What is mobile app development?

After hitting the $581.9 billion mark in revenue in 2020, according to Statista, the worldwide mobile applications revenue in 2021 is going to reach a new milestone – $693 billion. It is no surprise that more and more SMEs and startups turn to top apps developers to build an application that will help them reach new potential customers.

mobile app development worldwide mobile app

So what is mobile app development? It is a set of processes and activities involved in writing software for mobile devices. In other words, mobile app building embodies developing applications for a whole range of devices: tablets, smart watches, phones and any other portable device. Even web developers have to think about the mobile availability of their systems and make sure that their web pages look good on mobile devices.

The difficulties start when you try to utilize all the features modern smartphones are equipped with, such as near-field communication, GPS, Bluetooth, and cameras. These features open up new opportunities for mobile app developers, and at the same time make app development much more complicated. In this competitive market, the best app developers are forced to fit all the features into the less powerful hardware of mobile devices to make sure they have a chance against web applications.

What other difficulties might you face during the mobile app development process and how to make it more effective?

 

What should you know before the start?

Why mobile apps fail

Even though the market of mobile app development is growing larger and larger, generating tons of revenue for companies and reaching new customers, at least 80% of applications do fail. Why is it so and how to maximize your chances for success?

mobile app development

 

01

Lack of unique value proposition

Many SMEs and startups fail to come up with an original idea for launching their app and end up copying competitors. Without delivering unique value for the customers, your application is bound to get lost in myriads of similar tools. In the following sections, we are going to cover step-by-step how to develop mobile apps.
02

Bad user experience

According to the latest Intechnic survey, 80% of users abandon the application after three or less attempts if they find it problematic to use. The reasons why users have an unsatisfying experience with mobile applications are usually due to longer page loads, unintuitive navigation and feature accessibility, as well as a long registration process.
03

Failure to solve a real user problem

Some businesses fail to define a concrete user problem and thus do not offer a solution to a specific demand. If you design an app that is fully functioning and provides a great user experience but fails to solve a distinctive problem that users face, your application cannot be successful.
A well-defined user problem would look somewhat like this: “I am a young specialist who is focused on my career and work long hours. Hence, I do not have time to prepare healthy meals. I would like to eat better and healthier.”
04

No clear monetization strategy

Businesses do thorough research, define users’ problems, and build an app that best solves the problem, and yet still fail to make money off of it. This is all due to the lack of a comprehensive monetization strategy. By simply developing an app and launching it, you might attract users but you will fail to monetize. We will cover the monetization strategies in more detail in the next section.

Why build an app?

Considering the complications and the chance for failure, why should you get into mobile app development? What are the benefits of phone application development that override the negatives?

Additional sales

How can an application generate additional revenue streams for your business? First of all, customers can purchase your product or service using the app instead of going to a store. Secondly, a company can earn extra income on the side by promoting other products and generating an advertising revenue stream. Additionally, if your app is good enough, you can sell subscriptions or extra services. Finally, you can sell non-personal identifiable user data to data collectors.

Reduction of service costs

An application can act as a call center and also technical support if you integrate chats or at least provide basic information. Instead of calling your company to ask a question about your product, your customers will be able to collect some of the information right in your app. This option boosts user experience and acts as a more cost-friendly way of customer support than having an in-house team.

Reduction of marketing costs

Traditional marketing strategies are great but require a decent investment. By installing push notifications on your application, you can use them as a way to promote a new product or event.

Bonding with your customers

Using your application, users can share their thoughts via surveys and other feedback options. Mobile applications help you get closer to your customers and form a better bond with them.

Mobile app development guide

Now you understand the importance of building an application. But where do you even start? How do you draw a mobile app development project plan and choose the appropriate technology? Here is a short guide on mobile app development.

 

Mobile app strategy, goals, and monetization model

Before diving into the technical side of the question, let’s identify your mobile app development strategy, objectives, and monetization model.

There are four basic steps to building a mobile application:

 

1. Define a clear unique value proposition

UVP should be concise, clear, and easy-to-understand. What unique value will your application bring to your customers? Which problem is it going to solve?

 

2. Set the goals and performance standards

Define goals for your application that fall in line with your business decisions. For example, you might want to unlock new revenue streams or improve customer satisfaction.

On top of that, set clear performance standards and KPIs that will help you to measure the success of your application – load speed, crash reports, retention rate, and others.

mobile app development SMART

 

3. Establish user profile

Who is your target user and which of their problems are you trying to solve? What do they value in an application and what are their needs and pain points?

 

4. Define the features that will be used in the app

Using too much information and trying to solve too many problems in one solution is never a great idea. Users will get overwhelmed and confused by the complexity and navigation and features, and will abandon your tool.

