8 Steps to Understanding how Mobile Apps are Developed

Picture of an app working on a desktop, tablet and mobile.

Mobile app development involves a lot of expenditure of time, money and effort, so its very important you get it right the first time.

By reading this article ,you’ll have a better idea of :

  1. The entire app development process 
  2. Ready to get started ? Lets dive in

How are mobile apps developed?

It all starts with….

1. Idea

How-are-mobile-apps-developed

Most successful apps solve a problem or an inefficiency

Need help validating your app idea? Check out this guide.

If you already have an app idea that is valid and viable ,move onto the next step

2. Research

What problems are users having? Look beyond what users want, identify the core problem and give them something that they need

Find out whether there are other similar apps and what features they offer. Can you improve upon them

You must have a clear marketing and monetization strategy right from the get go. Is your app the product or are you going to monetize it some other way.Your business goals will determine how your app will be designed.

Once you have a solid understanding of your target market and your ideal customers, its now time to focus on the design and function.

3. FLOW AND FEATURES

At this point you should have a clear idea of 

  1. What you want your app to be capable of doing
  2. What functions and operations it will perform

Its impossible to go from an idea to immediately building it out without hashing out the specific details in between.

Wireframe 

Detailed sketches that Lay out the flow and features of the app

For each of the use cases it maps out the path users will take to achieve their goals

Iterate and refine your wireframes until all the requirements are met and the stakeholders are satisfied.

You‘re laying out the foundation of your interface and basically create sketches for how each screen in the app will look .

Wireframes are typically free from graphic design features like colors and images and answer the foll questions:

  • What elements will be displayed and where?
  • The exact size of the elements

Designer use them as blueprints while creating the visual design of the user interface.

For complicated workflows, illustrate the steps in the form of a storyboard .

A story board is an organised collection of wireframes that represent parts of the user interaction with the system.

(Source: Apple)

Why are wireframes important ?

  • They give you a clear idea of what your app will look like and the various functions in it.
  • Easier and Cheaper to make changes early in the development process.
  • Will help in estimating how much time it will to have a fully developed app.
  • They ensure that pages designed meet both the users needs and business needs.

Once wireframing is completed ,the apps user interface can be created which is where the fonts, colors, themes and icons are added.

4. Technical Feasibility

After determining what your app will look like and do , its now time to comprehensively evaluate its technical requirements and specifications.

To do this ,ask the following:

 

1.Determine what devices and platforms you’re building you’re app for.

Obviously you want your app to run on as many platforms as possible, for as little development cost as possible.

However if you are restricted by time and money ,Build the second one after you have tested the market and perfected your app.

 

2. Will the backend be able to support the devices functionality

Your mobile app will need to access usable data. This could mean either sourcing a Public API or as complicated as building your own abstraction layer.

 

3.Do you developer account credentials in Apple and Google?

Create developer accounts by registering through their website and paying the annual app store fee of $99 for Apple and $25$ for Google .

5. Prototype

Build a minimum viable product. It contains the minimum amount of features required for the core functionality of your product to be met.

Get the app concept into the users hand as quickly as possible to see how it works for the most common use case 

There’s no substitute for real world feedback .Collect and Implement the feedback if it would make a better product for the users and aligns with your vision.

These features should be just enough to satisfy early  adopters and show them that the app is worth using.

Let’s see what Google Engineer’s have to say:

But why start small? How exactly does this help?

An MVP 

  • Forces you to define exactly what your core features are 
  • Requires minimum investment .
  • Allows you to Quickly develop the app and test it with the market.
  • Reduces procrastination and fear of underbuilding;.

6. Building the app

This is where developers come in and build the front end and back end of the app.

The front end includes the part of the app you can see like the layout,graphics, animation and navigation.

The backend includes the parts of the app you can see .It includes databases, networking and user management.

7. Test

Test Early Test Often is the best way to ensure quality on time with comparatively less effort and cost

The more complex the app the more complex the testing.

