At Guarana, we’ve built over 80 successful apps in the past five years. However, developing an app can be an intimidating process for developers and business owners alike.  It takes approximately 18 weeks to develop and publish a standard mobile app, which is the same amount of time it takes to build 168 normal cars or 3 concrete swimming pools.

Since entering the mobile arena is essential to every company’s marketing strategy, this article breaks down the daunting mobile app development process by providing a clear overview of each step involved.

Step 1: Perform The Necessary Research  

The most successful entrepreneurs tend to be the most innovative.  While an obvious platitude, all apps begin as ideas.  Identifying a problem or market inefficiency is an important first step to coming up with a worthwhile idea for your app.  If similarly premised apps already exist, make sure to ask yourself: what do they lack and how can I do better?  Reading competitor reviews is a useful strategy that allows you to evaluate a gap or new demand in the marketplace.

This conception phase involves exhaustive investigation.  Before plunging headfirst into the development process, it is imperative that you do your homework to determine both the purpose and validity of your app. This involves determining the preferences and needs of your target audience, researching and projecting current market trends, choosing a monetization strategy (check out our recent article on this), and scoping out your competitors to ensure that your app will survive.

Furthermore, it is important to get acquainted with any existing regulations to guarantee that your app doesn’t violate the terms of service of your potential partners or any third parties you wish to integrate with.  Having a detailed budget in mind is also crucial to outlining your possibilities and boundaries.  After sorting out these practicalities and clearly defining the direction you’re heading with mobile app, you can graduate from this step with confidence.

Step 2: Create a Fast and Easy Wireframe   

Much like blueprints for a house or building, a wireframe is a skeletal, bare-bones layout of your app’s structure.  Wireframes focus specifically on space allocation and prioritization of content, functionalities available, and intended behaviors.  Since the goal of a wireframe illustration is not to depict visual design, wireframes should be simple and minimalistic.  Don’t waste your time by selecting colors, fonts, or images at this phase.

There exists a plethora of wireframing tools that you can use to bring your sketches to digital life. Balsamiq, which has been around since 2008, is a popular choice.  Since wireframes are meant to require very little effort and time, Balsamiq is incredibly easy to use.  After adding the necessary and basic elements to your sketch, the platform allows you to resize, position, and customize all features.

A building’s foundation must be fundamentally sturdy before an expensive coat of paint can be applied.  Analogously, your app must have a clear wireframe before its other, more decorative elements can be attended to.  Since rewriting code is a tremendous hassle, keep in mind that you should make changes to your app’s structure here rather than later on.  Also note that great app ideas are easily vitiated by poorly thought out interfaces and experiences, meaning that this step is a crucial one in the overall development process.

Step 3: Assess Your App’s Technical Feasibility

 As a powerful communication tool, your wireframe will provide you with insight into the backend needed to support your app’s functionality. Backend structures include APIs, data diagrams, servers, data integration, and push notification services.

Your app will have different requirements depending on its intended format (smartphone, tablet, wearabes, etc.) and platform (iOs, Android, etc.).  Development technologies including PhoneGap, Nativescript, and Xamarin provide capabilities and limitations that your app design must be validated against.

At this stage, you may realize that some of your initial app functionality isn’t feasible.  Make sure to involve a technical architect who is familiar with the platform capabilities early in the design process to avoid complications that can be both time consuming and expensive.  After modifying your wireframe to account for any technical limitations, you can proceed onto the next step.

Step 4: Construct an Interactive Prototype

 A prototype is the base that developers will use to start building your actual app.  Unlike a basic wireframe, a prototype should look like the final product minus the nuts-and-bolts (HTML, CSS, JS, server-side programming, databases, etc.).

With a goal to simulate the interaction between an app’s interface and user, the prototype should mimic the experience of the full product. A number of tools like InVision, Justinmind, Marvel, Origami, and are helpful in allowing you to create high fidelity prototypes without the need for coding.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a prototype is worth a thousand meetings.  Your prototype should not only bring your ideas to life, but provide end users and business stakeholders something tangible to react to.  It’s a good idea to monitor how users interact with your app and taking note of how you can adapt your UI/UX to their actions. By engaging a dialogue around your product, you can both encourage and implement feedback so that the development team can continuously iterate toward the desired solution.

Step 5: Carefully Design the UX/UI

It’s now time to dive into coding. A mobile app that has a stunning look and feel is the result of an efficient User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) design.  While UI design emphasizes the presentation of the app through a focus on graphic elements, UX design involves all elements of a user’s interaction with the application.

Successful apps all have one thing in common: they benefit users.  Your app design process should therefore focus on creating user-centric solutions to delight your future customers. Depending on your project scope and budget, this step can take a team many hours or just a single afternoon.

Because a wonderfully designed app will help you to improve brand reputation and generate more traffic and revenue, it’s a good idea to implement many review stages during the design process.  Investing time and energy in this phase will ensure that your final product has a truly impressive look and feel.

Step 6: Dive into Developing Your App   

Congratulations, you’re now ready to start building! At Guarana, we are experts in mobile app development, a process that involves a number of phases.

In the alpha phase, your app’s core functionality is present but not tested.  This means that the app is extremely buggy, and non-core functionality doesn’t yet exist.  As development proceeds into the beta phase, most of the proposed functionality is incorporated.

While the app goes through light testing and bug fixing in the beta phase, some troublesome issues may still be present.  At this stage, the app can undergo more thorough testing through being released to a select group of external users.  Identifying beta testers is an important task to ensuring the success of your app.  Finally, after your app’s last remaining bugs are remedied, your app graduates to the release candidate phase and is ready for release.

Before launching your product, make sure to set up developer accounts for the various app stores that you plan to distribute your app.  Also read through the app store guidelines to ensure that your app isn’t rejected during the review process.

Step 7: Release Your Product

The launch phase of the app development life cycle is critical to the success of your app.  After investing hard work and money into your creation, the objective is to get your app into the hands of as many users as possible.

The official release date of your app should represent the climax of your app marketing efforts.  Guest blogging, building backlinks, and optimizing your website are steps you can take to promote your launch.

Furthermore, 65% of users rely on app stores to search for new apps.  Therefore, improving the ranking of your app in the app store by doing research on App Store Optimization (ASO) is a critical marketing technique.   Other ways to increase your app’s visibility include using popular platforms like Google, Facebook, and Twitter to run targeted ads or building relationships with media and influencers throughout the development process.

Final Words

The app development process isn’t entirely over after the launch phase.  Make sure that you have a clear channel for feedback and be responsive to the comments and concerns of your users.  As your app gains popularity, feedback will pour in and incorporating that feedback in future upgrades will help to strengthen your app’s reputation.

While the development process may seem intimidating, creating your own mobile app is an incredibly thrilling and rewarding experience.  With this overview, we’ve broken down the process into digestible chunks so that you can get started with developing your unique app vision.