Every year, mobile apps are only growing in popularity – with a few taps of our fingers, we order groceries and clothes, buy airline tickets, and make doctor’s appointments. Now is the right time for any business to create a mobile app – a convenient, fast, and contactless service in the next few years will be necessary as never before.
It is important to start any project with detailed planning, research of your own business, audience, and competitors. The more qualitative the research, the fewer problems, and rework will be later. In this article, you will discover the main stages and principles of mobile app development – from analytics and testing to market launch.
Terms of Reference
Terms of reference is an essential document without which it is impossible to start mobile app development. Terms of reference show how the object in question will be defined, developed, and verified. Usually in terms of reference are described:
- Project goals.
- User stories and the human journey map – describing what tasks people will solve with the service and how they will do it.
- Mandatory features.
- Technical requirements for interface, performance, user roles, security.
- Implementation of functionality: UX and UI design.
- Stages of development.
- Time required for all the work.
Description of the requirements for the interface helps the designers and developers to understand what exactly the customer wants and how this can be done. The more detailed is the ToR, the higher is the chance to get what you really need and avoid endless revisions. Usually, development studios help with preparing the TOR.
A dedicated project team usually consists of a tester, UX\UI designer, mobile developers (the number depends on the scope of the project), and a project manager who organizes the team. It is also necessary to remember about app maintenance, so some developers will work even after the mobile app is ready.
Most people that want to have a mobile app choose to work with a dedicated team. Working with a dedicated team has a big advantage – each employee is focused on the final product and interested in doing a quality job.
Design and prototyping
At this stage, the UX/UI designer builds the logic of interaction between the registration and authorization screens, data entry, personal account, shopping cart, payment, and order tracking. The designer develops the appearance of the future service in accordance with the requirements specification and corporate identity: color selection, fonts, icons, buttons, push notifications, sliders, etc.
After the approval of the design, the designer prepares a prototype (if this was not done during the preparation of the TOR) – it reproduces the basic logic, structure, and functionality.
Usually, the prototype is created in the form of screens at each stage of the user journey. It’s not a finished product yet, but it helps to build a foundation and test its functionality so you can fix bugs and improve the user experience already at the initial stage.
One of the most time-consuming stages involves writing code and working out the architecture. It is divided into Back-end and Front-end development. Mobile developers need to know the concept of the project, its uniqueness and be involved in all the processes in order to assess the viability of the idea and implement the customer’s wishes.
At this stage, Front-end developers develop thought-out and tested client interface and platform logic.
Back-end developers create a server to store and exchange information. Experts choose a programming language for writing code and hosting the server and API, and build a database management system. The better the parameters are chosen, the faster the application will work.
Development can be implemented in several ways:
- Native. A separate application is developed for each mobile platform. This method is the most expensive, but the most reliable: you will get full support from the servers, and the interface will work quickly and look as organic as possible.
- Cross-platform. Developers use universal code for all platforms, but the operating system still runs it as native. The most optimal variant in terms of “price and quality”.
Some companies make testing a separate stage and thoroughly check the application only before its release. Nevertheless, testing of an application should be performed at each stage of development – when each part of the functionality is ready. It’s better to spend more time on fixing bugs before release than to get negative feedback every hour after it’s published in the store.
Before launching, it is important to carefully study the rules of the Google Play Store and Apple App Store and prepare screenshots of the pages, marketing plan, and description. Once uploaded, the storers check all the information, the relevance of the project, and give an opinion: will they publish the app or not.
There can be difficulties with the publication, so it is really important to familiarize yourself with all the rules of the stores. At most mobile app development companies, project managers don’t leave clients alone with all this: they help with publishing the app and advise on all the issues related to registering accounts with the stores, material requirements, and formats.
Refinement and tech support
After launching, you can analyze which sections are the most popular and which are not, how many people completed targeted actions, and which pages are worth refining. Carefully study and process all incoming data: it will help you to improve the application and remove unnecessary features. The analytics process is almost endless, so you’ll need technical support that will capture and promptly solve current problems, optimize the app and refine it.
If you decided that you need a mobile app – think again. Will it solve your problems? Does it have something that no existing product has? Are you ready to promote and support it?
The described steps are a classic version of the development process, but development companies always discuss this process separately with each client. This is because it’s important to synchronize with the customer and make the development process convenient and clear.