‘How to build a mobile app?’
Before getting into this, let’s discuss some facts about mobile and mobile usage.
Mobile phones were once considered a luxury of rich. Now, Smartphones are one’s necessity for people across the world.
Mobile phones are taking over desktops and the number of mobile users has seen a drastic growth along with the time spent on mobile. In fact, the number of mobile users is expected to surpass the five billion mark in the year 2019.
Mobile users in India spanned around 581 million users in the year 2014 and this number is on a steady rise over the last ten years.
As per a survey conducted by eMarketer in the year 2015, India expects to have more than 800 million mobile users in the year 2019.
Providing smooth, yet engaging and user-friendly experience on the mobile phone is now more vital than ever, and this gives a true competitive benefit to the business that gets it right.
Let’s have a look at the app share of total mobile minutes in the leading online markets as of May 2017:
A great mobile app potentially aids your business in several ways. How?
Well, it can:
- Boost your revenue by enhancing sales and introducing new revenue system.
- Enhance communication by being a core internal application for your business.
- Build up community and engagement by offering a resource for your target audience.
- Boost your brand awareness and improve your mobile marketing strategies.
However, making an app could be an intimidating experience. You may get distracted or discouraged by various factors including technical teams, potential costs, months of work, complex project management, and most importantly the risks on the way.
If you’re sailing in this boat, then this is the best paddle to row your boat through waters. After going through this piece of article, you’ll be able to:
- Define the objectives of an app
- Lay out the functionality and features of an app
- Research your competitors
- Wireframe the app
- Test the app wireframes
- Revise your app basis the feedback
- Opt for an app development pathway
- Make an app
- Test a live app
- Launch an app
Here we’ll break down every step mentioned above, providing you with all the resources you require along with providing a proper explanation of all the options.
Shall we begin?
Defining the objectives of an app
What’s the catch with defining your app’s objectives?
Well, before we begin with figuring out how to make an app, the very first thing you should do is define the reason behind creating the app in the first place. Without this precision, your entire planning would be long-drawn-out that means your end product will most probably reflect that also.
Your mobile app must satisfy two goals:
- The goal of your ideal user
- Your business goal
But first, let’s discuss your target audience, i.e. the potential end user. Every time they interact or communicate with your business – both offline and online, despite the medium – they get to question: ‘What’s in this for me?’ If they don’t see anything different and beneficial almost immediately, they’ll merely move on, and that is true for your mobile app, too.
An enhancement for your business can mean various things, simply based on your existing situation. Some of the common influences a good app can craft for you are: more returning users, increased ROI, reduced expenses, increase in brand awareness, and better productivity of course.
Here the basics are covered, let’s dive in deeper. Do not forget, a mobile app can serve more than one purpose, and any of these purposes can be beneficial for you, your target audience, or both.
So, start asking questions like:
- What part of your business needs improvement?
- How can an app have an impact on that problem?
- What’s the potential outcome?
Other chief areas include your competitor and market research, budget, timeline, etc. These factors are discussed later in this article.
Now, let’s take an example!
Consider a hypothetical business – FitnessCurb – to handle these questions and all the stages we follow as we move ahead through them. This is to help you better understand how to build an app.
Imagine FitnessCurb is a fitness center in Gurugram. It has been running for 4 years now. It attracts both existing and new clients, but due to a lesser retention rate, the growth of its business has been sluggish for the previous year.
Here, we wish to take up this challenge of this business and see what wonders can a mobile app do – so, let’s dive into the questions again:
What part of the business needs improvement?
The FitnessCurb center has awesome brand awareness. They gain new clients constantly, but in terms of churn rate, FitnessCurb is ahead of the curve. Some of the churned customers faced problems in booking their personal trainers and classes. These were the key reasons for them to leave, as they could only do that on desktop.
At one fell swoop, the staff spent a lot of time on basic communication with the clients and run the logistics. This consumed most of their human resources and efforts, making them inefficient and restraining their growth.
