Sometimes, you may have an idea about a mobile app. One thing that is funny about mobile apps is that no matter how great the idea behind the app is, poor planning is always bound to cause failure. The milestones of developing an app involve quite in-depth analysis and listing of various requirements. Do not however be scared by this. With the right planning, app development becomes very easy. This article aims at giving you the best procedure for developing an enjoyable and successful mobile app.
Steps in Development of A Mobile App
1. Development of the Foundation behind the mobile app
2. Design and enlisting user requirements, the user experience and user interface
3. Design the architecture of the app
4. Technical analysis of the app
5. Coding and Data storage analysis
6. Prototyping and Testing
7. Real Mobile App development
Developing and setting the Foundation Behind The App
Good apps do not become financially feasible by luck. They do so by having an exciting and utility creating idea behind them. Identifying a niche and finding ways to exploit it is the most fabulous idea you can ever use to get a good app. Thus, this step must analyse the possible opportunities if a good app has to be made.
In the business world, analysis of business models can be a great source of an excellent Mobile app idea. You need to desist from the thought that you already have an idea and need not do any analysis of business processes. If the plan is viable, you will be able to identify it during the study.
Study Business Models there are various reasons I propose studying and analysing business process models. One thing is that you do not just have an idea but start to get an idea of the user and system requirements. Furthermore, you can come up with many ways of integrating more functions as business models. And, it will always help you to elicit more roles.
This differs however if the app is geared towards coming up with a new way to handle a business problem. Thus, this is the case of being entrepreneurial with a mobile app. I suggest that this case, you brainstorm with experts in what you want your app to do. The main reason why people are developing this kind of apps is trusting in their knowledge and ending up with an app that has serious user requirements flaws. Autonomous app development is nothing possible at all if you want a good app that can revolutionise a business.
Leverage your app to Win The Stiff Competition.
There are many mobile apps in the world right now. And fortunately or perhaps, unfortunately, people are making apps by iteration. Iteration is not bad, but you can imagine how stiff it makes the competition. Take, for instance, the beauty industry and narrow down to photo editing. We begin with collage maker, photo grid, selfie pro, sweet selfie, photo editor among others. I could go on to an absurd number. So how do you stand out of the crowd?
For apps solving an entirely new issue in any industry, you are sorted out a bit. Its because your idea is brilliant; apps performing a similar role will undoubtedly be made. Thus, try to be original and exhaustively creative. Use interfaces that are great and make app navigation easy. You can always improve the app depending on the competition though.
However, if you seek to address an issue where there exists numerous apps doing the same thing, you need to strategise well. In a large number of apps, there is always the two industry leaders. You can even go for three. Analyse what they do and how they do it. Identify the right niche in the exploitation of a niche. Get an idea of the right programming language and the font to use. Position the app in a way that you either become the leader or the best three by placing it between the three best apps already existing.
As I said before, the excellent thing about the analysis of business processes is that it helps you elicit most requirements. Of course, business models analysis gives you a clear idea about who the target audience is. Do not overlook this stage as it helps you know what kind of phones your target audience mostly use. Thus, your programming language and app display must fit the screen of the user. Many phone users are using either the Android operating system or iOS. Make sure the app is compatible with these operating systems.
System and User Requirements
Dear brother or sister, this is where the real success lies. You have to use some bucks here if you do this part thoroughly and exhaustively. By the way, you are spending on your app, that is a must. So do not try to be under the delusion that you are developing the app just to have a feeling of self-achievement. It must be cost-benefit feasible.
The best way to elicit requirements is by using use case diagrams; data flow graphs and entity relationship charts. The use case shows the flow of processes inside the app when the user clicks on the app and how these processes give the desired output. The point where you identify the system requirements is the transformation of a command or input into production. You can also define and design the user interface.
Data flow diagrams use specific structures and shapes to show the flow of commands until the output gets produced. This type of chart is vital to come up with data storage, processes and transformations. It could help you to identify the best programming language.
