- App Ideation: Where Do You Start?
- Understanding the Customer
- Understanding the Market
- Designing Your App MVP
- Building Your Mobile App: Platform Considerations
- Preparing for Launch: App Store Considerations
- Distributing and Promoting your App
- Listening to your Customers
- Conclusion: A Concerted Effort for Success
Several factors affect the process of building an app. This guide takes you through all of them in detail to understand the entire lifecycle of app creation, build, and launch.
48% of the world’s population owns a smartphone in 2021.
This fact is no exaggeration. Statista reports that the number of smartphone users globally reached 3.5 billion in 2020 and continues to grow in 2021. There is a vast, untapped, and growing market for any mobile app developer looking to reach billions of users worldwide.
Mobile apps are a vital part of people’s daily lives. For businesses to get the most out of their marketing and build successful app startups, they can build an app for their targeted customers. It’s also a great medium to encourage user engagement and improve the overall level of success.
There are over 2.7 billion smartphone users in the world who are using their phones on a regular basis. And 90% of this phone time is spent using different apps.
It is no surprise that anybody with a vision to build a global billion-dollar business is looking to develop mobile apps as their primary channel to tap into this enormous customer base. In fact, it’s part of their startup business plan.
But before getting into how to make a successful app, let’s understand the various factors and app features that make for an app that’s a hit. Most app development agencies consider these to be some of the biggest factors when developing an app.
- Beautiful and responsive design
- Functional UI and UX
- Meets the fundamental objective
- Stable, reliable, and easy workflow
- Offers quick and effective customer service
- Good and engaging marketing copy
- Improves customer/user retention rate
- Offers quick and secure payment options
- Data-breach protected
- Low cost of maintenance and future development
- Easy and effective update procedure
- Gives useful customer insights for product development
- Great for collecting user feedback
If you are one of them and are looking to understand how to build one for your own business, this guide will walk through all the factors you need to consider.
App Ideation: Where Do You Start?
All of us have several ideas to build the next billion-dollar app. But the key to begin is to not fall in love with the app idea but with the problem you are trying to solve.
This is where researching the app idea comes into play. This is where you have to evaluate your target audience, consider basic functionalities, think about useful app features, premium features (if any), and more. Thorough research into mobile app development will also allow you to gauge the behavior of app users and build a functional user flow.
- What should be your app monetization strategies?
- Should you offer an ad-free version or consider a freemium model?
- How will this app help with business development?
- What would be the development cost?
Suppose you truly understand the problem your app or business is trying to solve for your customers. In that case, you can eventually make your app essential to your customers, so they make it a part of their daily habits.
So how do you truly understand the problem your customers are facing every day? The answer is two-fold:
Understanding the Customer
Customer or user research enables us to identify and empathize with our customers' beliefs and mental models as they go about their daily lives. It helps us understand why our users do what they do, what their decision-making process looks like, and primarily how their outcomes make them feel. User Research is conducted as a mix of two research methods: qualitative and quantitative.
Qualitative research is about observing, querying, and understanding user behavior. It helps us deeply understand the pain areas, challenges, and motivations when users perform specific activities during their routines.
Quantitative research allows us to inspect behavioral aspects of such customers at scale and then find patterns in that data to understand customer preferences.
Understanding the Market
User research is only one of the many research activities you need to effectively understand the problem space, primarily because you also have to understand the market in which your customer works and lives. Market research will help you understand how the current environment influences your customer's decision-making choices, e.g., do people pay with cash or if all merchants use card payments. Along with these activities, there might already be competitive apps available that fulfill our customer's needs. Market Research will help you analyze and understand if they are unfulfilled customer needs or gaps that your customers are still looking to solve.
You can effectively do market research by mapping your activities with Porter's Five Forces. Porter's analysis framework allows you to understand if there are unmet needs in the market, which you can exploit for solving crucial problems for your audience.
The fundamental aim for undertaking these research activities is to identify an audience which is:
1. Suffers from an evident pain point
2. There exists no apparent solution in the market which solves this pain point
3. There exists a sizable audience of customers who can validate if you solved their problem effectively
Once you have the research in place, you can move forward with the mobile app development process using app development services. Start by building an interactive prototype that you can use for beta testing and see how it’s received by your target users.
Designing Your App MVP
Once you have done the market analysis and interviewed enough participants and identified the problem correctly, it is time to brainstorm opportunities and ideas for your app to solve it effectively. Considering that you do not have a lot of resources at this point, you must prioritize these ideas to create a list of features for your app based on two factors:
1. How much value would it bring your customers
2. How much effort would it take for your team to develop it
3. Do you want to limit it to a specific platform or have it on both Apple App Store and Google Play Store
You would then plot these ideas on a simple 2x2 Value-Effort Matrix to understand which features would make the prioritized list to build at the moment based on the highest value and the lowest effort needed.
This approach ensures that you build the leanest version of your app to validate with your customers without too much effort and resources. This approach is known as building the Minimum Viable Product or an MVP. If you are interested, you can read more about app MVPs in detail in our article here.