The different operating systems ,devices ,screen sizes ,hardware capabilities  make this process quite challenging. iOS typically has a much smaller number of devices and versions make it much easier to run your app flawlessly on each one of them.On Android it is better to limit the number of supported devices and screen resolutions

Testing allows you to Review your work and ensure that it meets standards. If not you’ll be able to clearly identify flaws and areas that could use improvement.

Related: Most Common Mobile App Development Mistakes

Fix those  issues before the app is rolled out and the customer is frustrated. Rigorously testing your app ensures that all the features work as expected. 

8. Release the app

Android apps can be instantly added to the Play Store.Newly submitted apps are not reviewed right away .Apple reviews and approves your app before it goes live.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking your project finishes after launch .

You have to continue to add new features in future iterations of your app so that users continue to find your app valuable .

How long does it take to develop an app?

App development takes approximately 4-5 months on average.

However expect delays and remain flexible .Unforeseen circumstances and unexpected problems may arise extending your timeline.

Give yourself a buffer so you have time to deal with changes or last minute emergencies.

Tools involved in creating apps

Android

Android apps are developed in Java, Kotlin , C++ etc 

The development tools used include Android SDK,Firebase and Android Jetpack.

Languages:

Java

Java is the official language of Android development .It’s been around for more than 20 years

Most apps on the PlayStore are built with it .

Its not very readable yet it is also one of the most versatile and widely used.

It is supported by Android Studio(an integrated development Environment)

Kotlin

Created by JetBrains in 2011.

It is completely interoperable with Java .

It writes cleaner and less code for the same functionality .

It’s  a great choice if you’re learning to build Android apps for the first time

C++

Android Studio supports C++ using the Android NDK(native Development Kit ).

In Android development , C++ is only used to build APIs and backend tasks.

It is much harder to set up , introduces more bugs and is less flexiible.

Development Tools

Android SDK

Android SDK is a set of development tools used to develop apps  for Android 

It includes sample projects ,development tools ,an emulator and required libraries to build Android apps.

Firebase

Firebase is Google’s mobile platform that help you quickly develop high quality apps quicker.

Android Jetpack

It is a collection of software components which helps in building Android apps.

These components are a collection of libraries that can either be individually adopted or can work together .

It also takes advantage of Kotlin’s language feature.

iOS

iOS apps are developed in Swift ,C#,Objective C languages among many others.

Some of the development tools include iOS SDK, Xcode ,Swift Playgrounds and TestFlight

Languages

Swift

It is easy to maintain and allows developers to reuse the code .

The code is also simpler to read.

C#

With Xamarin ,a cross platform mobile app development tool, you can use C# to build native apps for iOS.

Objective C

It is an object oriented programming language based on C

It was used primarily for developing iOS apps before Swift was launched.

Development Tools

iOS SDK

Formerly known as Iphone SDK. Developers can build and test apps for free.

It is a software development kit that helps developers create native applications for Apple’s iOS devices .

Xcode

It is the official integrated development environment tool (IDE) for Swift developed by Apple 

Using this you  can develop apps for all of Apple devices.

TestFlight

TestFlight makes it easier to invite users to test your apps and collect feedback before releasing the app on the App Store

Although the languages and tools may vary based on a variety of factors like the skillset of the developers, the time allotted to the project ,the platform it would run on etc   the process of app development still remains the same.

Let’s summarise….

You had an idea .Once you validated the idea and did your research , you sketched out the design.

Turned the design into a prototype, the prototype into a full working tested app.

The app is then published on the app store and the cycle of build, develop ,refine continues as new features are added.

Thanks for reading !

If you have more questions about building an app ,post it in the comments below. 

Pravin Selva Ganesan

Pravin selva Ganesan is a digital marketer at Intrepid IT Services-a leading mobile and web app development company in Chennai . He writes primarily about tech and mobile news.

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