An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Mobile App Development Process

Entrepreneur's guide to mobile app development
Mobile apps aren’t just simple programs designed for added fun or for playing games on a smartphone. People rely on apps for helpful ways to make their lives more convenient. Using an app to patronize a preferred business does make life convenient.

Everything from ordering food to booking hotel rooms to requesting home cleaning services can be done via a related app.

The benefit to businesses here is obvious.

Huge revenue streams can be tapped through the development of a right mobile app.

As more and more customers opt to use mobile apps than a website, business owners must meet this change in the market by developing valuable apps. Today, businesses won’t be able to thrive without offering an app.

For business owners not sure about how the mobile app development process works, this guide would answer more than a few general questions for you.

If you are an entrepreneur and looking to cut through the noise with your mobile app, I suggest the following steps to mobile app development process:

1. Making the Case – An App that Matches Business Goals

Matching business goals

The purpose of developing an app should coincide with your business goals. Creating a generic app with the intention of gaining publicity won’t be anywhere close to the value generated by a brilliantly-devised app. Since an app can execute different tasks, a business should be able to tailor the functions of the app to meet the needs of both the customer and itself.

Your business goals may involve a desire to aim for gradual but exponential growth from one fiscal quarter to the next.

This raises a question – how to make it happen?

Improved customer service and ease of payment can be the two major changes necessary to achieve these goals. An app could also support easier ordering of products or services.

Better yet, the automated nature of an app eliminates many manual steps required on the part of the business to meet buyer demands. As a result, customer service also gets streamlined.

Figuring out the specific goals and how to meet those goals must go into the early planning stages of app development. Otherwise, your app may not be on the right path for supporting results.

2. The Development of A Blueprint

Developing app blueprint

In the early stages of app development, several things must be discussed and fleshed out prior to on-boarding a professional developer.

Too often, someone comes up with a good idea for a particular app but never looks at the broader picture. As an entrepreneur you should ponder over the following questions:

  • Is there a legitimate demand for your goods and services?
  • Is an app the right outreach/distribution channel?
  • Which user personas will use the app?
  • What motivation do they have to use the app?

Determining who will use the app — and why — factors heavily into whether the app ends up being successful. Answering such questions guide a business into developing the right features and functions for the app.

Identify the end user and his/her needs while you work on the blueprint of your app.

After all, the end user would be the person using the app and patronizing your business. This will be the case even when you are developing a business-to-business app. Without gaining user insights, an app does little more than meet the business’ expectations than anyone else’s. Hence, it runs a high risk of failure.

Perhaps there should be a specific niche that should be catered by your app. Granted, the sheer volume of business-related apps has swelled to incredible levels. The continued growth in the popularity of apps means more people have packed their mobile devices with several programs. Has everyone been properly represented though?

Now, a “targeted customer” can be further pinpointed. Perhaps he/she is a person who travels on public transportation a lot and does so during odd hours. Creating an app that targets this discount-seeking customer may further improve the chances of your apps success.

Of course, there should be demand for the app within your defined niche.

Coming up with a concept of an end user for which an actual customer doesn’t exist, brings forth no real value. Defining the end user starts with a theory, but the theory cannot just be an abstract idea or concept. Otherwise, your business will face the problem of creating an app that won’t connect with the public.

Now, this is how market research factors into the process of determining the target of the app. Hiring a firm to conduct market research for your app may be both costly and unnecessary. In other instances, however, working with a market research firm might make more sense.

At the beginning stage, it may be prudent to simply request feedback from current customers through surveys. Doing so could provide something to get started with when planning out the app. This initial feedback may lead to a better determination about hiring a market research firm.

Effective research paints a clearer and a more realistic picture.

There might be a case where the customer travelling to work, prefers to use the app on the way to work than on the way home. Information like this helps in creating a value proposition that should drive the new app’s popularity in the crowded market.

Or, for instance, something as simple as setting up a coffee delivery at 10 am and office cleaning request at noon would cut down on the issue dealing with disruptions during the day. This way, the app would deliver a promise of a more organized and a productive day.
Such effective and detailed market research may uncover the less-obvious valuations.

3. Exploring the Project Scope

Exploring project scope

The goal of your business should not be to create an app with “bells and whistles”. But your mobile app development process should focus on user engagement. This can be determined only by examining the feasibility of your app from every angle and then defining a scope. To validate this, you should be asking the following questions:

  • Is your business proposition unique?
  • Will the app generate customer value?
  • How much money will the app cost?
  • Will the app support your business goals?
  • Will the app be profitable in the long term?

If you are not able to support your answers, then the app probably won’t serve much of a purpose other than being a drain on the company’s resources.

Once the feasibility is ascertained, you should start researching the scope.

It is essential to come up with a logic-driven scope that intends to target a specific audience. And on top of it, you must decide on an adequate yet reasonable budget for building the whole app.

At times, it is unnecessary to invest tremendous sums into a complicated app. Instead, your end user might be expecting a simple app that solves 4-5 basic purposes. There is no need to spend so much on an app with features no one wants to use.

In-House vs Outsourcing

If you are opting to cut corners when choosing the technology stack for the app development, then it might save money in the short-term.

Unfortunately, doing so would set the stage for an overwhelming roll-out of an app code that is buggy or doesn’t really perform the functions as expected. Additionally, if you are not in the business of making apps, you must be wondering how to decide a budget.

