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App Development
26 minutes read

How To Create an App: The Ultimate Guide for 2023

By Robert Kazmi
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By Robert Kazmi
App Development
26 minutes read
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If your business wants to know how to create an app, you’re likely wondering what technical skills, technologies, and platforms are the most important to learn. While technical skills and good technology choices play a critical role in developing world-class mobile apps, there are several other important tasks and considerations that play an essential role in creating a successful app. 

Mobile app development requires more than just technical skills. To create an app that meets users’ expectations provides a valuable service, and outpaces your competitors, you need a clearly defined strategy and app development approach in addition to the technical skills and breadth of knowledge that an app development company can provide. 

If your business wants to know how to create an app, this post will help you. However, this post will not teach you the technical skills required to create an app. Learning the ins and outs of app development requires hands-on experience and specialized training, which can take years to master. 

However, while we won’t teach you the technical side of application development, we will explain how your business can take an initial app idea and create a mobile app that pleases users and achieves your business goals. Let’s explore some of the vital tasks and considerations your business needs to make to create an app. 

How To Create an App: The Vital Tasks and Considerations 

Building a successful app begins long before a single line of code is written. In fact, without a solid foundation to inform the direction of your company’s app development project, it doesn’t matter how good your code is; it will be difficult to fully realize your app idea.

Ensure that your business fully considers the following to create your own app that will be successful:

  • Define your app idea
  • Understand your target audience
  • Define key functions and popular app features
  • Research your competitors 
  • Choose an app development approach
  • Invest in security and maintenance 
  • Don’t forget about ASO

Define Your App Idea 

Great mobile apps take time to build. As a result, your initial app idea will likely undergo iterations and changes before a final product is developed. Therefore, the first step your company needs to take is clearly defining an app idea.

These questions can help you define your mobile app:

  • Why do you want to create your own mobile app?
  • What purpose will it serve?
  • How does this purpose align with the broader objectives of the company?

Every mobile app serves a purpose. However, there are several different reasons why your company might want to create an app. Therefore, we won’t explore every possible motivation for developing a mobile app. Still, to be successful, your mobile app should satisfy two things: the needs of your consumer and the objectives of your business. 

App development costs are not cheap. However, your company can control expenses by clearly defining the purpose of the app and the objectives of the business. Without a clearly defined app idea, your company won’t optimize the utilization of its resources, and, as a result, the company will spend more money.  

Understand Your Target Audience 

Besides clearly defining your app’s purpose, understanding and defining your company’s app marketing plan is vital to the success of its application. Are you developing a mobile app for internal or external users? How does your app benefit its users? If you struggle to define how your mobile app will benefit users, users will struggle to see how it benefits them. Mobile apps that provide no value or benefit to users are quickly abandoned. 

To ensure that your mobile app provides value to users, you need to understand your audience. Typically for businesses, the ideal audience would be their existing or prospective customers. By conducting audience research and analysis, you can get an accurate picture of what your target audience wants, needs, and common problems they are looking to solve.

Failing to accurately identify your target audience can result in your company building an app that users don’t use. Don’t waste valuable app creation resources without doing audience research. 

Define Key Functions and Features 

Once you have a clear understanding of your app’s purpose and target audience, the next step is to define the key functions and features necessary to include. Create a list of all essential functions and features for your app idea to work as expected. Some businesses use their key functions and features list to create an MVP (Minimum Viable Product). 

A Minimum Viable Product is essentially a pared-down version of the software that only includes the essential features and functions. Many companies, especially startups, choose to develop MVPs to validate their app idea and ensure the features and functions they deem critical are. An MVP also aids in the target audience and market research. 

At first, your company should only focus on features and functions that add value to the app. Then, as the application matures, your company can add features and functions based on user feedback. 

Prioritizing essential functionality first is the best approach to the app-building journey. For one, your company will save financial resources by only developing critical features. Plus, focusing on essential elements ensures that your mobile app provides a rich User Experience. 

Understand Your Competitors 

Understand Competition

Competitor research is an essential and valuable part of the mobile development process. Competitor analysis can provide critical insights that will significantly benefit your mobile application development project. Analyzing the mobile app offerings of your competitors helps your business:

  • Define its target audience.
  • Validate essential features and functions of the app. 
  • Understand market demand for its app idea. 
  • Monetize aspects of its mobile app. 
  • Avoid common mistakes made by other businesses. 

