Most non-technical founders know very little about the mobile app development process. Well, this is quite understandable as many of them do not have in-depth knowledge about tech. However, there are certain fundamentals every tech founder must know; technical or non-technical before building a technological solution(Mobile apps). I have written this article because of my experience with founders I have been privileged to work with within the last couple of years.
There are 7 clear, distinct stages in the mobile app development process, and the completion of every stage is a major milestone. They are:
Stage 1: Planning and Research
Planning and Research are important to mobile app development. Getting relevant data and analyzing them to get insights that allow you to identify what the user needs would be relevant in the app development process. Frequent tests to understand the suitability of the apps, staying updated with what the end-user wants and a clear analysis of the market would be are great ways to ensure that your app stays relevant in the marketplace.
Stage 2: Prototyping
The idea behind a prototype is that it will show you how the app’s final interaction is going to be. These are extremely useful for testing a mobile app’s user-friendliness. it basically lets you see and feel the app early enough.
Stage 3: Design
“52% of users with bad mobile experiences will less likely engage with a company.” If you want to build a successful mobile app you need to understand the fundamentals of designing a product. Many founders underestimate the value of design at the early stages of development. Successful products like Zoom, Slack, Clubhouse, Trello, and a host of others were able to stand out and gain a huge amount of traction because they focused on the design from the beginning. New founders often underestimate the value of design. They think of it as a one-time purchase. They hire a freelancer or agency to design the first iteration of the product, and then that’s it. They should be making design a part of their ongoing process of shipping releases.
This is usually broken down further into 3 phases:
User Journey MapThe designers create a User Journey Map. It is a visualization of the user flow through your app. It tells the story of the user’s experience. It is usually a part of Project Discovery, hence why it is crucial to create wireframes and user interfaces.
- Wireframes (UX)
Designers create Wireframes – digital, simplified visual concepts of the future mobile app. They lay out the structure, hierarchy, and relationship between the elements that make up the product. It is a kind of app’s backbone.
Designers work on the visual language of your app, its style guide, User Interface, and motion design. You get mockups showing the final look of your app and videos presenting motion design (animations & screen transitions) in your app.
Stage 4: Development
Having completed the design stage, now it’s time to actually build the mobile app. The design stage should have provided you with a wireframe, showing all of the app’s screens and how they connect, and visual designs for each of those screens. Here the frontend developers and backend developers get to work. Write codes, implement infrastructure and architecture to get the app to be fully functional.
Stage 5: Testing
Mobile app testing is a form of testing where various user segments are presented with different variations of an in-app experience to determine which one induces the desired action from them or has a positive (or better) impact on app key metrics. By figuring out what works for your mobile app and what doesn’t, you can systematically optimize it for your desired metrics and unlock limitless growth opportunities for your business that were always lurking in plain sight.
Stage 6: Release
This is usually the penultimate stage of the development process where the app is fully ready and deployed to the app store for users to download and start using.
Stage 7: Maintenance
Apps can operate on the “set and forget” principle. Like a car or any other piece of machinery, your app needs frequent care and management in order to meet users’ expectations. Always remember any mobile app with halted maintenance, will definitely lose users and tank in rankings.
With all these in perspective, many founders still believe building a mobile app should not cost above a particular price range, hence:
Some prospective clients once said:
This is usually the first problem with many founders. Especially the non-technical ones. They want world-class products but, are not willing to pay the cost of building such products. Most founders have an exact estimate of how much they think should be spent on the development of a mobile app but, unfortunately, what they estimate is never in tandem with the reality of building a mobile app.
Many of them have tried to take the simpler route by going to hire developers from freelance platforms, commission the developer to begin the development of their app, just to end up being disappointed and frustrated in the long run. In as much as it seems enticing and affordable, it is not ALWAYS advisable to hire a freelance developer if you really want to successfully build a mobile app.
There have been several cases where founders have had terrible experiences with freelance developers. Then they come to us to help them salvage the situation they have found themselves in but, this time they are willing to pay all the costs they were avoiding when they hired a freelance developer. In a case like this, there are usually only two outcomes:
1. It is either they abandon the mobile app and move on to other things
2. or they start building the mobile app afresh.