How can an app have an impact on that problem?
With a mobile application, they could automate several procedures, such as booking classes from mobile, vital service updates, and classes’ overview, etc. Moreover, an app could allow the clients to give feedback and enables one-to-one chat option.
What’s the potential outcome?
On the client side, they could boost the satisfaction level of the clients and increase great social proof. And as one of the business benefits, they could see larger revenue along with increased productivity.
Your responses to the first step will be your essential guide throughout the remaining process!
Lay out the functionality and features of an app
Now that you have an idea about what you wish to achieve with your mobile app, it is time to outline the scope of your mobile application (here you’ll figure out how to make an app).
It’s time to get creative!
Get artistic and jot down all the features and functionality of the app that are needed to accomplish the results along with the solutions in the first step.
Some of the key features to be taken into consideration could be:
- Contact us
- eCommerce integrations
- Lead forms
- Social Sharing
- Push notifications
- Vimeo or YouTube integration
Jot down any feature that can make your app attractive.
For the aforementioned hypothetical business, they wanted to have a ‘booking class’ feature, chatbot, maps for directions, RSS reader, clients’ feedback, and directory of the staff.
Research the Competitors
Time to dive in deeper:
Now you already know – what purpose would your mobile app serve?
Now that you’re clear with vision and goals of your app, it’s time to check out your successful and thriving competitors – what they’re already practicing to lead their clients to similar goals.
This is a crucial time for you. You need to keep a sharp vigil on your local competition, along with the firms in a similar market across the country or even across the globe. This will incite fresh ideas and point at current gaps in the market.
Delve into their key features, functionalities, app layout and jot down anything that is noticeable and anything you feel is missing.
Wireframe the App and Make App use cases
So, let’s revise, so far we’ve come across defining the objective of your app, mapping out its features and functionalities, and the insights of market and competitors research.
What comes next?
Now, this is the time to nurture your app and give its first skeleton and piecing the individual blocks along with wireframing.
Now that’s a new term – Wireframing. Is it?
Wireframing is a visual guide representing the layout and the flow of your app between the screen without distracting the graphics and visual elements. This is a viaduct between your crude thoughts and the end product before the beginning of any of the procedural phases.
The wireframe is powered by your use cases – the small, particular tasks your end users can accomplish with your mobile app.
Understood? No. This means this is an opportunity to:
- Optimize the order along with the number of screens to reach every goal
- Understand your use cases together with the thought process behind them
- Make multiple screens flow to figure out which one’s working best
- Save development time later on.
You can create a wireframe in two ways namely, online and offline.
In case you prefer offline method, you can simply make use of a paper and a pen. Or you can make use of the templates.
However, the online method includes:
- Specialized tools such as Mockflow, Gliffy, Fluid UI, and Balsamiq Mockups
- Templates for Adobe Suite
Pick your template or tool, and begin sketching. You need to have a wireframe for every use case, and it must show the full-screen flow a client will see right from opening the app to achieving the goal.
You’ll ultimately wish to have some documents like illustrated in the image below for each of your use cases the app covers:
This image will show the flow end users will take right from the beginning to the end users of the app.
Testing the app wireframe
Done with the use cases and their visual representation, now what’s step #5?
Step 5 is testing the app wireframe, this means now you have to check the flow of your app and user experience.
Yes, we’ll get into the detail:
Testing the wireframe of your app will aid in analysing your use cases, identifying any points of friction, and question the affluence of the process of your mobile application. You’ll make a comparison of your screen flow with that of the expectations of your user and avoid any frustrations.
In order to test the wireframe and use cases, you must make use of different tools like Invision. These tools help you in making the wireframe appealing and attractive. By making use of such tools, you can make connections between the screens and link up actions to quicken the actual experience of the app.
It’s really quick, simple and easy – you can register yourself for free on such websites and create your app.
You can add images of the individual screens from your wireframe by adding images from your laptop/computer or syncing with Photoshop/Sketch.
