App Development Process
Role and importance of applications in the modern world
Applications are no longer considered a plus or an added value for businesses; instead, they have become a necessity. In essence, applications are the translation of a user need or a business goal into a product.
Their role is pivotal in both everyday lives and in business, which is why the application ecosystem is exploding at an unprecedented rate. In business, applications are the principal medium for companies to interact with clients, engage with prospects, and facilitate specific decision-making processes.
In today’s world, there are mobile apps for everything. Applications are changing the way we interact with the world, whether it’s booking a hotel, shopping online, reading the news, paying bills or accessing a company’s intranet, everything is accessible via a mobile app. And users are loving this trend, demanding more and more apps on a daily basis. We all want life as simple as possible, right? And we want it at the tip of our fingers.
To meet with demand, companies and organizations are investing heavily in application development life cycle processes, because it is no longer sufficient to have a comprehensive software structure but it also needs to be fast-moving software. Getting to the market quickly is crucial to the success of an app. Not only do customers want an app that solves a set of requests, but they also want it available as fast as possible.
Next, we are going to break down the Mobile App Development Process to explore its different stages and find out how necessary it is to work with a structured framework to develop mobile apps.
Main stages of the Mobile App Development Process
In Mobile App Development there are several stages to the process that constitute its essence. These stages are a result of standardized practices that are proven to work systematically to achieve the best results. It’s safe to say that the great majority of organizations that are developing an application use the same standardized process or a variation that suits their needs, but ultimately is based on the same guidelines.
Let’s dig into the Mobile App Development Process stages, from idea to market-ready.
This stage is fundamental to describe the idea of the application and to analyze the requirements of the application. It lays the groundwork for all the stages involved in the app development process as it involves extensive research to build goals and objectives for the final product.
This stage is comprised of a thorough business analysis of the target audience of the application, initial meetings to gather and generate requirements, define the expected functionality and features of the application, and comprehensive market research to understand competitors, similar apps, and other variables that may affect the success of the app.
After a comprehensive plan and objective detail is well-defined for the application, the app development team should also focus on factors such as strategy, features, and offerings that play an instrumental role in making the app unique against competitors.
The app development team oftentimes develops a prototype of the application by documenting its details, estimating a budget, seeking feedback, defining technical requirements, selecting a platform, and ultimately creating a prototype that provides a clear understanding and preview of how the application will look in its final stages. The process of building a prototype is remarkably helpful as it helps developers understand the interface of the application, the likelihood of risks and challenges, optimizations that may be required in the design, and spot loopholes that could hinder the progress of the app.
Selecting the mobile platform and development toolchain
The Mobile App development team must select a platform, whether Android or iOS, which are the two major players in mobile operating platforms. Based on the target audience, user behavior, devices, costs, feature, and more, developers have to decide whether to build a native app, a cross-platform app, or a hybrid app. This also determines the development toolchain that is best suited for the selected platform.
Selecting the right mobile platform is one of the building stones to develop a successful mobile application. It should be based on the requirements of the application you want to build. Whether you select Android, iOS, a combination of the two, or any other platform available, it should be best suited to the application’s goals and objectives.
In the second quarter of 2018, over 80% of all smartphones sold to end users are phones with the Android operating system and nearly 20% have the iOS operating system, which means between them these operating systems dominate the market almost completely. With these staggering figures, developers must identify what truly matters to the development process in terms of platform selection.
Ultimately, one of the biggest determining factors is the target audience. If the app targets mass markets, both Android and iOS are suitable options, which is why it’s important to define which platform reaches the majority of the target audience. Other criteria to consider include the return on investment as the platform plays an important role in the revenue stream of the application. Security is a concern for mobile app developers, which is why it’s important to consider the stringent security measures of each platform. The environment of the development toolchain is also important as developers have the option to work within a specific framework of programming languages, tools, technologies, and programming models that are different for each platform.
In the end, all of these variables must be taken into account and selected with the application’s goals and objectives in mind, to deliver the most customer-satisfying result.
Role of mobile app UI
The mobile app user interface (UI) and the user experience (UX) are critical to delivering value to the clients who are intended to use the mobile application. A good mobile app UI design delivers relevant information and avoids irrelevant information. A decluttered UI streamlines the app usage and presents only what is essential to the user. Navigation is intuitive and user interaction is optimized to be as seamless as possible.
Each mobile platform has its standard guidelines for interface design. For iOS, there’s the Apple Human Interface Guidelines and for Android, there’s the Google Material Design Guidelines. Both resources are recommended for use when designing an application to maximize quality and outcomes. When these guidelines are followed, users know what to expect from the specific interaction patterns of each platform.
As the tip of the iceberg, the mobile app UI is what you see of an app. It’s what end users will see and interact with, which is why it is critically important to design a layout that keeps elements familiar, interactive, and reliable. This provides a consistent UX design that gives a sense of control to the end user and an innate understanding of how they should navigate the app more efficiently. A high-quality mobile app UI creates an instant attraction to the app and the UX delivers a lasting impact to the end user of the app, making it desirable to continue the use of the app.
Using the best methodologies for application development
There is no secret sauce: successful app projects follow a methodology. Methodologies give structure, control, and understanding of the application development process. There are different methodologies available in the current environment, but in here, we are going to focus on four of the most commonly used methodologies that have different advantages and drawbacks.