Entity relationship diagrams show how the various parties who use the app will be related. For instance, if it is kind of a catalogue app that stores, updates and shows the availability of cars, what information will include the dealer and the buyer upload or need. What is the number of relationships they will have? It is worth noting that two entities can have a different number of connections.
Use case, data flow diagrams and entity relationship diagrams will help you identify system requirements.
After defining what the system must have, you can now elicit the user requirements. These include the interface, the navigation and output. Without proper user requirements, the app cannot function as it is required.
Not unless you want to make two dependent apps (tube mate and mp3 video converter for example), you must combine data storage, transformation and presentation logic in the same app. During coding, you develop several dependent functions to execute each of the above app logic.
Tiers an app, unlike what many people think, can have several layers in its architecture. Using several tiers makes it faster and able to handle fairly complex issues. This is the case with modern organisational applications. However, for an app that is going to be used by the general public, one tier architecture is always right. The above steps have already enabled your list and know the flow of data, process and relationships between users. That’s the step where you partition the process and data. You can develop a pseudo code that takes into consideration all the processes and data storage needs in step 2.
UX and UI
All along we have talked of the UX, and now I introduce UI. Both are more of one thing except that the former means how the app behaves to the user while the other one is how the app itself appears and behaves.
These two are key to ensuring that the app sells and becomes financially viable.
Statistics show that 94% of apps gain popularity by just their outlook. Here is where you need to contact potential users. Design interface prototypes for the app and asks users what their best option is. Of course, expect diversity and conflict in the opinions. That should not be a setback but an indication that you are doing well, providing useful options.
One thing is sure here; however, the interface must be aesthetically tremendous and usable. The need for Aesthetics is geared toward capturing a big market. Imagine if an app that has an icon that is of colour gold and shaped to look like something in the industry it serves. Now, think of an app that is White and hence camouflaged by the LCD backlight of the phone and an iconic shape that is just off the theme. We both will go for the fancy colour and icon that already tells us to expect a lot. Use this idea to design the interface too. The home page of the app must appeal to the eye and lit.
This may sound technical, but it is not that much complicated. Here, you only decide on the programming language, front and back end user interface, data structures and hosting. The good thing is that some of these things have already been introduced to you by the time you reach this step. You have an idea on what to do.
There are so many of these. Luckily, you must be conversant with one if you reach this stage. Some programming languages may seem quick and easy to use. Others can seem complicated for you and a bit expensive. There is no clear definition on which is better than the other. However, the simple ones can be of great use when developing the prototypes.
The most commonly used app programming languages are Java, Python, C#, .NET and PHP. HTML helps you with the layout and CSS too. Java is used by most programmers to come up with the interactions of the app. The choice of the right programming language depends on the design of the front and back end user.
Front User is what determines if your app stays native or not. Here, you decide which kind of operating systems will support the app. There are various ways to go on this, but these three options always stand out, specific platform app, cross-platform app and a hybrid app.
Platform /Operating System Specific App
If you go for this style, then your app can only run on one type of operating system. It could either be Android, iOS or windows. This approach is expensive in terms of capturing a significant market using diverse operating systems. However, it has great importance too.
By being designed to fit only one operating system, the coding process can be done to meet that type of operating system succinctly. Thus, in turn, helps the app leverage the hardware of the phone or tablet of the user. It will translate to the high performance of the app and speed up its execution times. This style is, however, being phased out by most app makers as they try to capture a broader market.
With this style, the app can be used in more than one device. It could run well on windows as well as iOS. Such an approach is less costly and captures the most market. However, you won’t be able to tailor for one operating system and hence compatibility with hardware and software may be an issue. The essential advantage is substantially lost.
This app can be used on any platform by any operating system. This style is great for computer games or phone games. Because some may have an option to connect via wireless means, it is done to make two players use the same app as competitors.
You need to develop a sharp back-end and desist from the delusion that users only interact with the front user interface. When a user makes a call with the front interface, the back end responds by giving data which is analysed and the result given through the front interface.
