You’ve an idea for an app. You want that built. But since you are on this page, most likely you do not know how to create an app and where to get started. Creating an app can be exciting but it can also feel daunting. There are a lot of moving parts in just making the app — strategy, app design, app development, APIs, back-end programming, hosting, and launching. Turning app into a successful business venture is ultimately your goal and that will require app promotion and ongoing support.

With this insightful article not only we will explain to you how to create an app, but we will also provide you important tips on turning it into a successful venture.

There are six steps for taking your app from idea to having a thriving business.

  1. Create a business strategy
  2. Hire app developers
  3. Budgeting & planning
  4. App development
  5. Marketing
  6. Support & maintenance

While this article focuses more on the mobile app development, it can still be a good read if you are creating web applications as the overall development process is somewhat similar.

roadmap on how to create a successful app for your business infographic by Invonto

Create A Business Strategy

Creating an app without a strategy is like building a house without a blueprint. It is possible, but you won’t be happy with the end result. The strategy needs to outline your needs, your goals, and your methodology to create the app.

Define Your Business Needs

There are almost five million apps available between Apple App Store and Google Play. Only about 0.01% of these apps are successful. Your app should solve a problem or offer unique value to consumers. Original apps have a greater chance of success then blindly replicating existing ideas. Billion dollar apps 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 your 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 the people you care about. Venmo lets you transfer and receive funds from friends and family without fees. Uber offers you ride sharing services at your doorstep. 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 app ideas have come and gone. An app idea alone doesn’t make it unique. 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 on your idea. As they say, there is always a better way to do the same thing. A competitive analysis will help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of these mobile apps.

During your analysis, evaluate a competitor’s product features and benefits. Does their app solve your problem? Is there a way you can improve upon that solution? How successful is their app? Is there really a market for another app with a similar idea? Understand their pricing, resources, partnerships, and company culture. There are also paid and free resources to discover the initial app development investment. You can find out how much capital they have raised to support their business.

Take care of logistics

If you want users to find your app, you need to promote it. A website is an essential step to promote your app (more on app promotion down below). It is important to secure a website domain name early in the process. You will also want to verify that no other live apps share your name on the app store. We also recommend if this is a new business then you should register a business as when you are ready to launch your app, you will have to register with the app stores using your business name.

If you are creating an enterprise app then you might not have to worry about securing a domain name but you should consider adding a product page for your new app on your company website.

Read: How to develop a successful mobility strategy

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 project management. It is unlikely that you will find a genius developer to fill each need. You will need to hire a team for your project. Who you hire will be entirely dependent 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 what you need and keep everything internal. However, the process of building a team can be time-consuming. Sourcing each employee is a multi-week process. We are also seeing greater convergence of technologies. In addition to basic mobile technology, many apps include features for artificial intelligence, machine learning, internet of things, and augmented reality. So you require diverse skills on your team. What if you are in a region that has a small talent pool? Hiring the best talent is near impossible or could take months to fill the roles. That will set you behind schedule. Hiring in-house developers can also add fixed costs to your payroll. If you are a startup or small business, you might also have to worry about providing them work space, equipment, software licenses, and benefits. All of which can increase your initial investment.

Hire Freelancers

Hiring freelancers can provide you flexibility. Most app development projects will require the skills of multiple freelancers. Hiring multiple freelancers presents a different challenge. You may have trouble locating freelancers in the same geographical location and timezone. Managing freelancers across the globe is doable. However, it can present project management challenges for the unprepared. Most companies hire freelancers for a specialized skill and short term assignments. If you choose to pursue freelancers, we recommend relying on 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. It is important to note that sourcing the right app development agency has its own caveats. Usually, the first place to look for an app development agency is using Google search. Google is an incredible tool, but it isn’t perfect. Sometimes, you may notice that your local search results include overseas companies. Many of the directory websites that promote various agencies do not correctly distinguish where the agency is located. These listings can also be manipulated to mislead consumers. We recommend using LinkedIn or Apps Inc (a business directory exclusive to US-based agencies). Be diligent in your research. You should speak with the agency over the phone. Sign a non-disclosure-agreement (NDA). Check client references and speak with them. Request a detailed proposal with estimates. Your decision making should be based on the overall value you receive and a total cost-of ownership and not just based on hourly rate. Don’t begin your project without a signed contract.

