Understanding the critical app development process steps can seem like a daunting task. As an app development company, we always tell people to look for a strategic product development partner. Few things can impede the success of a mobile app, like a company that is not the right fit for your project from a technical and cultural perspective.
Developing web apps or any custom software isn’t only about the idea or the technical knowledge of backend development and the mobile app design process. Other elements like the right culture, defining the business model, knowing how to organize an app launch, designing the User Interface, and choosing the right marketing strategy also affect how your app performs. The ideal mobile app development partner will look at their partners’ business holistically.
A quality product development team should perform an in-depth business analysis before the software development process begins. The business analysis is critical to idea generation, product concept development, concept testing, and test marketing. Without the initial feedback from a product idea and technical feasibility viewpoint, it will be difficult to build a product that meets customer needs and business objectives.
There are various ways to approach the different stages of the app development process. Sometimes it is useful to go for a general and conceptual approach. On other occasions, an operational focus is a more convenient approach to the product development process. When beginning a new product development process, you must choose the best approach for your business and its potential customers.
Whatever development cycle path you choose will surely be an extremely rewarding software development process if done correctly. Most importantly, it will surely lead you to build a successful app if you consider the small details.
This post discusses the operational steps involved in the hands-on mobile product development process to build a successful app without going too deep into the technical perspective. This information will help your business in the app development phase of its product life cycle.
If your mobile application development partner has the right experience, they should follow these stages of software development.
The Steps In the Mobile Application Development Process
Laying out the steps of the product development process can be difficult because it often doesn’t follow a linear path. Instead, it is an ongoing process where app developers constantly participate in a rigorous review process before the final product launch.
For a mobile app, it is sometimes necessary to go back and forth multiple times between product development stages until you get it right. The end goal is to delight your organization’s target market. Modern app users have high expectations, and it is important to try and meet or exceed them.
It may even occur that the new product development process will require your project team to go back further and analyze market strategy and tweak the product concept. Having to do so is normal for a mobile app, whether for Android apps or iOS apps. Not surprisingly, all mobile apps are demanding digital products that go through many iterative stages before a final product is produced.
When developing world-class apps, you should consider two great pillars of creating products, Agile Development and Design Thinking:
- Design Thinking is an ideation and testing process where the team knows it does not have all the answers. It requires multiple iterations of concept development and testing through the different development steps until you have something that works. This last is known as a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
- Agile Development is an iterative project management methodology that allows mobile app teams to work faster and more efficiently, optimizing resources as they go along. Through it, the product development process becomes an essential part of guaranteeing your app’s long-term success.
The overall process of building a mobile app encompasses more than just the development stage. The complete product life cycle contains the following steps: discover, design, develop, and deploy. However, most project management professionals agree that support and maintenance should also be included in the product life cycle.
Product managers understand you can’t have a successful product without ongoing support and maintenance. Therefore, ensure that you account for maintenance and support in your product roadmap if you want to create a final product that will stand the test of time.
Strictly speaking, the actual product development process refers to the following steps of the app development life cycle:
- Understand the requirements
- Design an initial solution,
- Implement and test the solution,
- Refactor to optimize
- Deliver a solution.
We have included an illustration of a typical mobile app development cycle below. Of course, the more closely your project follows these app development stages, the better the results you can expect.
1. Understand the Requirements
What is it that your mobile app plans to do? How will it do it? How will your target customers use it? Which operating systems will it run on? What is your app development budget? These are some questions you might want to ask yourself during the initial app development phase.
They may seem like basic issues, but you will avoid costly rework further ahead in the process if you can get them right and define core functionality before development. For example, hybrid app development differs from native app development in terms of cost, approach, and result.
Additionally, answering these questions may also help you see the big picture of how your mobile app fits within your business model and strategy. Our expectations often hit a wall when the app development process starts, so it is best to be realistic about the scope. You don’t need a fully developed product concept before development begins. However, a certain amount of product definition aids iterative development and gives your product manager and development team a place to start.
When building mobile apps, these matters must be made clear to the project manager for communication purposes. If your app development team is not in tune with your project, it will most likely flop. Make sure that everyone understands the basics of your app concept, and you will be on the right track. Fail to do it, and you will eventually derail.
Clear and concise mobile application requirements may help revise your pricing assumptions. However, developing an entirely new idea is often not a cheap service. The more work you need to do to narrow down product concepts and fix errors in development, the longer it will take development teams to deliver working software, and the more expensive your costs will be.
2. Design an Initial Solution (Hypothesis)
The best way to get mobile applications right is to go ahead and start building them. Only by doing so will your product be able to evolve into exactly what you want. Otherwise, you’re just going around in circles around ideas, which leads nowhere in terms of execution.
A prototype is based on your initial hypothesis. It should sum up your assumptions and allow you to test them. This helps you refine your product as you iterate from what does not work to what does. For this, the app design process plays an important role. Ideally, an app’s design should start with basic wireframes and evolve from there.