At first, back-end can only be made by using the right programming language. As aforementioned, there are several languages you can use. However, each performs a particular task better than the other. Choose a specific language for a particular job.
You also need to have the right data storage structures. The most efficient and prolific one is MySQL. However, be sure to factor in your app data needs as well as the data architecture as defined in step 3.
Hosting can also help you with the back end. Where and how you will host the app helps you with the app development. Note that it may be not you hosting the app.
Prototyping and Testing
Now, you have a frame of the app. You can now start to prototype it and test it. Some people will usually prototype each step. However, you may never identify serious integration issues if every single function is tested individually. Checking the whole thing helps you identify problems in function linking and any flaws in the user requirements.
Prototyping involves the development of a mimic of the real app. It is the prototype you make that you use to elicit more requirements and solve any bugs in the app. Prototypes are released to the public at times to get an idea of what users need. Always remember that it someone else that will use the app and not you.
There are two types of prototypes you can use. The first one is throw away prototype which you throw away after using. It is usually dirty and is meant to identify problems only. It is useful if you are rushing against timelines. The other type is the retentive prototype. This is the real app being made to test for flaws and mistakes. I usually tend to think that it is cheaper in terms of time and cost. Sadly, if serious issues are found, you have to begin a new despite spending on it.
Testing after developing the prototype, you need to check the app. Testing must be done thoroughly. For a business entity applications, it is good to have a team of testing the app. Develop a set of inputs and let the app give you the output. Do this repeatedly and not just once. This is because some programming errors may take some time before you can realise that they were there. If a mistake passes this stage, it could have severe effects on the reputation of the app later.
This stage must also be used to list and assimilate non-system requirements. These are the requirements outside the needs of the system to operate but make it work efficiently. Some of these include the speed of execution. For an app to be popular, it must not be hung or take time to give results. Thus, look for means of shortening any dependent activities by selecting and using the best critical execution path.
After testing, you will undoubtedly get more improvements in the app. Go to the relevant are and add or improve on it. Do not feel the pinch of having to do the same thing twice or thrice. Then, ads the improvement to the prototype and run it repeatedly until it matches user needs. After that, you can start developing the real app.
Back end development
It entails the development of the invisible parts of the app that do not directly relate with the user. These are mostly the servers that transmit information from the back end To the front end. You could say that they are operations that runs behind the scenes and therefore the user cannot view or interact with them. Thus, this implies that the back end development procedure is very core in the app development process as the entire app cannot run successfully without it. It plays a significant role in the success of the whole app, and you, therefore, have to choose the right app technology. There are few factors that you should consider while developing the back end to get an entire server that effectively communicates to the front end.
Some of the major factors include:
1. The choice of your programming language
There are various programming languages some of which are even easy to access, and you can choose what is best for you. Python, Java and even .NET are good choices to go.
There is also a wide range of databases, but you can go for the highest public databases which are proved to be highly functional to avoid errors. In this case, I can advise you to settle for the MySQL database.
Here you carefully decide where to host your app. There a quite a number of the hosting sites but you do not just have to pick whichever come your way. Look for a website that is reliable, secure, has a high performance and also charges fair hosting fees that conform to your budget.
Mobile app development stage you have just finished formulating the strategies and coming up with the designs and methodologies to use in your app development process, and now it is time to set up everything. The app development process entails a serious of steps which must keenly follow if you have to succeed. We will discuss each of every step involved in the app development to give you an idea of how you should go about it.
Planning is part of the essential stages of the app development, and you cannot at all assume it. You have to get everything in order before you can embark on the development process. This includes dividing the workloads into different portions in which they should be carried out one after the other and also getting all requirements in place before the development process begins.
Development is purely the implementation phase of the app development process. Here you carry out the tasks as planned and designed. All implementors should perform their duty as assigned after which the app is taken back to the project manager for testing.
Testing entails checking on the accuracy, functionality and also the ease of performance of the app. The project manager should subject the entire app in a real-world scenario to see if any challenges should be dealt with before launching the app. You can choose to do the testing frequently to detect any technical problems that may alter the functionality of the app. Doing this will help you make changes on the app to avoid incurring extra costs.
