5 things you need to know before developing mobile applications
Enterprise mobile app development has seen a paradigm shift in recent years from being a novelty to being essential for every business. Companies are learning how to create an app and are leveraging these mobile apps to increase customer interactions with their business, provide employees new tools to improve their efficiency, and identify opportunities to create new revenue streams.
With every release, mobile devices – smartphones and tablets, continue to advance in computational power and capabilities. This is enabling businesses to create mobile apps that are much superior and sophisticated in its offerings. Today, mobile apps can combine capabilities for technologies like augmented reality, machine learning, and internet of things.
While technology is evolving at an exhilarating pace and it’s exciting to see its potential, app development has become much more complex. Many companies do not have resources or knowledge of how to create an app for their business. At Invonto, we have been partnering with companies across industries to uncomplicate the app development process and implement custom mobile applications for their business and customers. Over the years, we have delivered significant revenue growth for our clients. Through this experience, we have gained the expertise to turn an app idea into a success story.
This article will help you and your team understand what’s involved in how to create an app for your business.
6 Steps for how to create an app
Following these six steps can help you learn how to create an app. We will discuss each in this article.
- Create a business strategy
- Hire app developers
- Budgeting & planning
- App development
- Support & maintenance
While the focus of this article is on mobile apps and providing you insights for how to create an app for your business, it also provides useful information on creating web applications and other types of digital products that can foster digital transformation.
Create A Business Strategy
Creating an app without a strategy is like building a house without a blueprint. It’s possible, but you won’t be happy with the result. The strategy to create the app needs to outline your needs, your goals and your methodology.
Define Your Business Needs
There are almost five million apps available right now on the Apple App Store and Google Play. According to Gartner, less than 0.01 percent of apps are considered a financial success by their developers. And while that last statistic is several years old, it may be even more grim today.
To give your mobile app the chance to succeed it must solve a problem or offer unique value to consumers. Mobile applications with original concepts have a greater chance of success than duplicating those that already exist.
Apps valued in the billions achieve their success because they solve big problems that affect a lot of people. If you are building an enterprise app for your employees and customers, you must have genuine business needs. Ask yourself, “what is the intent of my app?”.
Every successful app has a defined purpose. Google Drive allows you to quickly and efficiently access, create and store files. Facebook connects you with people you care about. Venmo lets you transfer and receive funds from friends and family. Uber offers you a ride to and from anywhere. AirBnB let’s find places to stay wherever you are going. Your app needs to solve a problem and provide value to consumers. After all, creating an app is not just about creating a piece of technology. It is about creating a great product and building a great company.
Conduct Competitor and Market Research
The Apple and Android app stores have been around for over a decade. Countless apps have come and gone because its idea is not unique, or it doesn’t offer any improvements over existing successful apps. Through research, you may discover similar app ideas attempting to solve the same problem. Just because there is a similar app doesn’t mean you should give up. If you have a better angle, or way to help users make something happen, your app can knock out the incumbent leader.
A competitive analysis will help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of existing mobile apps. As you evaluate apps in the marketplace, examine how well a competitive product solves a users’ problem. Can you improve upon their app? How successful is their app? Is there a need or demand for a similar app? Research their pricing, team, partnerships and company culture to learn what might be involved in creating a better app. There are resources to discover how much they invested in their initial app development. By learning how much capital they raised to support their business, you can better understand investment requirements to build your mobile app.
Your app may not be developed, but there are certain marketing activities to do right now. One is to register a website domain name for your app early in the process, which later you can use to promote your app. You will also want to verify that no other live apps share your name on the Apple and Android app stores. If this is a new business we recommend registering the business before you launch your app. App Stores require you to register the app using a business name.
If you are creating an enterprise app that is not for public use then securing a domain name is not critical, but announcing your new mobile app idea to your team will help you establish your strategic goals. Engaging your team earlier in the mobile development process will make it easier to implement finished products across your organization.
Hire App Developers
Once you have a business strategy in place, it is time to build your app. Quality mobile apps require UI design, programming, QA testing and product management. Finding a single developer who has the expertise to handle each phase is unlikely. You may wish to assemble and hire a team for your project. Who you hire depends on your budget and needs. You have a few options.
Hire In-house Developers
In-house developers can be a great choice in certain situations. You can hire exactly who you need and keep everything internal. However, the process of sourcing and building a team can take several months.