Competitor analysis helps your company identify service gaps and fill them. If you want your mobile app to succeed, your app needs to offer users value. The easiest way to create value for users is to provide them with something they currently don’t have. If you don’t take the time to understand your competitors, you won’t be able to accurately gauge the current market or forecast demand for your app idea. 

Choose An App Development Approach 

You shouldn’t begin to consider the approach your company will take to mobile application development until you have thoroughly researched the current market, your target audience, and the competition. There are two broad approaches to mobile app development: native and cross-platform

Based on your user research and competitor analysis, it might be clear that your best option is cross-platform development. On the other hand, your research might indicate that most of your audience is on iPhone, which would mean that native iOS development is your company’s best option. 

Native mobile app development is app development geared towards a specific platform. Native apps can fully utilize a particular device’s hardware and functionality. For example, a native Android app can fully use an Android device’s GPS, camera, and other platform-specific features. For this reason, native apps outperform all other types of mobile apps. Native apps present the best possible User Interface and the highest performance levels. 

However, native app development can be costly because you have to develop a separate app for iOS and Android. Does your business have the time or financial resources to build two applications? Unfortunately, many companies don’t have the luxury of developing two native apps. This fact makes customer research critical before choosing a development approach. 

For example, if you discover that the majority of your target audience uses an iPhone, you won’t want to waste time developing a native Android app. In addition, you likely won’t want to create a cross-platform app either because it won’t be able to offer the same functionality and performance levels as a native iOS app. 

Suppose your target audience uses both platforms equally and your business doesn’t have the financial resources to develop two native apps. In that case, cross-platform app development is a great choice for your business. Cross-platform apps are built to run on all major mobile platforms, iOS, Android, and Windows. 

There are a few ways your business can approach cross-platform development. For example, you could build a traditional cross-platform app using popular mobile app development frameworks, such as Flutter and React Native, or build a hybrid app or a Progressive Web App (PWA). Technically, hybrid apps and PWAs are different from cross-platform apps, but they are often discussed together since they can be used on all mobile platforms. Here is what you need to know about each of these options.


Cross-Platform App

Cross Platform

Cross-platform apps are built with programming languages like JavaScript as the core codebase. However, cross-platform apps utilize development frameworks to incorporate native User Interface elements. 

Think about cross-platform apps like an ice cream sundae. The core codebase layer is the same vanilla ice cream for iOS and Android, but for each platform, there are unique native User Interface toppings created by frameworks. As a result, cross-platform apps have native-like performance levels, but the bulk of the code only needs to be written once. 

Hybrid Apps

Hybrid apps are created using a mixture of web and mobile app development techniques. A hybrid app is a mixed web and mobile app. These apps are created using core web technologies HTML, CSS, and JavaScript and combining this code base with a development framework. 

Hybrid apps are often mixed up with cross-platform apps, but hybrid apps don’t create separate native User Interface elements. Instead, a hybrid app is the same code for each platform. Businesses choose this app development approach when they want to reach the widest possible audience in the shortest amount of time because hybrid apps can be built faster than cross-platform apps. 

Progressive Web App (PWA)

Progressive Web Apps look like apps, but they are accessed through a mobile browser instead of being accessed through an app store. Therefore, you can think of these apps as mobile web apps. Progressive Web Apps are built using JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. Users can download these apps directly from their browsers.

Thanks to advances in HTML, PWAs can provide more native-like features for users. For example, users can download PWAs to their home screens, use them offline and receive push notifications. 

Invest in Security and Maintenance 

The app development process never truly ends. Unfortunately, many businesses assume that once their app has been developed, the project is over. However, as long as your mobile app is live, there is always work. The primary areas of concern are security and app maintenance. 

Bugs and other small errors will present themselves from time to time. Your business needs to invest in maintenance to ensure that all issues are promptly addressed to minimize their impact on User Experience and security. Digital security should be an active part of your company’s mobile app strategy.

Cyber threats are constantly evolving. If you collect and use sensitive user data, you need to take every precaution to protect your users’ and your company’s data from cyber attacks. Losing or compromising user information hurts your brand image and can also hurt your company financially. Therefore, prioritize digital security from day one of your mobile app development project. 

