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How To Create A Mobile App [A Step-By-Step Guide]

How To Create A Mobile App [A Step-By-Step Guide]

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Updated: December 12, 2019

The market for mobile app development isn’t going anywhere: according to Statista, over half the world’s internet traffic came from mobile devices in 2019. Powering many of these connected mobile experiences are mobile apps, which makes it a highly sought after market for many different types of business—according to ComScore, over 50% of “digital” time spent is on smartphone apps.

Still, building a mobile app can be a complicated process with many considerations. At BitCot, we have extensive experience building user-friendly mobile apps, having developed over 200 mobile apps with over fifty five-star ratings in the Apple and Android app stores. If you’re thinking about your own app, here is our guide to creating mobile apps, including some tools, strategies, and important resources you can use.

 

 

Develop the Idea, Refine the Objectives

develop mobile app idea

 

 

Every good mobile app starts with an idea, and that idea is rooted in the user. How can we develop a mobile app that will make life easier for our customers? Our users? Mobile banking apps, for example, make it easy for users to deposit checks, verify balances, and transfer funds without going to a physical location. Other apps, such as ridesharing, shopping, and navigation, make everyday activities far more convenient. 

Important Discovery Questions:

When building a new mobile app, we recommend sitting down with various organizational stakeholders to discuss a couple of key questions. In our experience, the answers to these questions can help inform the rest of the project.

  • Who is this app for?
  • What kind of app is it?
  • What need will this app help meet? 
  • How will it simplify everyday life for its users? 
  • How will this app be developed, launched, and marketed?
  • How will users of the application be supported?
  • How will the success of this application be measured?
  • How will the business make money with this app?

Common Mobile App Categories:

In terms of what kind of app to build, most mobile apps fall into six general categories: 

  • Productivity
  • Social media
  • Lifestyle
  • Utility
  • News and information
  • Games and entertainment

Mobile app Categories

 

 

Aside from the type and category of app, ask yourself which platform the app is for. Where are the majority of your users going to come from? In terms of platform compatibility, consider the three major types of apps. Native apps are developed for a specific platform, such as iOS, Android, or Windows Mobile. Hybrid apps use multi-platform code, such as Javascript, and are typically platform-agnostic. Web apps, finally, are mobile versions of a program that run in a web browser.

Read our breakdown of native vs. hybrid mobile apps.

As your team works through this discovery phase, make sure to document these early decisions and objectives. Once you understand the type of app you want to develop, the market it serves, and your objectives, it is time to move on to the research, design, and development phase.

Research the Competitive Landscape:

Market and competitor research should be a major part of the “discovery” phase of any mobile app development. And yes, we do put competitor research before the design phase. That’s because the information you discover about the market—about similar apps and competitors—might change certain aspects of the app altogether. 

What started as an app for allowing people to rent luxury cars for a day might, after assessing the competitive landscape, become an app that allows people to rent a specific type of luxury car, or perhaps high-end motorcycles. 

Tips for Mobile App Competitor Research:

The main question is: How saturated is the market for apps similar to the one you’re considering developing? What will differentiate your app from existing competitors already available in the market? There are a couple of strategies that can help make competitive research more effective: 

  1. List any and all competitors (this should be an exhaustive list).
  2. Dive deep into each of these competitors, including their web pages, app pages in various app stores, and customer reviews. What are the main features? Key differentiators? Cost? What do people like about the app? What do people complain about the most?
  3. Gather data about your target market, including a number of users, competitor market share, download and revenue statistics, and price points. 
  4. Download and use competitor apps. Make note of key aspects of UI/UX. What’s working? What’s not? What can your app do better?

Nail Down the Design with Wireframes:

As complex as mobile applications can get these days, nearly every app design begins with a rough sketch.  Whether you use a wireframing tool or plain old pencil-and-paper sketches, we recommend creating wireframes of every screen of the mobile app—a kind of rough draft that serves as the basis for future design iterations. 

Early on is the time to get everything on the table to narrow down which features and functionalities are realistic for the initial release, and which might be better suited for a later release. This is also the stage at which the broader user experience, as well as specific parts of the user interface, begin to take shape.