Building an MVP helps prevent your initial app from unwanted and unneeded features. This means your target users will get a simple app that exactly does what is showcased to the audience. The faster release of your app gives you the opportunity to test the market at first with potential users.
Once this feature set is determined, you can now design an app prototype or use a drag and drop tool to make your app template. An app prototype is a lightweight version of your app that shows low or high-fidelity visual mockups of how your app screens would look and interact with each other. Prototypes are created by a team of User Experience (UX) Designers, visual designers, and motion designers to provide your customers a preview of the app navigation, functionality and screen flow to complete a particular set of activities.
There are various platforms and apps that allow designers to create low-fidelity wires and make an interactive prototype on mobile devices. Let us take a brief look at the four most popular design platforms in 2021.
Figma is the most sought-after platform for UX and visual design, although it provides several rapid prototyping features too. It became popular because of its collaboration-first approach and in-browser design capabilities.
In recent times, InVision has become one of the most extensive and comprehensive design platforms. It provides tools for all stages of designing in one single platform, from ideation and prototyping to development specifications. It also provides a robust design system to enable large design teams to design consistently across multiple channels.
If we are talking about design platforms, it would be unfair to keep Adobe out of the mix. Adobe XD enabled all interface design capabilities within one platform - wireframing, animation, prototyping, collaboration - everything is possible in Adobe. It also allows cross-app collaboration between other Adobe products like Photoshop and After Effects.
Sketch started a breakout design platform in 2010 by creating a design ecosystem outside of Adobe. It was one of the first products with an easier learning curve for new designers than the existing design tools like Photoshop and Illustrator. Despite the recent competition, it continues to be a consistent choice among digital design platforms, with its intuitive interface and a wide variety of plugins and integrations at hand.
The outcome of these prototyping activities would be to create a clickable, usable version of your app to show to your customers and observe how they would respond to these screens. While they provide feedback on what information they are anticipating on the screen to complete a particular activity, it would offer you valuable insights into how they would adopt your app without writing a single line of code.
Building Your Mobile App: Platform Considerations
After launching your MVP, it is crucial that you collect feedback from users. They’ll tell you where the product is lacking and ensures market validation. This will then help you come up with new ideas grounded in user behaviour research which will shape the subsequent versions of your product. To make a good mobile application, it is important to continue to test, learn and measure and then test again until the app is finalized.
Once your users provide valuable feedback on your design prototype and your app design gains acceptance, you can decide to move to the build phase. You can now breathe life into these designs and make it a fully functional app that any customer can install on their phones.
Android and iOS
In recent years, the platform choices for app builders with minimal coding experience have increased tremendously. Several no-code and low-code platforms like Adalo and Outsystems have lowered the barrier to building apps for non-programmers. If you want to exercise a little more flexibility in building apps for multiple platforms, cross-platform frameworks like Flutter(Dart) allow building once and launching simultaneously on iOS and Android.
But if you choose to utilize device hardware features extensively and value performance over anything else, it would be wise to consider native apps at the very outset. Native apps are built and written for a single platform but provide unparalleled access to OS-specific APIs and hardware features, which could make a massive difference in the way your customers adopt and use your app every day. Depending on the platform you choose (iOS or Android), there are development environments provided by Apple and Google, enabling app developers to build to optimum performance on mobile devices.
Xcode is Apple’s Mac-based native development environment, which allows iOS developers to build iOS apps and Universal apps that could work across other Apple-based platforms by leveraging the same code base. It provides access to iOS native platform APIs to be used with Swift, Apple’s programming language, and includes testing capabilities by providing simulators for each Apple device type.
Android Studio is the development environment provided by Google across Mac and Windows platforms, enabling Android developers to build apps on any Android device type. Like Xcode, it provides access to device simulation and API capabilities to test, debug, and fine-tune Android apps across various mobile devices and Android OS release levels. Android is a much larger and fragmented mobile platform than iOS, so testing and optimizing the app across multiple devices is an exhaustive effort. Many Android handset manufacturers like Samsung also provide remote testing capabilities for popular devices, which enables app developers to optimize their apps for specific handsets.
Depending on which mobile platform you choose (iOS or Android), the factors which decide the cost and effort required to build your own app vary widely by the talent available at your disposal. It also depends on other critical aspects like:
- App screen count
- Feature set complexity
- Device compatibility
We understand this computation is a big unknown for most businesses, so we have created a comprehensive app development cost calculator to understand all the different costs you may need to understand for building your mobile application, its backend and user interface
Preparing for Launch: App Store Considerations
You have now spent a considerable amount of time, effort, and resources researching, designing, and developing the app. To ensure that your app launches into the limelight smoothly without a hitch, you need to pay close attention to all the guidelines required to release your app to the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Apple and Google have put together a very comprehensive checklist to keep track of all the activities needed to prepare an app for launch. The primary considerations for both these marketplaces are as below:
1. Your app should be stable and performant
2. Your app and the assets within the app should be original
3. The business model for monetization within your app should be clearly defined
5. Your app should provide disclosures for age-restricted or objectionable content
In addition to these, you should also prepare for providing sufficient time and effort to create assets, copy, and content to optimize for App Store display and recommendations. App Store assets like icons, app images, and video previews are a great way to showcase your app's unique proposition, so keep these assets ready in time for your App Store submission.