Don’t Forget About ASO 

ASO, or App Store Optimization, is essential for app development success. The Apple App Store and Google Play Store are home to millions of apps. So how do you stand out in a crowded field? By executing a solid ASO strategy. ASO is like Search Engine Optimization (SEO) but for app stores. 

Ensure that your company is performing keyword research, choosing the right screenshots, and optimizing your app store listing. The better your app performs in organic searches on the app stores, the more downloads your app will generate. Having a well-designed mobile app does your business no good if no one knows about it.

Common App Development Questions

Common Questions

Even after gaining clearer insight into the app-making process, you likely still have questions. These questions are important. If you choose to partner with an app development agency, they should be able to give you clear answers and detailed explanations to the questions you have.

We will answer some of the most common questions below. However, in many cases, the specific answers depend on the unique nature of the app that your business wants to build. 

How Much Does App Development Cost? 

This question is the most commonly asked for obvious reasons. Every business wants a clear understanding of the associated costs before deciding to invest in development. However, app development costs vary. App development is not like a gallon of milk, which is generally sold for about the same price everywhere. Not only will the specific details of your app development project affect the cost, but some developers might charge you more for labor and time than others. 

The truth is app development is not a cheap service. Application development is a process that requires careful attention to detail and a lot of planning, as we have already covered in this post. In addition, well-designed mobile and web apps add a lot of value to a business. Plus, app developers are highly skilled technical professionals. As a result, these services can represent a significant financial investment. 

While it would be impossible to tell you how much app development costs without knowing the intimate details of your app idea, we can explain what factors affect cost the most.

The cost of development is most affected by:

  • The complexity of your idea – Simple apps with little to no communication features or data consumption are the cheapest to build. On the other hand, apps that handle financial transactions, allow users to bank, or even just purchase items represent the most complex and, therefore, most expensive apps to build. 
  • Development choice – Native apps are more expensive to build than cross-platform or hybrid apps. In addition, if you build a native app for each platform, you will essentially double your costs. 
  • Continuous improvement plans – Most apps are not built and then left that way. Likely, there will be plans to add new features and functions as the app ages to engage and entice users to continue using your app. Continuous improvements add to the overall cost of development.
  • Security and maintenance – Far too many companies fail to account for these costs when budgeting for app development. No matter how complex or simple your app is, you will need ongoing maintenance and security services to ensure your product’s health and digital safety. When speaking with a development company about development costs, make sure they are factoring in these costs too. 

Understanding these factors should help your company set realistic expectations for development expenses. If you’re unsure about a quote you received, reach out to additional developers to see how they price your project. However, the cheapest option might not be the best. Remember, your company’s app will be a significant digital asset used for years to come.

How Long Does App Development Take? 

Time to Develop an App

Once again, the answer to this question depends largely on the complexity of the app you want to develop and the team developing it. However, on average, to build an app you will need anywhere from three to nine months. We do not include security and maintenance as these are ongoing parts of app development. If your app is successful, the security, maintenance, and support facet of the app development lifecycle will last for the lifespan of your app. 

More complex apps take longer to develop. However, you can avoid costly delays with a clearly defined and communicated vision and expectations. The one thing that slows down most projects is poor communication between the company and the development team. You can ensure that your project is developed efficiently by clearly communicating your app idea and its essential functions to the development team. App developers cannot read minds. Vague guidelines and objectives are likely to result in a product that you are not happy with. 

While you need to make sure that you communicate your app ideas and goals to the development team, you need to ensure that the developers you have hired are also good communicators. Communication is a two-way street. The development should be asking questions and clarifying your company’s vision for its application. A lack of questions or communication does not necessarily mean that you were understood. If you are going to hire a development team, communication skills should be an important consideration. 

Can I Build An Application Internally? 

Yes, you could build an application using internal IT staff. However, app development standards and best practices are constantly evolving. To build a great application, you need staff knowledgeable of native development trends and technologies, frameworks, and specific operating systems. These are high-level skills, and while you might have a few employees on your IT staff that have some of these skills, app development is not a one-man show. 

An entire team does app development. That is how great apps can be built and delivered in three to nine months. Without a full development team, it will take longer, and it might even cost your company more money to develop an app. Most companies look to outside development teams for app development projects because it does not make financial sense to hire all of the necessary talents internally for a project that will eventually end. 