In each of the images you upload, you can make use of the options at the bottom of your screen to link up the screens with one another. Once you’re done, your wireframe is ready to be shared. And that’s it!
You can use this to share your project with your fellow workers or your end users to test your use cases and the perception of the user’s journey, from opening the app to achieving the goal.
Here’s a list of few questions that you can ask the testers:
- After opening the app, is the access to the main menu apparent?
- Can you clearly identify all the tasks that you can achieve with the app?
- Were you seeking an option that was not there?
- Were there any options that were redundant?
Well, responses to the aforementioned questions will notify your action in the following steps.
Revision of the app based on the feedback
Feedback is important.
After collecting the feedback, you need to classify it based on similarities. If some people said that there were redundant options in your app, categorize these together. If some said that had to go back to the previous screen often, classify them in one category along with the reasons.
After sorting all the feedback accordingly, make a task list of updates and revision you need to make to the wireframe. Henceforth, implement the changes and make the wireframe all set to test again to make sure all the friction points have been eliminated.
Test it again! And when you’re happy with the feedback you wish to hear, you’re geared up to move ahead to the next step.
Opt for an App Development Pathway
Done with the use cases of your app?
Finished with mapping out the functionalities of your app?
Well, now is the time to actually build an app.
In step 7 you will have to opt for the development path for your app. It boils down to two primary options:
- Selecting a programming language for coding
- Using an app building platform to build an app
This decision will, on the whole, be based on your budget.
Let’s have a look at each of the options in detail:
Coding the app
In the case of coding the app, you can opt for one of the two paths:
Native App Development:
In the case of native app development, you’re making an app from scratch for the OS you select. If you wish to make your mobile app on both Google Play Store as well as the Apple App Store, you’ll have to create two separate apps from square one.
Mobile App Framework:
Mobile app framework path enables you to make a hybrid application, which can be deployed on several platforms. Simply put, the same code base can be distributed across different OS. A few framework options consist of PhoneGap, Framework 7, and Ionic.
The native mobile app will provide you with the most reliable and robust performance, but it will be costlier and demand development. You must bear in mind that you might have to work with two different developer teams to cover both the platforms. You can’t even rationalize any updates because of the two separate code bases, and every custom feature may add months and weeks to your updates and development.
Hybrid mobile apps; however, feels like a native app, but they are made as a single code base, which is deployable on both Android and iOS. While the performance can lag compared to the native, this disparity is getting tinier and it is truly valid for the gaming level.
Making hybrid applications through mobile app framework may take considerable time period to develop, and as with the native apps, any additional and custom feature may add a better display to the launch and strain to your finances. It is imperative to account for the delays and costs early in the project.
Using a mobile app making platform:
While choosing the mobile app making platform, rather than developing it from scratch, you’re given the freedom to build your app’s look and feel and see the changes made by you at once without changing the code – all within a few minutes.
All the characteristics you require can be made right away using the plug-ins, instead of waiting for them to be coded for a period of many months.
When you make a wise decision, it is time to go ahead onto the next step – building an app!
Make an App
After deciding to code your mobile application via mobile app wireframe or code your app from scratch, this is the time to begin your ongoing work with the designers and developers. You’ll work together with them to bring your wireframe and ideas to life, closely keeping an eye on each and every step to make sure the consistency between the end product and vision.
If you happen to choose a mobile app building platform, here all the fun begins!
Let’s walk through a process of making the first version of FitnessCurb app; in not more than a day with mobile app builder by BuildFire. The idea behind this is to show how easy it is to bring your idea of the app into reality.
While kick-starting the business, the first step was to choose the template. Even if there were many templates, which seemed suitable, we chose Salon template as it displayed most of the app’s features immediately, such as loyalty features, staff, and booking.
After putting in some basic information about the mobile app, the builder loads.
