Today’s world is completely consumed by mobile fever. It is increasingly difficult to imagine a life in which we do not use mobile apps. They are taking over the world, and this is no longer an abstract future, but a very real state of affairs.
Is there even one person around you who doesn’t actively use a smartphone? Hardly. Phone sales are increasing and manufacturing companies are investing huge sums in mobile technology, its development and market popularization. While Elon Musk continues to work on colonizing Mars, we continue to use smartphones everywhere.
The demand for mobile app development is also growing at a huge rate. Mobile app industry revenues reached $581.9 billion in 2020. If this trend continues, industry revenue will reach nearly $1 trillion in 2023, and by 2026, the market will grow more than 18.4 percent and is projected to reach an industry of $407.31 billion.
88% of mobile time is spent on apps. Searching for directions or ordering a cab, bank transfers or translating from a foreign language, communicating with loved ones and posting photos on social networks – mobile app development is going on in every direction. It’s one of the most popular methods of software creation, the number of mobile devices greatly exceeds the number of personal computers, and this tendency will only grow.
But how many people know exactly how a mobile app is created? We are here to explain it to you.
What is Mobile App Development?
Mobile app development is a set of processes and strategies for writing software for small wireless computing devices such as smartphones, tablets, and others that will run on specific mobile platforms. Today there are 2 main mobile operating system platforms – iOS from Apple and Android from Google. Less popular are Windows Phone and Symbian.
Like web application development, mobile app development has its roots in more traditional software development. However, mobile apps are often written specifically to take advantage of the exclusive features of a particular mobile device.
For example, a gaming app might be written to use the accelerometer of an iPhone or a health app might be written to use the temperature sensor of a smartwatch. In fact, 66% of smartphone users download games. More than 95% of all users download messaging, communication apps, web browsers, etc.
If an app is developed with an undefined purpose or an inability to handle a number of changes, it’s a waste of money. App development needs to be tied to a goal, and the main reasons for failure are confusion and the inability to target audiences to find a place in the market.
In the mobile app development process, mobile app developers should always consider important points, such as how to reduce the number of keystrokes, or how to compactly fit the necessary feature set into the app. Therefore, the process of mobile app development is often not limited to just writing code but includes a broader and more creative set of activities. Different methodologies are used to create mobile applications, among which the most common is the agile methodology.
Read more about Development: In-house Product Development VS Outsourced Product Development: Which One Suits You Better?
How Do You Find an Idea for a Mobile App?
When it comes to creating mobile apps, developers are constantly trying to complicate their ideas and strategies. So the app turns into a swiss army knife, which is not only hard to learn and use, but also expensive.
But when we think of successful apps, they are often the simplest, most problem-solving, and easiest to use.
Generally speaking, it’s hard enough for us to generate ideas just like that and it causes a challenge for several people. But the key is to enjoy the decision-making process. You have to try a lot of ideas and see which ones excite customers, which ones people use and get excited about, or which ones they don’t like. Start with observation.
For example, articles and comments on blogs like Quora are not only a useful source of information, but also a way to interact with users or your target audience. Pay attention to the issues discussed there, post comments or start a new thread around issues of interest. This way, people can help you point out problems you haven’t noticed before.
Explore the App Store and Play Store, review your competitors’ app reviews and user ratings to get a clearer picture of features and strategies that resonate with your potential users.
Plus, don’t forget to check for market trends. For example, augmented and virtual reality are very popular right now. Creating ideas that resonate with today’s users requires a constant effort to keep up with the times. You can look at trends on services like Google Trends, Forrester Research, Trendwatching, etc.
As R. L. Adams writes in his book “Viral: How to Spread your Ideas Like a Virus”, a good idea is only 10% of success. The other 90% will depend on your ability to present it to those around you – your boss, customers, investors, colleagues, or friends.
Don’t forget to present the idea in such a way that it is perceived. Keep it simple, compare it to a known successful brand, and consider who your audience is when communicating your message.
Types of Mobile Apps
As the number of mobile devices grows, so does the need for app development. There are several types of applications that mobile app developers use.