Additionally, new low-code/no-code app development tools are available to use. These low-code tools give people with little to no technical skill or experience the ability to build an application using intuitive drag-and-drop visual editors. Could you build a functioning app this way? Yes, you could. However, apps built using low-code platforms are not designed for enterprise use. These apps will not scale easily, and they won’t have the same performance capabilities as apps built by a professional development team. 

At this point, low-code/no-code tools are fun to play with, but you won’t be able to create an app that will add real value to your business. The best option for most businesses is to hire an external development team. External developers will have more specific skills and valuable experience building a wide range of different apps. 

How Long Will It Take to Publish My App on App Stores? 

When your app development project concludes, your company will be excited to release it to the public. However, if you have never published an app before, you are likely wondering how long it will take for app stores to approve it and make it available for download. 

It takes about two weeks for your app to be accepted and published on an app store. Google and Apple have different processes for reviewing app submissions, but both stores will require you to provide the following information and assets for review in addition to your app:

  • Basic company and contact information
  • Screenshots of the app 
  • A detailed description of your app and what it does
  • Icons for store display and home screen 
  • Videos or demonstrations of your app in use

The Apple App Store has a more rigorous review and acceptance process than the Google Play Store. Apple closely guards its store and ensures that all apps meet set quality control standards. As a result, Apple manually reviews every submission to the App Store. Google uses an algorithm to make sure app submissions are not violating its policies. 

Don’t be surprised if it takes Apple longer to review and accept your application than Google. However, if you wait longer than two weeks, you should contact the store to ensure that your application was submitted properly. 

If app store approval is not something your business is interested in waiting for, you could choose to develop a Progressive Web App (PWA). As discussed earlier, PWAs are accessed directly from a user’s browser. As a result, you don’t have to publish your application on a store, and you don’t need approval from Apple or Google. 

While PWAs won’t have all of the same capabilities as native or cross-platform apps, thanks to improvements to HTML, users can still save your PWA for offline use and receive push notifications among other things. 

How Often Should I Update My Application?

Your application is a valuable asset that requires regular maintenance and updates. Unfortunately, like many of the other questions we have answered thus far, there is no standard answer to the question of how often your app should be updated. If you find many bugs, you will want to update your application to address these issues. Bug fixes typically don’t take a long time to address. 

Bearing that in mind, most successful applications with a high traffic volume are updated up to four times a month. Most of these updates don’t include new features or functions. Rather, they aim to improve the User Experience through bug fixes and User Interface improvements. 

More complex updates, like rolling out new features, take longer to deploy and often require bug fixes once users get a chance to use the new features. Many businesses wrap bug fixes and new features together in a single update. The important thing to remember is that most users will have to manually update their version of your app. Encouraging users to keep their app updated is essential to ensure your app is performing as expected. 

If you’re working with an app development company, you should discuss with them the plans for your app post-deployment. Hopefully, your development team will help your business put together a post-launch maintenance and upgrade plan for your app. 

Creating a strategic update plan is essential for long-term success. First, however, your company needs to ensure that you are collecting and reviewing user feedback. Then, prioritize addressing the comments presented in user feedback before rolling out new features that haven’t been tested. 

Can My Application Be Monetized? 

Monetized App

Any application can be monetized, but choosing the right strategy is essential for your business’s User Experience and overall success. Choosing the wrong monetization model can harm User Experience and drive users away from your application. For example, choosing a freemium monetization model for a service app will likely frustrate users and push them away. The monetization models for mobile apps are as follows:

  • Advertising 
  • Pay per download 
  • In-app purchases 
  • Subscription 
  • Freemium

Your business needs to carefully consider how to monetize your app. One of the best ways to determine which monetization model best fits your app is to analyze your competition. How do your competitors monetize their apps? This will be the best way forward for your company to monetize its app. 

For example, if you want to build a media streaming service, the subscription model is probably the best option for your app. Users are already familiar with this model in this context and won’t be upset about paying for content. However, just because your industry tends to monetize apps in one way doesn’t mean there isn’t the potential to choose a better monetization model and innovate. 

For example, most mobile games are paid per download, but recently, some companies have been offering subscription-based services that allow users to play multiple games for one monthly price. 

Another thing to consider is the fees the app stores will take from your generated revenue. Apple and Google take 30% of the revenue you generate on their respective application stores.