 

5. Make sure the data is secure

Your mobile application will be handling and storing a lot of data, including sensitive customer information. When it comes to security, your reputation is at stake since exposing customer data might lead to very serious consequences. Decide how you will protect your company’s and users’ data.

 

6. Decide how you will use the generated data

Now the data is safe and secure, but what are you going to do with it? How will you leverage the large amounts of information to better enhance your business?

You can use the collected data to gain insights into the market, establish behavioral patterns, engage with the audience and promote new products, etc.

 

7. Choose the monetization model

Monetization is a way of translating an asset into a revenue stream. If the generated revenue does not exceed the spending, your application is not successful and will go bankrupt. On the other hand, if new clients bring in larger value than the amount of expenses you used to acquire them, your business will benefit greatly.

There is a plethora of monetization options for a mobile application:
01

Advertising

Many mobile app developers launch two options for their app: customers get an ad-free app in exchange for a fee, or they can download the app for free but see advertisements while using it. Both options will generate income.
02

Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is promotion of other businesses’ products and services in exchange for a commission. If you partner up with a brand that interests you and correlates with your products, it will be a win-win situation. For example, if you sell smartphones, you can collaborate with a company that offers customized phone cases.
03

Lead generation

Lead generation encompasses attracting potential customers via blog posts, surveys, coupons, job applications, and other online content in order to convert them into clients. Lead generation works because you can contact someone who has already shown interest in your product and is familiar with your brand, instead of making cold calls.
04

Create strong code

If you write strong reusable code, you can potentially sell for repurposing. If your code proves to be good enough, you can re-skin it and sell to other companies. This is how Imangi profited from their game Temple Run by re-skinning it and selling it to Disney.
05

Transaction fees

Some companies provide a platform that allows certain transactions, like Airbnb or Paypal. For each transaction, they collect fees and generate profit from them.
06

Freemium

You can offer your application for free and charge users for extra features. For example, if you sell a game, you can provide users with a free episode and charge them for every following one. Alternatively, the entire game can be free of charge, however, certain extra features will cost additional money.
07

Subscription

Subscription is a monetization model SaaS companies (Software as a Service) mostly choose. It allows you to attract customers and lure them into long-term app usage. They will be charged based on the features they would like to use on a monthly or yearly basis.

What is Software Requirements Specifications (SRS) and how to create it?

After defining your goals and strategies, it is time to establish the main features and tech stack for your project, and prepare a Software Requirements Specifications document (SRS document). A SRS document is something you can show to your stakeholders to quickly have them understand your application idea. It contains a comprehensive description of the goals, strategies, technologies, features, and so on. However, before creating the SRS document, you should consider drawing a mind map. What is mind mapping and how does it impact the success of your SRS document?

In short, mind mapping is a process of visual organization and representation of large amounts of various information. First, set up a brainstorming session to collect the information:

  • Identify your target audience and their main issues using surveys and interviews.
  • Answer the following questions: who will enjoy the application? What do they need it for? When will they use the solution?
  • Create user stories and build various scenarios to figure out which features will meet your users’ needs the best.
  • Based on the user stories results, prioritize the features and distinguish between functional and non-functional features.
  • Get a SRS document template, and write down the features in the corresponding sections.

Besides listing  features, determine the costs, time, and scope of each function. This way, in case you have tight deadlines, your mobile app developers will be able to prioritize the features and eliminate less important non-functional ones.

 

How to create a comprehensive SRS document?

01

Purpose, where you explain the purpose of your product;

02

Business context depends on the type of your application and involves your key business priorities;

03

Scope describes the competitive advantages, unique features, and main objectives of the product;

04

User characteristics specify your target audience and analyze their needs and expectations.

The second part is called: general system description. You will find a detailed description of each section you find in the template. In short, mention if the application is new or already existing and name its primary interfaces and structural elements. Then, go over the modes and states of the system, describe assumptions and dependencies.

The third part covers the system’s capabilities, conditions and constraints. In other words, this part revolves around a detailed description of technical requirements such as database, frontend and backend technology, integration with third-party systems, cross-platform availability, and scalability options.

Part number four goes over the system interfaces. Here is where you explain the dependencies between system components. Make sure to describe all four types of interfaces: user, hardware and software, communications.

The fifth part of the SRS document is called “Requirements traceability matrix” (RTM). It is here to make sure that every requirement will undergo testing and ensure a smooth development process. RTM is a necessity because it connects requirements to tests and guarantees that every requirement will be covered by a test case.