Who you hire for creating your app can make a huge difference in the outcome. This is the most critical decision you will have to make.

Budgeting and Planning

According to Gartner, less than one percent of mobile apps are 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 if you are hiring freelance developers then you should seek estimates from them. If you are considering hiring an app development company then you should seek 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 a proposal and estimates, you should consider companies that offer comparable services and have proven track record of creating successful apps. This will make sure that you receive realistic estimates. In addition, you can also try the app cost calculator on our website to get a ballpark estimate.

As part of your estimation and budgeting process, you will have to make technology decisions. Do you want to build a native app or do you want to build a mobile-friendly / responsive web app? If you are developing 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% of your overall investments. When you budget, you need to 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 from a server. So for example, if the cost of app development is $100,000 and if your app is not going to start generating substantial revenues soon after the launch then you should have at least $250,000 available to create a successful app business.

In case if you do not have sufficient funding available then instead of giving up on your app idea, we recommend creating a minimum viable product (MVP) or starting with wireframes / prototypes. This can help you demonstrate your idea to potential investors to get additional funding.

After you have budgeted your app project and secured funding, you should 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.

Female UI designer sketching wireframes in app development process

App Development

There are five stages in the app development cycle – define, design, develop, test, and deploy.

Define

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 and have 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 processes without gathering a lot of details upfront. However, more complex apps will need use cases / user stories to capture detailed requirements for each function. All stakeholders from your business should contribute to defining project scope. 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.

Design

In 2020, app design cannot be an afterthought. Consumers prefer products that offer an intuitive user experience, polished UI design, and good performance. An experienced 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 designer 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 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.

Develop

Now that you have your app designs, it is time to develop your app. Most app development projects involve user interface / front-end development, API development, and back-end development. Don’t just jump into programming. Prioritize the requirements and create a milestone based development plan. To improve project progress, we suggest segmenting the project into smaller deliverables. Scheduling status meetings will help you measure progress against project estimates. As your team completes each milestone, you should 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.

Test

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 should conduct multiple tests across each aspect of your application. User experience testing will validate your app with 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 with each annual device release. 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. You should address all defects before you consider the app completed.

Deploy

To deploy your mobile app to the app store, you need to submit it to the appropriate platform. iOS app should be submitted on the Apple App Store. Android app should be submitted on Google Play. Once you submit the app, it goes through a review process. Google needs a few hours to review and approve your app. Apple takes about a week due to its stringent review process. 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. The app approval process can take up to 2 weeks. Make sure to include this time when you create your project timeline.

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 and Microsoft Azure 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, you should identify your onboarding process. For enterprise apps, you should 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?

App Marketing

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 generate build your audience through social media, content marketing, paid campaigns, and optimizing your website for major search engines.

Before you launch your app, you need to 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, you should 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.

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.

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. 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.

Once you earn those downloads, the work is still not finished. Think about how Instagram went from 50 million monthly active users in 2012 to 1 billion in just 6 years. If you compare Instagram in 2012 to 2018, you’ll notice how far it has come. Instagram has refreshed their app’s design several times, rebranded, added new features, and improved performance. 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, you can hire freelance marketers, or you can hire a marketing agency that specializes in marketing apps. Whatever you choose, make sure the marketers 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 $5000 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 much more. In addition to maintenance updates, you may want to consider enhancing your app with new features. There will always be a new competitor which will gain popularity. You should learn from 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.

Conclusion

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
  • Marketing
  • Support & maintenance

At Invonto, we’ve been making mobile apps since 2008. We’ve created many successful apps for companies across the USA from finance, construction, healthcare, industrial engineering, entertainment, retail, travel, and consumer products industries. Some of our success stories include 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 from the idea stage through successful launch, providing our consultation for each stage of the process. We provide turn-key projects so that our clients can remain focused on the frontline of their business. Please feel free to reach out to us to say hello, to learn more about what we do, or to discuss what we can do for your business.

Team Invonto

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