Mobile App Development - Step by step guide for 2021

Posted on 25/02/2021

Mobile App Development Lifecycle 2021

There are over 3.5 billion mobile users around the world, so there is no doubt that the smartphone industry is healthy and booming. Business is growing steadily, without any indications of slowing down. And studies show that an average American checks their phone at least once every twelve minutes, and over 10% of these people check their phone about every four minutes. There are some more interesting statistics that show:

1. People spend over 50% of the time they spend with digital media on mobile.

2. Smartphone users spend 90% of their screen-on time using mobile apps.

3. Over 85% of consumers prefer native apps over mobile cross websites.

4. Revenue from mobile apps is set to exceed $693 billion in 2021.

5. The average consumer has over 30 apps installed on their device.

6. An average user spends about 35 hours per month using mobile apps.


What is Mobile App Development?

Mobile app development is a process to establish mobile applications that run on mobile devices. These applications can either be downloaded or pre-installed and activated by the user later. They use the network capacity of the device to work computing resources remotely. Hence, the mobile app development process requires generating software that can be installed on the device, and enabling backend services for data access through APIs, and testing the application on target devices.

To develop flexible mobile apps, it is necessary to consider screen sizes, hardware requirements, and many other aspects of the app development process. With an increasing number of careers in the mobile app development industry, it is essential that the process is well defined and understood by entrepreneurs, start-ups, and especially developers.

Platforms for Mobile App Development

The two most important mobile app platforms are Android from Google and iOS from Apple Inc. iOS is Apple’s exclusive mobile operating system built specifically for iPhones. Android runs on mobile devices produced by various OEMs, including Google.

While there are numerous similarities between the two, however different software development kits (SDKs) are used for different platforms. Apple uses iOS exclusively for their own devices, while Google has made Android available for other companies that meet explicit prerequisites. Developers have created over 1.5 million applications for both platforms to date.

Methods for Developing Mobile Apps

Four different ways of mobile app development:

1. Native Mobile Applications

2. Cross-Platform Native Mobile Applications

3. Hybrid Mobile Applications

4. Progressive Web Applications

There are advantages and disadvantages to, making an application, no matter which method you choose. By choosing a method that matches your strategy, you can achieve the desired user experience, avail computing resources, and build native features required for your application.

Native App Development

Native app development is useful when you want to use native proficiency offered by the platform. Native apps can access the hardware capabilities of the devices like GPS, microphone, and camera, which means quicker execution of features making it easier to build a rich user experience.

Push notifications are very smooth to implement on native development. For example, push notifications to go through Google’s Cloud Messaging Platform and iOS Server (APNS). Native apps have fewer bugs, because the code is compiled in the native language

Cross-Platform App Development

The market is divided about 50-50 between Android and iOS. Your potential client could be on either of the platforms, and sometimes on both. Building separate apps for both platforms needs an adequate budget, and not all companies have that. Moreover, developing for different platforms will make it harder to offer the same amount of speed and functionality required by your app.

Choose cross-platform development if you want to align the user experience across all the platforms; you wish to have one development team publishing for both the platforms; and you don’t have the budget and time to make and maintain two different apps.

Hybrid Mobile App Development

Hybrid Applications are built using the latest web technologies like JavaScript, HTML, CSS, and then bundled as mobile applications for the required platforms. Hybrid Apps are totally different from Cross-Platform Apps in the sense that they work using web containers using browser runtime.

Progressive Web App Development

Progressive Web Applications (PWAs) are written in traditional web languages such as JavaScript, HTML5, and CSS. These applications are only accessible through the browser of your device. So, it is preferable to develop a PWA if your user will have uninterrupted access to network connectivity, and that they can solve their problems through the browser itself, while not requiring any native capabilities of the device like camera, machine learning module, GPS, and gyroscope.

With that in mind, let’s understand the mobile app development process step-by-step and what you need to know to follow a systematic mobile app development process to build your next great app.

