APP DEVELOPMENT: A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE FOR BEGINNERS
The world of the software industry and mobile development has been growing in leaps and bounds, triggering businesses as well as application entrepreneurs to immediately take their chance. Like many others before you, one day you woke up and a brilliant app idea suddenly came and urged you to act. But it’s just not that simple, building an app, indeed, involves so much more than just an idea, no matter how great it is. Even if you have enough money to have your imagination turned into innovation by some enterprise application development services, planning beforehand and having basic knowledge about every step of the development process will make it much easier.
Our step-by-step guide below will walk you through the most basic steps in answering the question about how to develop your own mobile app and bring your big idea into life. Let’s go!
Step 1: Have your idea and goals ready before app development
Every project starts with an idea. The clearer and more detailed your idea is, the better the app will be. At this very beginning step of app development, you can allow yourself to step away from technology and work with pen and paper instead. Write, draw, draft anything you could think of and let the imagination lead your way. However, remember to answer all these questions: What is your app going to do? What problem will it solve? Or how is it going to change your users’ future lives?
But what if you haven’t got any specific idea? Look for problems then. Successful entrepreneurs are actually outstanding problems solvers. Nevertheless, do not fear that you may not be the first to find out and try to get to the bottom of a problem. With over 2.8 million apps for Android and more than 2.2 million for iOS, it’s pretty much impossible to do something that no one has ever done before. So instead of worrying about coincidences, try to focus on your app and think of some extraordinary features to make it better than others in the same field.
Before digging into details, whether you are either small start-up or large-scale corporation, ask yourself these question to gain a more thorough perception of an advisable application.
1. Should I consider Outsource?
Developing an app in house involves having much more control and direction over a project. It provides you with the opportunity to voice your input and have a more hands-on approach, all of which are extremely helpful to a marketer. The downside is that it can be time consuming, and occasionally, more expensive. Usually in-house mobile development teams are more expensive than outsourced equivalents.
Businesses that choose to outsource instead lose that hands-on input, but can save money, and save themselves the time and stress of developing an app. If you’re willing to relinquish some control, this might be the way to go.
2. Which Device Should I Develop For?
Over 60% of Americans currently own smart phones, and global tablet ownership will reach 905 million by 2017. Consumers are completely it comes to their devices; from phones to tablets, deciding which platform to use (Apple, Android, etc.) can be a tricky decision for your business.
It all depends on your business and your users. Which platform do they typically use? Check out the data. If the majority of shoppers relevant to your business access goods from an Android site, you should focus on Android. Recent data shows, however, that Apple users are more likely to spend more than Android users. Tablet use also boasts more revenue than smart phones, so that’s something else to consider.
3. What Should My App Do?
There are several approaches you can take, but you should strive to provide a fun yet helpful app with good features and better information. It all depends on your business, the user and what you want to offer them. You could even consider creating more than one app for various features, if your business is large enough to support such a venture, but there’s nothing wrong with keeping it simple.
4. Can My Business Handle the Traffic?
Developing an app will draw in a ton of new users and customers, and you need to be prepared for the new business. Make sure to update websites and programs accordingly, you don’t want to appear out of the loop with an impressive new app but older sites and systems. And don’t forget the customer service/satisfaction, new apps and programs are worthless without the positive reputation to back them up.
5. How Do I Go About Design?
Once you’ve got the other details ironed out, you can focus on design. Decisions must be made regarding things like aesthetics, functionality, visibility, and more. Design is a super-important part of developing an app. If your app doesn’t look good, doesn’t have a good “vibe”, or worse, isn’t readable or easily navigated, it is dead in the water. The average smart phone users download around 25 apps, and you need to make sure yours stands out! The app must be elegant, streamlined, easy to use and highly functional, users won’t accept anything less.
Step 2: Conduct research on your app development
When you’re pretty clear about what you want, it’s time to do some researches to define these following aspects.
Target users and potential competitors
Having a clear vision regarding the target group of users enhances the success ratio of an app. Therefore, app creators (like you) always need to bear in mind who the potential users are and try to develop features that suit them best. Also, don’t forget to look at what other app makers and app development companies are doing and learn from their success (or mistakes).
