You have this great idea and want to create a new mobile or tablet application. Whether it’s an iOS, Android, Windows or Blackberry app, you are sure that your idea is unique (or at least better than another similar solution), cool and actually able to improve someone’s life. Maybe you have some technical background and know how to code. Or maybe you don’t know anything about programming at all. Actually it doesn’t matter since making a mobile app is a very complex process and requires not only a development itself, but also really well planned pre-production phase and marketing activities.
Be sure to check also this awesome guide to mobile app marketing.
Sit down and think about it for a moment. These 10 steps describe whole mobile application development process and will help you to create your own schema to start building successful apps today.
1. Do a market research and define the primary feature of your app
Will be there one primary feature or will your app serve more functions? And if there already exists similar app in applications universe, why should end user download yours? Even it would be nice to claim that your app is for everyone, the ugly truth is somewhere else. There is a large amount of apps (over 700 000) available on both iOS and Android platforms. Why should I choose yours? Your product will be most likely used by some specific group of people – let it be social networkers, parents, kids, gamers, etc. Focus on your core audience and don’t try to impose everyone.
You don’t have to conquere every mobile device to be successful. It’s better to aim for a niche. Remember, offering a high quality app for a small group of people is much more appreciated than trying to build a massive “all-problems-solver” which pretty much sucks because of its complexity and heftiness. Take your time, do a market research in your niche and download competing apps. Write down they unique selling propositions (why are they so successful?), explore theirs imperfections and read reviews from users.
While researching market needs, app store is just a starter. You need to move further to fully understand how market works and where is the biggest demand. Try using Google Keyword Tool to check out amount of searches for particular keyword. In combination with Google Trends it provides a pretty accurate picture of what things people are looking for. App Annie and Distimo will help you understand mobile markets deeper. The best thing is that all those tools are free for regular use. Use your computer for App Store or Google Play research – it’s much more comfortable and faster.
2. Predesign logic of your app using brainstormings and mindmaps
Take your time and think about every detail of your upcoming mobile app. Write down every single idea, even if it looks stupid and useless. I can’t really count how many times we wanted to trash an idea because it looked stupid, but on the other day a completely new concept based on that idea was born. Ask friends and family members for opinions and suggestions. Start sketching on paper and develop different scenarios of user interaction. Will your app serve its purpose while users are walking on a street or riding a public transport? By the way, my favorite mind mapping tool is called Mind42.
3. Write technical specification and create mockups
When you have a clear idea how your application will function, start working on a technical specification. If you are not a tech person, it’s good to prepare at least a basic mockup and describe every single screen, button and function so you can discuss it with your designer and developer. Now is the right time to define user interaction flow. You can create mockups very easily with software called Balsamiq Mockups.
In this step, you need to determine whether your app will be free or premium. More and more developers are producing free apps with in-app purchases to unlock advanced features or remove ads. It really depends on your market niche and user preferences – for example making a paid app for teenagers won’t almost certainly work. Ads are decent monetization method, but you need a big amount of downloads and active users to make it sustainable.
Another big question will be a supported platform. Is your application suitable for both smartphones and tablets? Do it! Difference in developing costs is almost unremarkable if you have prepared a good concept and you don’t need too fancy graphics. However, keep in mind limitations of Android platform – there are too many types of phones and tablets (with different hardware and screen resolutions) – so optimizing such application is much harder.
4. Choose a designer and programmer
If you can’t do a pixel perfect design suitable for mobile devices, don’t even try. High resolutions displays have no mercy with defective user interface and graphics. Especially iOS users literally require polished apps and this trend is already remarkable on Android as well. Same thing goes for coding – if you can’t do it, dont waste your time. There is nothing wrong with outsourcing and hiring dedicated and experienced people to execute your idea under your guidance. If your application is complicated, you may even want to hire a development team so they can handle every single aspect of your project – frontend, backend, client-server communication, content updates, etc.
You can find some pretty good freelancers on websites like Elance or Odesk – but be sure to choose wisely. Many designers and coders here are also fresh newbies with little experience. Better do a double check on their portfolio and references and don’t hesitate to ask for further examples of their work. In general, be sure to follow these simple rules:
- write a detailed requirements document (also called brief) explaining your needs
- schedule your work plan and set precise deadlines – if there is a problem with timing you can easily negotiate
- use your mockups as master model and be sure to explain whole user workflow to your designer and coder (maybe they will even come with some improvements)
- communicate regularly and ask for daily/weekly demonstrations of progress
Especially Eastern European designers and coders can provide you with high quality piece of work for reasonable prices. Sure, the best solution is to know someone around you who can design and code and ask them to help you with your app. But don’t be scared. For example, very successful game called Plague Inc. was made exclusively via internet. Read this article on Ndemic Creations website.
5. Test your mobile application
Quality assurance is crucial point in whole development. You are supposed to reveal all major bugs and fix them before release. Don’t underestimate this step, since Apple will refuse to publish bugged apps. For simple apps, sending a build to friends for feedback will do the job, but be sure to test every single possible scenario. However, for complex apps it’s better to do a full-scale QA process.
6. Submit your app into stores
Let’s say your app is ready. Now is time to prepare all assets, pick an eye-catching icon and do perfect copywriting. Register your account in Apple or Android Developer Program, pay a fee and you are ready to go.
7. Market your app
Effective marketing is challenging and long-term process and you should start up-front. Tease your application, build a microsite, catch your audience and create a synergy of various channels during the launch. Read these mobile app marketing tips.