Mobile App Development Process

To build a mobile application, you need a step-by-step process to help you build mobile apps quickly. There are three important steps:

1. Understand the requirement

2. Develop the product

3. Test the product

Build an App Development Strategy

The first step in the mobile app development process is to create a technique or strategy by defining ‘why’. What is the objective of your app? Will your mobile app solve an industry problem? What is your business model? How much are you able to invest in building this app? What is your revenue model? How can you market your app, and to who? Answering these questions will give you a plan for how you can move forward with your mobile app development process.

You can start by defining the user persona - for example, let’s say you are planning to build an eCommerce app. Outline your user persona by understanding your user’s age, their preferences, their mobile usage habits, and specifically answering why and how they will find your mobile app. Based on this, you’ll be able to create an MVP (Minimum Viable Product). To develop an effective strategy, you will need to do the following:

Mobile App Development Tech Stack & Market Research

Some questions to consider are:

1. Who is your target audience?

2. How will your customers use the application?

3. Is there a better alternative available?

4. What will your application do that similar apps don’t do?

5. What business models are your customers following?

6. What language, frameworks, and technologies will you use?

7. How many users are paying for your type of mobile application?

8. What is your budget?

9. How long will it take to build your application?

Define your Minimum Viable Product

Once you are clear regarding all the functionalities to include, and the functionalities your users prefer to use, define what your minimum viable product would look like. A minimum viable product is a version of your app that has enough features to put it in front of your early customers in order that you can receive feedback on product features and further development required.

Key components of a minimum viable product (MVP):

1. Functionality – offers clear value to the users

2. Design - build minimal but highest quality standard design

3. Reliability – make the production quality top notch

4. Usability - make the user experience intuitive and refined

Further reading: How much does it cost to build an app?

With a clear strategy in mind, you are ready to focus on your app development idea. Building a mobile app development strategy can help you analyse and plan your progress.

Analyse and Plan your App Development

The strategy is the starting point of all project development. Once you have a strategy, start turning those visions into achievable goals. Start the analysis and planning by clearly defining the functionalities to build and create a list of functional requirements.

This will help you create a product roadmap. You will be able to convert that strategy into a step-by-step process that will include priorities, and then group items into delivery milestones. Ensure to have your minimum viable product defined, to help cut down on costs, and prepare for the initial launch.

Different operating systems require distinct technology stacks. Choose your tech stack based on your necessities. Whether you are building a native mobile application, a cross-platform mobile app, or a hybrid application, you may want to make a list of technologies required, and start hiring developers with expertise in your chosen mode of mobile app development.

Have you chosen the name of your app yet? Mobile app names are like domain names and need to be unique in each app store. Research each app store to make sure your app’s preferred name isn’t already in use!

Build UX/UI Design

The purpose of an app’s design is to deliver seamless and effortless user experiences with a polished appearance.

The success of a mobile app is determined based on how well users adopt and benefit from its functions. The goal for mobile app UI/UX design. is to create remarkable user experiences, making your app interactive, intuitive, and user-friendly. A polished UI design will help with early adoption. Your app must have intuitive user experiences to keep app users engaged.

Mobile App Design Process

You can learn to design your mobile application yourself or ask someone to assist you. However above everything else, the designer needs to understand the product, and its capabilities, features, and functionalities. When designing a mobile app always keep the end-user in mind. The design process we follow at ISH Technologies is as follows:

1. Build a User Flow Diagram

2. Create Wireframes

3. Choose the design patterns, palettes, and elements

4. Create mock-ups

5. Create a prototype and ask testable questions

6. Give final touches to the mock-up based on user feedback

Further reading: Simplified Mobile App Design Process

Wireframes


Most designers begin with making rough sketches on paper. Wireframes are digital sketches, done using a wire framing tool, or pen and paper. Wireframes are concepts, not finished designs. Wireframes help you to understand the architecture of your app’s features using low-fidelity mock-ups.

When you are designing wireframes, the main focus should be on aesthetics and the way the user will experience it. Colour palettes and design elements aren’t required now. Wireframes are used to quickly understand what you want to be designed. It is important that your design is specific to the product. No matter which device you’re on, it should be intuitive and user-friendly.

Further reading: How to build good wireframes?

