If you're launching into developing a mobile app for the first time, you'd be forgiven for feeling a little intimidated. Even if you have the assistance of an expert developer, there's still plenty you'll want - and need - to know about the process, as well as the best practices that smooth the path to launching a successful app.
The first step in research. Without a solid understanding of the elements that make an app successful, you've got little chance of getting there. The most crucial aspect is identifying and understanding your target audience. Knowing what their pain points are and what problems they need solved for them is an essential first step in building an app that they will use and love.
Part of your research will also include looking carefully at what your competition is doing in the mobile sphere. Are they still using web-based applications or have they already moved into creating their own apps? If they have developed apps, what do they do and how has the market responded? What is it about your app that will set you apart and offer a solution your competitors aren't offering?
Once your research is done and you have clear idea of what your app will do, how it will help your target market and how it will rank amongst its competitors, you'll need to choose a development method. There are three main development methods leading the pack today: native, hybrid and web-based. Your choice will depend on a few factors, including your objective and your budget.
Native apps can offer a superior user experience (UX) and allow for bespoke solutions for niche markets. That said, they're pricey and can only be developed for one platform at a time. So, if you're wanting to target Android and iOS users, you're basically going to need two apps as the programming languages and development process for each is completely different.
Clearly, this could be a problem for businesses working with less of a budget. The next option is hybrid development, which allows you to develop for iOS and Android at the same time. A hybrid project offers cross-platform development that could be less expensive, but the user interface (UI) won't offer the same advanced features and seamless UX that a native development would offer.
Both native and hybrid development options rely on distribution through the App Store and Google Play. That will mean getting your customers to download and install the app. While most mobile users prefer to spend time on an app than on the web, web-based applications still have their place. For one, they don't require distribution through the app stores and are a less expensive option.
If you decide to go the native app route, you'll need to be sure of what type of phone your target market is using if you don't plan on developing for both iOS and Android. In general, the safer bet is to go with both, but if the budget doesn't allow for that, make an informed decision about which platform to do first, with the goal of eventually having your app on both iOS and Android.
A final crucial consideration before you launch out into development is security. Bear in mind that your customers will be sharing their personal and potentially sensitive data with you via your app. With GDPR and the level of publicity data scandals create, a breach could break your business and cost a great deal to repair technically and in terms of your reputation.
The take-home is not to rush into development without a crystal-clear vision for your app and the development pathway that you'll follow to get to launch and beyond. Apart from making the path smoother and more efficient, getting the nitty gritty thrashed out at the beginning prevents costly reworks later in the process and results in a more cost-effective, budget-friendly build.
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