All this leads to a serious confusion about whether the app development process must be performed in-house or outsourced.

For most businesses, outsourcing probably makes more sense. Handling the tasks in-house requires stronger managerial oversight of the development process. The main issue of concern with in-house development involves whether the right staff exists.

If your company has easy access to resources and has the budget to hire some, then in-house development is more feasible.

Without access to skilled developers local to your business, you must find professionals located outside.

The significant popularity of apps has led to the emergence of a wide industry of app development firms for outsourcing. This has enabled hassle-free development with effective cost savings.

App development companies not only maintain a skilled staff required to produce an app, they also maintain all the necessary tools in the proper work environment.

Since an app development company is designed to handle multiple app projects from clients, it already has the infrastructure and the resources to develop an app.

However, outsourcing comes with its own baggage of worries if you choose the wrong service provider. Clear communication, realistic expectations and skilled developers are some of the many qualities of a competent development agency. If you plan to take the outsourcing route, you must do your part by creating a proper draft of the deliverable’s and milestones so that you both are on the same page before putting up with the project.

4. Craft the Draft for Expectations

Setting expectations

After settling for the development route, you should start preparing an outline of the app that reflects its idea and the functional aspects necessary for production. This task involves creating mind-maps, wireframes, mockups etc.

Wireframes

Devising a wireframe supports a cost-effective blueprint for an app. A wireframe will create a visual and logical workflow that can be used to produce an initial prototype of the app.

Wireframing makes it possible to create a workable version of the app that can be edited, reviewed, and scaled. You can choose from several different free and paid wireframing tools that exist in the market today.

Prior to a wireframe, you should consider sketching and drawing the whole concept of your app on a paper. It helps you brainstorm ideas and pen them down before refining them further into wireframes.

Mockups

Next, you should plan to develop a mockup that is more than a visual representation of a wireframe. Certain mockup programs can even integrate with wireframing and prototype functions, which greatly expands their use and value.

When creating a mockup on your own, don’t try to go too far beyond your own experience. Keep everything simple during the drafting stage and avoid adding too many features or aesthetic components. It will only make it difficult for you to replicate the mockup during UI/UX development. Your team of product enthusiasts should aim to create more workable and bug free prototypes. 

Remember, wireframes and mockups do not intend to serve a finished product. Instead, they help in laying down great deal of preliminary groundwork and generate something tangible for developers to scale up. This way, they have a better understanding of the product roadmap and your expectations.

These preliminary designs are the building blocks of your app and you should not be enamored by them since they are bound to change once the development starts.

5. Entering the Actual Development Stage

Starting app development

Once all the preliminary drafts, sketches, and prototypes have been reviewed and handed over to the developer, the time comes to move into the development phase. Make sure this isn’t done passively and your development partner has clear terms dictated to you before-hand.

In fact, both the client and the developer should enter serious negotiations about two major things –

the overall budget and the timeframe in which the finished app will be delivered. 

Lack of clear guidelines and rules for the budget and app delivery are more likely to cause budget overheads and delays. The responsibility does not necessarily lie in the hands of the developer here, rather, you must explicitly establish the requirements. Ask questions that will answer your concerns regarding the overall development process, the pricing model, challenges and their workarounds.

Granted, you cannot expect the developer to bring in the finished product at an unrealistic price or cut the price too much without undermining the quality of the app. So, avoid being rigid with cost requirements but don’t feel locked into overspending. You can always resolve such conflicts amicably and with mutual discussion.

And be sure the timeframe for delivery is clearly established. Again, being realistic and flexible can be virtuous. Forcing too quick of a completion date on the app developer might lead to a disappointing end result.

To make sure things go smooth in the process, request the developer provide timely updates — at least once a week– so that you know how things are progressing. 

6. The Beta Launch

Launching beta version

Rather than releasing the finished app to the public, a better strategy involves providing a limited number of qualified users with a beta version. The entire purpose of the beta version centers on procuring user feedback in order to improve the app. A beta version can be dubbed as a work in progress. The limited number of trusted users realize they should expect some flaws. After all, the beta app is a test model, and they are the test drivers. 

Choosing the right beta testers is also critical to the app because you would want honest and knowledgeable feedback.
Be sure you devise a reliable means of acquiring actionable feedback. A sparse survey won’t be enough. Ask users to write a short private review highlighting positive and negative aspects of the beta version. 

Most importantly, go through the feedback to determine what may be holding the app back from being workable. Any bugs or performance issues should be reported to the developer immediately.

Do not focus solely on bugs though.

Look at the intangible things your user’s liked or disliked. Is the background on the app too dark? Does the layout seem complicated? Any feedback of this nature must be highlighted when requesting improvements to the app. 

After the beta testing phase is complete and the upgraded features are readily tested, roll out the new version of the app.  

Conclusion

The processes and steps laid out in this guide aren’t meant to be “one and done.” Wireframing, budget negotiations, market research, and beta testing may need to be done time and again.

All in all, you should avoid making the following common mistakes with your app: 

  • Rushing the app to the market.
  • Making excuses for or dismissing flaws.
  • Not investing the necessary time to develop the app.
  • Seeking absolute perfection.

You cannot build an app overnight, but a solid and robust app will boost your business goals tremendously.