From small business applications to e-commerce platforms, fitness trackers, internal employee communication tools, religious aids, and countless others, there exists a diverse range of mobile applications to cater to every imaginable need. These apps can either serve as an extension of your existing business or act as the foundation for an entirely new venture. Whether you seek to create an app for your business or aspire to develop the next groundbreaking platform akin to Uber, this comprehensive guide is designed to assist everyone interested in mobile app development.
With a focus on first-time builders, non-technical users, and individuals who have encountered setbacks in previous development endeavors, this resource aims to demystify the app development process. It presents the information in a manner that is accessible and understandable to all, ensuring that even those without a technical background can follow along and achieve success.
Mobile and web app development
Transforming your unique vision into a reality, I specialize in developing exceptional iOS and Android apps, guiding you through the entire process from planning to execution. With extensive expertise in cross-platform app development using hybrid and progressive web app (PWA) technologies, Henrik Bolte creates hybrid mobile apps and web applications tailored to meet your specific business requirements.
Step-by-Step Instructions for App Development
The process of mobile app development can be categorized into three stages: pre-development, development, and post-launch. While it is recommended to read this guide from start to finish, feel free to explore the sections that align with your current needs. Some of you may be at the initial stages, while others may have progressed further along the path.
Introduction to Building an App
Before delving into the step-by-step process of app development, let’s address some commonly asked questions about mobile app development. These answers will provide you with the essential information you need to begin.
What is the optimal approach for building an app?
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all method for app development. The most suitable approach depends on various factors such as your requirements, budget, app type, industry, and more. If you are creating a gaming app or something similar, native development is often the best choice. For those developing apps as a hobby or for personal use, utilizing a pre-built app template might suffice. However, for most individuals, using an app-building platform like Buildfire offers the most efficient and customizable solution at an affordable rate.
Buildfire enables you to develop iOS and Android apps simultaneously, without the need for coding. Whether you are a non-technical user or a tech-savvy individual, Buildfire provides an ideal platform for building highly customizable apps.
How long does it take to build a mobile app?
The time required to build an app varies depending on several factors. The app type, complexity of features, and development methodology are the key elements that influence the timeline. Some apps can be developed within a few months, while others may take years. As a general estimate, most mobile apps can be developed within 6-12 months.
Apps with intricate functionality naturally take longer. For simple apps intended for personal use, such as a flashlight or calculator app, the entire process can be completed in less than a week. However, if you aim to build the next Facebook, Uber, or Tinder, expect the development timeline to span years. Utilizing an app-building platform like Buildfire can expedite the process compared to building a native app with low-level coding.
How much does it cost to build an app?
The cost of building a mobile app can vary significantly, ranging from as low as $2,000 to over $1.5 million. Several factors influence the overall cost of app development, including the type of app, implemented features, and chosen development methodology.
Using an app development platform is generally more affordable compared to engaging in low-level coding. In the United States, experienced developers may charge around $130 per hour, while a first-time developer working overseas could cost as little as $25 per hour. As you incorporate more features, enhance functionality, and increase the complexity of the app, the overall cost will naturally rise.
Is it better to make an iOS app or an Android app?
Quick Answer: The ideal approach is to build an app for both iOS and Android platforms. Neglecting one platform means excluding a substantial portion of the population.
This decision arises when coding a native app from the ground up, requiring separate versions for iOS and Android. Essentially, it involves building two distinct apps.
Thankfully, app-building platforms like Buildfire offer the convenience of building apps for both iOS and Android simultaneously. These platforms allow you to develop the entire app without coding and launch it on both platforms simultaneously.
How to Build an App in 11 Steps
Before diving into development, it may be tempting to begin building right away. However, there are essential steps that must be taken before initiating the development process. These steps play a crucial role in ensuring the success of your app, so it is important not to overlook them.
Step #0 – Coming up with an idea for your app
Before you get started, you need to make sure you have a viable app idea.When you consider the millions of apps out there in the market, this step might seem a little intimidating to you. But you don’t really need a 100% original idea. A lot of great apps are variations of existing ideas.
Maybe you have the next Yelp for B2B products or the next Uber for pets.
Whatever the idea, you have to make sure your app is actually solving a problem. Then you need to make sure no one else is already doing what you want. If they are, then you have to come up with differentiators that differentiate your idea from the competition.
It’s also worth noting that not every idea needs to be an invention or a new concept. Many apps are just an extension of an existing business. If you have an ecommerce website, you can build an app that improves the way your customers shop from mobile devices. If you have a barber shop or nail salon, you can build an app that enhances client booking, appointment management, and deposits.
