Overview of the mobile app development process
Creating a mobile app can be a piece of cake when you come up with an idea, throw something together, test it, and submit it to an App Store. Or it can be an extremely complicated process that involves up-front design, a full beta lifecycle, and QA and usability testing on tens of devices.
So before starting the development of a mobile application, you should have a clear understanding of some basics about mobile application development.
- The cost of developing an app depends on a complexity (gaming app, complex or small)
- The estimated time to develop an app depends on their type (highly multifaceted, multifaceted, moderated, or simple)
- The per hour price of creating an app in different countries can vary (Both iOS and Android)
Generally, the lifecycle of the mobile app development is no different than the development of desktop or web apps. As a rule, it includes five major stages of the process:
1. Inception – Any app starts with an idea. It should become a solid basis for an app.
2. Design – This stage includes defining the application’s User Experience (UX) such as how it works, what the general layout is, etc. Then, the UX should become a User Interface (UI) design (it is a job for a graphic designer).
3. Creation– It is the actual building of the app and the most resource intensive stage.
4. Stabilization – After the app is created, QA should test it to find and fix bugs.
5. Deployment – At this stage you finally get your app out into the wild.
Often, some of these stages are overlapped. For instance, an app may be going into a designing phase at the same that a new feature is being added to it.
Let us explain each of the these stages in more detail:
Nearly any person who has a smartphone has an idea for a mobile application. At the inception stage, this idea should be defined and refined. To create a successful app, it is crucial to consider some things. Here are some of them:
- Value – How will users use this app? What value does it bring them?
- Mobility/Form – How can value be added using mobile technologies such as the camera, location awareness, etc.?
- Infrastructure – What existing infrastructure will it extend or integrate?
- Competitive Advantage – Are there any similar application on App Store already? If so, will this app differentiate from others?
Once the functionality and features of the application have been determined, the next stage is solving the User Experience (UX).
It is usually done via mockups or wireframes using tools such as Visio, Mockingbird, Balsamiq or just paper and plain ol’ pen. A mockup allows the UX to be created without worrying about the UI.
An app should always “feel at home” on all platforms. Therefore, when developing the UX mockup, it is important to consider the Interface Guidelines for the different platforms that the application will target.
In addition, form factor can also influence UX decisions. For example, tablets can display more information as they have bigger screen. What compressed into one page for a tablet needs multiple screens on a smartphone.
Furthermore, the hardware itself can also dictate UX decisions (for instance, devices running iOS have no physical back button).
Once you have determined the UX, it is time to create the UI. The most popular applications have a professional design so it is important to spend time on good UI design. While UX is traditionally black and white mockups, the UI stage is where graphics, colors, etc., are finalized and introduced.
As with UX, you should understand that each platform has its own design language, so even a perfectly-designed app may still look different on different platforms.
For some UI design inspiration, see the following websites:
- mobiledesignpatterngallery.com – (iOS, Android, and Windows Phone)
- lovelyui.com – (iOS, Android, and Windows Phone)
- androidpttrns.com – (Android only)
- pttrns.com – (iOS only)
This stage usually starts very early. Actually, once an idea has some maturation in the inspiration/conceptual stage, often a working prototype is created that validates assumptions, functionality and helps understand the scope of the task.
It is the process of working out bugs in your application. Stabilization has been provided from performance, usability and functional standpoints. It is recommended to start testing early within the process of development so that corrections can occur before they have become too costly.
Traditionally, an app goes into Prototype, Alpha, Beta, and Release Candidate phases.
- Prototype – The application is still in proof-of-concept stage. Major issues are present.
- Alpha – The functionality is already created. Major issues are still present.
- Beta – The functionality is completed and has had at least light bug fixing and testing. Major issues may still be present.
- Release Candidate – The functionality is tested and completed. The application can be submitted to an App Store.
It is never too early to start testing an app. For instance, if a major issue is found in the prototype phase, developers will modify UX of the app to accommodate it.
There are a number of testing options that allow inviting people to a testing pool and make this process much easier:
- hockeyapp.com – Provides a testing for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.
- Vessel (vessel.io) – A service for Android and iOS that lets you do A/B testing from inside, track customers, and monitor usage.
- LaunchPad (launchpadapp.com) – This is an Android product that allows distributing apps for testing as well as receiving usage information and crash reports from customers.
- Testflight – Designed for iOS, this service is very similar to LaunchPad.
Once the app has been tested, it is time to get it out into the wild. Depending on the platform, there are several different deployment options:
- Ad-Hoc Deployment – It is intended primarily for testing and development and allows deploying to a limited number of provisioned devices.
- In-House Deployment – This service is meant for internal distribution of corporate apps that are not available via the App Store.
- Apple App Store – It is the most popular app repository. App Store allows developers to distribute their applications online with very little effort as it is a global distribution service for apps.
We hope this article will help you create the app of your dream. Good luck!