You are an entrepreneur and you are ready to change the world for the better, ease our lives and solve a problem with a new, ingenious mobile app idea. But where do you start, and how do you make sure that your mobile application will rock the market?
If you are in this situation, don’t worry. Every business owner who planned an app has been in your shoes, and every decision-maker after you will too. Like with everything else, the devil is in the details as the old saying goes, so what you need is a strong plan of action.
In this article, we will show you the 7 most important steps on how to plan and build an app, and give your future mobile app the best chances to succeed and change the world – just like you planned it. Ready?
1. Do a thorough market research
So, you have an idea that you think will change the world. The entrepreneur in you tingles with excitement and expectation of how you will build an app that will ease our lives. But is that a realistic thought or is it simply your desire to make the world better?
The only way to find out is by conducting thorough market research, and you start by googling stuff. Yeah, Google knows best. If you want to get technical about it, your journey starts with keyword research, with a focus on Search Intent, or simply what the market is actually looking for.
What this will also show you is who are your competitors, what are they doing, what problems are they solving and how can you differentiate yourself from them?
Let’s say that you have looked into home workout apps, and found there are hundreds of them, even a few quite close to you. But, you also found an issue that your competitors didn’t tackle and you plan to solve with your app.
Through simple keyword research you will find:
- Are there others searching for the same thing as you – use keywords related to your topic like workout app, home workout app, and see what results you get.
- Are they just looking for an app, or are they looking for a solution – f. ex. do users search for “best workout app” or do they search for “workout app ads-free”?
- What is the most common problem users are discussing in forums, review platforms, social platforms, etc?
Once you’ve collected all of this information you should be able not only to validate your app idea, but also have a better understanding of what the market needs, who are the users you are targeting with your solution, and hopefully, you will be able to build an app that solves their problem(s).
Next up, draw the plan.
2. Start with a wireframe
Whether you’re bringing an absolutely unique idea to the table, you are planning to build the next Spotify, Uber, or even Facebook, or you are simply looking to build a small app that solves an issue with existing tools that you know people had, your first step is to build a wireframe for it.
A wireframe is a simple sketch outlining your idea and it can be done using tools like AdobeXD or by simply using pen and paper or a whiteboard.
Regardless, there are some key points you should keep in minds:
- What is the end goal for your app – what does it solve, what is its main purpose or main functionality?
- How does it get from step 1 to the final step?
- What are your “must-have” and your “nice-to-have” features?
Think of these pointers as a road map to build an app – you start with the destination in mind, then you plan your journey. And it is highly recommended you make at least two plans and wireframes, then test each iteration with different focus groups.
This is called A/B testing, and depending on how you conduct your tests you might find that one version is better than the other altogether. But you might also find that only some features in version A perform better, while others from version B got more traction.
The important task here is to define those features or that version that is most popular, and that your users see as actually needed.
You might feel tempted to include some features that were popular but not needed in your final plan. So, before you do that, consider point 3 in our list above – is this feature a must-have or is it a nice-to-have.
If you are uncertain, one way to know if it’s a must-have is to consider how the rest of your testers felt about it. If they didn’t miss this specific feature, it means that it most probably is a nice-to-have and is not really that crucial to your MVP.
3. Build a high-level prototype
Unless you yourself have experience with design, this is the point where you might want to bring in a UX expert or someone who has experience with prototyping and design, because this next step is to transform your wireframe into a colorful version of your future app.
There are a plethora of tools out there that can help you create your mockups and designs, but if you are looking for an All-in-One tool, we highly recommend Adobe XD. This tool is one of our favorites as it is easy to learn, use and it comes with a free version.
But more importantly, it makes designing and prototyping a breeze, and you can share your project with your stakeholders, your developers, your users, and more.
Regardless of the tool you use, the goal of this step is to create a visual version of your future app. Developers are wizards with code, but they cannot build an app for you without a graphic interpretation of your idea. Also, prototypes show them the exact flow so they know what happens whenever a user interacts with an element.
Once again, you can create different iterations of your designs and conduct an A/B test for the prototype as well, just like you did with the wireframes. This way you can find the best version of your future interface – colors, layout, shapes, logos, etc – that works best for your users.
Now you are ready to start building your app.
4. Build an app for iOS and Android
You now have a plan – you know what your users needs, you know how your app should look like and how it should work. It’s time to make it real. In some of our previous articles, we discussed how you can find the best web development agency for your needs and also put together a few questions to ask when interviewing a development house.
So, if you haven’t found an agency yet, now is the time. But, if you have your developers ready, then it’s time to start work on your app. And there are two important questions here:
- Should you go native or should you go hybrid?
- Should you build for one platform or more?
Starting with question one, native applications are built using technologies our phones use, such as Java and Swift. The advantage of building a native app is that it will always work better than a hybrid, simply because the technology is 100% compatible. The downside is that native development costs a lot more and takes twice the effort to build for both iOS and Android.
In the past, hybrid technology was seen as lesser, simply because it didn’t feel right – it didn’t feel native. But today, that is not the case.
With today’s technology, hybrid apps feel almost native. And they are faster and more affordable to develop, there are a plethora of amazing developers available, so human resources are not a problem, and they are almost twice as easier to maintain in the long run.