If you have a subscription-based revenue model, these companies will take 15% of your revenue, but only after the first year. So you can expect to pay 15 to 30% of your revenue to Apple or Google. Many businesses that don’t want to pay these fees can circumvent the stores by building a PWA. 

Should I Build an Android App or an iOS App?

If your business wants to build a native app, it will probably grapple with the question of whether to build an iOS app or an Android app. We’ve already discussed the benefits of creating cross-platform or hybrid mobile apps that can be used on all mobile devices.

However, what if your business wants to create a native app, but only has the resources to develop an app for one platform? How do you choose which platform is best for your business? The most effective way to determine which platform is best for your business is to analyze your audience.

If the majority of your users are on iOS, develop an iOS app, and if the majority of your users are on Android, develop an Android app. This is a simple way to decide. However, what if your organization’s audience is split evenly, or nearly evenly, between the two platforms?

In this case, deciding on which platform is right for your business is more difficult. Typically, iOS app users spend more on app and in-app purchases than Android users. Additionally, while Android apps reach a greater audience since Android dominates global mobile device market share, iOS is the more popular platform in the United States, UK, Japan, and Australia.

If your goal is to make money from your application, developing an iOS app is the better decision for your business. Plus, just because your organization only has the resources to develop one native app at this moment doesn’t mean it cannot develop another app in the future.

Once your business is able to make some money off its first app, it can develop a native app for the other platform it didn’t choose at first. Whichever platform you believe will be the most impactful for your organization should be targeted first. Then come back and develop another application for the other platform.

Of course, you can skip this decision and develop a cross-platform app from the beginning, but many businesses like the way native apps look and perform, and therefore, must make a decision.

How Do You Come Up With a Good Idea for a Mobile App?

Many people erroneously assume that great app ideas just pop into existence. However, this is very rarely the case. The successful apps that you see on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store are more the result of hard work and iteration than a singular moment of creative brilliance.

Of course, there is the potential for a light bulb moment and a stroke of genius to create a great idea for an app, but if your organization wants results, waiting for inspiration and brilliance is not a great strategy. Most app ideas are developed over time through market and audience research and iteration.

A great way to begin ideation is to identify a problem and think about ways that it can be solved. Are there other mobile apps that address this problem too? If there are, in what ways can you differentiate your app or improve upon the existing solutions?

Your business can also think about ways it can create a variation of an existing app. For example, an Airbnb-style app that allows people to rent their cars to other people such as Turo. There are many ways to find a great idea for an app, but the key is to find a solution that meets a market demand.

Maybe your first idea is not the one and it has to be modified to meet a market demand. Perhaps you have many app ideas that you have to workshop and iterate before you find one that could lead to success. Don’t get discouraged if your first idea isn’t the one. Keep analyzing the market, research your audience, and keep iterating until you find the right idea.

Should I Hire an App Development Company?

If your business wants to get the best results at the best price, hiring a mobile app development company is the best choice. However, it is not the only option available to your company. You could decide to hire an internal development team, or you could try to build an app on your own using a low-code/no-code tool. If you go down this route, consider investing in approval software so that you can review and approve content at each stage of your development.

Hiring an internal team is likely the most expensive option and using a low-code tool is the cheapest option. If your organization is not able or willing to invest a minimum of 50,000 to 200,000 dollars in app development costs, you should consider using a low code/no code tool.

These tools are not completely free since they often require a subscription, but they will help your business create an app for less. However, it should be noted that the quality of these apps are significantly worse than the products a skilled development team could create.

If your an enterprise business and want to scale an app, low-code applications are not for you. These no-code tools can be used to create simple apps for small businesses with little to no significant user traffic. On the other hand, hiring your own development team is expensive.

As a result, partnering with an app development agency is often not only the most cost-effective option but also the most efficient too in terms of finishing the development project on time. App development companies can also offer your business valuable advice and guidance as it navigates the complexities that accompany mobile app development.

Final Thoughts 

As you can see, there is a lot of information to consider when building a mobile app, and we haven’t even begun to explore the technical details of mobile app development. If your organization wants to develop an application that delights users and benefits business operations, it needs an experienced development partner.

While it might seem overwhelming, you can help your business navigate the complexities of mobile app development by partnering with an experienced app development company. An experienced mobile app development partner will show you how to create an app that meets the needs of your business.

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