5 Essential Stages of Mobile App Developmentblog
Today, making a mobile application isn’t rocket science. Nearly half (42%) of small businesses currently have a mobile app, and 30% plan to build one in the future – from point-to-point solutions to enterprise apps in various industries. Apple’s App Store has over 1.5 million apps and Google Play Store has over 2.5 million.
“The business world’s growing appetite for apps showcases the move over the last 10 years from single vendors with all-in-one platforms to “best-of-breed” applications”, Todd McKinnon, Okta’s chief executive officer, told CIO Journal.
Nevertheless, making an on-demand mobile app is a process that implies quite thorough pre-planning. It’s crucial to know what stages are in the mobile app development process to ensure product integrity, decrease time-to-market, streamline the app development process, and save on app cost.
NIX has provided mobile app development services since 2009 and uses best practices to build high-level mobile solutions for different purposes. In this article, we would like to share our know-how to help you understand the mobile development process and its specifics.
- Stage 1: Strategy
- Stage 2: Design
- Stage 3: Development
- Stage 4: Testing
- Stage 5: App Release and Ongoing Support
Stage 1: Strategy
The first stage is working out everything from what the app is about and who will use it to what technologies it will be based on and how we will measure success.
1. Establish the mobile app’s goals and objectives
A mobile app should be based on problem-solving for the user and be handy. It’s important to ask yourself what problems you want to solve with your app and how you plan to benefit from the app.
2. Describe the target audience – who and how many
Your research should include actual demographics, motivations, behavior patterns, and goals of your user’s persona. Whether your target audience is using an iPhone or Android, it’s essential to keep in mind the user lifecycle and its characteristics during the whole development process. This way, you can create user personas, which help understand the real goals and constraints of who will be using the app. Knowing what your users are is the cornerstone of building an on-demand mobile app.
Thorough research gives clarity and sets you on firm footing regarding what your app will be.
3. Research the competition
A detailed study of your competitor’s app will help you figure out what features are absent in their app so that you could include it in your app to make it stand out.
4. Select a mobile platform for the app
After identifying the target audience, it’s time to select a preferred mobile platform – iOS or Android. There are two ways to develop the app:
- Native development if you want to build a high-performance application with a rich user experience and complicated logic that can be easily updated and enhanced with new functionality in the future.
- Cross-platform development if you have a short window to test the idea and hypothesis in the app market or you need software products or services that will work on several operating systems. It’s also more cost-effective since you can create one app for both platforms.
The output of the strategy stage:
- Understanding of the app’s goals and target audience
- Choosing the preferred mobile platform
- Creating a project roadmap along with tech considerations based on functionality
Stage 2: Design
At this stage, it’s time to build a development team that usually consists of a product owner, project manager, business analyst, 2–3 app developers per platform (Android and iOS), back-end developer, UI/UX designer, and 1-2 QA engineers. When your team is formed, you can proceed with the design.
The design stage includes four steps:
1. Clarifying requirements
The team examines the project’s initial data and then asks more specific and contextual questions during the workshop with the client.
2. UX planning
At this stage, we are creating an app architecture for a better conceptual understanding and preparing the future mobile app’s prototype with as much detail as possible: each button, pop-up, text fields.
The team analyzes and classifies all the information received from the client and fills in gaps if necessary. We already begin to create the structure of the project, draw up the user flow and happy passes, and work through the edge cases. After the NDA agreement with the client, we move on to the next stage – UI.
3. UI creation and design
It’s essential to keep in mind the client’s tastes and preferences, but even more important is the target audience. After successful approval of the main screens’ designs, we can create the project’s style guide and render the rest of the screens. If the client has a brand book or a unique corporate style it’s important to follow it and make sure it’s well accompanied.
4. Maintenance and testing
When developers receive all the mobile app prototypes, the designer’s work does not end. The designer also accompanies the project team during the development stage to explain the difficult moments in the logic, structure, and finding a compromise between what is beautiful and technically practical to implement. The designer himself must also check the final product for compliance with its design and idea.
All these steps allow making a high-quality and custom app sharpened to achieve the customer’s business and target audience goals.
The output of the design stage:
- UI/UX final blueprint for development – wireframes, concepts, prototypes, and user testing in the chosen format (source design files, project specification for developers in Zeplin, Adobe XD, Figma, InVision)
- A style guide (specification of fonts, sizes, styles of elements and their states)
- Clickable prototype and/or application scheme (optional, if the client requested it)
- Further support of the development team
Stage 3: Development
We believe that teamwork is the driving force behind great software development. Building a trusting relationship between the client and the team is the foundation of a successful outcome.
At NIX, we are using Agile methodology – breaking development up into sprints of around two weeks or month apiece, each focused on a singular functionality. This helps with flexible planning, progressive development, early deployment, and constant enhancements. At the end of each sprint, a mini-release is provided for the client’s review and testing.
As for native development, there are the main programming languages: for iOS development – Swift, Objective‑C, for Android – Kotlin, Java. For cross-platform development software, there is React Native or Flutter.
The development process can be described in the following steps:
- We select application architecture depending on the functional requirements that include orientation, flips, amount of business logic, etc. For Android and iOS, there are basic types of the app’s architecture: MVP, MVVM, Viper, Redux, etc.
Depending on the chosen technology for the backend (step 2), we can choose the best fit for the project.