The remaining parts of the SRS are self-explanatory: references, glossary, revision history, and appendices.

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How to choose a platform and tech stack

Before we choose the right technology for mobile app development, we need to establish the platform. Should you build for iOS or Android or maybe both?

01

What is your target audience?

It is important because Android wins the popular vote in the UK and Germany as well as most European countries, whereas the market of the US and Japan prefers iPhones. There is also a correlation between the OS and user purchasing behavior. It turns out that iPhone users on average spend more money on their applications as they are ready to purchase them as well as to buy extra features. Unlike iOS users, Android users usually prefer to not pay fees and mostly choose free applications. However, if you want to reach both markets, you should build a cross-platform solution.
02

What features do you need?

You might think that the easiest way is to build mobile applications that run on both iOS and Android. But the number of features that can be implemented cross-platform are limited. Consider your functional features and choose a platform that allows you to add them to your application. It is also important to remember that native applications usually run smoother and show better performance.
03

Which devices would you like to support?

Keep in mind that Android supports nearly 100 devices whereas iOS with its phones and tablets - only 9. Your mobile app development strategy should consider this factor when choosing the platform to build. Another viable factor is the market share: iOS holds 26% whereas Android - 72%.
04

Level of moderation

The Apple store entry barrier is much stricter than Google Play. iOS apps have a list of guidelines they need to comply with in order to be accepted into the Apple store. The quality and performance of the application needs to be quite high, otherwise it will be rejected. On the other hand, Android guidelines are just suggestions, and a lot of Android apps fail to perform at a good level.

Depending on the platform of your choice, now you can start thinking about the right tech stack for your mobile app development.

mobile app development

Native mobile app development pros and cons

Pros Cons
Stable performance More expensive than cross-platform
Long app lifetime Time-consuming
More scalability and flexibility of applications More updates are required
Fully compliant with the platform

Android mobile app development:

01

Java and Kotlin

The most common app development languages for Android development are Kotlin and Java. Even though Kotlin has been proclaimed the official language for mobile app development, many Android app companies still go for reputable Java technology.
02

Android Studio & Android Developer Tools (ADT)

Android Studio is the official development environment provided by Google. It makes mobile app developers’ lives easier by offering features like debugging and code editing, as well as a build/deploy system, and helps you to create unique and top notch applications.ADT is a plugin for Eclipse IDE that offers you support in coding and debugging. It also allows you to use a graphical UI builder and test automation support.
03

Android Software Development Kit (SDK)

SDK is a set of tools and libraries for Android mobile app development. Developers must download a new version of the kit every time Google releases an update.
Java Kotlin
Easy to learn Smart extension functions to build APIs
Large open-source ecosystem Solves Java’s nullability problem
Apps are lighter Low-cost adoption
Faster development process than Kotlin Concise and allows for fewer errors

iOS mobile app development

01

Objective-C or Swift

There are two main languages for iOS mobile app programming: Objective-C or Swift. More and more top mobile app development companies prefer Swift due to its better functionality and dynamic libraries that increase the performance.
02

Apple Xcode

Apple Xcode is a development environment for MacOS commonly used to build mobile applications for iOS. It offers you support with Git repositories, graphical editors, and debugging tools.
03

iOS Software Development Kit (SDK)

The iPhone SDK offers APIs that connect software applications with the platform, provides tools for the touchscreen interface, improves your UX design and supports beta-testing.
Objective-C Swift
Flexible coding environment with Dynamic Tapping Allows for error-free coding and fewer bugs
Compatibility with C++ and C codes High performance and fast speed
Has been tested and tried for many years Automatic Reference Counting automatically track memory usage

Cross-platform mobile app development

Pros Cons
Fewer developers required for the building Lower performance
Less expensive Release of new features take longer
Development process is shorter Harder code design
Reusable code
01

React Native & JavaScript/TypeScript

The most popular language for cross-platform app development is JavaScript. Paired up with one of the most prominent mobile app development frameworks, React Native, you can develop mobile apps that feel and interact like native on Android and iOS.

React Native has revolutionized cross-platform mobile app development by enabling you to use the same UI building blocks as native apps. Alternatively, you can use TypeScript to build mobile applications. It offers a quick error detection feature and provides a higher level of security.

02

Flutter

Flutter is a framework that allows you to develop applications for both iOS and Android using the same source code. You can build native-like apps with the combination of the Dart language and Flutter.

Since Flutter is a mobile only cross-platform framework, you can focus on exclusively mobile features without keeping web functions in mind. Flutter is known for its fast development and native-like applications.