Both situations aren’t usually the most convenient.
This is one of the reasons I wrote this article. Many founders have fallen victim to poor mobile app development processes either because they were ill-advised or they tried to find the easiest and most affordable way to build a mobile app.
This article will help founders guide their decision and approach to building a mobile app.
Ideally, a non-technical founder is usually business savvy. They are usually more focused on the business side. They always believe they can always wriggle their way through building a mobile app and 10 out of 10 times they always end up in a quagmire. Simply because they tried to find a shortcut or a cheaper way to build a mobile app.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not against founders looking for affordable means to grow their business but, to avoid future events of being disappointed by a freelance mobile app developer or falling victim to badly built mobile apps.
Here are a few things every founder must do before entering into their mobile app development phase. Especially non-technical founders:
Analyze your business and app requirements:
This is a significant process that needs to be undergone before thinking of hiring a developer or mobile app development company. You need to conduct a thorough analysis that will help you identify the features and functionality that align with your business goals. Are you trying to build just another app or you really want to build an app that serves your market. You need to think through your app requirements in terms of what major features your app will need to solve your business problems and satisfy your customers.
Learn how to write a proper brief:
This is usually overlooked by many founders because they think they can verbally communicate to the developer what they want and what they expect. If you really want your mobile app development process to be disorganized and conflicting then I’d advise that you go with this method. But, if you want your development process to be smooth and seamless then you’ll need a brief. A brief is what communicates exactly what you want the outcome of your mobile app to be. With a brief, your developer and designer can have a clear understanding of what you want and can map out methods on how to go about designing and building your mobile app.
Reach out to experts:
It is a world of experts these days. Especially in this era of the proliferation of knowledge. However, you need experts who have firsthand practical experience. They are the ones that can offer practical advice and guidance on how to go about developing a mobile app for your business. Start by talking to the people who have built apps for startups before, as well as other industry experts. This should give you clear insights as to how to go about your mobile app development process.
Educate yourself frequently about the tech:
This might seem quite stressful, but it is absolutely vital. You need to learn the basics of the technology that will be used to develop your mobile app: React Native, Google Flutter, Native iOS, and Android are software development kits that you can learn and play around with. Do some in-depth research on the technologies that can be used in developing your mobile app, so that you do not get confused by industry jargon. Try to at least have a basic understanding of the different tech stacks at the back-end, front-end, database options, app builders, web services, hosting solutions, etc. The more informed you are with the tech, the better decisions you can make. Also, you will be able to communicate more effectively with developers.
Critically evaluate the options for your needs:
if you have been reading through this write-up you will notice that decision-making is a major strength every founder must possess. The kinds of decisions you make on behalf of your startup can either make or mar your business. Before you build your mobile app you need to weigh and analyze all your options so you can pick the best suits your business. in most cases the options you’d have are:
1. Technical co-founder
3. Software agency
But they all have their idiosyncrasies and benefits. However, to decide you will need to go through each of them to see how they can be beneficial to your business.
Research the cost of building an app:
Writing from experience the cost of building a mobile app always causes some form of disagreement between mobile app developers and founders. However, many founders don’t seem to understand what really goes into building a mobile app. Most think it is just about writing codes and deploying the app to the various app stores for users to start downloading. Developing a good mobile app that will stand the test of time is not cheap. Before you get into development you need to find out how much it costs to develop a mobile app and all the cost implications.
Study startups that have built successful mobile apps:
There several startups that have built apps that have become formidable forces to reckon with in the marketplace. You can reach out to their founders via whatever platform you know is suitable for them. You can also reach out to team members of the startup just to learn few things from them. This gives deeper insight into how you can maneuver your way through the mobile app development process. You might be lucky enough to find a mentor in some of these founders.
I believe I have been able to communicate adequately the critical steps every founder especially non-technical founders must understand before they go into their mobile development process.
Building an app is a lot of work. it is not a job you delegate to a mobile app developer or an app development agency. You need to be actively involved in the process to be able to build a successful mobile app.