This is the most common application type. They are created using integrated development environments (IDEs) and programming languages for mobile operating systems such as Android, iOS, or Windows Phone. For Android, the native language is Java, while for iOS it is Objective-C or Swift.
With these applications, you can make full use of the device’s functionality – the camera, GPS sensor, accelerometer, compass, contact list, and everything else. To reach a larger audience, several separate apps are created for different operating systems. They can perform the same functions, have the same design, but will be different programs. This extends project time and development budget.
Benefits of native applications:
- speed of operation
- high performance
- advanced interface
- maximum functionality
- end-user friendliness
- autonomous work
- high security
Native mobile apps are distributed through Play Market, AppStore, and other app stores.
A web application is a site that is adapted and optimized for any smartphone. They run with a browser and are typically written in HTML5.
Web applications became popular when HTML5 began to be developed. People realized then that it was possible to access many features of native apps just by going to a website with a regular browser. Launching a mobile web app, the user performs the same actions as when going to any website, but can also “install” it on their desktop, i.e. create an icon of a website page on the desktop.
Web apps can function independently of the device’s platform and don’t take up valuable space on the smartphone’s memory.
Benefits of mobile web apps:
- easy and fast development process
- number of competent developers
- no need to download from the app store
Unfortunately, web apps can’t function without the Internet. And their performance is lower compared to other types of applications.
Benefits of hybrid applications:
- cost and speed of development
- number of developers involved
- broad market coverage
However, hybrid apps are not as feature-rich and have limited access to smartphone hardware. Like native apps, you can download them from the app store.
Adjustments can be made to hybrid apps easily and quickly. Developers don’t have to re-post the app in the store to fix bugs in the previous version.
They need an internet connection because they download content from an external source hosted on a server. Without the latter, web functions simply do not work.
Read more about Development: Cross-platform or native mobile app development: which suits your business better
Why Do Businesses Need Mobile App Development?
The mobile app industry is an industry worth hundreds of billions. If you think that most app concepts have already been developed, you’re wrong. With countless apps yet to be created and introduced in app stores, the possibilities are endless.
Not only banks and retailers, but also government agencies, hotels, medical centers, restaurants, beauty salons, and others are ordering the development of mobile applications. Now you can use your smartphone to count calories, pay fines and rent, or “try on” a virtual tattoo or the furniture in your room.
A mobile app for business allows to:
- increase the company’s image, show clients that you keep up with the times, and count on long-term partnerships
- send notifications so that users are always aware of all the news, promotions, and activities
- stand out from your competitors, offering app users a fast, convenient, and modern channel of interaction
- increase sales by applying different types of purchase incentives
- raise loyalty to a new level, develop a system of bonuses, use the application as a discount card, or make an online record to simplify the life of your clients
- work on the interests of target customers, as this is a new opportunity to work with customers and offer them your services
- constant communication with the consumer, which will provide a modern level of client service
A mobile app is a powerful digital weapon with a number of perks, the effect of which can exceed all expectations. But there are several things to consider before ordering the app development. This way of promotion is not suitable for everyone, requires clear and competent moderation and must be useful for the audience. Therefore, make decisions correctly, based on the company’s needs.
Read more about Development: What Software Development Methodologies Exist and Which One Would Fit Your Project?
Mobile App Development Process
What exactly does creating an application consist of? This is a question that clients are interested in. They want to know not only how much money they will pay, but also how the whole app development process takes place. Next, let’s take a closer look at each of the stages of app development.
Start from Idea and Product Discovery
Every app starts with an idea. Here the customer explains what tasks should be solved by the future service, what is the purpose of developing a mobile application. An interview with the customer allows finding out more about what the application should be like.
- What is the app value?
- What is its target audience?
- What is the competitive market in this business area?
- What should be the main functionalities?
- What will be the budget for creating the product?
- What are the customer’s requirements for the application development process?
Existing solutions are analyzed, competitors and customer behavior patterns are studied. This helps to understand how people will use the application to make it as convenient, understandable, and useful as possible.
Analytics is an important stage of creating an application that allows to understand who is on the market, who to focus on, and what not to do.