The first screen looked like:
Moreover, the starting plug-in looked like:
Picking your plug-ins
Next is to ensure that you add all the plug-ins you need to make sure all of the features are in-built and eliminate the ones that you don’t need.
Branding and Home Screen
What’s next now?
Well, you need to remove the current branding and pictures and add your name and relevant images. This was done in the ‘Home’ folder that is accessible via ‘Home Plug-in’.
Here, you can eliminate the irrelevant images and replace them with a common background image. In the above example, this was done via the ‘Design’ button.
The color palette via ‘Appearance’ tab was also changed.
Further, each individual plug-in was edited to enable all the app features they wanted. Each of these was configured directly and accessible from the home screen.
How it went?
Here’s the answer;
Booking a class
You can use the current plug-in – Calendly from the chosen theme. This setup was as simple as adding Calendly link and giving a name to the calendar. There’s always a link for registering the account you need in the given plug-in.
Meet the team
For this, you can use an in-built plug-in – the People plug-in.
Using this ‘Content’ section for the headers, staff information, and text, and ‘Design’ section for the layout and background, you can insert the required and necessary information in just a few minutes.
Some more features
You can follow the same structure for every plug-in or feature that you can add on your home screen. You can also add an RSS feed for fresh blogs and updates and made an interactive map and the contact button – call or email.
Contact Section and Interactive Map example are:
The blog section would look like:
And after all, in the ‘Design’ section of the home screen, you can play around to see the layout of the icons and the labels work best.
And there you have your first operational version of your app – ready for the testing and all of this without costly risks and perils – at all!
Testing your live mobile app
After your mobile is developed, it is all set for real-world testing! This step will make sure that there are no faults or bugs and the end user experience is as instinctive as it was after you have built and tested the wireframes.
Testing is of two types – External Test and Internal Test
External Testing – People who aren’t familiar with your mobile app or you are involved in the external testing process. This testing process intends to point out user experience unintuitive steps and their issues.
Internal Testing – Your team and you are involved in an internal testing process to test your app as if you’re the end user. This process intends to identify errors and bugs or user experience issues.
Once you’re done with the testing, you can refine your mobile application to accomplish the goals you set out initially.
Launching your mobile app
Here’s the finale!
Now you’ve reached the final task – letting people know about your mobile app!
The very first step here is to submit your mobile app on the preferred all stores. You must ensure that you follow the set guidelines defined by each platform and make the most out of the app store optimization.
After your app is live on the app store, you need to keep a sharp vigil on it!
There are several ways of promoting your app. But how can you reach your target audience fast?
Here’re some ways to get your mobile app to the right people – fast:
Update your website
This is the most important task for any potential audience, along with churned customers. Why?
Because this will prove them the value you’re offering for their mobile phone experience in the case they intend to become your customer.
A blog post can be published about the new app, or you can put place banners on the most frequently visited pages of your website.
Email your target audience
Email? Well, it’s the priority!
As soon as your app gets live, you must make sure that your target audience is first to know. You can simply write a short email to your customers mentioning about your work on enhancing their experience and linking the app in the app store. You can even ask them to revert on your email with feedback and questions.
Promotion on Social Media Channels
You can make use of Social Media platforms to promote your app. In order to do so, you can merge different strategies for the promotion of your app on social media.
- You can post an update about your mobile app on Facebook and Twitter. Pin this post to the top. Do not forget to add a call to action button there.
- For Instagram, you can link your mobile app in the profile URL and mention this in the caption
Are you ready to kick start your app?
Here we’ve discussed how to make an app with a mission to make these apps available to all enterprises and businesses and setting them free from thousands of rupees in maintenance and development costs.
Enhancing and growing your business and enterprise via mobile experience should not burn a hole in your pocket, intimidating, and time-consuming. It should easily cater to your customers’ needs and provide the value that you along with your customers and even your employees can benefit from in the long run.
This guide will help you solve your queries on ‘how to build an app’.
For further queries and unresolved issues, keep commenting!