Style Guides

A style guide is a set of rules for the design. If you have a style guide, your mobile app UI designer will understand what fonts to use, what colour palette has been chosen, and which icons are to be placed where.

Style guides create a base for the process of future evolution, switching design and development between parties, and developing for differences in the platforms. The elements for a mobile app style guide are:

1. Fonts

2. Colours

3. Layouts

4. Graphics

5. Components

6. Menus and Bars

7. Dialogs and Alerts

Further reading: App Design style guide Example

Mock-ups

Mock-ups, or high-fidelity designs, are the ultimate renderings of your app’s visual design. Mock-ups are created by applying your style guide to the app wireframes. As your app’s design begins to finalize, expect further modifications to its information architecture, aesthetics, and workflow. Adobe Photoshop is a popular tool for creating high-fidelity mock-ups.

Prototype

Prototyping is about turning low-fidelity wireframes into ready designs to be shared with your teams, friends, and others to offer their quality suggestions and feedback.

Most of the companies use products like InvisionApp to prototype their app. However, some companies use Xcode to prototype apps directly into the development environment.

Prototyping is important if you are looking to pitch your app to investors. You can include all the functions without going through development. For testers, it helps by offering a real feel for what it will be like to use the application.

Further reading: Mobile App Prototyping Guide

Begin App Development

Three important aspects of app development:

1. Technical architecture

2. Technology stack

3. Development milestones

Most mobile app development projects have three integral parts:

1. Mobile Backend server technologies

2. Application Programming Interface (APIs)

3. Frontend development

Mobile App Backend Development


Mobile app backend includes database and server-side objects necessary to provide supporting functions for your app. If you’re using an existing back-end platform, then modifications may be needed to support the desired mobile functionality.

Further reading: Everything you need to know about mobile app backend

Application Programming Interface (APIs) Development


An Application Programming Interface (API) is a method that helps to easily communicate the app with its back-end server/database.

Mobile App Frontend Development

The frontend of the mobile app is what your users see. Mobile frontend development includes a variety of technologies. Some applications require APIs and backends, while others work with local servers or databases offered by the platform.

Almost all web programming languages can be used to build the backend of mobile applications. If you’re building native mobile applications, you can use technology-specific tools. For example, Android Applications can be developed using Kotlin, Java, Flutter, or React Native. iOS applications can be developed using Swift Programming Language, Objective-C, Flutter, or React Native.

Each and every programming language offers its own unique capabilities with your desired platform. You should be able to choose a team that understands which technologies can be leveraged the most, by choosing the most appropriate programming language.

Further reading: Mobile Frontend Development Guide

Testing the Developed App


Quality assurance is a crucial phase in the mobile application development process as it determines the reliability, stability, and usability of the developed application. To ensure an all-inclusive testing process, there are a number of aspects that need to be addressed by following a complete testing cycle.

Testing can be broadly classified into two categories, manual and automated testing. It depends on the kind of application whether it needs manual testing or if automated testing will give accurate results.

Any application must pass through a myriad of testing processes to come up with a well-functioning application. Some of the main testing methods that are a must-do for all mobile applications are:

Functional Testing

With the functional testing method, you can check whether your application is behaving as it should, according to the specifications. This testing is a very important part, as each user will behave differently and will use the app in a different way. So, you need to ensure that the app functions as desired for a large range of test cases. Functional testing includes:

Installation and initialization of the application on all the distribution channels

Testing necessary device resources

Testing possible updates for each distribution channel

Business features and functionality testing

Testing any possible interruptions

Testing fields, parameters, and user feedback fields

Further reading: Guide to Functional Testing

Performance Testing

Performance testing criteria for your mobile apps are:

Load testing to check the speed of the app

Volume testing to check the application’s performance under a high volume of data

Stability testing to see whether the app behaves normally under different conditions

Concurrency testing to see whether the application’s performance changes if multiple users are logged in

Testing the battery usage of the app to ensure there’s no battery drain or memory leak

Testing the response time of your application in all conditions

Further reading: Performance Testing Guide

Security Testing

Security is a major concern when you are developing an application, as even a minor mistake can cause major vulnerabilities to data leaks. The main aspects covered in security testing are checking for any risk to sensitive data and threats from hackers. Security testing can be done in many ways which include:

