can receive all feedback and respond from users, communicate with them frequently, and update the app timely for correction and troubleshooting. Pay attention to your analysis indicators and track which KPIs determine the success of your overall business goals.
Now that you understand the key processes and what you should do in each step of the mobile application development life cycle, you can prepare to start building your app now, which will be on a budget, and on schedule, no redundant task nor lacking any critical actions.
If you need to know more about how you can start your software development project, drop us a message because we are one of the mobile app development companies you can trust. We are one of the top Vietnam software outsourcing companies that have experience deploying many digital transformation projects; we also provide cybersecurity services to our partners in Vietnam and globally.
We hope to work with you soon.