Below are some of the testing scenarios that you should pay attention to-
4 Functional testing
Functional testing includes testing on the performance of the app. The testing team should confirm if the app is functioning well as its designed. It should also take note of any feature that does not run effectively. The ease at which the features move should also be taken into consideration. If they take long to respond, the changes should be made to make them perform faster.
5 Edge-Case Testing
It usually involves subjecting the app on different or rather extreme real-world scenarios to see its performance. The testing team should report the app functionality in such kind of a situation.
6 Testing the app devices
The app should not be designed to run on only one particular method. It should be designed to accommodate all kind of devices. Since all accessories have different operating systems and also vary in the screen sizes the app should be designed to cater for all these devices, and it is thus the role of the testing team to ensure that the app functions effectively in all the tools.
7 Testing the Usability of the app
Usability testing entails on the functionality of the app as experienced by the end user. The testing team should be able to judge the accuracy of the app as the end users should experience it.
Once you are done with the testing stage, it is time to make a review on the entire app. Does it meet all the requirements not then you should take note of all the highlighted issues as you plan to work on them?
Deploying an app typically makes it available for use through the internet or any other platform that the users can easily access it. Some of the implementations you should take note include:- Releasing the app, installing and activation of the app, making an update of the app and also tracking the various versions of the app.
Monitoring you need to follow the performance of the app after you have released it. Bugs, as I said earlier, can always lead to serious performance issue. Even with testing and prototyping, some problems can still find their way to the final project. Thus, try to monitor the app. Look for crashes, the time it takes to respond to user commands, technical performance, the battery life effect and cellular data consumption. These will form the basis for the upgrade and maintenance stage, which is the last one.
Upgrades once an app is released, that is not the end of everything. One reason is the increased dynamics in businesses and paradigms in the world. What was once a brilliant app some years ago can be phased out or become obsolete when the technology overlaps it and renders it redundant. Thus, there is always a need to keep on upgrading and improving an app.
Android phones are being manufactured to be run using the best and latest Android versions. Each version comes with its capabilities. The latest versions integrate with them a lot of artificial intelligence. This only could be enough to make your app obsolete as it could be doing something artificial intelligence can do.
Another thing you need to upgrade is the power saving ability of your app. The current smartphones have many applications installed in it, and a parallel battery capability does not meet this. If the app consumes a lot of power, it could get uninstalled at the earliest chance.
Cellular data is also vital. While many apps pay with ads that are being displayed on them, do not turn your app the informal YouTube where ads videos are played continuously. Your app must use limited data as possible. Research shows a significant difference in uninstallation of apps consuming more data than users expected and those that met the user cellular consumption expectations.
Furthermore, every new version of Android or iOS means adjustment of hardware. Thus, the back ends and front ends need to be updated to retain the essential advantage of the app. Upgrades are usually available at the Play Store, app store or any other site trusted to offer useful apps.
While releasing upgrades, try to minimise the time between the release of the updates as much as possible.
Too many upgrades over a short time can be boredom and bother to users. At least, let some months pass before releasing an update. That means that you have to wait for more before tuning your app to meet a particular new change. Incorporate more than one change in your upgrades.
Another way to learn what to improve is by following the reviews of users on the app. Play Store, for instance, has so many reports of users of different types of apps. However, do not let the criticism of one user make you change something that could be the interest of many. Look for consistent complains and try to fix them. Note that you cannot fix everything. I have seen useful apps get a lot of criticism.
You must have realised that the app development process is not an easy thing at all. You must devote much of your time, efforts, commitment as well as your resources. It may be a tough journey, but you have to believe that the results are worth the efforts to keep moving. Be passionate about and also be ready to help the end users in case they turn up for your services. You should also work on making improvements when your audience poses certain dissatisfactions.
Chris Peter Kimera is the co-founder of TechTIQ Solutions, a software development agency in London. Chris is very passionate about building highly effective outsourced product development teams that build game-changing solutions