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The mobile app development market is growing massively. In this digital transformation dedicated era, investing in a mobile app is a golden opportunity for businesses. According to Statista, as of the first quarter of 2021, there are around 3.48 million mobile apps on the Google Play store and 2.22 million apps available on the Apple store. Although the competition is high for a new entrant, not supporting a mobile app could be a big mistake given that most of the world’s population is already preferring mobile apps as their favorite touchpoint.

According to another study by eMarketer, the average time spent on the app is significantly higher than the time spent on the web browser.

mobile-internet-mobile-app-dev-image

This guide is for businesses who are planning to launch a mobile app but are concerned about getting started. It will cover everything a business needs to know about mobile app development from the ground up.

What is Mobile App Development?

Mobile app development is designing and building software applications that can run on a mobile device. Typically, a mobile app makes use of a network connection to work with remote computing resources. Thus, the mobile app development process involves building installable software bundles, implementing backend services such as data access with an API, and testing the application on target devices.

The mobile app development process is similar to the software development process, which includes:

mobile-app-development-process

Why is Mobile App Development Important?

Nowadays, there is an app for everything! According to the latest App Annie’s State of Mobile 2021 report, the mobile app sector has witnessed tremendous growth.

mobile-landscape-glance

If a business has an operating website and not a mobile app, they are missing out on growing their audience and revenues that would follow.

The advantages of mobile app development include:

  • Direct-to-Customer Marketing Channel
  • Enhanced Customer Experience
  • Better Conversion Rate
  • Brand Recognition
  • Better Efficiency and Increased Revenues
  • Customer Loyalty
  • Time-Saving

Key Approaches to Mobile App Development

Before investing in a mobile app, a business must decide the approach they will follow to build an app. The most commonly known approaches include — native apps, cross-platform apps, hybrid apps, progressive web apps, and rapid mobile app development.

Here’s an overview of each of them:

1. Native App

A native app is a platform-specific app that is capable of running only on a particular operating system. In other words, the business would have to develop apps differently for iOS and Android (i.e., to launch an app on both platforms, it will have to be coded twice).

Building a native application is expensive (for obvious reasons). However, the app is often better in performance and offers a good user experience.

Example: Spotify

2. Cross-Platform App

A cross-platform app is coded once and is compatible to run on multiple platforms. In other words, there is a single, unified code that works for both Android and iOS apps.

Cross-platform apps are cheaper to build owing to its platform independent attribute.

Example: Alaska Airlines

3. Hybrid App

A hybrid app is a blend of a native mobile app and a web app. In technical terms, a web application put into a native shell is a hybrid app. These apps are built in a native container but, when downloaded, they showcase content similar to that of a web app.

These apps are easier and faster to develop but might lead to performance issues.

Example: Evernote

4. Progressive Web App

A progressive web app (PWA) is a web application that offers a native app-like user experience. The best part is that a PWA runs on the web, which implies that the user does not need to install a separate app for it. The upshot of PWAs are that they consume less data, perform better, and increase engagement rates.

Example: Twitter Lite

Here is a comparison chart to help make an informed decision when it comes to choosing a mobile app development approach:

Approach Overview Pros Cons
1. Native App Needs two different source codes — one for Android and one for iOS
  • Best performance
  • Expensive to build
2. Cross-Platform App One source code runs on multiple platforms
  • Cheaper to build
  • Fewer efforts as a single code can run on multiple platforms
  • Prone to performance issues
3. Hybrid App Mix of native and a web app
  • Lower Performance when compared to native apps
4. Progressive Web App A web application that imitates the user experience of a mobile app
  • One app works for both web and mobile
  • No installation required which speeds up load times
  • App capabilities are browser dependent

What is a Mobile App Development Framework?

A mobile app development framework is a software framework that provides a platform to develop mobile applications. It provides the foundation and the structure to build scalable mobile apps.

The top five frameworks that are widely being used for creating an app include:

Mobile App Development Framework Pros Cons
1. React Native

Created by: Facebook

App Examples:

Facebook, Instagram

  • Open-source
  • Based on JavaScript
  • Works for both Android and iOS
  • Ensures faster time to market
  • Cost-effective
  • Facilitates code reusability
  • Debugging can be a challenging task
  • Slow and requires more space compared to its counterpart
  • The testing process is challenging
2. Flutter

Created by: Google

App Examples:

Reflectly, Google Ads

  • Open-source
  • Uses a single codebase
  • Written in C, C++, Dart
  • Enables fast app development
  • Support flexible UI (user interface)
  • Hot reload option is available
  • Lacks integration of advanced features
  • Are large apps that require more time to download the app
  • Dart is new for developers
3. Ionic

Created by: Drifty Co.