An app’s visual design plays a major role in this and the following step, as it will help you validate or discard your user assumptions. You can think of this as the mobile app front-end design. Therefore, keeping your app design team involved is crucial to building a successful mobile application.
Use state-of-the-art mobile app design tools to make the most out of your app prototyping phase. Each mobile platform has unique design tools and environments to help you create the best possible UI/UX. Without a world-class User Interface and User Experience, it doesn’t matter how good your product market fit is, your software’s value proposition, etc.
It is easy to overlook the importance of design when your company has its hands full with idea validation, competitive analysis, marketing efforts, and juggling financial resources. However, attracting customers with subpar UI/UX will be nearly impossible.
Conversely, a great product design and distribution strategy can help your software displace an existing product in the market. Mobile users are always looking for the best User Experiences. Make sure that your product delivers one.
3. Implement and Test the Solution
Once you’ve got something you can test, it is time to move to the next step to ensure it is user-friendly. Beta testing does not require you to have a completed mobile app version; you can start testing with a Minimum Viable Product. In other words, it is unnecessary to have all the features of your mobile application ready before starting user acceptance testing. Once you have the core functionality of your product working, begin testing it with real-world users. A good thing about Agile Development is that it allows you to test mobile app features separately.
App testing can save you a lot of rework, as it can help you see how your app will look on different mobile devices and platforms. Additionally, it can help you deploy your product in the app store faster, whether for the Google Play Store, Apple App Store, or both. These stores have different guidelines, but they both demand considerable quality. Generally, testing is crucial to an app’s success beyond deploying to the app stores.
It is best to have a QA team perform the necessary QA testing tasks for mobile app development. Whether for Android or iOS development, consider usability testing and functional testing before market launch.
The first will help you guarantee your app’s usability. Functional testing will help assure your mobile app’s functionality. Testing your app’s functionality is extremely important if you want to have a functional app. Users that experience an app full of bugs and other errors will be quick to abandon your product, damaging your brand’s reputation. Fixing your brand’s image after it has been damaged is difficult and costly.
You might also want to consider performance testing to ensure your app’s performance is adequate. Field testing with end-users produces valuable feedback for new apps. You should always make sure to receive user feedback. User data is an important input that will help you make important decisions and improve your app’s features. If something does not work, you need to pivot in another direction. This applies to both backend development and design.
If you can gather user feedback, it can be a valuable tool that can help shape the future of your product and simplify the iterative development process. Listen to your target market, and develop solutions that will please them. You might be surprised at the great product ideas generated from user feedback.
4. Refactor to Optimize
Refactoring code means optimizing or making it more efficient and simple. This needs to be organized with the right documentation. This will save you from many headaches in the future. Some refactoring changes might seem simple, but they can make a considerable difference when integrated into your app.
You can also think of optimizing in terms of design. This is done by making sure your app delivers the best UX. Again, it is recommended that you perform A/B tests to accomplish this. A/B testing will give your product development team valuable data about which design choices perform best with real-world users.
Optimizing is something that never ends, even when your app is deployed. Something can always be done better, especially as new features and updates arise. Remember, there are always advancements in technology and design. Therefore, you must keep your app optimized to continue meeting your users’ expectations. As new technologies are developed, new devices are released, and new apps are created, user expectations for your app will evolve too.
5. Deliver the Solution
We’d love to tell you that app deployment is the last step, but it is probably the end of the first of many iterations of the mobile app development lifecycle. This is a good thing, as you want to ensure that your product is good enough before it hits the app market. However, not doing so might generate a negative reaction on behalf of users.
Sometimes the solution needs some tweaks before being deployed. Even after reaching the market, it may even occur that there are still things to be done. This is alright if you have delivered a robust Minimum Viable Product (MVP). The important thing is that the development team makes sure to deliver continuous improvements and app updates.
A solution is not the same as a finished product. As we mentioned in the previous point, a product is never finished. Here, the development cycle begins anew. After all, there are always some app security, maintenance, and support services to be done.
The beauty of Agile and Design Thinking applied to mobile development is that they allow you to improve constantly. This is the only way to deliver the best possible product to your users.
The Right Mobile App Development Partner
As previously mentioned, the product development process is more than just having the right technical expertise or the best app idea. Developing mobile apps requires reviewing the decisions made and ensuring they are the right ones. For app owners, it is, above all, an iterative process.
At Koombea, we prefer to think of mobile app development as similar to crafting a work of art. It takes special insight to make the right mobile app development choices. Our custom Agile Methodology and years of Design Thinking experience have taught us the value of iterations for the ongoing development of your mobile app.
Having the right mobile app development partner is essential. They can help you understand the ins and outs of the app development process from initial launch through post-production support. Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of the app development process steps and what your organization should consider at every stage of development, from the first stage through the launch phase to ongoing support and maintenance.