In addition to basic mobile technologies, many modern apps include features for cloud, artificial intelligence, machine learning, Internet of Things and augmented reality. Creating a sophisticated mobile app requires hiring a team with diverse skills. For companies based in a region with a small talent pool, hiring the best mobile app developers may be difficult and time consuming. That will set you behind schedule.
Hiring in-house mobile app developers can also add fixed costs to your payroll. If you are a startup or small business, you might also have to provide work space, equipment, software licenses and benefits that can increase your initial investment. The other issue: after spending time and effort getting your team together, one or more developers could leave for another job forcing you to be always recruiting for new developers and maintain a bench strength.
Hiring freelancers can provide flexibility. Most mobile app development projects require the skills of multiple freelancers. Hiring multiple freelancers presents different challenges. You may have trouble locating freelancers in your geographical location or time zone. Managing freelancers across the globe can be done. However, it will likely present additional project and resource management challenges. Most companies hire freelancers for a specialized skill and short term assignments. If you choose to pursue freelancers, we recommend relying on trustworthy platforms like LinkedIn or Indeed.
Hire app development agency
Most companies rely on app development agencies for their projects. An app development agency eliminates the fixed costs associated with in-house developers. It also eliminates project management overheads and challenges associated with hiring a group of freelancers. Most app development agencies provide end-to-end services, taking your project from idea through launch. Most agencies also have diverse skills to support your growing needs. When you do not know how to create an app for your business and do not have resources to manage technical teams, hiring an app development agency may be your best option.
Sourcing the right app development agency has its own caveats. The first place to look for a mobile app development agency is on Google search. Google is an incredible tool, but it isn’t perfect. Sometimes your local search results include overseas companies. Many agency directory websites do not correctly distinguish where the app development agency is located. These listings can be manipulated to mislead consumers. We recommend using LinkedIn or Apps Inc (a business directory exclusive to US-based agencies) when searching for an app development agency.
Be diligent in your research. Speak with the app development agency over the phone, or on Zoom or another video conferencing platform, or even meet with them in-person when feasible. Ask the agency to sign a non-disclosure-agreement (NDA) before sharing sensitive information. Check client references and speak with them. Request a detailed proposal with estimates. Your decision should be based on the overall value you receive and a total cost-of ownership, not just on an hourly rate. Some mobile app development agencies may have experience working on enterprise app development projects while others might have experience working on consumer focused apps. Some mobile app development agencies can offer advice on your digital strategies that can help increase return on your mobile app development investments. Regardless of the agency you decide to work with, don’t begin your project without a signed service agreement that protects your intellectual property and assigns you ownership of the final product.
Who you hire for creating your app can make a huge difference in the outcome. This is the most critical decision you will make.
Budgeting and Planning
Why are less than one percent of mobile apps successful? Insufficient funding is one of the main reasons why apps fail. So how do you estimate and budget your app project? If you have in-house developers or are hiring freelance developers, then ask them to provide an estimate. If you are considering hiring an app development company, then get estimates from at least three different companies.
All successful apps have one thing in common – good quality. So when you reach out to app development companies for proposals and estimates, consider companies that offer comparable services and have a proven track record of creating successful apps. This will make sure that you receive realistic estimates.
As part of your estimation and budgeting process, you will have to make technology decisions. Do you want to build a native app, cross-platform, or do you want to build a mobile-friendly / responsive web app? If you are developing a native mobile app then do you want to build for iOS, Android, or both? Will you build for phones or also need to support tablet users. What you choose will influence pricing and timing.
Gain More Insight: How much does it cost to make an app?
If you are trying to budget for a startup app business, keep in mind that technology / app development is typically 40 percent of your overall investments. When you budget, consider both external and internal costs. You will require funds to invest into marketing, support and administrative functions. You might also incur hosting fees if your app requires a back-end program running on a server.
So for example, if the cost of app development is $100,000 and your app is unlikely to generate substantial revenues soon after launch, then have at least $250,000 available to create a successful, sustainable app business. For enterprise mobile apps, you may not have to worry about funding for marketing efforts but you will have to engage resources for implementing new digital products in your business and training your employees.
If you do not have sufficient funding, we recommend you create a minimum viable product (MVP) or wireframes / prototypes instead of giving up on your app idea. This can help you demonstrate your idea to potential investors and business stakeholders to get required funding.
