Over the last decade, mobile applications have proven to be a highly valuable resource for businesses of all sizes. Mobile apps can streamline business operations. They can support initiatives to increase employee productivity and efficiency. And most importantly, mobile apps can engage customers and increase revenue.
Creating an app can be exciting, but it can also feel daunting. There are so many moving parts in developing the app — strategy, app design, app development, APIs, back-end programming, hosting, and launching. It can get overwhelming very quickly, especially when the goal is to use the app to create a successful business venture.
If you have an app idea, but aren’t sure where to begin this is a great place to start.
There are six essential steps for taking your app from idea to having a thriving business.
- Create a business strategy
- Hire app developers
- Budgeting & planning
- App development
- Support & maintenance
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
Your app should solve a problem or offer unique value to consumers. Billion dollar apps solve big problems that affect a lot of people. Every successful app has a defined purpose. Google Drive allows you to quickly and efficiently access, create, and store files.Uber offers you ride sharing services at your doorstep. Your app needs to solve a problem and provide value to consumers.
Conduct competitor and market research
An app idea alone doesn’t make it unique. Through research, you may discover similar app ideas attempting to solve the same problem. A competitive analysis will help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of these mobile apps. 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? Do they have a 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. You have a few hiring 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. 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. Hiring in-house developers can also add fixed costs to your payroll.
Hiring freelancers can provide you flexibility as you are not committing to them for a long term. Though, most app development projects will require the skills of multiple freelancers. This can present project management challenges. You will also be dependent on availability of freelancers as many work on multiple projects at the same time. Most companies hire freelancers for a specialized skill and short term assignments.
Hire app development agency
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. It is important to note that sourcing the right app development agency has its own caveats. Perhaps you are a U.S. based business interested in partnering with a local app development agency. Your first step to finding that agency is most likely a Google search. While Google is an incredible tool, it isn’t perfect. Sometimes, you may notice that your local search results include overseas companies. If you are looking exclusively for local partners, we recommend extending your research to LinkedIn and Apps Inc (a business directory exclusive to US-based agencies).
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. 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? What you choose will influence pricing and timing.
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.
There are five stages in the mobile app development process – define, design, develop, test, and deploy.
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.
In 2020, app design cannot be an afterthought. Consumers prefer products that offer an intuitive user experience, polished UI design, and good performance. 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. For solution design, your app development team will identify an app’s architecture, technology stack, database structure, and API design.
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. Don’t just jump into programming. Prioritize the requirements and create a milestone based development plan. 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.
Quality assurance (QA) testing ensures you provide a stable, secure, and functional app. 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.
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.
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.
The complexity of your app will determine how long it takes to develop the app. The average time to develop an app can take anywhere between 16 to 20 weeks.
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.
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
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.
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. 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.