It is imperative that businesses must know the nitty gritties of mobile app development. This is essential if they are looking at digitising their businesses. Knowing all the aspect of mobile app development will help them understand how they want their website/app to be developed. Thsi will help tremendously while building the app as per their exact requirement.
What is Mobile App Development?
Mobile phones have become as essential to people as a purse or wallet. They now drive our retail purchases, guide our travel and capture images of important memories. This essential consumer tool is now driving business activity as well.
Mobile app development is a process for building mobile applications that run on mobile devices. These applications can either be pre-installed or downloaded and installed by the user later. They use the network capabilities of the device to work computing resources remotely. Hence, the mobile app development process requires creating software that can be installed on the device, and enabling backend services for data access through APIs, and testing the application on target devices.
To develop scalable mobile apps, you also need to consider screen sizes, hardware requirements, and many other aspects of the app development process. With an increasing number of jobs in the mobile app development industry, it is essential that the process is well defined and understood by entrepreneurs, startups, and especially developers.
What Are The Mobile App Development Platforms?
The two most important mobile app platforms are iOS from Apple Inc. and Android from Google. iOS is Apple’s proprietary mobile operating system built specifically for iPhones. Android, however, runs on mobile devices manufactured by various OEMs, including Google.
While there are many similarities between the two, however different software development kits (SDKs) are used for different platforms. Apple uses iOS exclusively for their own devices, while Google has made Android available for other companies that meet specific requirements. Developers have built over 1.5 million applications for both platforms to date.
Alternatives for Developing Mobile Apps
You can approach mobile app development in four different ways:
- Build Native Mobile Applications
- Build Cross-Platform Native Mobile Applications
- Build Hybrid Mobile Applications
- Build Progressive Web Applications
There are advantages and disadvantages to building an application, no matter which approach you choose. By choosing an approach that matches your strategy, you can achieve the desired user experience, avail computing resources, and build native features required for your application.
Comparison of App Development Alternatives
Why Choose Native App Development?
You’ll have access to every API and tool provided by the platform that you’re working on. Technically, there are no limits on how the programmers could work with the new app.
Better Store Support
A native app is easier to be published and usually ranked higher on the platform’s app store because it delivers better performance and speed.
Apps built for the native environment also tend to be more scalable, thanks to the flexibility in resources management and the array of tools available.
High Performance And Great UX
The direct interaction between the code and the underlying resources results in high performance. Also, native apps generally have a better UX that is synonymous with the platform.
Why Choose Cross-Platform App Development?
Cross-platform app development has become an important alternative to traditional, native development. There are many reasons behind its rising popularity. Firstly, it allows you to launch your app on various platforms simultaneously. This means you can reach a wider audience than in the case of developing an app for a single platform. Secondly, it offers a quicker time-to-market, as the code doesn’t need to be written from scratch separately for web, iOS, and Android. Finally, this translates to significant savings in the development and maintenance phase, as you only need one development team to cover all platforms.
Why Choose Progressive Web App Development?
With that in mind, let’s understand the mobile app development process step by step and get to know everything you need to follow a systematic mobile app development process to build your next great app.
Mobile App Development Process
To build an application, you need a step-by-step process that can help you build mobile apps quickly. There are three important steps:
- Understand the requirement
- Develop the Product
- Test the product.
Build an App Development Strategy
The first step in the mobile app development process is to create a strategy by defining why? What is the objective of your app? How will your mobile app solve an industry problem? What is your business model? How much are you ready to invest in building this app? What is your revenue model? How will you market your app, and to who? Answering these questions will give you a fair idea of how you can move forward with your mobile app development process.
You can start by defining the user persona. For example, suppose you are planning to build an eCommerce app. In that case, you will define your user persona by understanding your user’s age, their mobile usage habits, their preference, and specifically answering why and how they will find your mobile app users. Based on this, you can create an MVP (Minimum Viable Product).
Brainstorm Your App Idea
Building a mobile app starts with an app idea. However, you require an extensive amount of brainstorming to develop an ultimate list of features you can offer your customers. You can start with the essential elements and note down other lesser crucial features as they are revealed to you. Who knows, you might surprise yourself with ideas you never knew you could implement. Sit together with your team, and ask them for all the ideas they can come up with.
Market Research, Mobile App Development Tech Stack
Before you start, here are some questions you can ask yourself:
- Who is your target audience?
- How will your customers use the application?