Step #1 – Define Your Goals
The app development process should start with clearly defined goals. What are you ready to achieve? What problems are you trying to solve?
Your goals will ultimately set up your entire development process. If these are not clearly defined from the beginning, once you start developing your own app it is easy to get lost along the way.
Don’t just set a goal-set measurable goals.
Use this as your answer star, to make sure you’re constantly aiming at them. Otherwise, you will not be able to use your time and resources effectively. Since app development is virtually unlimited, it can be tempting to add features, bells and whistles that aren’t mission-critical to your goal. You can set goals related to your business as well as goals related to end-users.
To ensure that you achieve your app development goals, you need to understand the difference between a goal and an objective. Goals represent the end result you want to reach. Objectives are the steps you take to achieve those goals.
Break down those objectives into “smart” objectives:
- average class
It is a common mistake for people to define goals in a monetary sense, such as “making more money.” But it goes without saying. It doesn’t make you any different from every other business on the planet. Instead, a great goal should be focused on its purpose and mission.
Each goal should have clear KPIs (Key Performance Indicators).
Make sure you have pre-determined measurements to achieve success. KPIs work best when they are numerical.
For example, let’s say you want to build an app for your ecommerce shop, one of your goals might be to reduce shopping cart abandonment rates on mobile devices. To make sure you’re reaching that goal, you need to know your current abandonment rates so that they can be compared to the numbers when your own app finally launches.
Step #2 – Conduct Market Research
Once you’ve set your goals, you need to make sure your app has what it takes to have a market. In theory every app idea sounds good, but you need to validate your idea before proceeding.
Creating an app without market research can be a valuable waste of your time, money and resources.
- create survey
- conduct interview
- run focus group
- research your competition
- Learn how to build an app that improves customer experience
If your app is an extension of your existing business, you can use your current customers as a resource for this research. If the app is for a completely new idea, you need to connect with potential users who are a good fit for your target audience.
Step #3 – Specify your app’s features
Think about the core functionality of your app. This is where the focus should be on features. Many people are tempted to add extra and unnecessary features to the app. But some features take away from the primary purpose of your app. Each feature add-on also adds to the cost and development timeline.
Examples of popular app features include:
- push notifications
- community wall
- GPS capability
- surveys and questionnaires
- Video, Image and Audio Hub
- booking capacity
- calendar integration
- ecommerce cart
- menu ordering system
- customer loyalty
- user directory
Simplicity is the most important aspect in these early development stages. If the user’s precise location is not required for the primary function of your app, you can leave off the GPS feature.
Step #4 – Create a Wireframe
A wireframe is essentially a rough layout of your mobile app. It’s also not very formal, and you don’t need to worry about the graphic design of your app just yet. You can draw a wireframe on a piece of paper, a whiteboard, napkin, or use a digital wireframing tool.
Wireframes are only intended to describe the app’s features and layout plans.
Don’t worry about app design elements in wireframes. This tool is not a one-to-one relationship to what the final app will actually look like. Instead, the focus of your wireframe should be on structure and flow.
Create a map of the user journey. Show what happens if they click on a particular button. What will the next page look like? What happens on the screen when a user clicks on Option A vs. Option B?
Wireframes help get your team on the same page in terms of how the app will work and your vision of how it will work.
Step #5 – Choose your development method
There are many different ways to build an app. Before you start building an app, you need to determine which method is best for your unique situation. The best option for me might not be the best option for you. Choosing the right method is based on factors such as your budget, technical skill level, type of app and time taken to market.
Generally speaking, there are five different ways to build a mobile app. I’ll go over each method in more detail below, so you can find out which option is best for your own app.
How to Build an App with Buildfire
Buildfire is in a category of its own. This app building software was created to give non-technical users the ability to build apps on their own using an extensive marketplace with a plethora of features for complete customization.
Compared to the average RAD app builder, Buildfire offers more flexibility in terms of what these native apps are doing. If there’s unique functionality that hasn’t been built for the market yet, you can get your own developers to build it for you using the BuildFire SDK. You’ll also have the option of taking advantage of BuildFire’s white-glove services. In this case, the in-house developers at Buildfire can build custom functionality for you.
BuildFire does not require any coding skills or technical knowledge. So you don’t have to learn a new programming language or anything like that. You can build everything on your own, using a web-based platform to launch an iPhone app and an Android app simultaneously. Just choose a template and start adding features.
This is the easiest way to develop iOS apps and deploy them on iOS App Store and Google Play Store. Anyone can learn to build an app using BuildFire in a matter of minutes. Buildfire is an affordable way to build an app that’s customizable without the challenges associated with other RAD or hybrid tools.