 

How to choose the right tech partner for mobile app development

If your in-house team lacks some knowledge and skills for iOS or Android mobile app development, consider collaborating with a technical partner. But how do you choose an appropriate mobile apps company that will understand your needs? How can one get an app development company to fully understand their experience and readily bring you the best results?

First of all, start with yourself and make sure you know what you need. Define the goals of the application and your expectations. On top of that, choose the platform you will be building for and create a list of requirements.

Next, prepare a set of questions to recognize the company’s fitness for your business culture and also their level of experience.

01

Tell us about your experience in building similar applications

02

Describe your development process and what will be needed from our side

03

Which best practices do you apply when building an app?

04

Do you offer ongoing maintenance and support after the launch?

05

Do you provide comprehensive documentation about the application?

06

Which testing methods do you normally use?

07

What will our communication look like during the development process and after the launch?

Finally, do thorough research and gather the information about the mobile app development agency:

  • Visit their webpage and read about their cases. Later, download the applications they have developed and try them out. If it’s not possible, collect user feedback from App Store or Google Play, and other sources.
  • Additionally, check their experience with converting application users into revenue. Does your custom app development company understand the business purposes behind the application? App creation companies should be familiar with common monetization strategies and be willing and able to consider them during the development process.
  • Check their portfolio to see what kind of business they are interested in. If an iOS or Android app agency has never worked with your type of business, they might not understand the intricacies of your industry.
  • Next, inquire about the app making companies’ development practices: check their documented process description, ask what technologies they use, including frameworks, and make sure they are compliant with coding standards.

Mobile app development process

Let’s break down the lengthy process of mobile app development into 7 main steps. How to create a mobile app?
01

Research

The very first step in coming up with an idea for your application and then refining it into a more concrete concept. This stage involves market analysis, demographics research, pinning down behavior patterns, and the end users’ gains.
02

Wireframing

Wireframing is a blueprint of the application that will help you understand how it will look and feel as well as how it will combine all the functionalities.
03

Prototyping

The main point here is to create a rapid prototype without wasting too much energy and resources. It is a rough version of your future application that will help you collect the first essential user feedback and assess the idea’s feasibility.
04

UX/UI design

Many top mobile app development companies choose to build using agile methodology that breaks the process into smaller and easier stages of app development. They are called sprints and involve planning, designing, developing, testing, releasing, and collecting feedback.
05

Develop

Many top mobile app development companies choose to build using agile methodology that breaks the process into smaller and easier stages of app development. They are called sprints and involve planning, designing, developing, testing, releasing, and collecting feedback.
06

Testing

The further down in the process you detect a bug, the more expensive it is to fix it. Make sure to start testing as early as possible to avoid unnecessary costs and delays. The most common tests cases are usability, security, stress, compatibility, and performance.
07

Deployment

This is a final stage, however, your work does not end here. After the official release, you must collect feedback and implement new features or remove some functionalities according to the feedback of users.

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PoC, Prototype or MVP?

We have talked about prototyping earlier, but what about MVP or Proof of Concept? What is the difference between them and what benefits do they bring?

 

mobile-app-development-PoC-Prototype-MVP

First of all, it is important to mention that PoC, prototype and MVP are not the same thing. They are different methods of testing your idea and are created for different purposes.

 

Proof of Concept

PoC checks whether the application can be built. Developers test technical assumptions to see whether the application with these particular functionalities and features can be created. If you can’t decide if your project requires a PoC, here are three main clues that will help you make the right decision:

01

A high-risk feature

If you are implementing a high-risk feature that you have never had before and you are uncertain about its technical functionality, a PoC will help you assess its feasibility.
02

New type of product

If you are creating a product that has never been released before, you absolutely must do the PoC. It is vital to test all novel functionalities of the application to assess their potential in the real world.
03

Implementation of new technologies

The technologies like AI, AR and IoT are relatively new to the market. If you base your core feature on these technologies, you should strongly consider testing them first.

Prototype

Prototype shows how the application or feature can be built. Being sort of a draft of the future application, a prototype allows you to feel the product and visualize it. It is a quick and affordable way to test the product and gain first valuable feedback.

As a way of prototyping, you can simply draft a paper prototype or draw one on a whiteboard. Another method is a low-fidelity interactive prototype whereby you apply the paper version and build a wireframe. For this, you can use a prototyping tool to focus on design, colors, and images. Finally, you can proceed with a high-fidelity prototype that implies building the full UI and assessing it using a testable interface. This the closest you can get to the real thing with prototyping.

 

MVP

MVP or minimum viable product is the small version of the end product that incorporates the most essential features. MVP is a basic type of a product that will help you evaluate user experience and its ability to meet your business goals.

