Understanding the critical steps of the mobile app development process can seem like a daunting task. As an app development company, we always tell people to look for a strategic mobile app development partner. Few things can impede the success of a mobile app, like an app development company that is not the right fit for your project from a technical and cultural perspective.
Developing mobile apps, web apps, or any custom software isn’t only about the idea or the technical knowledge of backend app 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 social media and marketing strategy also affect how your app performs.
The ideal third-party mobile app development partner will look at their partners’ business holistically before developing an app that defines their customers’ User Experience. A quality mobile app development team should perform an in-depth business analysis before the software development process begins.
This 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 develop an app that meets customer needs and business objectives.
There are various ways to approach the different stages of the mobile app development process. Sometimes it is useful to go for a general and conceptual app development approach.
On other occasions, an operational focus is a more convenient approach to the mobile app development process. When beginning a new mobile app development process, you must choose the best approach for your business and its potential customers.
Whatever mobile app development path you choose will surely be an extremely rewarding mobile app 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 will serve as a step-by-step guide for the mobile app development process to build a successful mobile 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 app developers have 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 app 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 the mobile app development strategy 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 with a stunning User Experience.
It may even occur that the app development process will require your project team to go back further and analyze market strategy and tweak the underlying app idea. Having to do so is normal for a mobile app, whether for Android apps or iOS apps.
Not surprisingly, all mobile apps, including iOS and Android apps, are demanding digital products that go through many iterative mobile application development 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 an 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 your development project 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 that is easy-to-use, 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.
How Long Does it Take to Develop a Mobile App?
The timeline for mobile app development can vary significantly based on various factors, including the complexity of the app, the platform (iOS, Android, or both), the size and expertise of your development team, and the availability of resources.
In general, the development of a mobile app can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months or even years. You don’t want to rush through development and mobile app testing, but you also don’t want to spend too much time on the development project either.
Some of the factors that will affect the time it takes to develop an app include:
- Size and expertise of the team
- Available resources
- App store approval
One of the most significant factors influencing the development timeline is the complexity of the app. Simple apps with basic features, such as a calculator or flashlight app, can be developed relatively quickly, often in a matter of weeks.
Conversely, complex apps with advanced functionalities like social networking, eCommerce, or gaming may take several months to a year or more to complete.
The choice of platform also affects the development duration. Developing for a single platform (either iOS or Android) tends to be faster than building for both platforms simultaneously. Each platform has its own development environment and requirements, which can lead to additional development time.
The design phase can be time-consuming, as creating an appealing and user-friendly interface is essential for user engagement. The complexity of the app’s design, the need for custom graphics, and the level of detail in UI/UX design can extend the development timeline.
Size and Expertise of the Team
The size and expertise of your development team play a crucial role in determining how quickly an app can be built. A skilled and experienced team may work more efficiently and meet deadlines more effectively than a smaller or less experienced team.
Access to necessary resources and development tools can also impact the timeline. The availability of third-party APIs, libraries, and frameworks can streamline development. Conversely, if there are significant technical challenges or dependencies on external resources, it can lead to delays.
Rigorous testing and Quality Assurance are critical to delivering a bug-free and reliable app. Allocating sufficient time for testing and debugging is essential. Depending on the complexity of the app, testing can take a significant portion of the development timeline.
App Store Approval
Once the development is complete, submitting the app to app stores (Apple App Store and Google Play Store) can take some time. App store review processes vary, and it can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks to get your app approved and published.
The timeline for mobile app development is highly variable and depends on several factors. Simple apps may take a few weeks, while complex, feature-rich apps can take many months or even years to develop.
It’s crucial to conduct thorough planning, define clear objectives, allocate adequate resources, and maintain effective communication with your development team to ensure that your mobile app development project stays on track and meets its deadlines.
Keep in mind that rushing through the development process can lead to a lower-quality app, so striking a balance between speed and quality is essential for success in the competitive app market.
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 steps in the mobile app development process and what your organization should consider at every stage of development, from the first stage through the launch phase to ongoing support and maintenance.