Mobile platforms and devices
While selecting mobile platforms and devices, remember to take these factors into consideration: hardware performance, battery life, coverage, device support, performance, etc. You may want to do either an iOS app development or an Android one. Otherwise, consider a cross-platform mobile application so it can be supported on both platforms.
Revenue model and app development cost
There are different ways to generate revenue from mobile apps such as in-app purchases, premium version, pay per download, subscription or advertisements, etc. App creators should find an appropriate way so that users are happy to spend money on different features and aspects of the app. Our advice is that you should choose the right revenue model and make your app something users desire.
Just like the revenue model, the app development cost is another problem that gives app makers headache. When you start thinking about the revenue model, think about your budget too. Apart from app development cost, there are other things that need money for, like marketing or releases for example. So, don’t forget to plan ahead.
Step 3: Design
If the core is the soul then UI design must be the appearance of an app, which means it is also the first impression users get when they first approach the application. Therefore, giving your app a properly and beautifully designed interface is yet another significant factor contributing to its success. Don’t just focus solely on developing the core and do the app design poorly, balance is always the key to sustainable success of an app development process.
What tools should I use?
You might think Photoshop is your best option for mobile app design – especially if you’ve used it for other types of design work – however when it comes to designing mobile apps, you’re better off with Adobe XD or Sketch. That said, Sketch is considered the de facto standard here, although Adobe XD is putting in some strong competition, having recently added design systems.
One of the biggest reasons for using Adobe XD or Sketch over something like Photoshop is that these two tools are built with designing and prototyping in mind. They help streamline your design workflows and are targeted at UI and UX designers, whereas Photoshop is more for image manipulation.
One important note for the design process of your app development here: If you’re planning on cross-platform development or support, Adobe XD is the clear winner here as Sketch is only available on macOS.
OS design guidelines
Before you start designing, because you first need to understand the dos and don’ts of your platform. Generally speaking, mobile app design shares some similarities between the different operating systems, such as:
Keep it simple (less is more)
Maintain the flow
Readability is key
Respect the platform
Wireframes and app flow
Before designing an app’s look and feel, it’s essential to work on its flow control and structure. This is where wireframes come into play. Wireframes help you understand how users will navigate and use an app. They’re generally simplified in their design so that the focus is on flow and usability.
While there are many dedicated wireframe tools, it’s not uncommon for designers to simply use a pen and paper. However, if you’re looking for something more hi-tech and collaborative (which is especially important when you’re working with a remote team), consider creating your wireframes in Sketch or Adobe XD. The benefit of using these tools for wireframing is that you can turn your low-fidelity wireframes into high-fidelity previews with relative ease.
Note: With Adobe XD, you can even grab yourself some free kits to help get you started.
Step 4: Develop a prototype
Prototypes provide you the ability to vet the requirements with minimum investments and effort. They reveal app usability issues, anticipate negative feedback of using your app and let you avoid costly problems in the future. You can test your prototype and make adjustments to functionality before it is translated to code, at which point changes are expensive in terms of cost, time and effort.
With the prototype in hand it will be much easier to collaborate with the development team since they’ll be able to try your app out and entirely explore its functionality. You’ll be on the same page with your development partner. Besides, you can always leave comments or questions inside the wireframes to clarify the implementation of a feature or any other details.
Last but not least, being a startup, you can easily use a clickable prototype as a proof of concept to win investment for your project.
Here are some free prototyping tools which contain certain limitations in their unpaid versions and the ones that are free forever. These may help you gain a closer view on visioning how to prototyping as a beginner.
Price: In beta at the moment of writing, which means temporarily free. But after that, it will likely be distributed under the Adobe Creative Cloud pricing.
Available on: Mac, Windows
Adobe XD is the company’s way of introducing the full-stack UI/UX design software. I mean it’s a rapid prototyping tool and an instrument for building mockups at the same time.
It has an incredibly smooth transition between different design scenarios. In addition to this, the Adobe ecosystem comes in handy to designers since they’re able to copy elements in such software like Illustrator and paste them right there to Adobe XD.