As a part of MVP strategy, you will generate assumptions together with your team, and then test them. You can look for inspiration in your competitors’ applications, but keep in mind that you will have to do better than them.

Building an MVP becomes significantly more important when you are building a different UI. On top of that, MVP is a vital part of agile methodology where you release a new product after every iteration thus shortening time-to-market.

PoC Prototype MVP
User-orientation No Yes Yes
Technical orientation Yes No Yes
Facilitates the investment Partially Partially Yes
Business value Testing the core features User feedback Real market feedback
Cost Medium Low High

How much does it cost to develop a custom mobile app?

There is no right answer here as it depends on a multitude of various factors. The size of the application, how well you plan it, the number of bugs you will need to fix, the duration of the project, etc., – all of these aspects will impact the overall cost of mobile application development.

mobile app development

How high is the app development cost? Let’s take a closer look at the costs of developing famous applications:

 

WhatsApp

WhatsApp’s basic features include registration, contacts, notifications, chats, geolocation, and video calling. All of the above collectively take up roughly 800 to 900 hours to develop. Remaining duties like UX/UI design, project management and quality assurance will take another 400 to 500 hours. As a result, the application will be built in 1,200 to 1,400 hours. The cost of an hour depends on the county: in the US the rate is roughly $120, in the UK – $60, in Ukraine – $35 to $45. Thus, app design and development in the US will cost you somewhat between $144,000 and $168,000 and in Ukraine only from $42,000 to $63,000.

 

Uber

What if you want to make an Uber-like application? The client-side functions here are registration, booking, payments, card information, tracking, notifications, and ride history. This part application will take about 500 hours to complete. Additionally, count the driver-side features like reply to request and booking history – 300 hours – and admin dashboard together with UX/UI design – 250 hours. Collectively, the Uber-like app takes 1,050 hours to build and will cost $126,000 in the US and $36,750 to $47,250 in Ukraine.

How to make custom app development effective?

Outsourcing

We have already made the cost comparison above. This large discrepancy is the reason for the trend for outsourcing work to Eastern Europe and Asia. The cost of living in those countries is much lower which makes their rates more affordable. Besides saving you money, outsourcing also gives you access to a larger pool of talent. Finally, you can simply delegate the entire mobile application development process to an iOS and Android app development agency and concentrate on your business goals.

 

MVP

Proof of Concept, prototyping, and, most importantly, MVP are the key to your success. MVP makes the app designing process significantly more effective by reducing the anxiety of under developing. Top app developers will not get distracted by excess features and only concentrate on the functional ones to launch an MVP. On top of that, by releasing small products each cycle, you have a higher chance of detecting bugs and fixing them immediately.

In other words, without testing the technical feasibility of your ideas, getting first user feedback, and learning from your mistakes, you have no chance in this competitive market.

What's next?

After you release the application, your work is not done. First of all, keep track of major input metrics like funnel analytics, social sharing, user behavior, user demographics, and others. All this data will help you evaluate the success of your application and adjust it to meet users’ needs.

Secondly, the mobile application market is incredibly competitive which is why the need for innovation is very important. You need to come up with new features and functionalities, test and implement them, as well as collect user feedback. This is a continuous process due to market saturation and changing platform guidelines.

Finally, market your application to reach your target audience and achieve the business goals. If you don’t promote your product, it will inevitably get lost in the ocean of applications on the market.

DOIT Software is a mobile app development company with years of experience in iOS and Android phone application development. Having supported many businesses with enterprise mobile app development, we have first-hand knowledge of the best technologies that will help with your business goals. We will walk you through the discovery phase and build a new application from scratch or update the existing one. Since we also offer staff augmentation, we have the best mobile app developers on our staff who can solve any technical issues. If you are looking to extend your team for a duration of the project, we can offer you our mobile app developers for hire to fill in the necessary skill gaps. Contact our team of top-notch specialists and launch the first small product – MVP – in less than 2-3 months.

Frequently Asked Questions

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What are the benefits of a custom mobile app?

Easier maintenance and upgrades, security of business information, smoother integration with third-party applications, generation of additional revenue streams.

What is the best cross platform mobile development?

For cross-platform development, we use React Native, Flutter.

How to manage a mobile app development?

Don’t skip the discovery phase and build PoC, prototypes and/or MVPs. Also, do not underestimate the role of the project manager, who will take care of cost, duration and scope estimation, tech staffing, quality assurance, and delivery.

How much does it cost to build an app?

Depending on the complexity of the application, it may vary from $20,000 to $50,000.

Vitaly DOIT Software
VITALY MAKHOV,
CEO @ DOIT SOFTWARE
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