App Examples:

Instant Pot, MarketWatch

  • Written in JavaScript
  • Helps develop cross-platform, hybrid, and PWA apps
  • Provides intuitive interface
  • Is cheaper to develop
  • Allows faster prototype development
  • Performance lag on heavy applications
  • Hot reloading feature is missing
  • Might face surety issues
4. Xamarin

Created by: Microsoft

App Examples:

Azure, Alaska Airlines

  • Based on .Net and c#
  • Open-source framework
  • Helps develop applications for Android, iOS, and more
  • Provides multiple library support
  • Hassle-free API integration
  • Works well for offline apps
  • Compatibility issues with third-party libraries and tools
  • Offers limited access to open-source libraries
  • App size is somewhat large
5. Apache Cordova

Created by: Adobe

App Examples:

Wikipedia, Health Tap

  • Open-source
  • Written in C#, C++, CSS, HTML, Java, JavaScript, and Objective-C
  • Supports for offline apps
  • Allows access to native device APIs
  • Allows code reusability
  • Does not suit hardware-reliant apps
  • Hybrid apps are slower
  • Plugins might not perform as per expectations

Choosing the right mobile app development framework can be confusing. Here is a resource to help make an informed decision:

The Ultimate Guide to Selecting Your Mobile App Development Framework

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How to Develop a Mobile App?

Before moving on with the development process, the first step is to finalize the software development methodology.

Keeping up with the current trends and the need to facilitate faster releases, choosing the Agile development methodology is a safe bet. The incremental and iterative nature of the Agile methodology makes it easy for the development team to work on the existing and the new requirements.

The Agile development process is illustrated below:

Agile

Coming back to the mobile app development process, let’s discuss the eight-step process that a business will need to follow to develop, launch, and maintain the mobile app:

1. Come up with a Mobile App Idea

According to Statista, there are approximately 3.48 million apps on Google Play Store and 2.22 million apps on Apple Store. These numbers are continuously growing.

number-of-apps-available-in-leading-app-store

Taking the growing number of apps into consideration, developing an idea for a mobile app must be a thoughtful process. The more unique the idea, the better the chances are for surpassing competition in the market.

The selected idea should solve a user problem and have a high value proposition. Here are some top mobile app development ideas for 2021 to get started:

Mobile-apps-idea-2021

2. Requirements Analysis

After developing an idea for a mobile app, the next step is to gather all of the app requirements around that idea. This part will help answer:

  • Who is the target audience?
  • What is the geographical location that is being targeted?
  • What is the problem the app is trying to solve?
  • What are the functional requirements of the app?

To make an informed decision around the requirements analysis, it is advised to run various brainstorming sessions along with target audience surveys.

3. Finalize the Mobile App Development Tech Stack

This step includes decision-making around two critical factors:

  • Mobile App Development Approach — Will it be a native app, a hybrid app, a cross-platform app, or a progressive web app?
  • Mobile App Development Framework — What framework will be used to develop the mobile app?

4. Create Mobile App Prototype and Wireframe

A prototype is a draft version of the mobile app that helps demonstrate its UI/UX flow. This step helps in validating the app idea, its UI/UX, and also helps attract seed funding.

There are a couple of app prototyping tools to choose from, including:

Mobile App Prototyping Tools for Android, iOS, and Web Prominent Features
1. InVision
2. Axure RP
  • Offers a good range of form elements to choose from
  • Animation-driven features are available
  • Ability to test prototypes on the mobile screen
3. Marvel
  • Easily upload files from third-party software products
  • Easily resize and edit images
  • Provides up to eight different project frames
  • Can easily convert sketches into app prototypes
4. Adobe XP
  • Coediting as a part of collaborative design
  • Can easily switch between design and prototype version
  • Can easily make comments and includes easy shareability
5. Sketch
  • Create prototypes within a couple of clicks
  • Can add vector graphics and introduce edits
  • Easily share prototypes
  • Offers intuitive interface

To get a better insight into other mobile app prototyping tools along with the respective pricing, visit here.

5. Build a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

Building a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is the next step in line. An MVP is a basic, launchable version of the app. Further changes to the app will depend on the feedback from the end-users. The MVP also helps in validating the product-market fit (whether the app solves the problems it aims to address and is helpful to the users).