After you have budgeted your app project and secured funding, create a product roadmap. The product roadmap is an extension of your app strategy and will guide your development efforts. The roadmap will help you:
- Prioritize deliverables into milestones
- Identify dependencies
- Prepare a timeline
- Create a communication plan
- Establish success criteria
You are now ready to turn your app idea into a reality.
There are five stages in the mobile app development cycle – define, design, develop, test, and deploy.
Up until this point you might have a clear idea on the app you want to build. You might have created a high-level functional spec or rough sketches on how you want your app to look. In some cases, that might be enough information to get programmers started to build the app. For the apps with a limited scope and low complexity you can create an app in iteration following agile development processes without gathering a lot of details upfront. However, more complex mobile apps will need use cases / user stories to capture detailed functional requirements and business rules.
All stakeholders from your business should contribute to defining a vision for the project. This process can help clarify the project scope for the development team. For example, the app may allow users to login using a username and password. A few months later, the client suggests logging in using an email instead of a username. Making this change can add unnecessary time reworking the login process. You can avoid this by gathering and discussing app requirements upfront. This stage is when you want to address the “what” of your project.
App design cannot be an afterthought. Consumers prefer products that offer an intuitive user experience, polished UI design and good performance. An experienced mobile app development team knows how to design scalable and successful apps following best practices. The design phase focuses on visual design and solution design.
To create visual designs, the app UI / UX designers can translate the app requirements into wireframes using design tools like Invision, Sketch or Adobe XD. During this stage, all your stakeholders should participate in providing feedback on the designs. Making design changes after the app is built will be very expensive. For solution design, your mobile app development team will identify an app’s architecture, technology stack, database structure and API design. This stage is when you want to address the “how” of your project.
Now that you have your app designs, it is time to develop your app. Most app development projects involve front-end development, API development and back-end development. Apps can also include services for user authentication, push notifications, payment processing, multimedia, location tracking, and usage analytics. Many companies create mobile apps that include advanced features for AI & machine learning, augmented reality, and internet of things (IoT).
Your app development process should start with technical analysis and application architecture. After completing analysis, don’t just jump into programming. Prioritize mobile app requirements and create a project delivery plan. To keep your app development on track, we suggest segmenting the project into smaller deliverables and creating bi-weekly development sprints. App development activities and work assignments can be tracked in project management software. There are many popular applications like Jira, Asana, Trello, Teamwork, Pivotal and others that you can pick from. Each of these software offers unique features and you can pick a software that is best suited for your organization.
As your team completes each milestone, review it to ensure it meets your expectations. In addition, you will want to include a process for handling project changes. In many projects, stakeholders may make suggestions that change the project scope. Having a change control system will help manage, evaluate and prioritize changes.
Quality assurance (QA) testing ensures you provide a stable, secure and functional app. A thorough app testing process includes creating a testing plan and test cases. Best practices suggest that you conduct multiple tests across each aspect of your application. User experience testing will validate your app with mobile app designs. Functional testing will verify that each feature within the app works. Performance testing ensures the app loads quickly, there are no memory leaks and the app doesn’t drain the device battery. Security testing looks for vulnerabilities that could put user data at risk. Device testing ensures the app functions on all target devices and mobile platforms.
Many modern applications rely on automation testing to reduce manual testing efforts. Automation testing can also simulate multi-user and load testing scenarios during testing. We encourage you to involve all stakeholders to participate in the testing stage. Any feedback you receive in the test phase should be tracked, reviewed and prioritized. Then address all defects before you consider the app completed. However, an app, like a website, is never truly done. Changes in technology and user needs will drive changes in your app, keeping it fresh and relevant. App maintenance is another aspect to prepare for.
To release your native mobile app you have to submit it to the appropriate app store. An iOS app should be submitted on the Apple App Store. An Android app should be submitted on Google Play. Once you submit the app, it goes through a review process. This can take a few days. The app store will notify you if your app doesn’t meet its guidelines. In which case, you’ll have to address those issues and resubmit your app. The app will be available for download when the app store approves it.
If app development includes database and back-end work, you will have to deploy these separately. Many companies rely on cloud service providers such as Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform to host their web applications and databases. Cloud hosting provides flexibility and scalability. It can also reduce the company’s upfront investment for hardware and software licenses.