Next comes the preparation of a detailed Terms of Reference (TOR). Usually, it contains a detailed description of user personas, user stories (User Story), a Customer Journey Map, mobile app functionality, business processes, and the main scenarios that should be implemented. The TOR is prepared either by the customer or by a development company according to the customer’s requirements. After preparing the ToR it is possible to accurately estimate the time and cost of app development.
The result is a list of functions that should be in the application, interface requirements, performance, and other non-functional requirements, the description of how all these requirements will be implemented, and project cost estimates.
Thanks to the ToR, mobile development team clearly understands what kind of service the customer wants to get, and realizes the initial idea step by step.
User Story describes the user’s behavior in the app step by step. For example, the user logs in, browses the catalog, places an order, and makes a purchase. User Story describes how exactly the customer uses the app to solve his problem and get a benefit. As a result, the requirements that determine the functionality of the future application are identified.
Customer Journey Map
Customer Journey Map visually shows how a person uses the mobile app in each of the user stories. It shows the user’s entire journey – moving between screens and clicking on buttons. The map helps you understand how to technically implement the utility’s functionality for your phone.
Mobile App Design (UX/UI Design) Creation
At this stage, the designer creates static and interactive prototypes of the application. Here you can see how the app will look and what behavior to expect, taking into account the planned features. Everything depends on the client’s objectives and wishes, as well as feedback so that the design of the mobile app will fully meet the requirements.
UX design involves interaction between the parts of the application. At this stage, you can see how the app works in different versions of the user scenario. This is the order of registration, the view of the personal account, and the order of checkout and payment.
UI design involves the appearance of the application. The designer selects the color scheme and works on creating the interface. If the company has its style and corporate colors, the design is developed following them.
Sometimes customers come in with a ready-made design. If there is no design, the UI/UX is created from scratch. The result is a screen map, application design, an attractive UI, and user-friendly UX.
Why is Mobile App Prototype Important?
A mobile app prototype is a quick and less costly way to validate a product that communicates the design and navigation of the app to stakeholders. Prototypes bring the customer’s ideas to life. Here, the design is refined, colors and other interesting design elements are added, without having to change the main functional part of the app as well. This is why prototyping is important:
- exploring new ideas and improvements
- preventing misinterpretation and identifying design flaws
- market validation
- customer and stakeholder engagement
- minimizing team conflicts
- reducing costs
Mobile App Development
After the TOR is agreed, the design is ready and the mobile app prototype is approved, the active development period begins. It is usually advised to use a minimum viable product (MVP) in complex projects, which helps in evaluating the future application by the customer, users, and in further planning the development.
The development team writes code to implement the planned application behavior and connect application logic with the server part if it is provided. The creation of the service code is divided into 2 stages: frontend and backend. The frontend is the design and development of the application’s client part such as the interface and business logic. Backend is the creation of the service’s server part, which is responsible for transferring information.
Ideally, the server should be designed in such a way that the exchange of information between it and the frontend is smooth. At the end of this stage, we have a mobile application, ready for testing.
Native development for Android uses Java and Kotlin, Objective-C and Swift for iOS, and the latest frameworks and libraries. Cross-platform solutions use React Native and NativeScript.
Read more about Development: What is an MVP and why is it important for business?
Testing & Bug Fixing
After development is complete, you need to test the application’s final version. Mobile app testing means identifying and eliminating all bugs and flaws in the app to prepare it for a full release.
There is a special program for testing – the mobile application viewer. The way the application looks when viewed is how it will appear and work after publication. That’s why it’s important at this stage to identify glitches and incorrectly displayed elements so that you can fix them before publication.
The most common mistake clients make is to underestimate the testing stage and strive to launch the project as soon as possible. Sooner or later, application errors will have to be corrected, but this approach is more expensive. While testing an application is carried out at all stages of development. They check the usability of the interface, the level of security, performance, responsiveness.
When the series of tests and revisions are complete, the final stage of mobile service development begins: adding it to a special app store: the App Store or Google Play Store, where the application goes through the review process. Or any other service the app owner wants. The registration fee for a developer’s account in GooglePlay is a one-time fee of $25, and for the AppStore, it is $99 per year.
In order for the application to be reviewed by the storers, the client can ask the developers for help with the release, or they can prepare and add the application to the store themselves.