How to Build an App with Native Development
Basic development involves low-level coding. So if you are not a developer and you don’t know how to code, you will have to hire a specialized developer to build the app for you. If you plan to launch apps for both iOS and Android, you will need a developer for each platform to deploy native apps on both the App Store (iOS App Store and Google Play Store).
Each platform has its own programming language. While few developers know how to make an app for both, having one person do the whole thing will take you twice as long, and it won’t save you any money. In addition to hiring app developers for iOS apps and Android apps, you’ll also need a full-stack web developer to build your backend infrastructure for data hosted in the cloud.
Learning how to build apps with native development gives you the most flexibility of any development method. By coding from scratch, your app can do anything. It’s a perfect choice for anyone trying to build a gaming app or augmented reality app. With that said, native apps are expensive and take the longest to build.
How to Build an App with Hybrid App Development
Hybrid apps still have a lot of flexibility in terms of what the app can accomplish. While you won’t need a developer with expertise in low-level coding to build this, they should still have web development skills. Hybrid development saves time and money as compared to native development. But as a result the performance and quality of your app may be affected.
How to Build Apps with Rapid App Development (RAD) App Builder
Rapid app development is a popular option for non-technical users who want to build apps on their own. It’s much cheaper than native and hybrid development, and you’ll be able to reach the market faster too. With RAD, you’ll use existing tools to build an app with an online interface.
These platforms are generally promoted as solutions for people who are not technical. But with that said, if you want to build an app using this method even if you have a simple app idea, you need to have some clue of what you are doing from a technical point of view. You won’t have to learn how to develop apps with code or anything like that, but you’ll definitely need some technical ability to make your app do anything beyond a basic level.
Rapid app development limits the builder to any number of tools used to build the app. You will be able to use only the platform for the functionality that it has to offer. You’re just configuring those tools in a way that works for your app. Let’s say you want to build an app for something as basic as a mobile application for internal processes, then RAD would be a viable option. Just understand that you will have your limits.
How to Build an App Using Cookie Cutter App Builder
A cookie-cutter app app maker is exactly what it sounds like. You are essentially taking a single app and configuring it for your needs. You’ll add personalized text, images, color schemes and other app design graphics that align with your branding. The platform makes it easy for you to turn on the functionality you need and turn off the features you don’t.
This development method does not require any coding. Cookie cutter app builder usually has a fairly simple user interface. So you don’t have to be technical to find out. It might be easier to build an app this way, but it’s not very flexible or customizable. Your functionality will be extremely limited, especially if you want to scale. Cookie-cutter apps are fine for side projects, hobby apps, or DIYers with a meager budget. But they are not really viable for commercial purposes.
Step #6 – Research an existing solution
The last step you need to take in the pre-development process is researching existing solutions. Before you waste valuable time and resources trying to figure out how to build an app and other components from scratch, it’s always a good idea to see if that solution is already available in the market. In the context of app development, there are services to meet the standard functionalities that each app requires. I’m talking about solutions for things like infrastructure, hosting, design, analytics and push notifications. If you can just rent a server from an existing solution, why would you even try to host an app yourself?
It’s always cheaper to buy something already built as opposed to building your own from scratch. You can usually make minor custom changes to these existing services as well. Learning how to build an app is quite challenging. Do not make this process more difficult than necessary. Build only what you need from scratch. For everything else, take advantage of reusable tools that already exist.
This will save you time, money and make your app reach the market faster. Plus, it will make your life a lot easier. Once you’ve completed the legwork in the pre-development stage, you can actually start building an app. By now, you’ve already validated your app ideas, done all the necessary research, and have a basic understanding of how an app should function.
Step # 7 – Technical Specification
Take the wireframes you created during the pre-development process and use them to create a “tech spec”. These are the internal workings behind the scenes of your app that no one sees. Sometimes, it makes sense to switch things up logically as it will save you a lot of time and money.
An app developer needs to look at your wireframe and assess the technical challenges – not just the visual challenges.
Your techie could potentially find alternative ways to achieve your goals. These options can save you months of work and thousands of dollars if you figure it out now.
At least get the information, and then you have the opportunity to weigh your options.
You can always say that user experience is more important than reducing some costs and building more efficiently. But the technical spec process is still an important part of the development.
It’s better to do it right away, as opposed to three or six months down the road, thinking, “I wish we’d done things differently. It could have saved us so much time.”
Step #8 – Set Measurable Milestones
Setting milestones will help keep you and your team on track throughout the app building process. Without benchmarks, you would have no way of tracking your progress. The idea here is to break down your huge development project into smaller pieces. It’s much easier to put away a lot of small projects than to see one big project from start to finish.