As part of your deployment stage, identify your onboarding process. For enterprise apps, conduct training sessions with your employees and external users. This will increase adoption of your app and make your app successful.
Find out: How Long Does It Take To Create An App?
Each app store has millions of apps. Discovering apps in the app store is not as straightforward as searching for a website in your browser. If your app isn’t a high-ranking “featured app,” your app will be difficult to discover organically. Implementing a marketing strategy will help your audience discover your app through other marketing channels.
A website can be a great asset to promote your app. A website gives users more information about the app. You can give users a chance to join your email list for future updates. You can build your audience through social media, content marketing, paid campaigns and optimizing your website for major search engines.
Before you launch your app, raise awareness about the app. What good is an app that no one knows about? That is why the pre-launch is important. During this stage, build brand awareness and buzz around your product and services. Define your ideal customer with market research and a competitor analysis. User personas can help you understand consumer values, pain points and interests. Use them to outline your messaging and where you will promote your app.
Once you launch the app, you want to focus on an acquisition strategy to earn downloads. Get the app in front of the right audience through paid campaigns and social media. Consumers can download the app to their phone in just a few clicks. Expand your reach by partnering with influencers who have an affinity for your app and its target audience. Influencers can promote your app and build trust with consumers. Expand your reach even further with PR campaigns targeting publications and media outlets. Whatever you decide, your acquisition strategy should help you earn downloads.
Many business leaders focus on acquisition, but not audience retention. How do you convert new users into brand ambassadors? The best way to retain your audience is through two-way communication. Listen to user feedback and engage your users in a conversation. In-app messages and push notifications help you interact with users. Don’t forget to utilize channels outside of the app ecosystem. Email outreach and social media campaigns are perfect to talk to users. Executing a marketing strategy will maximize user growth and help you reach your business objectives.
Just as you have hiring options for your development team, you also have options for your marketing team. You can hire in-house marketers, freelance marketers, or a marketing agency that specializes in marketing apps. Whatever you choose, make sure they have a firm understanding of mobile app marketing. They should understand the app development process, tech trends, app stores and app promotions. Most marketing agencies will work on a retainer-basis with monthly fees ranging from $5,000 to over $20,000.
Support & Maintenance
Your app is successful. It is getting a lot of downloads and positive feedback. However, the work isn’t complete. Popular apps have a strategy for long-term growth. Mobile app development is an ongoing process. The truth is no matter how perfect the original app is, there is always room for improvement. You must consider user feedback, market demands, new competitors and advancements in technology.
App maintenance plans should include security updates and bug fixes. App maintenance ensures the app is compatible with the latest versions of iOS and Android OS platforms and new mobile devices. Application maintenance will include any updates related to app performance.
Platforms like Google Firebase help app owners monitor performance metrics. Firebase offers performance monitoring, crash reports, user analytics and more. In addition to maintenance updates, you may want to consider enhancing your app with new features. There will always be a new competitor that will gain popularity. Learn from the positive and negative feedback they are receiving. You can improve your app based on that feedback. This will help you earn new app users and retain existing users.
There is a lot that goes into creating an app but with the right strategy and the right team, you can turn your app idea into a successful business. For a recap, here are the steps for making an app:
- Create a business strategy
- Hire app developers
- Budgeting & planning
- App development
- Support & maintenance
App development has become complicated with the ongoing advancement in mobile technologies. Many companies lack experience and skills required for mobile app development. A lot of these companies fail at their attempts to create mobile apps on their own without required expertise on their team. Many companies turn to an app development agency or build their own app development teams for pursuing their mobile development initiatives.
At Invonto, we’ve successfully launched many web apps and mobile apps for companies in finance, construction, healthcare, industrial engineering, entertainment, retail, travel and consumer products industries. Some of our success stories include a voting app for America’s Got Talent, personal finance management app for Transamerica, construction scheduling app for D. R. Horton, Telehealth app for ReconSTAT, and enterprise apps for Sealed Air.
We guide our clients on how to create an app from strategy through successful launch, providing consultation at each stage of the process of how to create an app. We provide turn-key app development projects so that our clients can remain focused on the frontline of their business. Please reach out to Invonto to say hello, to learn more about what we do, or to discuss what we can do for your business.