Testing for the right platform and secure server-side controls

Testing for any loopholes in the application and analysis vulnerability

Testing for any potential aspects that hackers could attack

Checking for any potential threats from any permissions to be given to applications

Testing threat analysis for authentication of login credentials

Further reading: Security Testing Guidelines

Configuration Testing

The application that is developed must be completely compatible with whatever device it is designed for and therefore configuration must be checked beforehand. In configuration testing, the performance of the application is checked on various devices and this should detect any missing features or functionalities. Configuration testing comprises of:

Device configuration testing for all the devices

Network connectivity and configuration checking

Testing browser configuration and compatibility

Checking secure database configuration

Testing for operating system configuration for all the devices

Platform Testing

New devices are continually coming to the market, and each one has different hardware and features. It is part of mobile app development process to include platform testing. The aspects covered under platform testing are:

Platform compatibility testing for different operating systems, and checking client-side browsers

Testing the mobile application on various devices to ensure device compatibility across multiple devices

Testing for cross-browser compatibility of the mobile application that is developed

For cross-platform mobile applications, platform testing is undertaken to check compatibility with each of the platforms

Testing for operating system configuration for all the devices

Recovery Testing

Recovery is the ability of the mobile applications to recover from any kind of error or failure. The application may face different kinds of failure, whether it is hardware or software, or any issues in the communication of the app with the device. It is important to conduct recovery testing before deploying an application. Recovery testing includes:

Testing the response time and methods when the hardware does not operate as expected or fails

Checking the application’s failure mechanisms in case of software issues

Testing the response time if communication is lost and how the recovery is undertaken

Testing the recovery time and recovery means in case of any failures encountered by the application

Beta Testing

Once the app is ready and has passed almost all the tests, then it is time for the application to be tested by real users. This is known as beta testing. Beta testing is a holistic approach to test the overall performance in terms of compatibility, functionality, reliability, and security.

Certification Testing

In order to examine whether the application meets the standards of various play stores and app stores, it is necessary to conduct certification testing. This testing is the final and vital testing step and it includes:

Checking the licensing agreements of Apple App Store, Google Play store, and other app stores

Checking whether the application development follows all the terms of use of the various app stores

Checking for any violations of the terms and conditions stated by the app stores, and play stores

Deployment and Maintenance

Releasing a native mobile app requires submitting your app to the app stores, Google Play Store for Android apps, and Apple App Store for iOS apps. However, you will need a developer account with Google Play Store and Apple App Store before launching your mobile app.

An application’s release in the app store requires preparing metadata including:

Your app’s title

Description

Category

Keywords

Launch icon

App store screenshots

Once you have submitted your app to the Apple App Store, iOS apps go through a review process which may take from a few days to several weeks, depending on the quality of your mobile app and how closely it follows Apple’s iOS development guidelines. If your mobile app requires users to log in, then you will need to provide Apple with a test user account as part of the release process.

There isn’t any review process with Android apps, and they become available in the app store within a couple of hours of submission.

After the app becomes available in the app stores, monitor its usage through mobile analytics platforms and track Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for measuring your app’s success. Frequently check crash reports and other user-reported issues.

Encourage your app users to provide your company with feedback and suggestions. Prompt support for end-users and frequently patching the app with improvements is vital to keeping users engaged. Unlike web apps where patch releases are often available to app users instantly, mobile app updates need to undergo an equivalent submission and review process as per the initial submission. With native mobile apps, you have to continually stay on top of technology advancements and routinely update your app for new mobile devices and operating system platforms.

Conclusion

App development is an on-going process and will continue after the initial launch as you receive user feedback and build additional features or functionality. ISH Technologies is a leading mobile app development company in Australia. Over the years, ISH Technologies has provided mobile app development services to various companies across the country. We follow the same quality assurance process for all of the mobile apps that we build. Following this enterprise mobile app development process will ensure a successful launch of your application.

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Please feel free to Contact us to discuss your mobile app development ideas.