It is worth paying attention to the fact that after publication, changes can be made to the app without going through a second moderation.
Post Production Support & Maintenance
After the release, you need to constantly maintain the application. Ensure stable operation, make sure the server can handle the load, fix bugs that arise, etc. You can improve the application by studying user feedback and based on it perform refinements, release updates, extend functionality.
How Much Time Does it Take to Develop an App?
There are now 2.8 million apps on the Play Store and 1.96 million apps on the App Store, and these numbers are growing year by year. Due to a large number of apps, development time plays an essential role in getting an app to market before the competition. So the question app developers hear from their customers all the time is: ” How long does it take to make an app? “.
There is no definite answer to this question because several factors affect the application development process. The following factors should be taken into account during development:
Sphere of Application
The first step in determining how long it will take to create an app is to determine the scope of the app to avoid having to come back later to include additional features. The best way is to analyze the needs of the target audience, determine if any other apps offer the same service, and assess whether there is demand for what the app provides. If there are other apps on the market offering the same solution, you need to determine what will be different in the new app.
Application Complexity Level
The smaller and simpler the application, the less time you will need to create it. Meanwhile, the development of more complex applications with huge functionalities takes much more time. Therefore, when it comes to the development timeframe, you should first decide on the scale of the work to be done. The size of the app depends on the number of features, so you need to determine the functionality first.
Simple applications are defined as those that contain about 5 screens, don’t exchange data with databases, don’t collect user activity analytics, and if they have a personal account, they are registered by email only. As a rule, these are either business cards or programs designed for one simple process like ordering without selecting products and adding to a cart.
Medium Complexity Apps
Medium in complexity is those that cover several processes. This includes most online stores and booking systems. There are about 10 screens, there is a personal account, supported authorization through social networks, there is integration with the server or site, and often with payment systems. There can be built-in feedback functionality, scoring, rating. Applications in this category are the most common.
Complex applications can support real-time synchronization, all sorts of interactivity, integration with any databases, animation, offline work, and everything else.
GoodFirms surveyed various industry experts on the timing and cost of developing specific examples of mobile apps such as Instagram, Tinder, Uber, and others. And here are the results:
- simple applications with little functionality require 3.8 to 4.1 months
- the development of applications for Iphone and other smartphones, of medium complexity, like WhatsApp require about 4.5 months
- complex apps like Instagram or Uber with extensive functionality are estimated to take 4.5 to 5.5 months to develop
Resources and skills
The customer should make sure that there are enough resources to create the application. Let’s say it’s a small company or a startup, but you don’t have your development team. It is quite natural for a person to outsource the task to a competent IT company. So the customer should have enough money to cover all the costs. Working with outsourcing companies is cheaper than hiring and maintaining your own team. If it’s a huge enterprise, you can hire your specialists for one project. Either way, it all depends on the situation.
There are many ways to reduce application development costs. In the future, the cost and timing of development will decrease due to the emergence of new development tools and the development of technologies in the direction of data unification.
But the less time you save in the application planning and research phase, the less time you will need for development.
How is the Price for Developing Mobile Application Formed?
The cost of creating a mobile app is always set individually. Only when buying a finished product is a fixed price immediately. To estimate the implementation of the future project, it is sufficient to know the introductory information about the application: its purpose, for which operating system it should be developed, a general description of its functionality. To formulate the final price, you need terms of reference detailing all the tools, technologies, functions, and deliverables.
The process may also consist of analysis, taking into account all possible risks, to understand the range of the target audience, to analyze the needs of users of the future software product and a prototype, with which it is easier to build a platform for phones. The cost also depends on the type of application:
- There are typical solutions, if the customer needs a beauty salon or delivery service application, there is no need to make it from scratch. It is cheaper and more convenient to take a ready-made template and use it as the basis for your application. Mostly suitable for small businesses.
- There are complex and non-standard tasks, for which there is no universal template or designer. Then a mobile application is made from scratch and is suitable for startups, state enterprises, corporations, and production companies that want to automate business processes.
If the customer is satisfied with the cost, he signs an agreement specifying the exact application development price, the deadline, and a description of the result. Sometimes the price can change if during the development it was decided to add additional functionality.