The steps for building the mobile app MVP include:

  • Prioritize MVP features based on should-haves, must-haves, can-haves, and will-not-haves
  • Build the MVP while distributing the different user stories across sprints

Related Article: A Step-by-Step Guide to Build an MVP

6. Mobile App Testing

At this stage, the mobile app is tested for its functionality, existing bugs (if any), and usability. The different types of mobile app testing include:

  • Functional Testing: Helps validate the proper functionality of the app
  • Interruption Testing: Used to check the interruption level in the app’s functionality due to incoming calls, low or no internet connectivity, etc.
  • Memory Testing: Helps check the memory that the mobile application occupies
  • Installation Testing: Helps to check how much time it takes to download the application from the respective app store
  • Performance Testing: Helps to check how well the app performs in the best and worst-case scenarios

Similar to prototyping tools, mobile app testing tools can be leveraged to automate the testing process. This, in turn, helps to ensure faster time to market. Some of the best tools for mobile app testing include:

Mobile App Testing Tool Prominent Features
1. Apptim

G2 Rating: 4.3/5

  • Run tests locally and shares detailed reports among the team
  • Easily compare performance from different mobile app testing sessions
  • Easy to use, minimum learning curve
2. pCloudy

G2 rating — 4.5/5

  • For testing mobile and web apps
  • Provides easy integration with Selenium
  • User-friendly interface
3. Perfecto

G2 Rating — 4.4/5

  • Suitable for web and mobile apps
  • Availability of technical resources for easy understandability of the tool
  • Robust test failure analysis and false-negative filtering
4. Genymotion

G2 Rating — 4.4/5

  • Fast to produce results
  • Uses less amount of RAM
  • Availability of customization options for the virtual app display
5. Ranorex Studio

G2 Rating — 4.2/5

  • Suitable for both beginners and experts
  • Easy to add test steps
  • Can easily organize scripts in respective folders

7. Launch Mobile App and Work on App Store Optimization

Whether it is the MVP or the fully-fledged app, the launch is an essential stage where the app is made available for download. At this stage, a prepared marketing plan coinciding with app launch will help to accelerate downloads.

Another important task at this stage is to work on the app store optimization (ASO). ASO is a process to enhance the app’s visibility, which, in turn, helps improve download rates.

Here are seven app store optimization strategies to consider:

  • Conduct user-oriented keyword research
  • Use relevant and intent-driven keywords
  • Choose an app name that resonates with the business model
  • Create easy to understand and relevant app descriptions that clarify the value it offers
  • Create a mobile app logo that is unique, attractive, and follows the best design practices
  • Add relevant “how-to” videos and screenshots along with the app’s description
  • Encourage users to post reviews and rate the app

For a detailed analysis of the listed steps, read through this ASO guide.

8. Maintain and Update Frequently

Building and launching an app is not enough! The app will require maintenance and updating such as identifying and fixing bugs, introducing patches, and integrating new features based on the latest mobile app trends.

The upshot:

  • Maintain a competitive edge
  • Keep users engaged
  • Introduce disruptions in the market
  • Experiment with new technologies and latest trends
  • Stay relevant

In today’s ever-evolving and dynamic world, merely having a mobile presence is not enough.

The popular apps that shined in 2020 might not possess the same potential for success in 2021. Simply implementing the correct mobile application development strategy will also not ensure success. To be successful, the business will need to incorporate the latest mobile application development trends into their strategy.

To outsmart competitors in the mobile app development industry, it is critical to analyze the mobile app development trends that are ruling the industry. Some of which include:

  • Introducing “Screen Continuity” option for foldable devices
  • Machine learning and AI for improving customizations and personalizations
  • Chatbots for introducing live chat options on the go
  • Integration of apps with wearable tech
  • Mobile apps that are IoT-enabled
  • Augmented reality
  • Mobile wallet apps similar to Google Pay, Samsung Pay, Apple Pay, etc
  • Experimenting with Beacons technology

Here is a resource that talks about each of these mobile app development trends in detail.

Top Factors to Consider When Hiring a Mobile App Development Partner

If the business does not have an in-house mobile app development team, it is a good strategy to look for a professional and experienced outsourced partner for mobile app development.

Here are some factors to consider when on a mission to find a mobile app development company:

  • Check the business portfolio and their experience in the mobile application development field — for iOS, Android, and web apps
  • Make sure that the development team is comfortable working with the app development frameworks and languages the business has chosen
  • Request a list of the mobile app prototyping tools they use and how they will be helpful
  • Acquaintance with the existing coding standards
  • Inquire about their app development and the release process
  • Validate their experience with API integrations
  • Request for the data security features that they will work on during development
  • Ask about the PCI-DSS certification and how they will ensure that all requirements for certifications are met when designing payment gateways
  • Inquire about the app testing process and tools that they will be using

For a comprehensive list of considerations, here’s a resource to help choose the best mobile app developer:

50-Point Checklist to Select Mobile App Developer

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Causes of Mobile App
Failure + Solutions

The mobile industry is rapidly progressing to an interminable extent. Today, the app stores are jam-packed with a myriad of mobile applications that strive to attract user attention. This sheer volume creates fierce competition for businesses who want to develop mobile apps to drive their business and can lead to increased chances of mobile app failure.

