Have you ever thought about building an app as a product or a way to help market your brand? Do you have an idea for a mobile app but aren’t sure how to proceed? Or perhaps you developed apps before but struggle with your latest project? Maybe the development process feels overwhelming and complicated. It’s not easy to build an app, but you can do it with the right approach, processes, and team. Developing an app requires a lot of time, money, and effort. You need to know everything from coding languages to marketing strategy. But don’t worry! We’ve covered you with these valuable tips for building an app that delivers.
Building an app
Building an app might seem like the natural progression of your business. Nearly every day I get one or more emails from companies who want to build an app to supplement my website. Yet, none explain why I need an app. And, that’s my first tip.
1. Why do you need an app
An app might seem like a good idea, but will it deliver results? You need to conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis before you jump into building an app. Here are some advantages of a mobile app:
- You can integrate the features available on mobile such as GPS, camera, etc.
- An app might prove more exciting than a simple website. For instance, you can use gamification to support the entertainment value.
- When consumers use an app, they are less distracted by the products of other companies so you might increase sales, especially among current customers.
- You might experience lower costs through an app than other means to provide customer support.
- Mobile apps create stickiness so users get notifications about sales and updates to delivery status right in on their device.
- Provide a better customer experience and greater engagement.
- Users downloaded 218 billion apps in 2020 (although the pandemic artificially increased this number). [source]
- Statista predicts app revenue from paid downloads and advertising will reach $950 by 2023.
There are also some serious downsides to building a mobile app, including:
- In 2020, the average smartphone user had 40 apps on their device [source]
- Games are the most frequently downloaded apps [source]
- Conservatively, there are over 5.5 million apps available across various popular app stores, according to Statista
- App development increased dramatically over the last few years with 2300 new apps appearing every day [source]
- The average user uses only 9 apps per day, 30 apps per month [source]
Taken together, these stats suggest the app market is large but getting users to download and use your app is challenging, especially if you don’t fall into one of the popular download types that include gaming, social networking, media, and dating. If you decide you do need an app, the next step is to begin developing and marketing the app.
2. Plan before development
Before you begin development, you need to have a clear and defined plan of what you want to build, why you want to build it, and how you want to build it. This will ensure you don’t waste time and money on unnecessary features or create something your users don’t need. First, you need to define your product. What is your app, and what does it do? You must also identify your target market, key features, and competitive advantage. Once you have a solid idea of what you’re building, you can begin to map out your development schedule, project budget, and milestones.
3. Testing, testing, testing
Before you write the first line of code, begin product testing by building a functional prototype. Depending on the complexity of your app, you might use a tool such as Marvel for wireframing a prototype of your app from a drawing. This product allows you to create hyperlinks within your drawing that simulate how users would use a working app. If you have something more complex, you might design something less concrete to begin testing.
When I worked for a company designing a complex app, we started with a general idea of how the app would function. We showed our idea to prospective users, got feedback, and went back to the drawing board. After several iterations, we finally had something our prospective users felt worked for them. We then built a wireframe for more testing with prospective users.
4. Know your platform
Choosing the right platform for your app can determine the success of your business. If you’re not careful, you could spend a lot of money on the wrong platform or spend more time developing the app than necessary. Therefore, you need to know what your options are and which one will best suit your needs. There are two main types of platforms:
- Native apps are built specifically for one platform. This means that your app will look and function the same on Android as it does on iOS.
- Cross-platform apps are built with a hybrid approach that allows for a more streamlined experience. Instead of building for each platform separately, hybrid apps are built for one codebase and are then translated into the language of the other platform.
5. Graphic design
You need a talented graphic designer to bring your idea to life with a look and feel that fits with your app. Below, you see the design for Glovo, a delivery app. The colors are vibrant, the visuals support the customer journey and the app is intuitive because it uses a simple design. Add your design to your wireframes and test again.
6. Hire a knowledgeable development team
Notice, up to now, we haven’t written a line of code. This is an element of lean design where you figure out what you want before you start coding. It’s much easier, faster, and cheaper to change what you plan before you code. Plus, once you start writing code, you mentally commit to a design and functionality that might not be best in the minds of your users.
Once you choose a development team, you need to ensure they are qualified and knowledgeable in app building. You want to ensure they have experience in your industry and have previously worked with similar businesses. This helps them understand your specific needs and how best to meet them. You also want to ensure your team has the technical expertise in various programming languages to build your app. Regardless of the platform you decide to use, every app needs certain technical aspects to function correctly. Make sure your team has the necessary skill set and is using the right tools and technology with reputable providers such as https://www.clearscale.com/services/cloud-containers for cloud containers. Finally, you want to make sure your development team is collaborative, communicative, and has a strong work ethic. They need to be able to work closely with you, communicate effectively, and meet all project deadlines.
7. User testing
With the final app, begin user testing. I started by sitting with users as they started using our new app. I took notes of questions they had, elements that weren’t clear, and things that didn’t work as we had planned. No matter how many times you use the app yourself, you always encounter new hiccups when users begin testing out your product. Then, it’s back to the drawing board. Sometimes it means you tweak your wireframes, especially if users couldn’t figure out how something worked, or you need to give developers a list of things they need to fix so the product performs in the way you envisioned.
8. Launch your app
Sure, you can simply upload your app to the appropriate app stores (up to 55% of apps are rejected by the store and require some changes before they’re available to users according to CNBC) but you really need a bigger marketing effort to gain users.
We hosted a launch party where we invited prospective users to try out our app. We set up computers around the room so guests could try out the app after signing up for a free download on their mobile devices. We had food and drinks, entertainment, prizes, and a great group of people that helped build excitement. We also used several trade shows in much the same way. This built a nice initial user base for the app.
Now, the real work starts. You must market your app to continue building a user base and engagement so users continue using the app. The more downloads for an app, the more it appeals to potential users.
We used a combination of digital marketing (social media, search advertising, SEO to make our website more visible) and offline marketing tactics. We were located in DC and belonged to a number of tech-related groups. Long before we had a product, we sought out members of these groups to pick their brains for insights from their own experiences and get advice. Once our product was a reality, we worked with members we met to help spread the word at other meetings. We traveled around the region to expand our reach and demonstrated our product to corporations that might pay for the business version of the product.
The point I’m trying to make is that you need to think about marketing long before you have a finished product. The more input you get from prospective users and others who had experiences like yours, the better you are prepared to market your finished product.
Building an app is no easy task. It’s a lot of work, requires a lot of money, and can be a very long process. Failure is a very real possibility if you don’t follow these 9 tips. Therefore, if you’re serious about building an app, you need to thoroughly follow them.
Need marketing help to support business growth?
We welcome the opportunity to show you how we can make your marketing SIZZLE with our data-driven, results-oriented marketing strategies. Sign up for our FREE newsletter, get our FREE guide to creating an awesome website, or contact us for more information on hiring us.
Hausman and Associates, the publisher of MKT Maven, is a full-service marketing agency operating at the intersection of marketing and digital media. Check out our full range of services.