- Are there any better alternatives already available?
- What will your application do that other application won’t?
- What business model are your customers following?
- What language, frameworks, and technologies will you use?
- How many uses are paying for your type of mobile application?
- What is your budget?
- How long will it take to build your application?
Define Your Minimum Viable Product
Once you are clear about all the functionalities you can include, the functionalities your users will like to use from the start, you define what your minimum viable product would look like. A minimum viable product is the version of your app that has enough features to put it in front of your early customers so that you can receive feedback on product features and further development.
You build a minimum viable product for the following reasons:
- Test the product market using minimum resources
- Get investors to see the vision behind your app
- Quickly learn what works and what doesn’t
- Waste minimum engineering hours
- Get the product in front of early customers fast
- Use it as a base to build other products
- Test developer’s ability to build and scale product
Key elements of a minimum viable product (MVP)
- Functionality – offer clear value to the users
- Design-build minimal but highest quality standard design
- Reliability – make the production quality top notch
- Usability – make the user experience intuitive and refined
With a clear strategy in mind, you will be able to focus on your app development idea. Building a mobile app development strategy will help you analyze and plan your progress.
Analyse & Plan Your App Development
The strategy is the starting point of all project development. Now, once you have a strategy in hand, start turning those visions into achievable goals. Start the analysis and planning by clearly defining how you can use the functionalities to build use cases and meanwhile, create a list of functional requirements.
This will help you build a product roadmap. You will be able to convert that strategy into a step by step process that you can turn into priorities, and then group them into delivery milestones. You must also have your minimum viable product defined, which will help you cut down on costs, and prepare for the initial launch.
Different operating systems require different technology stacks. Choose your tech stack based on your requirements. Whether you are building a native mobile application, a cross-platform mobile app, or a hybrid application, you will need to make a list of technologies required, and start hiring developers with expertise in your chosen mode of mobile app development.
Plus, you will need to finalize a name for your mobile application. To find the perfect name, you might want to contemplate your application’s features, differentiate the name using wordplay, keep it short and easily memorably, searchable, and probably an action word. Many app developers also go with obvious names, and sometimes they differ by trying to connect with consumers’ opinions. You should also keep in mind the process of App Store Optimization, which is important if you want to be found by users searching for apps similar to yours.
Build UX/UI Design
How your mobile application looks and feels makes a great deal of impression on the minds of your users. Whether it be a full-fledged application of an MVP, you have to make sure that the design is top-notch and that it offers the highest level of user experience. Designing mobile apps requires the understanding of the two important concepts of design: User experience and user interface.
What Is User Experience Design?
User experience is what customers feel when they use your products. In our case, the design should be such that it creates a specific emotional response from the customer after using the app. User experiences include factors like design, accessibility, marketing, usability, system performance, ergonomics, HCI, and also utility. With an increasing number of companies focusing on user-centered design, creating an intuitive user experience for your mobile application is a no-brainer.
What is User Interface Design?
Designers make sure that the mobile application looks crips and pleasurable. User Interface Design is the process of making your app look perfect, following the latest design trends, so that it complements the user experience. Designers often use principles like the structure principle, the simplicity principle, the visibility principle, the feedback principle, the tolerance principle, the reuse principle, and more.
Mobile App Design Process
Designing is much more than learning how to use design software. You can learn to design your mobile application yourself or ask someone to help you. But above everything else, the design is about understanding the product inside out, and its capabilities, features, and functionalities. The design should always keep the end-user in mind. The design process we follow at OpenXcell is as follows.
- Building User Flow / Diagram for each screen
- Creating Wireframes
- Choosing Design patterns, palettes, and elements
- Creating mockups
- Creating an animated prototype and asking testable questions
- Give final touches to the mockup based on user feedback
Most designers start by making rough sketches on paper. To simplify, wireframes are digital sketches, done using a wireframing tool, which you can also do using pen and paper. Wireframes are concepts, not finished designs. They simply help you understand the visual structure of your app’s features using low-fidelity mockups.
When you are designing wireframes, the focus has to be made on aesthetics and how the user will experience it. Color palettes and design elements are not required now. Wireframes are used to quickly understand what you want to be designed. It is important that you design that is specific to the product. No matter which device you are on, it should be intuitive and user-friendly.
This is the first part in a 2-part series of the know-how about mobile app development. In the next aprt we talk more about what you need to know further in order to have a well rounded knowledge of technology and mobile app development.