In other words, if you are planning to start with a simple MVP that you don’t want to spend a fortune on and you want on the market as quickly as possible, your only option is to go hybrid and build on top later.
As for question two, it is almost always recommended to go with both iOS and Android, unless you find yourself in a very, very specific niche. For example, if you are building the home workout app we were talking about earlier, you want to target both iOS and Android users, not just one.
Moreover, if you are going hybrid, then having your app built for both platforms is not a problem. Unlike with native development, when using hybrid technologies you only build one codebase and then adjust it for each platform. Easy!
5. Invest in Quality Assurance and Maintenance
Quality assurance, or QA for short is an ongoing process that starts the moment you created your first wireframe and ends only when your app is no longer available on the market. It is a process that requires time and money, but it is an investment that will ensure your app keeps with the high standards you set and your users are looking for.
You can be a part of the QA process yourself, but keep in mind that Quality Assurance involves every aspect of your future app – user flow and user experience, design, accessibility and responsiveness, code quality, documentation, etc.
So it is recommended you onboard a few experts that will take care of the technical side during the development phase, and after launching your app, you can either hire a QA expert to maintain your app or do periodical QA tests yourself.
Whichever you choose, also remember that technology changes fast, and just because you build an app and publish it on the stores, it doesn’t mean it will magically stay there and work well forever. Mobile apps especially need extra care – code updates, re-iterations, technology updates, and so on.
An app left unattended risks becoming depreciated and stop working altogether. Simply put, with each iOS and Android update, their demands, and expectations for your app will change, and if the technology used for your app is not supported by the new iOS and Android versions, your app will stop working on new devices or be removed from the store altogether.
6. Publish your app on App Store and Google Play
Speaking of App Store and Google Play, now that you have your app ready to go live – or be published – and you have your QA and maintenance plans, it is time to actually launch it on the market.
Note that, most development agencies consider this process outside of their responsibilities, and will expect you to do the actual listing. So before you actually build an app with the agency, discuss this task and decide who is actually in charge of publishing the app on the stores.
This way, if you take on the task you have plenty of time to read the documentation and learn how to do it, and if you decide the development house should take care of it, you avoid the surprise of extra costs.
Regardless, it is important to know that the process of publishing your app in each store is different, and every single platform has its own requirements. Google for example is a bit more lenient and it is a lot easier and faster to publish your app on Google Play.
In contrast, iOS testers are much harsher and will reject your app the second they find an issue with it. So it is highly recommended to read their guidelines carefully and follow them to a T if you ever hope to publish an app on App Store. Also, make sure that you don’t get rejected for the same reason twice, as an iOS tester can ban your app from being published on the store.
If you are rejected twice for the same reason, you will want to consider reaching out to their support center and get official advice on what your next steps are.
7. Create awareness and build a brand
In our experience, we have seen this happening more times than we’d like – brilliant entrepreneurs come to us with incredible ideas. We build an app together, they launch it, and then nothing happens… the app doesn’t get any downloads and any traction.
The reason why this happens is that your market doesn’t know about your app simply because you published an app on the App Store and Google Play. Like any product in this world, your app needs marketing.
For this, you should consider:
- Building a landing page or website;
- Create a marketing strategy;
- Start a blog.
If you already have a website, you want to create a landing page dedicated to your new app. Then share this link with everyone and anyone. But be careful, you want your marketing efforts to actually have an impact and not go to waste. So, build a strategy.
Your marketing plan doesn’t have to involve paid ads unless you can afford it and are sure that it will benefit you. So, if you can’t afford a paid campaign, you will have to do the legwork yourself. Find out where your users are most active – social platforms, forums, online communities.
The final step – create content that will show your users you are here to help them solve a problem, and you are not just another businessman going after their money.
Do a thorough competitors’ analysis and see what your closest competitors are writing about, are they making videos or interactive content? Where and how are they publishing their content? Another important aspect here is their approach or how they talk to their community, what tone are they using, what kind of language?
Here too is recommended you hire a content creator with experience in writing and maybe even making simple videos like demos. But if you can’t afford it, there are ways around it. You could take an online course on content writing and SEO, and there are tools like Lumen5 for videos that you can use.
The important thing to keep in mind is to be as active as you can on all platforms your users visit – engage them in conversation, interact with them and show them you care.
If you want to build an app for your business, don’t let it go to waste. Yes, it takes time, research, and a lot of work, but at the end of the day remember your goal is to make life easier and change the world for the better – and all that work and frustration will be worth it once you see the appreciation from your future community.
More importantly, take it one step at a time. Rome was not built in a day and neither will your app be. Create a few wireframes and listen to your users’ feedback, it is the only way you will give them what they need.
Then, find a development agency you trust, ask for advice as they have more experience than you, and keep an open mind. And finally, talk about your app as much as you possibly can and create awareness. Soon enough, if you provide a qualitative solution to your market, they too will start talking about your app, and from there on, the only way is up.
Need more assistance? Remember, if you ever need a second opinion or are looking for more advice, our team of experts is always here for you. Whenever you need our help, simply book a free meeting with us and we will help you build an app that will exceed your wildest expectations.