Price: From $0 up to $99 monthly
Available on: Web
InVision is another popular prototyping tool among designers all over the globe. Apart from the well-thought-out interface and stable work, it offers dozens of collaboration features. I’d call InVision the Google Docs among software prototyping tools. All these things make it the perfect choice for big teams and enterprises searching for a solution where they’d be able to:
- Leave comments on prototypes
- View the history of changes
- Have their files automatically updated every time they are edited
- Synchronize their projects with cloud storages like Dropbox, Google Drive, and even Creative Cloud along with Slack
- Have well-organized project management due to workflow similar to Trello
What makes this online prototyping tool even more useful is a plugin that allows sending designs to InVision via Sketch or Photoshop. The work with animations and interactions are also present.
Available on: Mac, iOS, Android
Origami Mac prototyping tool is Facebook’s creation that was initially intended to help their designers handle prototyping. Nowadays, it’s free so anyone can use it. To do so, you should sign up as an Apple developer and after that, download the Xcode along with Quartz Composer. Then, you will be able to run Origami on your Mac.
Yeah, this process might seem to be tedious but after all, you get a totally free prototyping tool with a wide spectrum of features. Among that features should be singled out a pre-loaded library with key patterns, a simulation of gestures, as well as animations.
Probably the most curious feature of Origami is the one that converts your design into a code for Android, iOS or web. It’s called Export to Code. This way, you can share your animation specs with the development team.
Except for Photoshop and Sketch plugins, Origami also has really well-written and detailed documentation along with downloadable examples. All these things are intended to show users how to get started with this tool in no time.
This free prototyping tool for Mac comes with app named Origami Live. The app allows you to preview and test your design right on mobile devices.
Price: From $0 up to $14 per user monthly (contains custom tariffs)
Available on: Web, iOS, Android
Don’t confuse it with the comics company. Marvel is a web prototyping tool which, by the way, has powerful wireframing capabilities. This tool comes with a bunch of pre-installed standard elements (e.g. buttons, menus, input fields) for various platforms including wearables. However, the free version doesn’t open many features for collaborative work, so you have to pay if collaboration is important for you.
Each of Marvel’s feature is intuitive and easy-to-use so that you won’t be faced with any problems when mastering this quick prototyping tool. Furthermore, it has a plugin for Sketch that contributes to much smoother interaction with this program.
Price: Free forever
Available on: Web
Webflow is something more than just a free web prototyping tool. It’s the full-stack solution that allows users to create websites from scratch, adding their animation, publishing, and managing it with the help of Webflow CMS without the necessity to write any code. This tool generates responsive code for you that works across all browsers and devices.
I’d say Webflow is a perfect and time-effective solution for freelance designers. Probably, its main drawback is the fact you have to use third-party payment system when creating eCommerce projects. Remember, this platform is only suitable for web design, no mobile apps supported.
Step 5: Integrate an analytic tool
There is also a need to incorporate appropriate analytics which tracks downloads, user engagement, and retention for your mobile app.
Step 6: Beta testing
Beta testing is of great importance when developing an app as it reduces risks and ensures a smoother experience for your future users. Before the beta version of your app is ready, look for an experienced testing team to do the test, and prepare yourself as well.
Step 7: Release time!
Deploying an app requires a plan, schedule, and control of the movement of releases to test and live environments.
App marketplaces have very different policies when it comes to publishing a new app. Android, for instance, does not audit recently submitted applications immediately. They’ll go by sooner or later and look at them, yet you can immediately release your application to Google Play.
However, the process is not that easy when it comes to iOS. Apple holds the right to review your app once it’s submitted to AppStore. There’s no fixed timeframe for this reviewing process, but it usually takes at least seven days to know whether your app is approved to go live.
Step 8: Get feedback and improvise
Releasing your app, indeed, is not the final step of a development process. There will be errors that no one but your users can detect, so keep an eye on their feedback and keep improving your product.
Step 9: Keep building your app
There are always new features that can be added to your app and make it even better than (you may think it has been) the best version. So keep your app development improvising to meet customers’ constantly changing demand!