- Agile development methodology: The Agile methodology is based on collaborative decision-making, where requirements and solutions converge through joint efforts to self-organize and the use of cross-functional teams. It advocates adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery, rapid and flexible responsiveness, and continuous improvement. This methodology carries out a cyclical, iterative progression to product applications - all work is done in iterated cycles, known as sprints. The Agile methodology has different forms including scrum, crystal, extreme programming, and feature-driven development.
- Rapid Application Development (RAD) methodology: With this condensed methodology that emphasizes adaptive behavior rather than planning, apps are developed faster and of higher quality by using focus groups to collect requirements, prototyping designs, reusing software components, following schedules that defer design improvements to the next product version, and keeping communication informal. The RAD methodology has four phases: requirement planning, user design, construction, and cutover.
- Waterfall development methodology: This method is considered excellent and is the most traditional software development methodologies. It is a relatively linear model that is comprised of the following sequential phases - requirements, analysis, design, coding, testing, installation or deployment, and maintenance. In each phase, distinct goals must be fully accomplished before moving on to the next phase (it flows in a downward direction - thus the resemblance to a waterfall). Overall, the waterfall methodology is easy to follow and understand as the application project has clear and stable requirements. It is considered a stringent methodology with tight controls, substantial costs, and slow progress rates.
Strategy for application testing
Before launching an application, the development team must ensure the app is fault-free in performing fundamental operations such as download, execution, navigation, and more.
The team in charge of application testing is the Quality Assurance team, who perform a scrutinization of the mobile app standards and features to assess compatibility, evaluate performance, discover defects, and more.
Prior to the launch of an app, the QA team must perform the following:
- Manual testing: The QA team pores over the app’s written documentation to validate that the requirements are carefully met.
- Scripted testing: QA creates and runs a script to test the app to search for inconsistencies, evaluate the logic, and determine if responsive actions should be taken if defects should arise.
Additionally, there are two types of application testing that should be performed by the QA team: UAT and Beta testing. UAT testing validates the app user experience to search for opportunity areas where performance and the overall experience can be optimized. Beta testing enables users to test the functionality of the app features and how they operate in a real-world environment.
Defining the application deployment procedure
Once the application is properly designed, documented, prototyped, developed, and tested, it is time to launch. . Developers must define an application deployment plan:
- To ensure the app is submitted to the proper app store of the platform that was selected.
- To ensure the app is compliant with the required criteria, quality standards, and security measures to upload to a specific app store.
- To ensure the app is approved for publishing.
- To ensure the app is properly marketed to reach the correct target audience.
- To ensure a seamless and successful launch.
In accordance with an application deployment plan, the mobile app is released and the maintenance stage begins to continue support for the app and the customer.
How to support and extend your existing application
It’s a misconception to think that the life of your app ends with its launch. On the contrary, a new stage begins as soon as it is published and accessible to the public: maintenance and support.
Developers are aware that after an app is released, it is most likely to require continuous updates, enhancements, device optimizations, bug fixes, and more. A strategy for regular maintenance and support should be designed to keep content and design relevant, modern and attractive.
Additionally, and this is most likely depending on the type of app, a dedicated team for technical support may be required to assist end users with any technical problems that may arise while using the app.
How to avoid common problems in the mobile app development
Next, we are going to talk about some of the best practices that help developers avoid problems during the mobile development lifecycle:
- Research: Conducting thorough research ensures that your app has a strong chance of being successful, original, different than competitors, and with the latest technology and advertising strategies. Substandard research oftentimes leads to the demise of an app that is not properly supported to withstand the competition.
- Selection of a development platform and methodology: As is true with almost all software, not all apps are built the same way. Developers have the challenging task of deciding to build a native, cross-platform, or hybrid mobile application for either iOS or Android development, which sets the tone for the entire app development process.
- Security measures: In the early stages of development, it is common to overlook security as an integral part of the app. Most likely, the app will contain sensitive data and user information that must be secured, which is why it’s important to strategize from the early stages for security measures that keep data safe and prevent cyber attacks.
- Perform thorough testing: Test, test, test. Testing is very important to the app’s performance and overall success. The ability to identify defects or faults is crucial to remediate them and prevent future headaches.
- Build with design and user experience in mind: App developers are not expected to be designers. Their role is to focus on the technical aspects of the application, but nonetheless, it is very important to keep design and the user experience as a top priority, as it is the first touchpoint the end user will interact with. Design should be friendly, intuitive and simple and as a result, the user experience should be effortless, swift, and hassle-free. By placing chief emphasis on these two areas, the app development team can build a successful app that engages and attracts end users.
While each app may be unique, the process to develop one is most likely not. Developers may tweak and tinker with a few aspects of the app development process, but ultimately it is a reliable and systematic methodology that allows app developers to work within a framework of guidelines that is a proven procedure to develop apps in the most effective and efficient way possible.
Over the years, the mobile app development process has evolved to its current state. The stages are not iron-clad as they are the result of years of changes and modifications, which is why some developers adjust and modify the stages to suit their mobile app development projects.
Developing an impressive app is no easy feat; it is labor-intensive and time-consuming but rewarding and lucrative in the end. Successful apps are built from processes and principles that are designed to create an app that is innovative, smart, and solves a problem or need.
Technology, in its essence, is always searching for the next revolutionary wave of change. For app development, there is a significant shift from a mobile world to an artificial intelligence world, which is why developers must prepare for a higher degree of interconnectivity, Machine Learning, Internet of Things, augmented reality, and cloud-based apps that must be considerably smarter to meet and embrace the future of technology.
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