There are many other nuances that Apple and Google evaluate closely for approving an app store submission, and they are continuously updated. Be informed that even if your initial app store submission was successful, you might have to provide additional information and disclosures from time to time for keeping your app active. You may follow the links below to keep track of guidelines from both App Stores.
Conduct A/B Testing
A/B testing is a crucial part of making an app. If you’re unsure about a few features of the user flow, try two different approaches and test it with users to see which one works better. This is an invaluable way to make data-driven decisions and be confident about them. This will also ensure a larger success of your app once it releases to a larger audience.
Soft Launch Your App
Even after beta-testing and A/B testing your app, a soft-launch will offer another way for you to ensure that your app’s performance is properly optimized before it opens up to a much larger audience. You could also do a soft launch in a specific region that will help you gauge how it will perform in similar regions with a larger more active smartphone audience. For example, an app developer may soft launch heri app in Argentina to see how it performs before launching it in the US, the UK, or Australia. This allows you to test the functionality of your app and measure its success.
Distributing and Promoting your App
Your app is now live on the App Stores - congratulations! It might seem like the conclusion to a long journey of hard work, but it is just the beginning. However compelling your app might be in meeting your customers' needs, it is no use if it is not discoverable. Post-launch, your app becomes only as effective as your efforts in distributing and promoting it to make it visible and easy to access in the eyes of your audience.
The following activities would provide you practical approaches to promote your app.
This approach is the most credible way to build trust in your app audience. You could provide a referral section in your app and prompt users after a week or month of usage to refer the app to their family and friends for an in-app incentive. In-app referrals are very low effort to build into an app, but they go a long way in creating word-of-mouth publicity and exponential growth without spending too much.
Setting up a landing page for your mobile app
Creating a website or a landing page for your app is one of the most cost-effective marketing channels that can be used before and after a launch. Consider including an about page, screenshots, and video captures that highlight the best of your user experience. The overall success of your landing page or website can also indicate the potential of your app ideas based on site traffic and number of signups for your app.
You can also use this page to offer deals to your most valued users and generate a group of users who might be interested in beta testing new features of your app.
Strong Social Media Presence
Social media marketing presents an unmissable opportunity to get the word out, generate interest, and get early sign-ups. You can use social media before the app launches to show what the app development is like and to solicit feedback and ideas from your potential users.
Once your app launches, be sure to include the download link to social posts and bios to direct users to the app store to download.
There is no better place to promote your app than in your place of business. If you run brick-and-mortar retail stores as part of your business, use QR codes to allow customers to scan and download the app quickly. This tactic is an excellent way of passive publicity and, coupled with in-store promotions, could lead to a lot of adoption and incremental revenue opportunities for your business.
App Store Optimization (ASO)
Apple App Store and Google Play Store operate very much like search engines, where they provide recommendations and match search intent to the app description. You have to ensure that you have a detailed description with the right keywords. You also have to embed screenshots or videos with captions so that App Store users can evaluate your app's purpose quickly. App Store ratings also play an essential part in discoverability, so make sure you keep improving your app ratings and prompt your happier users to rate you on the App Store regularly.
App Store Advertising
Apple and Google enable you to bid for relevant keywords and search terms, so you can boost your visibility by buying sponsored app slots in the App Store. These are a great option to exercise if you have started building good traction in app downloads and would like to boost your discoverability.
Identify Potential Integrations
The average user has around 60 to 90 apps on their phone and you must’ve noticed that some of these apps integrate with each other. For example, you can log into your Pinterest account using Facebook or Gmail. Or you can integrate your Health app with your calorie counting app or fitness tracker.
Integration is convenient for users and it can help you increase your retention rate when you integrate seamlessly with other apps that your users have.
Listening to your Customers
Launching an app on the App Store and promoting the app can get you the first wave of early adopters, but a responsive feedback mechanism within your app will make them loyal customers who return to your app every day to use it. The key to long-term customer growth for any app is to be responsive to your customer base and use their feedback as validation signals, achieving a two-fold effect as below:
1. It allows the app team to hear directly from your most discerning customers in your audience
2. It enables them to respond and work on those features which are receiving widespread adoption and deepen their understanding of customer behavior.
Although the in-app feedback mechanism is the ideal approach to solicit feedback, customers may not readily discover this part of the app, which leads them to vent their frustration or grief online and on social media.
You can even encourage your users to share their reviews on social media. Good or bad, the fact that you’re interactive and actively talking and resolving issues will help you build credibility. The process will also help you identify bugs you wouldn’t otherwise notice and make quick changes to improve the user experience and make your app stickier.
To tackle the app feedback, it is a good idea to invest in social listening tools and build a noticeable presence outside the app to acknowledge and respond to customer feedback. The most prominent way is to provide a website and create a presence on major social networks. Building a web and social presence can educate customers on effectively using the app and broadcast feature updates to an intended audience. Coupled with a dedicated response team for App Store reviews, these efforts are a great way to build rapport with your audience and give them the confidence to stay loyal to your app.