- We consider if the backend will support the app’s functionality when there is a clear understanding of the visuals and non-functional requirements. An app, depending on the chosen platform, iOS, or Android, will have different requirements. There are two main ways to set up a backend:
- SaaS as the backend – such as Firebase, AWS Mobile Hub, CloudKit, Kinvey, Parse, Rest API for basic app MVP
- A custom backend, which is a better option if you predict the mobile app to grow in new features and users
- We choose the frameworks, libraries, and off-the-shelf solutions that will be used in the app. Frameworks as infrastructures to speed up code writing for iOS and Android such as DI, Binding. As for functionally specific frameworks for the particular project:
- For Android – Play Services (Maps API, Places API), payment gateways, social integrations, etc.
- For iOS – CoreLocation, HealthKit, etc.
- The team participates in the API design, if necessary. If you already have a separate system, you need to write an API that allows your application to interact with the overall system or with third-party software.
- As we figured out the network models, we can design our database and draw the diagrams to facilitate the creation of the database models.
- If needed, we take part in detailed specification requirements and design, as we, as experts, are aware of the system’s limitations and optimal UX/UI solutions and can provide useful input to business analysts and designers.
- The team setups repositories, configure CI/CD (by default, projects are automatically built through Gitlab pipelines)
The output of the development stage:
- App ready for testing
Stage 4: Testing
Application testing is a necessary procedure, and if applied in the early stages of app development, it can save your budget. The QA team needs to test a mobile application for usability, compatibility, security, UI checks, and performance.
At NIX, we plan the testing in layers. First, the priority is functionality, second is additional functionality, and third is design. The second and third items may switch places – it depends on the client’s needs and requirements. It’s better to implement a few features that work smoothly than a whole pack that creates many bugs.
Our QA engineers can calculate an approximate number of tests for each feature to provide the client with the testing stage’s estimation.
At NIX, depending on the project, besides basic testing, we conduct three more types of testing:
1. Performance testing
Performance testing determines how fast a system or part of a system performs under a particular load. It can also verify and validate other system quality attributes, such as scalability, reliability, and resource consumption. Performance testing answers questions such as how well the app responds to the user requests, how fast the app’s screens are loading, or if your app’s size is bigger than what it should be.
Directions of performance testing:
- Load testing to evaluate the behavior of an application under an expected load.
- Stress testing to evaluate system reliability under extreme or disproportional loads
After your app passes the necessary performance testing, it is still crucial to test the API and backend for load by simulating the maximum quantity of simultaneous users. The app should be able to handle a high load and perform well even when usage spikes.
2. Security testing
Security testing is a crucial part of the app development process. It’s especially vital for mobile enterprise apps that any potential vulnerability can lead to a hack.
Critical user data includes any data that should not be accessed by a third party – both personal user data such as date of birth, residential address, personal correspondence and private data such as passwords, credit card data, bank account numbers, order numbers, and so on.
This is a way of evaluating a mobile app’s security, which consists of systematic testing of its protection effectiveness. The testing process involves actively searching for any weaknesses, technical flaws, or vulnerabilities in the application.
- Store important user data only in secure platform storage.
- Do not store any sensitive user data in application code or resources.
- Select only a proper algorithm from well-established, up-to-date, and well-known cryptographic algorithms.
- Test data entry forms within your mobile app to ensure there is no data leakage.
3. Usability testing
Usability testing should accompany software development at all its stages. This will allow timely detection of many problems, many of which can be identified before or during interface design.
The purpose of usability testing can be to check the specific functionality, the user’s overall impression of the app or design, check the user’s happy passes, or compare the application with competitors’ analogs.
To ensure your application works smoothly with no bugs and that it will be comfortable in use, it is essential to perform beta testing. This involves external user testing – a limited, targeted audience uses a beta version of an app and provides real feedback to understand the usability flow or possible issues with it.
Benefits of beta testing:
- Testing with real users and the ability to correct the issues before release
- Decreased amount of issues and complaints after a final release to the market
Once the team performs the app testing in-house, it’s ready for the release of the beta version of the app to market.
The output of the testing stage:
- Tested functionality, ready backend and app ready for release
- Functionality specification
- Full source code
Stage 5: App Release and Ongoing Support
The first release usually contains the app’s priority features and the extended functionality for the following releases.
It’s the final stage, and the app is ready for market launch, but keep in mind app stores’ particular policies for accepting and verifying mobile apps. After the app submission to the Apple App Store, it goes through a review process that may take from a few days to months depending on your app’s quality and how closely it follows Apple’s iOS development guidelines. App reviews on Google Play are different from App Store, but often your app will show up in the market a few hours after submitting.
After app submission, it is essential to keep track of the trends and upgrade the features according to the audience targeting requests and processing user feedback for future improvements.
App development is an ongoing process and will proceed after the first launch as you receive user feedback and build new functionality. The most important thing is to build an expert team that will help lead you through all steps of mobile app development and ensure the product’s integrity.
We hope this article helped you understand all stages in app development – from strategy and identifying the target audience, to app release and its ongoing support.
Why outsource mobile app development to NIX? Our mobile development department consists of more than 50 experts and the entire team consists of 2000+ technicians experienced in various business domains. Depending on your current needs, we build a team and work with you side by side through all stages of developing an app.
You can use our brief request for proposal (RFP) template that will save you time and will allow you to present your idea and development needs in a well-structured form.