How hard can developing an app really be? They’re pretty much just mobile versions of websites anyway – going the route of hybrid or web based apps should save both time and money, right?
On the surface, these assumptions would seem correct – but for many reasons (which we’ll get into below), taking short cuts or going with a route other than native development will actually create more headaches, and ultimately make your app’s development more difficult.
What about going easy on the market research? Surely apps don’t need to include a traditional marketing budget – that’s what the App Store is for.
Things sure would be easier if that were true – apps require fully fledged ASO campaigns in order to survive against their competition.
There’s a lot that goes into developing an app – and we’ve never said it was easy (in fact, we’ve said the opposite in the past), but we’ve put together the info you need to know in order to make sure your app’s development is as easy as possible.
Fish out of water
Who’s the better swimmer – a penguin, or a dolphin? The dolphin will win in the water every time. Now, I’m not trying to take a shot at penguins – they’re way better at swimming than I am – but they exist in a space between land and sea. They’re never truly in their element; they’re clumsy at best on land, and when in the water, they’re hampered by adaptations specific to land animals.
In essence, they’re very similar when compared to both a hybrid or progressive web app. There is no argument that your initial costs will be lower when going the route of hybrid development; but over time, a natively developed app will perform better than a hybrid on many fronts.
When measuring for usability, performance, security, and maintenance, a native app will beat out a hybrid every time – just like, and for the same reasons as, the penguin vs. dolphin match up.
Visit our blog for a more detailed explanation as to the benefits of native over hybrid development.
Before you find a developer
It’s time for the first step in building your app: finding a pain point. Every app helps to solve a problem in someone’s life – mobile games stave off boredom, fitness apps help to solve our issues with laziness, and navigation apps provide the answer to “How do I get around this accident?”
No matter what your app does, when you boil it down to its true essence, it helps people solve pain points they are faced with throughout the day – or if you’re making a sleep tracker app, throughout the night.
But ultimately, your app helps people. If you’re making a mobile game, the formula is pretty simple – build an app that’s entertaining enough to make people want to play it to pass the time during their morning commute on the train.
For more complex concepts (ideas, not apps – mobile games are some of the most technically complex apps out there), the process of ideation becomes much more involved. Unless you’re developing an app based on inspiration that came to you from facing a pain point in your own life, the easiest way to come up with a (good) app idea is to conduct some…
Now, in order to know what to research, you’ll need at least some form of an idea of what you want your app to do – but market research will help you narrow down that broad idea into a marketable product.
Let’s pretend we’re making an app for raccoons. We don’t know too much about the raccoon life – but we’re going to go out on a limb, and guess that this app is in some way going to revolve around getting their little paws on some trash.
We honestly don’t know what the raccoons want, however, so we need to go to the source – unfortunately for us, most of the focus groups and field research probably won’t be held in the cleanest venues.
Okay – so, it turns out, according from our totally real research, that raccoons do indeed face a pain point when it comes to trash acquisition – it isn’t, however, the pain point us humans would expect. Finding the trash isn’t the problem – our target audience’s noses are fine tuned for that sort of work.
Raccoons need an app that gives them the ability to leave other raccoons instructions on how to open the dumpsters that hold all that delicious garbage. As our market research shows, finding the trash isn’t the problem – accessing it is.
So now it’s time to figure out the solution to the trash acquisition problem.
Designing your app
There’s two separate times you’ll design your app – the first instance being the step we’re currently on: user stories.
A user story is the step-by-step process a user will take when interacting with an app. In our case, it would be a raccoon currently stumped by a particularly stubborn dumpster lid.
There are a few things you need to think about when coming up with user stories:
- Method of interaction
The location and situation your users will be in when interacting with your app matters – as well as the mood you can expect them to be in. In our case, the location, at least most of the time, will be back alleys, and mostly at night. We can expect our users to be hungry, and therefore impatient.
Now, with a clear picture of the situation, location, and mood our users will be in, we can start designing the flow of our app.
First of all, we need to revisit the pain point; raccoons want the ability to share advice with each other on how to open up dumpsters, in order to get to trash faster.
So, now we need to design a feature set that will help to solve that pain point. Our app must include:
- GPS and mapping, as well as location services, in order for users to place beacons on a map for other users to select
- Camera and microphone access so users can take photo and video instructions
- Back end integration so the app itself can host photo and video media
- User profiles that can be rated based on the advice they provide
So, add all that up, and you get an app that allows users to pin video and photo instructions to specific dumpsters based on their GPS coordinates. Other users would then be able to vote on the provided advice, which would then be posted to that user’s profile.
This feature set would create a system for raccoons to share advice with each other, as well as a community based around the app.
Time to build
Next, you’ll want to take your research and user story, and bring it to an app developer. From here, they’ll be able to take your idea and run with it. From here, development is pretty much out of your hands – you’re there to give the thumbs up or down.
A full, in-house development shop will usually start by designing the layout of an app with wireframes, and then flesh out the design. Once the design for each screen has been finalized, a prototype will be built – this is for you to look over, so you can make sure their interpretation of your vision is accurate, and to the spirit of what you imagined.
The developers coding your app will reference the prototype as well – and from it, they will build the actual code of your app. After your app is coded, it will move on to testing, and from there, it’s on to…
Remember when we brought up ASO? This is where you’ll want to implement those efforts. There’s a lot that goes into an ASO campaign, and if you’d like to take a deep dive on the topic, here’s a blog all about it.
ASO, at its core, is keyword research and implementation. It’s just like SEO, but for the App Store and Google Play. We recommend new apps start with five keywords to focus on – and from there start evolving your ASO campaign with strategies ranging from A/B testing to push notifications.
The key to a long-lasting, successful app is frequent updates. Once you’ve launched your app, you’ll want to get right back to developing it – top performing apps update regularly to stay on top of design trends, security issues, and new devices.
This is a big reason native apps are more cost effective and easier to develop than hybrid – maintaining and updating a native app is a much simpler process.
The tortoise and the hare
If you’re developing an app the right way, there’s no such thing as easy development. You can, however, save a lot of headaches and backtracking by carefully planning and building your app. Do as much research as you can, and continuously test your app as you build it. Remember – slow and steady wins the race.