Common Elements in Mobile Application User Interfaces:

While putting together your initial wireframes, here are some common parts of a mobile application user interface to consider:

  • Splash screen
  • Sign-up and sign-in screen
  • Authentication
  • Interactivity
  • Home screen 
  • iOS vs. Android versions
  • App navigation
  • App settings
  • App icons
  • Text throughout the app
  • End-user License Agreement (EULA)

Tips for Creating Wireframes:

Once the initial rough wireframes are complete and you’ve documented all features and functionalities to be included, it’s time to create digital wireframes. 

The goal, essentially, is to create a storyboard for your app—a blueprint—with each screen laid out in greater detail. There are a number of robust wireframing tools that you can use to create these wireframes, including Balsamiq, Visio, and Adobe. Most tools allow you to build in interactivity, such as clickable buttons.

  • Keep the user experience easy and engaging
  • Strive for simple, uncluttered design
  • Placeholder

A complete wireframe is what will be handed over to mobile app developers to turn into prototypes and early test versions of the app. Designers and developers will typically send more refined slide decks back and forth with clients so they can see how the app looks and feels before it goes live. This is an opportunity to capture any feature, functionality, or design feedback early in the development process.

Execute Backend, Development, Design, and Testing

Execute Backend, Development

 

At this point, it is time to consider the technical backend of the app. The wireframing process should provide specific details about how you want your app to look, feel, and function. Turning this into reality will require certain backend technologies that support this kind of functionality.  Developing the App for iOS requires coding in Swift and Java or Kotlin for Android and these are considered native apps and are recommended languages by Apple and Google. There are other hybrid platforms such as React Native, Xamarin, Phone Gap that are provided build by third-party frameworks and have limitations and have a shorter shelf life. 

Backend is really an important piece of the App that is used for storing user information, handling business logic, performing authentication, security and more. There are many technology options such as Node, Python, Ruby on Rails or PHP that can be used for building the back-end. Many apps need integration with third-party companies and you need your app to plug into Stripe or Braintree to accept mobile payments. Other apps require map integrations, chat, or image capture. Generally speaking, your backend needs will boil down to five main areas:

  • API
  • Servers
  • Hosting
  • Database
  • Third-party Integrations

Enabling your back-end to run on the cloud would really provide the required scalability as the platform grows. Cloud includes hosting server, database and has several other services such as push notifications, sending emails, load balancers, and security.

Tips for Testing a Mobile App:

Tailor your testing to the needs of your specific user group. Consider the following tips when testing your mobile app:

  • Test on multiple devices (smartphone, tablet, etc.) with multiple screen resolutions
  • Test both server-side and client-side performance
  • Perform usability testing to ensure uniform performance and functionality across devices
  • Put device through extenuating circumstances, such as a low battery or bad network coverage
  • Test for interruptions such as incoming calls and texts messages

Release the App

Once you have thoroughly tested your mobile app, it is time to prepare a release version to be published to your medium of choice (Android, Apple Store, etc.). Each marketplace for mobile apps has its own requirements, alongside general best practices. For example: 

  • Application configuration
  • Application resources
  • Backend services and resources
  • Marketing and promotional materials
  • Prepare for mobile app monetization 

Of course, the work does not end once you release your app to the marketplace. The app will require ongoing maintenance and updates to fix bugs or introduce new features. 

Work With App Developers That Know-How

Developing and releasing an app is no simple process. The more complex the proposed app’s functionality, the more time and resources will likely be required at every step of the development, testing, and release process. 

At BitCot, we specialize in delivering high-quality mobile apps for small businesses and entrepreneurs in a relatively short time frame. Our team of mobile app developers supports our clients every step of the way, from further refining an app idea, to mapping out a full go-to-market strategy. Learn more.

Good or bad, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Find us on Twitter (@Bitcot) or write in to support@bitcot.com

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    Raj Sanghvi BitCot CEO

    Author: Raj Sanghvi

    Raj Sanghvi is a technologist and founder of BitCot, a full-service award-winning software development company. With over 15 years of innovative coding experience creating complex technology solutions for businesses like IBM, Sony, Nissan, Micron, Dicks Sporting Goods, HDSupply, Bombardier and more, Sanghvi helps build for both major brands and entrepreneurs to launch their own technologies platforms.

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