Why is Development Too Expensive?
The cost of creating an application ranges from $10,000 to $150,000 and depends not only on the complexity of the application, but also on the country in which you order services. The most expensive development process is in the United States, $120 to $150 per hour. In India, the same product can cost you $20-30 per hour. In Western Europe they charge $80 to $100 per hour, while in Eastern Europe they charge $30 to $50.
For example, depending on the complexity of application development, and take a cost of $40 per hour, the average cost would be $40,000 to $60,000 simple development; $60,000 to $150,000 application of medium complexity and from $300,000 costs a complex application.
Plus, development for two platforms will cost 30-40% more, because each operating system requires a separate application: the visual similarity hides different programming languages.
But the price doesn’t end with one development. The cost of successful mobile application still has a maintenance component. The industry average cost of maintaining software is about 15-20% of its original development cost. The maintenance process can be broken down into the cost of hosting, interaction, marketing, upgrades, and licenses.
- Hosting, where the deciding factor in the calculation is what kind of data the application deals with: text, media, photos, video or audio. A multimedia application needs a web server with plenty of RAM and disk space.
- Engagement and marketing, cost of which include engaging the mobile app user base, setting the price (which varies by country, platform, and specific ad unit, etc.).
- Updates and licenses. Each mobile app receives subsequent updates, which are a great tool for the continued engagement of app users. Plus the developer has to pay a license fee, which will significantly increase the overall cost of developing the app. The license fee to pay depends on annual fees or the number of devices.
When businesses are estimating the cost of developing their future app, the first thing they need to consider is the location of the development team and the complexity of the app – both of which have a large impact on the overall cost of development. We would like to note that hiring an outsourcing company from Eastern Europe is very profitable.
How Can I Find a Developer to Develop My App Idea?
When creating a mobile app, much of the success depends on choosing the right development company. And there are several hundred thousand IT service providers around the world, which is a real challenge for both novice and experienced entrepreneurs.
And while information about companies, examples of work, and customer reviews can be found in the public domain, it’s all the more confusing and leads to an overabundance of choices. When analyzing mobile app development companies and communicating with their teams, it is worth paying attention to several main criteria:
- It’s worth clearly defining the tasks that you are ready to delegate to the company. If this is your first project and you need help in selecting the technologies and application features. Ask which technologies the company can provide. But if you already have experience in implementing projects, then you can decide on the functionality and technologies and just hire a dedicated team.
- Location and language skills play a role. Choose the company from the countries similar to your mentality, so it will be easier to understand each other. Well, the team, or at least the project manager should know one of the languages that the client speaks fluently, to avoid misunderstandings.
- Company’s experience and expertise. Here you should pay attention to the overall experience in the IT sector, the accumulated experience in the required services and technologies, the reviews of the previous customers.
- Communication is one of the main criteria for the success of the future product. The company, which is good with communication, holds all the meetings on time, with specified agendas and transparent results, shows the advantages of its procedures and techniques, explains the reasons for choosing particular solutions and what results they will lead to.
- Goals and needs of your business. It is good when the development company matches the goals and needs of your business.
- Cost, which can be high due to both high demands from users and competition from industry giants. We talked about pricing a little bit above.
Be sure to check the company’s LinkedIn, talk to the project manager, the client should have a chance to talk to the person who will represent them until the end of the project. Be careful. You need to make sure you’re getting quality work at every stage.
Only a skilled team of developers can competently approach the complex process and perform the tasks without disrupting deadlines. We advise you to hire an outsourcing company. Here’re the benefits of outsourcing application development:
- experience and expertise
- up-to-date technologies
- time savings
- 24/7 available
- maintenance of the application after its launch
Read more about Development: How to build a perfect fintech app
Developing a mobile app is not easy. It took Instagram more than three years to become a user-friendly and beloved app by millions, and there are still improvements and new features being added. So be prepared that you have a lot of work to do before the app goes live.
We’re ready for building mobile apps to meet the needs of your business. Our team will be with you every step of the way in mobile development and its successful implementation. So if you have any questions or ideas for the implementation of your project – contact us. We are always ready to help.