The first question you should ask yourself is, why do you want to create a mobile app? Are you chasing a trend hoping to take advantage of someone else’s formula for success, or have you stumbled upon an idea that no one else has implemented before you? Will your solution stand out from the market? In what way? There are so many questions, and it’s essential to get them answered before you start developing your mobile app.
Mobile app development is a very complex process that requires a wide range of business and technical skills, experience, and profound research that will determine the fate of your mobile app before you even get to the coding stage. Given the millions of competing apps on Google Play, Apple App Store, and other digital distribution platforms, you must understand the importance of discovery, market research, and other pre-development processes. In addition, you must learn how to set goals and overcome challenges along the way, conceptualize and strategize an app that will occupy its market niche and meet your marketing goals.
With that said, here’s a quick, general step-by-step guide to help you get your app development project on its feet. Of course, not everyone can follow it to the smallest detail, so take from it what works best for your business goals and marketing strategy when creating your first mobile app.
Defining the Problem
Do you already have a solid idea for a mobile app? The next step is to identify the problem you want to solve with your app. Mobile apps, all successful products and services were created to solve a problem.
Some apps succeed because they solve the problem better than their competitors, and some become pioneers in a unique niche that no one before them could imagine. Either way, problem analysis plays a key role in the mobile app development process. If you fail to understand and define the problem that needs to be solved, you risk setting the wrong requirements for the project and ending up with the wrong solution that no one will use. This first and most important step, which entrepreneurs trivialize, is the reason for a large number of app development failures.
It is also important to note that our needs and problems are not constant. What may have been a serious problem yesterday may not be so important tomorrow. So when thinking about which problems to take on, you should consider the long-term viability of your solution. Digging deeper into the problem and finding the root cause can help you ensure the longevity of your solution.
Make Sure There Is a Need
The problem you identify and the solution you come up with will be the foundation of your entire mobile app development project. Now that you have that figured out, it’s time to identify the specific niche that your mobile app falls into and see if there is a demand. Finally, you need to dive into the research: identify your target audience, analyze your own business and your competitors.
Depending on the scope of the problem, your solution will affect certain groups and numbers of people with different needs and concerns that you must consider. These affected people are known as stakeholders. Identifying them is your first step in the approval process. This list should include all groups interested in the final product, from business owners, investors, and the development team to the end-users for whom your mobile solution is being built. The diversity of your target audience depends on the type of product or service you want to create, whether it’s B2C, B2B, B2B2C, etc.
Talk to your stakeholders. Your target audience can be interacted with directly and indirectly through many different channels. There is no specific system. You can:
- create a landing page highlighting your idea and collect feedback from email subscribers;
- describe your idea and conduct surveys on your business website and social networks;
- start threaded discussions on forums and platforms like Reddit;
- use keyword research tools such as Google Trends and Keyword Planner to validate the need by analyzing search volumes and forecasts for the issue.
At the same time as identifying and engaging with your stakeholders, you need to research your competitors. What are your competitors doing? Do they have their mobile apps or ongoing app development projects? If so, what solutions do they offer? Solid preliminary research will help you understand how many solutions exist in the market for a given problem, identify their strengths and weaknesses, and evaluate their effectiveness and marketing strategies. In this way, you will understand if there is a niche that your mobile app could occupy and if your idea has a competitive advantage to attract users. If not, you can refine your idea to gain a competitive advantage or change the concept and shift your mobile app development project towards higher demand and lower competition. Otherwise, you run the risk of entering an oversaturated market or unknowingly introducing the same concept to existing mobile solutions.
Shape Your Solution and Get Feedback
Now that you’ve confirmed the overall need for your idea, it’s time to shape your solution into something that your stakeholders can review and provide feedback on. While brief documentation with a product vision, diagrams and storyboards is enough to get you started on a small and simple mobile product, it never hurts to go further and make some sort of app mockup, a mobile app prototype, before you start developing an innovative or complex mobile solution.
With a clickable mobile app prototype, instead of looking at pictures and reading solution descriptions from paper, your stakeholders will be able to experience a (perhaps) slightly simplified but real user journey. They’ll see firsthand all the features provided and how your mobile app’s problem-solving process works from start to finish. Even if only basic functionality is presented, a clickable prototype helps everyone involved see and understand the scope of the mobile app development project. It also provides you with valuable insights and stakeholder feedback to help you manage user expectations more effectively.
Based on their experience with the prototype, each stakeholder group will give your project their unique perspective on your future mobile app, including their considerations and needs. This will allow you to reasonably and effectively address the issues found and gaps before actual development. It will also help you identify additional steps and barriers to solving the problem, allowing you to improve the user experience. Remember that good UX/UI design means good discoverability, especially if your mobile app takes all platform design standards well into account.
After data analysis and stakeholder feedback with all the changes and tweaks made to the design and software requirements specification, you can move on to the mobile app development process itself. Depending on your business needs, time-to-market, and the complexity of your solution, you will have to decide whether you will build a full-fledged mobile app right away or turn your clickable app prototype into an MVP first.
It’s always better and safer to start with an MVP because it gives you an extra level of validation and improvement. First, you create a version of the app that presents only the core functionality, leaving all the extras and non-essential features for later. This allows you to get meaningful metrics (such as the number of downloads, session duration/intervals, etc.) and gather more feedback on the quality of your mobile solution before you allocate more resources to the app development project. You can then turn this aggregated data into an actionable list of adjustments (if the MVP needs them) or, if your MVP was well received as is, you can confidently continue its development by implementing the remaining features that were missed in the original version.