The following section mentions the causes of mobile app failure and the commonly made mistakes during the mobile app development process:

1. There is no product-market fit

The app fails to solve a real-world problem or serve the needs of the target audience.

Solution: Conduct extensive market research to identify the user needs before moving to finalize the app idea.

2. Ranks low on User Discoverability

According to App Annie, 37% of the surveyed app users found an app through a family member or a friend. The lower the emphasis on the app discoverability metrics, the lower the probability of app success.

Solution: Focus on metrics that enhance the ASO (app store optimization) of the app.

3. Too Many/Too Few Features

If the mobile app features are too many or too few, it is unlikely that the app will attract attention. Where too many are overwhelming for a user, too few can lead to low engagement rates.

Solution: Implement the MoScow rule of prioritization during requirements analysis. The business will have to segment the features based on must-haves, should-haves, can-haves, and won’t-haves in the process.

4. High Complexity

If the app has too many features or a clumsy user interface (UI), it will be directly ignored by the users.

Solution: The major area that needs to be worked on is UX/UI. When a prototype is created, run it across the team and work on the valuable feedback. The goal of the app should be to promote intuitiveness and responsiveness.

5. Slow Updates

Relying on longer app update cycles makes losing out to a competitor more likely. Fast shipping is a prominent app success metric for any business and, if they fail to deliver value over time, people will prefer uninstalling the app.

Solution: Introduce DevOps in the mobile app development process for automating CI & CD pipeline.

Learn more about mobile app development failures

1. Does the Mobile App Need a PoC?

If the business model revolves around mobile apps and the business is looking forward to experimenting with a new, disruptive technology, creating a proof of concept (PoC) is essential. A PoC is a way to validate the technical feasibility of a new idea.

Creating a PoC should be the first step in the mobile app development process because, if the app idea is not technically feasible in the first place, there is no use in spending time and other resources on building it.

2. What is the Cost to Develop a Mobile App?

According to App Annie, $73 billion USD in investments poured into mobile companies, thus showcasing a 27% growth year-over-year.

Businesses are investing massively in developing a mobile app. The approximate mobile app development cost depends on the business model, app type, framework used, technologies used, approach used, and outsourced company location.

However, a ballpark figure for mobile app development, according to a Clutch survey, reports an average cost of $171,450, with an extensive range from under $30K to over $700K.

3. What is the Use of Firebase in Mobile App Development?

Firebase is Google’s open-source mobile platform used to develop high-quality mobile applications. It falls under the “Backend-as-a-service” (BaaS) model. In this model, the mobile app developers only have to work on the frontend, while the backend processes are outsourced to a third-party BaaS vendor.

Learn more about Firebase

4. Which programming language is best for mobile app development?

The choice of programming languages for mobile development depends on the mobile app development platform (i.e., whether the app is being built for Android, iOS, or web app).

  • For iOS, the popular programming languages include Swift and Objective-C.
  • For Android, the popular programming languages include Java and Kotlin.

5. What are Indispensable Features of Mobile Apps?

Some of the must-have features for a mobile app include:

  • Social login
  • Search functionality
  • Multi-Factor Authentication
  • Targeted Push Notifications
  • Social sharing buttons

6. What are the Best App Monetization Strategies?

Some of the best strategies to convert a mobile app into a profitable business include:

  • Opt for in-app advertising
  • Offer subscriptions
  • Offer freemium app along with in-app purchases

7. What is a mobile app development IDE?

An Integrated Development Environment (IDE) is a platform that supports all the tools and resources required to build a mobile application on a single, unified platform. The top five IDE’s for mobile app development include:

  • Syncfusion Essential Studio Enterprise Edition
  • NetBeans
  • Android Studio
  • XCode
  • IntelliJ IDEA

8. What is Low Code and No-Code App Development?

Developers with minimal coding skills can develop mobile applications using graphical user interface drag-and-drop features. The best platforms for low-code or no-code app development include Appy Pie, GoodBarber, BuildFire, AppSheet, and Microsoft PowerApps.

Conclusion

According to Grandview Research, the global mobile application market size is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.5% from 2020 to 2027. This growth suggests now is the best opportunity for businesses to develop and launch a mobile app.

In this comprehensive write-up, everything about mobile app development was addressed to help businesses take advantage of this lucrative industry. No matter the industry, having a mobile app creates a competitive advantage.

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