Each small app project must be completed within a specified time frame. Depending on the complexity of the task, this could be anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. To make sure you and your development team are meeting the deadline, you can measure your progress against this timeline of milestones.
Implement a project management system that works well for software developers. Agile development and scrum development are two excellent options to consider.
Regardless of your decision here, you need to make sure you have some way of tracking your progress.
This will give you a better understanding of when you can go to market with your app—so you can plan accordingly.
Step #9 – Create an MVP
You should always develop an MVP-Minimum Viable Product as soon as you start building apps. The app idea behind MVP is that it forces you to think about the most essential features of your app. This is an important aspect of an app project on its path to building a successful app.
What does your app really need to work? Build those features first, then worry about everything else. App development is virtually unlimited. It’s easy to get distracted and lose sight of your goals during the manufacturing process. A month or two into the project, it’s easy to say “add this feature” or “wouldn’t it be great if the app could do this?” Those assumptions will only add time and money to your project. They can also take away from the core functionality of your app.
You can always go back and add features later. In fact, we’ll be addressing this soon in the guide during the later stages of the app building process. An MVP is essentially the bare bones of your app. Learn how to build an app with only the necessary components. It has enough core features to meet the simplest functionalities and use cases. Don’t worry about a cute design or distracting bells and whistles. It’s not important yet.
For example, let’s say you’re building a messaging app. Your MVP will be an app that allows two users to message each other. You won’t start creating a video chat feature or configure settings to change fonts, upload photos, or adjust the app’s background color.
Let’s look at the analogy of the house. The MVP for a house would be four exterior walls and a roof. It will not be a tent, and it will not be a kitchen. You can’t go home from the tent, and a kitchen can be added later. Remember, MVP is not a complete app but it is much more than just a test app.
Step #10 – Quality Assurance
Once your MVP is finished, and you have a working app, you need to test it before deploying.The app should be tested on a real mobile platform. Your app can be used in many different ways, so the quality assurance person will have to check this on everything.
Between iPhones, iPads, Android devices, PWAs, smartphones, tablets, etc., you’re done. Make sure the app works online, offline etc. Devices with different software versions or screen sizes can cause issues not found elsewhere. So don’t just test the app once on your phone and assume it is working properly.
As a first time app builder, you may question the QA process. Do you really need to pay someone to test your app? Can’t an app developer build an app without any bugs in the code? Sure, in Utopia, the apps are fully built and don’t need to be tested. But in the real world, developers write bugs-and they’re notorious for finding their own bugs.
So don’t undermine the QA process. A quality assurance specialist can come and find problems with your app before it goes to market. It is better to recognize these now; Otherwise, users will find them in real life.
If a customer detects a bug, it’s going to cause problems for the long-term success of your app.
In addition to testing your app with a QA expert, you can also do usability testing with real test users. Give the app to your friends, family and coworkers as well.
The app doesn’t need to be correct when you launch it. But ideally, you’ll want to eliminate all bugs and errors. User experience and user interface changes can be configured later.
Step #11- Deployment
It’s time to get your app live and in the hands of real users. Your primary focus right now should be on uptime and visibility. Make sure the application is fully functional for the end-user. You don’t want your servers to crash or anything like that.
To market your app, you’ll need to submit it to different app stores. There are different requirements for Google Play Store apps and Apple App Store apps. So you must understand all the different submission guidelines before going through this process. The process for deploying your app will vary depending on the development method you choose, which we discussed in the pre-development section of this guide.
If you use Buildfire to build an app, we’ll make the app live for you. All you have to do is let us know when it’s done, and we’ll take care of everything else for both iOS and Android. So you can focus your efforts on growth, and let our team do all the heavy lifting for you. For those of you who decide to hire a development team or learn how to build an app on your own writing code, you will have to go through additional steps during the deployment process.
Post launch: So you’ve learned how to make an app; It’s great! But the process of mobile app development is not over after the implementation of the app. Even after you have launched, there is still a lot of work to be done.
Make sure you plan according to the later stages of launch, and don’t spend your entire budget during development.
Market your app: Your app is a business; Treat accordingly. Would you start a new business without any promotion? Clearly no.
You can have the best app on the planet, but your efforts won’t matter if no one knows about it. Your app should be marketed appropriately to get some attention and increase user interest. Start by driving visitors to your website and app. The visitor application becomes installed. App installs become a paid member.
Make sure you have a digital presence on as many marketing platforms as possible. Prioritize the channels where your user base spends the most time. Promote your app on social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. If you are targeting the younger generation, you can promote the app on Snapchat and TikTok as well. Create video promotions and app demonstrations. Upload those videos to YouTube. You can always reproduce those videos on other distribution channels.
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